Poland Elections: I'm Catholic, And Will Never Vote For The Ruling Catholic Party
In this editorial for Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, former Polish Senator, Solidarność activist, Member of Parliament, and Environmental Minister Antoni Tokarczuk examines what he calls the “true motivations” of ruling party Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński, and warns against his use of the Church for his party’s gain, especially ahead of the upcoming Parliamentary elections.
WARSAW — I had the opportunity to get to know Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński, and what really motivates his political candidacy — and the real reasons are far different than those he claims in order to pull the wool over the eyes of the Polish public.
I’m writing about this topic as a graduate of sociology from the Department of Christian Philosophy from the Catholic University of Lublin, and a currently practicing Catholic, but also as a former social and political activist, with extensive personal experience in the public arena. I was, among other things, a co-founder and member of the highest authorities of the first branch of the Solidarność ("Solidarity") movement and a participant in its underground activities, after martial law was introduced in Poland. Later, I continued my political work as a senator, Member of Parliament and as Poland’s Minister of the Environment.
But, perhaps the most important point in all of this, is that I happened to be the deputy president of the now-defunct Christian Democratic Center Agreement ("Porozumienie Centrum") political party, and Kaczyński’s direct successor at a time when he suspended his political activity. Therefore, I had a great opportunity to get to know the current Law and Justice (PiS) leader in depth.
Through this, I discovered his true approach to values and moral principles, rather than those created out of his own political calculation. As a result, I cut all contact and collaborative efforts with him, both as a politician, and as a person.
For over 20 years, I have not actively participated in the political life of this country. In this current moment, which will be a vital one on the path to Poland's future, I feel a moral imperative to speak publicly on the issue in question.
I do not want to speak as a politician, but rather as a person who is categorically opposed to the instrumental, nefarious use of the Catholic religion and its institutions for the party’s unbridled ambitions and lust for power. I am opposing the unauthorized appropriation of a religious banner, which calls itself the “only Catholic party” in order to cover up its true activities, which are in fact contrary to the essence of Christianity.
The damage of Church and State
Looking back on my experiences working with Kaczyński, there were several instances which I believe justify my current position. The first shock for me, as a practicing Catholic, was Kaczyński's attitude towards the teachings of Pope John Paul II.
In 1995, John Paul II made his fifth pilgrimage to Poland. Just before this, the pope published an encyclical in which he spoke out against the death penalty, which was a blow to the entire Center Agreement Party. After losing the elections, for us, as a non-parliamentary party, promoting the more widespread use of the death penalty was our driving force, even the oxygen necessary for our survival, because the majority of society at the time shared our position.
Kaczyński did not hesitate to gain the favor of the clergy by showering them with material goods.
When I asked how we would behave in this situation, when the beliefs of the Church explicitly clashed with our party’s platform, Kaczyński answered briefly: "We will keep quiet for now, and when grandpa dies, we will do our own thing," referring to the pope.
Although at the time it was still difficult for me to accept the pope’s position on capital punishment, I was shocked at Kaczyński’s words. In the end, I came to the conclusion that my moral authority was the pope, not Kaczyński.
Kaczyński's changing views
The second argument that, in my eyes, disqualifies Kaczyński as an authentic Catholic has been the radical change in his position on the relationship between Church and State. When the politically influential Christian-National Union Party promoted solutions that would tighten the alliance of State and Church authorities in the early 1990s, Kaczyński proclaimed that "This is the shortest path to the de-Christianization of Poland."
I fully supported this assessment, and do to this day, especially since my spiritual and social authority, a well-known opponent of communism, my uncle Bishop Ignacy Tokarczuk, was a strong opponent of the alliance of state powers and the altar.
But Kaczyński, apparently oblivious to the position he once proclaimed, did not hesitate to gain the favor of a large part of the clergy by showering them with material goods and other questionable honors and privileges from the state at the first available opportunity, for no reason other than to gain authoritarian power.
By posing as the country's only defender of Christian values and the defender of the Church, he weakened their vigilance and will to properly fulfill their vocation and serve the true mission of the Church.
The negative effects of the present alliance between the Church and State in Poland are visible beyond the realm of politics alone. We are a country where the outflow of believers from the Church and secularization, especially among young people, is progressing at a faster rate than any other country in the world.
These are the effects of the partisanification of the Church, which should be universal rather than linked to a specific party, in Poland.
Author Antoni Tokarczuk speaking at a conference
The ruling party's "hypocritical messianism"
I am likewise offended by PiS's hypocritical messianism, which is manifested in the fact that, considering themselves the nation's chosen people and moral guides, they themselves do not follow the commandments and proclaimed truths. For them, this is unnecessary, since Kaczyński announces himself that "there is pure good in me," and that his supporters should simply follow him without question.
PiS leaders constitute a system and legal order binding only on evangelical "simpletons," which they call "the ignorant people," rather than active and critical followers of the Church’s teachings. They, serving their own higher goals, cannot be bound by any orders independent of them; they cannot take literally the commandment of love, renunciation of hatred towards external and internal enemies found everywhere, and fighting evil with good.
Just declaring that you are a Catholic party doesn't mean anything.
Anything that they deem the "boorish rabble" must be exterminated without question. By celebrating messianism and praising their supposed superiority over other nations, they cannot consider these others as respectable neighbors. By their logic, they do not lie, because theirs is the only truth. They do not steal — they only use the property entrusted to them, referring to the Bible, they simply subjugate the entire earth.
A profanation of the Catholic faith
Kaczyński has imposed an “indefinite mourning period” for the 2010 air disaster in Smolensk, which claimed the lives of all 96 members of the Polish delegation sent to commemorate the Katyń massacres, including his brother. This is a profanation of Catholic mourning, against religious practice, and a politicization of a tragedy.
It is a profanation of the Catholic religion to present as sacred the memory and grave of his brother, then President Lech Kaczyński, or to arrange a public cult of support for his mother.
I will mention one more circumstance that morally disqualifies Kaczyński in my eyes. I saw up close how much he was affected by loud, public rumors that he was gay, which entered popular discourse 30 years ago. Therefore, I find his current statements about LGBTQ+ people surprising, unjustified and embarrassing, depriving them of their human dignity.
Kaczyński’s mocking remarks about children who have problems defining their gender identity are especially inexcusable. I personally know many Catholic families who have experienced issues related to this, not knowing that questions regarding one’s gender are not the result of degenerate customs or ideology.
I am speaking publicly because I am surprised and worried by the gullibility of many Catholics who do not remember that the Gospel itself repeatedly warns against false prophets who come in sheep's clothing, and are predatory wolves on the inside.
Just declaring that you are a Catholic party doesn't mean anything. A mouthful of religious phrases does not indicate deep faith. Chanting the slogan "Jarosław save Poland," making him a superman or even some kind of idol, does not sanctify us in the eyes of this world, and does not ensure eternal salvation for anyone.
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