“To find the front lines of Francis’s fight to reform the Catholic Church, look no further than Poland,” writes Hanna Kozlowska in a recent article in Foreign Policy . She focuses on the Polish Catholic Church’s latest cultural battle: bishops and politicians have teamed up to fight what they termed “gender ideology,” encompassing a slew of social issues including LGBT rights.
Kozlowska writes that Poland’s bishops have been taking a “hard stand in favor of a doctrinaire, conservative brand of Catholicism” and reports further:
“The crusaders use the word ‘gender’ in its English form and argue that it refers to a concoction of all the social changes the church finds unacceptable, including gay marriage and contraception. For several months, priests and Catholic commentators have been pushing the concept of ‘gender ideology’ in the Polish media, and the highest church authority issued a letter titled ‘The Dangers Stemming From Gender Ideology’ to be read in churches the Sunday after Christmas…
“[According to this letter,] in its attack on this ideology, the Polish church now argues that just about every hot-button social issue is a result of this troubling ideology, including gay marriage, sex change, abortion, non-traditional family models, artificial insemination, and contraception…According to ‘gender’ homosexuality is innate and gays and lesbians have the right to start relationships that become a basis for a new type of family, and that they even have the right to raise children. The promoters of this ideology argue that every human has so-called ‘reproductive rights,’ which include the right to a sex change…”
This religious campaign is coupled by political efforts by the United Poland party, which formed a new committee in Parliament under the title “Stop gender ideology” and is targeting government-funded programs that even touch upon issues with which social conservatives disagree.
However, this attack on ‘gender ideology’ is not catching on among Catholics and other Polish citizens, as general antipathy towards the Church grows in one of the world’s most traditionally Catholic nations. Foreign Policy speculates that attacking ‘gender ideology’ may be an effort to divert attention from the mounting crisis surrounding sexual abuse by clergy in Poland. There is also a question about whether such attacks on LGBT people contradict Pope Francis’ words and actions:
“And if the Polish church stayed true to its ‘anti-gender’ convictions, another potential enemy would be the Holy Father himself…
“The movement in Poland is therefore indicative of the problems Francis faces in mollifying conservative elements among his flock. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, appeared happy to preside over what was often described as a ‘rump church,’ one true to doctrine but with a smaller flock as a result of refusing to bend on social issues. Francis, however, has showed no patience for such rigid thinking and has during his still-young papacy adopted a rhetoric aimed at building a more inclusive church.”
In recent weeks, nations such as Nigeria and Russia have passed laws criminalizing LGBT people and the response from Catholic leaders has been mixed. Poland will be interesting to watch on whether Catholics at large will support this incoherent attack on LGBT people or stand against the bishops and politicians who are part of this “stop gender ideology” campaign.
For information on a Twitter campaign to persuade Pope Francis to speak out against anti-LGBT laws and policies around the globe, click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry