BY A GENERAL INSPECTOR FOR PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION INTO THE INNER MATTERS OF THE CHURCH
FR. JÓZEF KRUKOWSKI
In Poland the latest events in the sphere of relations between the State and the Church, shocking the public opinion include unfounded interference of the General Inspector of Data Protection into inner matters of the Catholic Church. For, by making his decisions and acting under the pressure of fighting atheists, he is trying to force parish priests to behave under their dictation when preparing documents in parish books concerning departures from the Church, which is contradictory with the principles of canonical law, that is, inner law of the Catholic Church. It must also be stated that such a behavior of the General Inspector, one of the central organs of the administrative authority in Poland, arouses a definite opposition of citizens of the Polish country who are the faithful of the Catholic Church. For, he dared to violate the generally binding rule of the democratic country of law, which the Polish Republic should be according to the article 2 of the Constitution. For these are unfounded acts of interference of the state authority organ into the inner matters of the Church, undertaken from the position of the supremacy of the state over the Church, and which were followed by the communist authorities. In order to justify his decisions, the Main Inspector refers to the incorrect verdict of the Supreme Administrative Court of Poland from 18 October 2013 (I OSK 1487/12), not being under the generally binding law.
There is no doubt that the General Inspector has done many acts of breach of basic principles in the relation between the State and the Church and other religious associations in this matter, binding in Poland and the European Union. It particularly concerns the breach of provisions of the Act from 29 August 1997 about the personal data protection (Journal of Laws from 1997, No 133, position 883 with amendments), passed in the aftermath of joining of Poland the European Human Rights and Basic Freedoms Convention in 1997 (Journal of Laws 1993, No 61, positions 284-286) in order to adjusting the national law to European standards.
In fact, the proceeding of the Main Inspector does not concern protection of conscience and religion freedom, as it is suggested wrongly by the representative of a group of fighting atheists. Belonging of every man to the Church in Poland is always his personal and voluntary matter, and collections of personal data in this matter are subject to a special protection of the ecclesiastical authority – according to the instruction of the Polish Episcopal Conference from 23 September 2009 about personal data protection in the activity of the Catholic Church in Poland – Acts of the Polish Episcopal Conference 12 (2009) 53-59. These collections have been excluded from the control of the General Inspector of Personal Data by the Polish legislator (art. 43, par. 1, section 1 of the Law about Personal Data Protection). Whereas the Main Inspector of Personal Data Protection undertakes interference into inner matters of the Church concerning personal data protection. It must also be stated explicitly that this interference is contradictory with the generally binding law in Poland and the European Union.
For, it is completely unfounded that fighting atheists, under whose pressure the Main Inspector of Personal Data functions, are referring to the law of the European Union. For, it is contradictory with the decision of the Treaty about the European Union reform, commonly called Lisbon Treaty (art.17, par. 1). On this basis the Union fully respects the national law of EU countries in matters concerning the legal status of the Church and does not breach it. Each organ of the Polish Republic authority, including the Main Inspector of the Personal Data Protection, is obliged in matters concerning personal data protection, to respect norms of the national law in Poland and, particularly, follow provisions about personal data protection. On the basis of this Law, ecclesiastical collections of personal data – including parish collections – are not subject to the control from it. Any ordinances of this Inspector, which are addressed to parish priests and concern preparing annotation of the fact of apostasy in parish books in a way inconsistent with the norms of canonical law, are contradictory with the norms of treaty law in the European Union. These are acts of abusing the authority by one of the chief organs of the executive authority in the Polish Republic.
Next, it must be stated that aforementioned decisions of the Main Inspector of Personal Data are a sign of breaches proclaimed in the Constitution of the Polish Republic (art. 25) and basic principles in the Concordat (art.1) respecting the autonomy and independence of the Church and the State, each of them in their own sphere. For, there is no doubt that personal data protection included in the parish collections is excluded from control by statues from the Main Inspector of Personal Data. So, his interference in this subject are a sign of the breach of the constitutional principle of respecting autonomy and independence of organs of the Catholic Church authority and the State authority and each of them in their spheres relatively.
As a result, it must be stated that ordinances of the Main Inspector of Personal Data in this matter are illegal and they cannot be subject to enforcement as such. Parish priests have a duty to proceed in this subject according to the norms of the canonical law stipulated by the Polish Episcopal Conference.
I think that competent organs of the ecclesiastical and state authorities will take actions in this matter aiming at solving a conflict according to the constitutional principle of cooperation between the state and the Church for the sake of people and the common welfare. It should also be necessary to express deep grief that the Main Inspector of Personal Data became an instrument of realizing whims of a narrow group of fighting atheists attempting to impose their will onto the Church by his confirm. I associate this situation with a folk proverb which says: ‘A devil put on a chasuble and is ringing for a Mass’.