A SENATE MARSHAL OF THE POLISH REPUBLIC FOR THE POST OF THE CHAIRMAN OF THE POLISH EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE
POLITICAL OFFICIOUSNESS OF MARSHAL BORUSEWICZ
Fr. WOJCIECH GÓRALSKI
Is the rule of independence and autonomy of the State and the Church (art.1 of the Concordat) a silence of the Church? Comments in relation with the letter of the Senate Marshal of the Polish Republic for the post of the Chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference concerning the Statement of the Conference about the Television Trwam from 6 March 2013.
As it is known, on 6 March 2013, during the 361st Plenary Meeting in Warsaw, the Polish Episcopal Conference accepted the Statement about the Television Trwam in the following text:
Polish bishops gathered in Warsaw at the 361st Plenary Meeting of the Polish Episcopal Conference, are again supporting the request of the Foundation ‘Lux Veritatis’ addressed to the National Broadcasting Council, for granting the Television Trwam a place in the digital multiplex. It is expected by millions of citizens of our Homeland in the name of freedom of speech in media transmission. Appropriate applications in this matter were sent to the chairman of the National Broadcasting Council by signatories. It is expected by the believers of the Catholic church in Poland and its priests in the name of law and rules of a democratic country. Television Trwam has been fulfilling its sacrificial ministry for 10 years in order to deepen faith in Homeland and abroad, fulfilling its evangelical ministry. It is also help in understanding religious, social and informative reality of our Homeland. Rejecting another request of the Television Trwam by the National Broadcasting Council, about granting the concession in the digital multiplex would mean a clear discrimination aimed against the believers of the Catholic Church in Poland.
Not knowing why, this statement met with quite a strong reaction of the senate marshal Bogdan Borusewicz, who wrote a letter to the chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference archbishop Józef Michalik. In the article published in ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ from 26 April this year, ‘Marshal Borusewicz: the Church breaches the concordat. Archbishop Michalik: We are only defending democracy’, Dominika Wielowieyska quotes the following sentence from the marshal’s letter: ‘Concordat does not grant the Polish Episcopal Conference rights to participate as a co-decision-maker or a supervisor in any matter undergoing the government’. The author adds that the author of the letter ‘notes that, for the state authorities, the rule of mutual independence and autonomy of the State and the Church means the prohibition of accepting dispositions from ecclesiastical board’. She also quotes the following sentence included in the response of archbishop Józef Michalik – the chairman of the Polish Episcopal Conference, addressed to marshal Borusewicz: ‘I fully deny the statement of Mr. Marshal, that the vote of the Polish Episcopal Conference would be ‘a direct intervention in the particular matter, belonging to the competence of the constitutional organ of the state’.
As it results from the quoted formulations of both letters, the Senate marshal, referring to the rule of independence and autonomy of both communities, inscribed in the art. 1 of Concordat from 28 July 1993, (‘The Polish Republic and the Apostolic See confirm that the State and the Catholic Church are - each in their own sphere – independent and autonomic, and they oblige to respect fully this rule in mutual relations and in cooperation for the human development and the common welfare’), accuses the Polish Episcopal Conference of breaching the concordat contract which would be expressed in: 1) usurpation of the right by this organ, to participate as ‘a co-decision-maker’ or ‘a supervisor’ in the issue ‘undergoing the government’ (granting a place in the digital multiplex to applicant subjects by the National Broadcasting Council); 2) giving dispositions to the state authorities by the ecclesiastical board (the Polish Episcopal Conference); 3) conducting ‘a direct intervention’ in the matter belonging to the constitutional organ of the state.
All these accusations should be definitely considered as wrong, substantially unfounded, and also demagogic. The Senate marshal apparently does not understand the rule of independence and autonomy of the state and the Church (inscribed also in the article 25 paragraph 3 of the Constitution of the Polish Republic). This rule taken from the pastoral Constitution ‘Gaudum et spes’ of the Second Vatican Council, identical to the rule of a friendly separation of both communities, means that the ecclesiastical authority is completely incompetent to intervene into state internal matters and the state authority is completely incompetent to intervene into internal matters of the Church as well as the first and the second community can constitute its law and follow its own law. Whereas, it does not mean that the Church cannot fulfil its function of independent moral authority in forming social attitudes in the spirit of respecting basic human values, rooted in the Christian culture. So, it is illegal to deprive the Church of full freedom in proclaiming the truths of faith, in spreading its social teaching and also in giving its moral evaluation in all issues, when basic human rights or souls salvation require it’ (see the pastoral Constitution ‘Gaudum et spes’ ).
Considering the statement of the Polish Episcopal Conference, quoted in the beginning, about the request submitted again by the Foundation ‘Lux Veritatis’ for granting a place in the new digital multiplex, we state that it is an expression of a lively interest of the mentioned Board in the matter important for the Church. Not only does it have a right to support this request and ask about criteria of granting new places in the digital multiplex. Especially when bishops have doubts in this respect.
It is impossible to treat the statement of March of the Polish Episcopal Conference as an expression of aiming of this organ at the role of ‘a co-decision-maker or a supervisor in the issue undergoing the government’. This kind of the accusation becomes an ordinary misunderstanding: what co-deciding or supervision can we talk about? Would expressing one’s opinion or hope about a solution in a particular matter be equal to co-deciding (with legal decision-makers)? A big misunderstanding is defining the statement of bishops as ‘a disposition of the ecclesiastical Board’. Mistaking the opinion and appeal as a disposition is a cardinal mistake. Finally, it is difficult to notice signs of ‘direct intervention in the particular matter in the voice of Polish bishops, which belongs to the competence of the constitutional organ of the state’. For, what should be this ‘directness’ of the intervention based on? And, moreover, we should remember that the aim of the statement is not to impose any pressure on the constitutional organ of the Polish Republic, so that it would have a positive attitude towards the request of the Foundation ‘Lux Veritatis’ (with the usage of a reduced tariff), but appeal to the National Broadcasting Council to use criteria which are defined in law in an objective and reliable way, when granting places in the digital multiplex.
The demagogia of the accusation made against Polish bishops by the Senate Marshal, about the breach of the Concordat agreed twenty years ago (it was implemented in life only after 25 April 1998), is not only inappropriate but also dangerous. The public opinion can be misinformed and anxious. It would be good to analyse carefully the essence of the statement of the Polish Episcopal Conference of March and ‘classify’ them in suitable categories, not make such a serious accusation against it. After all, it is all about a suitable understanding the fundamental rule in the relations: the State – the Church, which is the rule of independence and autonomy of these two communities, which usually gather the same people in their ranks.