HOW WAS THE WEALTH OF THE CHURCH PLUNDERED?

WOJCIECH DUDKIEWICZ

What is the truth about property plundered from the Catholic Church? The report of Fr. Prof. Dariusz Walencik does not raise any doubts. The Church, once being robbed, is still trying to rob itself. And despite the general opinions, in the hands of the state there is still one-third part of the property once plundered from the Church.

The report of 'Property of the Catholic Church in Poland in the years 1918 - 2012' was written to the order of the Concordat Commissions of the Government and Episcopate. It estimates how much the Church had possessed before the Second World War, what the scale of communist requisition was and how much was returned to the Church after the year 1989.

- The elaboration of Fr. Prof. Walencik belies the claim that the Church had more benefits, than losses - says Fr. Józef Kloch, the spokesman of the Polish Episcopal Conference.

- The report is a unique work - emphasizes Marcin Przeciszewski, the chief of the Catholic Informative Agency - It is the first time we have received an extremely reliable work about what the Church possessed, beginning from the year 1918, and what it lost after the Second World War, how it was treated by communist authorities in property matters - he says.

There are no doubts, in the opinion of Marcin Przeciszewski, that the attack at the property of the Church was aimed only in order to deprive the Church of possibilities of action in the social sphere. - The report perfectly shows the activity of the Property Commission and the Church Fund, which is very current in a political debate held in Poland - says Przeciszewski. - We are on the eve of replacing the Church Fund with a voluntary tax voucher, which is quite more modern way of supporting the Church, used in many European countries. Conclusions from the report are very important in a discussion about the amount of the voucher.

For a fight with the Church

Participants of the presentation of the report which was held in the headquarters of the Polish Episcopal Conference, were unanimous: the document prepared by Fr. Prof. Walencik, an employee at the University of Opole, clearly shows the unlawful action of the Polish state. - The state has not complied with law for 60 years, which it created itself. It is all about passing the income from the seized property - says Marcin Przeciszewski. On the basis of the Act about property of a dead hand from 1950, the authorities established the Church Fund. The Fund was to receive the incomes from the seized church property. But it happened in a different way.

Nationalization of church property was based on seizing property from religious unions - without compensation or taking into account purposes for which the incomes taken from them had been intended. It included holdings of parish priests of the area of over 50 ha (on Lands Regained over 100 ha, hospitals, educational centres, printing houses, enterprises).

- Communist authorities - as the author of the report notes - had been depriving church institutions of their property till the mid of the 80s of the XX century - usually on the way of expropriation or execution for not paying excessive taxes.

The Church Fund was supposed to be used for maintenance and restoration of churches, financing the charity-care activity of the church, giving material help and medical assistance to clergy and organizing holiday houses. In practice, most of these tasks were not fulfilled, the Fund was used……for a fight with the Church.

According to the report, the Church Fund had financed, among the others, the activity of the Centre of Training Justice Ministry Staff and the Central Party School by the Central Committee till 1989, grants were given to the Association of Polish Teachers, anti-church propaganda, rewards were paid to officials of departments for religions and foreign delegations were paid for, as well as reports on priests. A radical turning point in functioning of the Church Fund appeared only after 1990.

In the hands of the state

In 1939 the Church in Poland had about 400 thousand ha of land. It lost nearly 109 thousand has a result of the change of borders and 145 thousand ha were nationalized. After changes in the system, the Church regained estates in proceedings towards the Property Commission. The lands were either returned or given as replacement property of 65.7 thousand ha of area, Also 490 buildings were returned as well as premises (from 3437 seized in a whole and 381 partially), and the State Treasure passed 141.7 million zlotys as a way of compensations.

According to estimations of Fr. Prof. Walencik, there are still 62.3 thousand ha of land property in the hands of the state, which were taken away from the Church - that is, 31 percent of property seized from the Church on the area of the present Polish Republic remain in the hands of the state. The data are reliable, and are based on sources from various church archives and state archives, as well as data of administration resort, enriched by the results of long-term surveys of the author.

The idea of preparing the report appeared over a year ago, at a meeting of working groups of the concordat commission for finances. Then, the Church started talks with the government about replacing the Church Fund used in many European countries with a voluntary tax write-off. The liquidation of the Church Fund was to be preceded by a detailed report about it and about Church property remaining in the hands of the state. Its preparation was entrusted to Fr. Prof. Walencik.

Initially the authorities suggested that the tax write-off should be 0.3 percent, whereas the Church thought it should be 1 percent. Finally, both parties agreed to 0.5 percent , but works of concordat teams in this matter are still going on, and the report on financial liabilities of the state towards the Church is an important bargaining card.

Because, in the opinion of the author, the value of the church property, remaining in the hands of the state, should be considered in this matter. As Fr. Prof. Walencik estimates, the present budget of the Church Fund should be 162.5 million zlotys and only for the Catholic Church. Therefore, in his opinion, only acceptance of 1 percent of the tax write-off would guarantee what really belongs to the Church due to the liquidation of the Fund.

(AA)

"Niedziela" 28/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Ireneusz Skubis • Translation: Aneta Amrozik • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl