ABOUT VITAL MATTERS OF THE CHURCH
ABP JÓZEF MICHALIK
I would like to begin our reflection with the last meeting of bishops within 358. Polish Episcopal Conference which took place in Wroclaw on 21-23 June 2012. A special occasion for the meeting in Wroclaw was the Golden Jubilee of the priesthood of Archbishop Metropolitan Marian Gołębiewski.
Working character of the Episcopal conference
A specially important topic of our meeting was the text of the Message to the Nations of Russia and Poland which, on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Poland is to be signed soon in Warsaw (17 June 2012). The document was prepared by the representatives of both Churches and should initiate a new relationship among us. Bishops expressed their consent and willingness unanimously to conduct this dialogue with the Orthodox Church in Russia (referring to a similar document of Polish bishops to German bishops from the period of the Second Vatican Council), and also with the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine. Our dialogue has a pastoral character and does not enter into the area of the ecumenical doctrinal dialogue.
Another issue discussed during the meeting was the issue of catechesis important for the pastoral vision in our homeland and the recent attempt to remove religious education as a compulsory subject from the lessons schedule (interchangeable into ethics), with removing it into extra subjects.
This topic was treated by bishops as a priority, with the recommendation of a special attention both in the editorial office of a message of the meeting, as well as in an ordinary preaching by priests, bishops and in the attitude of parents. For, the removal of the religious education from schools would be a withdrawal to the pre-war period and depriving a vast part of children and young people of the contact with the essence of the Gospel. We have been picking up the fruits of that state till now, dealing with a big group of the baptised adults and families of the middle and older generation, whose lack of religious formation are shockingly visible, also among the intelligence. For, it is seen that the basic task of the youth's catechesis is awakening the interest in faith. The charity activity of the Church is an essential part of its ministry, being realized since the times of Christ. Every Christian is realizes it - or he should realize it - in a known way for him, in accordance with the recommendation: 'let the right hand not know what the left hand is doing' see Mt 6.3), but also remembering that 'I was hungry and you gave me food...'(see Mt 25.35). a part of our response to this call of the Lord is the activity of Caritas which becomes an expression of our Christian and human warm-heartedness and sensitivity, but not the examination of business capability or an auxiliary agency in the distribution of the public or social means, as it is sometimes shown. Although the cooperation of Caritas with the public institutions and organisations of the public good is justified ' it requires, however, a special accuracy in maintaining principles and a strict supervision of the bishop over the very concept and finances of this church institution which has its own legal personality.
In the perspective of the human and social welfare
All our meetings, as a leading stream, have such a direction of pastoral ministry, so that it would serve to deepening the faith through good recognition of present challenges and defining safe perspectives for the Church in homeland for today and tomorrow. One of the still current matters is upbringing the nation for care about the common welfare which is impossible without the healthy, brave and also objective evaluation of the present social situation. Here we are entering into the area of not only the current events, ecclesiastical arguments with the government, public institutions, newspapers or other means of mass media, but we are touching moral fundaments of the national ethos. we should help one another to create a perspective vision for the Church in Poland and also for the nation, starting with the question about the loyalty to the natural law and the God's law in bills passed by the parliament. God's servant Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, often warned against entering into 'big arguments about small things' . It is worth and necessary to argue about big things which include the respect to God and every man, care about the Christian identity, about the moral order in homeland. The help in the realization of the important tasks is our pastoral unity and solidarity in difficult moments as a testimony of the faithful and humble ministry; a great priority is courage demanded from priests, monks and nuns as well as the loyalty to the Church.
Another issue about the perspective significance for the Church is defining and maintaining the tasks of the catholic laity according to clear criteria or follow the trend of the known 'open' environments which wants to reform the Church or the trend of the Catholic associations and spiritual communities which want to reform the social reality surrounding us and to fill the culture of the public life with the values of the Christian humanity. In this matter our pastoral sensitivity and courage are needed . The history lesson in the relations hierarchy - laymen from the post-war period is very teaching and it is partially repeated and it is worth using, reaching to the recently published diaries of Janusz Zabłocki or Jerzy Zawieyski. Despite the accusations it seems to me that we are not present enough as the Church in the public life. We are rather defending moral rights, for example basing on abortion or erotic abuse of in vitro, whereas we are hardly promoting morality in the social life. A more popularized promotion of our social document could help in it. it is worth noting that also the President of the Polish Republic Bronisław Komorowski expressed his interest in this document and is ready to join in the deepened reflection on it.
Caring about the identity in culture
There are more and more often critical publications from independent environments on the situation of the Polish culture, carried out reforms or the set law. Investigations carried out by one of the universities show that 'the biggest problem is vagueness of the legislative process in Poland, that the influence of business groups (lobbing) on the statutory law is very high. (...), for example 1/3 of bills passed in the last twenty years in Poland are realizing the interests of organized groups of influence; over 40 percent of the legislations limits the economic freedom; 2/3 of legislations create the costs for public finances, and only 1/3 of them bring savings (...). The most influential group of interests are workers of the public sector (...), a number of clerks in the public administration amounted to nearly 160 thousand in 1990, whereas in 2011 it was only 460 thousand, which causes the situation when bills are passed which are beneficial to the groups, and unfavourable to citizens, or that the novelization of the acts is effectively blocked, for example the bill about upbringing for abstinence from the age of 6 cannot get to the Seym from the government!' (quoted: 'The role of interests groups in the process of setting law in Poland', Warsaw 2012, edited by the Vistula University). Prof. Jerzy Hausner notes in this book that legislative changes are made mostly under the influence of situational impulses, for example 'we must do something because the EU, because something is urgently needed (...) every Ministry must somehow show its abilities'. It is worth noting that - according to the EU directives in Poland - in the radio or TV programs one should consider the minimum of 50 percent of the share of the programs coming from the EU and the minimum of 10 percent of the share of the so-called independent programs, which becomes an extra challenge for initiators and pioneers of the Polish culture! Isn't it a question about the existence of the national identity of culture and about the future of the Church in Poland if to assume the teaching of the Second Vatican Council as binding and the last popes of close relation between culture and the Gospel?
In 2009 Vaclav Havel gave an interview in which he noted that 'it has seemed to us in the Middle Europe till now that the danger for democracy is the lack of the institution, a weak representative system and stifling public media. Today - according to Havel - we must state a thesis that the biggest danger is prevalence of coteria and relations among which the main role is played by people connected with special services, police and oligarchy' (quoted from Mariusz Maszkiewicz 'Are we being governed by mafia?', Arcana 105)
In all these observations and worries we are still full of hope based on the sense of unity with the One who established our Church, lives in it and gives us a chance of cooperation a really effective cooperation.