IT MUST BE SAID CLEARLY: ENOUGH!
It is impossible to make a dialogue with groups which do not want a dialogue, are destroying what is holy, blaspheme to God and are demoralizing the man. But the Church has received a task of proclaiming the Gospel to everybody and nobody should be excluded from a possibility of hearing the Good New – says archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the chairperson of the Polish Episcopal Conference in an interview with Artur Stelmasiak
ARTUR STELMASIAK: - Archbishop wrote a very expressive letter in defence of religious values. There are a lot of obvious reasons but was there a particular event which tilt the scent of bitterness to take an attitude in this issue?
ARCHBISHOP GĄDECKI: It is a long time we have been dealing with an extremely intensive social discussion, whose subject is the Church. There are many unfavourable or even hostile voices, towards Church and religious values. In the last weeks there have been acts of open profanation of the greatest holy things, against which it is necessary to protest definitely. Here I mean profanation of the Jasna Góra image of God’s Mother, as well as acts of blasphemy which take place during the so-called marches of groups of geys, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. These initiatives are featured with a kind of perversity, as a pretext to organize them is allegedly promotion of more tolerance in the society, whereas – about which I mentioned in a letter – they are becoming a place of open intolerance, obscene presentations and an occasion to show contempt towards Christianity, including parodying the liturgy of Eucharist, and to incite others to hate the Church and priests. In addition to it, there are robberies onto churches and physical attacks on priests. In the recent time there has been a lot of evil done in the society, which touches the community of the Church and attacks God and Blessed Mother. At this moment it is necessary to say clearly: ‘Enough!’.
– I remember times when Archbishop had a function of a deputy of the chairperson of the Polish Episcopal Conference and a wave of attacks went through media on the Church about lustration. Now, as the chairperson, Archbishop must struggle with the wave of criticism about sexual abuses. Is the Polish Episcopal Conference in a more difficult situation than 10 years ago?
– It must be clearly specified: media attacks on the Church is something different than aiming at the truth and struggling with evil. We really want to reach the truth and inner purification of the Church. It was so before a decade when we were taking up particular actions making it possible for lustration in the Church. And, so it is now. In our society it is difficult to find another group like that which also undertook so many ventures, initiatives and solutions in order to judge the past and provide prevention for the future. For, we want to repair the harm towards those who were hurt with the sin of the people of the Church. We want the good of children and the youth and the Church to be safe and transparent.
The difficulty of today’s situation is that the issue of pedophilia has become – not only in Poland but nearly all over the world an issue easily used in attacks on the Church, which are aimed at depriving the Church of moral credibility. For, the Church is the last voice in the society which does not go on compromise with the contemporary demoralizing trends but it is not afraid of speaking that happy life is life in which the man has clear demands from himself. Libertine forces would surely like to stifle and eliminate this voice.
– Is there a relation between lustration of priests and sexual abuses committed by them?
– In both situations we are dealing with the hidden evil whose culprits were some priests. This evil was unmasked at one moment which led to a painful conscience remorse which – as I trust – will bring blessed fruits in the future. Both issues have become also an occasion to attack the Church. A lot of people from those who spoke about a necessity of lustration of the Church, were keeping silent about the necessity of lustration in other groups in which the cooperation with communist services was definitely more present. We set up the Ecclesiastical Historic Commission, we carried out lustration actions, but most important groups in the society (jurisdiction, science, journalism) did not follow us and the issue in media was not raised any more. The situation is similar today. A lot of people publicly speak about pedophilia in the Church and do not take interest in the harm of young people which is done in other groups.
– Do Archbishop see a quality difference in the attitude of the Polish Church towards lustration and to pedophilia now?
– In the case of lustration, the purpose of our actions was mainly reaching the truth. Cooperation with the services of the communist country was betraying the Church and the society. However, not always is it possible to define easily and clearly what was the range of cooperation of a particular man and the range of harm done by him.
When we speak about sexual abuse among the under-aged, reaching the truth is enough. Here it is necessary – as far as it is possible – to make up for the harm and find better solutions protecting children and the youth in the future.
– A lot is spoken about correlation between homosexual and pedophilic tendencies. Are you, Archbishop, observing the situation of the Church in the world and in Poland, do you see this correlation?
– A lot of people deny this kind of correlation. However, the results of the previous query which we have done, say about homosexual pedophilia in nearly 60 percent. Pro-family organizations, dealing with the phenomenon of pedophilia in a wider context, refer to investigations which point explicitly that this correlation is generally much clearer.
– In the letter Archbishop mentions marches of geys, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals which have tolerance in their names, but, in fact, their participants despise of Christianity. Or maybe the Church should make a dialogue with the LGBT groups and bring them the Good News?
– It is impossible to make a dialogue with the groups which do not want a dialogue, nd despise of what is holy, blaspheme God and demoralize the man. It is also true that the Church received tasks of proclaiming the Gospel to everybody and nobody should be excluded from a possibility of hearing the Good News. Also the people belonging to the aforementioned groups have this right. For us these people are not geys, lesbians, biosexuals or transsexuals in the first place – they are mainly are brothers and sisters, for whom Christ gave his life and whom he wants to lead to salvation. In the name of faithfulness to our Redeemer and in the name of love to our sisters and brothers we must proclaim the Gospel – not avoiding requirements which it brings and not stopping calling something a mortal sin when it is not. If we were not doing it, we would be robbing our neighbours of the truth to which they have a right .
– Let’s return to the issue which intrigues believers and the rest of the society. Why did Archbishop thank the Sekielscy brothers for the film? Some people say that it was a mistake.
– In my opinion it was not a mistake. The film presented facts, even if some people doubt as for the chastity of the film director’s intention or of they accuse him of serious manipulations in presenting the reality. I hope that the shock caused by the film will contribute to inner purification of the community of the Church. And in this sense I hope the good will come out of it.
– Sexual abuses among priests are a small margin in the whole sea of actions among good and fervent priests in the Church in Poland. Unfortunately, it is the honest and respectable who are attacked. How should and can priests defend themselves?
– Fervent priests – who are the majority in the Church – are experiencing a lot of suffering. They are devoting all their strength and effort in working for God’s Kingdom, while they are facing up evil which they are experiencing personally. I think that there is an important fragment of their priestly cross in it, which they should devote to God for salvation of souls. A priest contributes to salvation of the world not only by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice or proclaiming the Gospel, but also celebrating the ‘mass of life’ – that is, devoting God all their suffering. The current situation gives them a lot of possibilities to make such a spiritual sacrifice.
The best defence is a fervent work. For parishioners – who hear about cases of abuses among priests – the attitude of their priest is much more important. His fervent faith and openness to the needs of believers are the most beautiful testimony and the most effective defence. Only then do people see that in their parish they have a priest whom they need. Not necessarily an ideal one, but the one who can help them in their pilgrimage to Heaven.
Lay men can support their priests with a prayer, by engaging into social actions supporting priests and the Church. They can defend priests in discussions and testify about what Christ gives them through the Holy Spirit. In the recent time a lot of such actions have been taken up. I thank all our brothers and sisters for all nice gestures and important words – on behalf of priests.
Also a good word is important: it seems to me that we rarely thank priests for their work. When they fail in something, we criticize them and report on against them, whereas when they work fervently we hardly appreciate them. Whereas parishioners’ friendliness is a valuable strengthening for a priest.
– On the other hand in discussions I hear an opinion that the Church is attacked not by its opponents but by priests who commit these terrible crimes. Do Archbishop agree with this statement?
– An intention of priests committing crimes is not attacking the Church – which is easy to perceive among opponents. But wounds made to the Church through moral declines of priests are really much higher.
– The film by the Sekielscy brothers was undoubtedly inscribed in the electoral campaign for the Euro-parliament. When the opposition lost, the film makers were even accused of the defeat of the European Coalition. In their documentary they showed the truth and pointed to some defects in the process of purification of the Church. Do the chairperson of the Polish Episcopal Conference see an increased determination among other bishops in order to deal with the problem effectively?
– Every priest wants to take care about believers, especially the youngest ones. So it was before. However, now the situation of making crimes committed by some priests public showed their serious social consequences. It made us realize the depth of suffering of people harmed, in whom wounds from the past are still fresh even after many years. Therefore determination is surely very clear in this respect.
– During his visit in Poland archbishop Charles Scicluna quoted the words of St. John Paul II that there is no place in priesthood or religious order life for those who want to bring harm to children. Can one say that facing up this problem in Poland is fulfilling the testament of John Paul II?
– St. John Paul II loved the man and showed his dignity, so he always took the side of the youngest and the abused. He defended unborn children and terminally ill people. In the recent years of the pontificate, when in the world, especially in the United States, cases of abuses by priests were made public, he spoke in this issue and took an explicit attitude. He initiated actions of the Holy See in the issue of protecting the under-aged, he defined the principles of behavior and called up the community of the Church for a conscience remorse. His actions were continued by Benedict XVI and now by Francis. All this which we are doing in Poland now is also the continuation of this line.
– Will we live till the times when we will be able to say proudly that the Church was the first to cope with this problem completely and is followed by other groups?
– Considering the first sin it would be naïve to say that there will never be a sin in the Church. The Church is holy with the holiness of God, but there is human sin in it. However, I hope that the actions which we are doing and also the explicitness of the attitude of priests and the whole community of the Church towards the behavior of those brining harm will help us elaborate such attitudes and solutions that we will be able to thank God for the inner purification whose fruit will be intensive development of the community of faith. I hope that other groups will show similar determination.
– During a critical solstice in the electoral campaign, trustfulness to the Catholic Church dropped among Poles, and a month later it increased again. However, the Church should not worry about the data as Christ carrying the cross to Golgotha was also wrongly accused and did not any social support.
– In no case can the Church follow any data, as its mission is proclaiming the Gospel, regardless of whether somebody likes it or not. We really want the society to have the basis to trust the Church. Valuables which were given to the Church by Christ can be passed over to our sisters and brothers only when we are credible to them. Therefore, the current crisis connected with the problem of pedophilia is a challenge for us not only for our personal conversion, but also to make people of the Church become more radical people of the Gospel.