LGBTQ Advocates Unconvinced by Polish Bishops’ Condemnation of Anti-Pride Violence

Police surround Pride marchers in Bialystok, Poland

Poland’s bishops have condemned anti-LGBTQ violence that occurred earlier this month during Pride festivities, but many equality advocates are not satisfied with the hierarchy’s response given the church’s alleged role in fomenting anti-LGBTQ sentiments.

Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda of Bialystok released a statement condemning violent attacks against the city’s “Equality March” that occurred two days before. The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) quoted the archbishop as saying:

“‘Acts of violence and scorn are incompatible with the attitude of a Christian and disciple of Christ. . .At the same time, I encourage prayer and care for the family and its internal purity, so our families, strong in God, can offer an example of beautiful love in the pattern of the Holy Family. These latest incidents show we still have much to do.'”

The anti-LGBTQ violence happened during Bialystok’s first ever Pride celebration on July 20th. Right wing protestors attacked the Pride participants, throwing objects like rocks and firecrackers at them and shouting slurs. At least two dozen people were detained by police who had to intervene with tear gas to stop the violence, reported PinkNews.

Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda

NCR reported that Wojda had previously described the Equality March as “an initiative alien to our land and society” and “an act of discrimination against Catholics,” writing in a July 7th message that LGBTQ advocates “insulted Christian values, profaned sacred symbols and uttered blasphemies against God.

Other church leaders in Poland offered LGBTQ-negative responses to the Equality March violence NCR reported:

“In a July 21 statement, the Polish bishops’ conference spokesman, Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, said the Catholic Church would continue speaking out against the ‘deadly sin’ of homosexuality, while ‘unequivocally disapproving’ acts of aggression. . .

“Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, told the Catholic Niedziela weekly July 21 that previous rallies had included the parodying of images of the Virgin Mary and Christian symbols in Czestochowa, Krakow and other cities, suggesting those demanding tolerance often incited ‘hatred for the church and its clergy,’ and turned their meetings into ‘places of blatant intolerance, obscene presentations and scorn for Christianity.’

“He added that recent revelations about sexual abuse by Catholic priests were being ‘used for attacks against the church with the aim of stripping away its moral credibility’ as ‘the last voice in society not compromising with contemporary demoralizing trends.'”

In related news, the Polish bishops released a statement supporting a former IKEA employee, identified only as Tomasz K., who the company terminated for posting anti-homosexuality material on social media. The bishops accused IKEA of promoting “LGBT indoctrination” and said it was “unacceptable to attack” Tomasz, according to The Local.

LGBTQ advocates have therefore been unconvinced by the bishops’ condemnations of the violence in Bialystok. Anna Dryjanska charged Wojda with “two-faced incitement” that spurred Catholic protestors on. NCR reported:

“‘There was a pogrom atmosphere in Bialystok – if the police hadn’t been there in force, something truly dreadful would have happened. . .When it turned out people had been beaten and injured, the Catholic bishops washed their hands with banal statements about opposing violence.'”

The risks for LGBTQ people in Poland have escalated dramatically in recent years. The right wing Law and Justice Party has chosen LGBTQ people as the target of scapegoating and politicking in the hopes of keeping power. This campaign intensified this summer, reported LGBTQ Nation. In one instance, a government-supported newspaper began distributing “LGBT Free Zone” stickers. Elsewhere, local governments in at least thirty places have declared themselves as such zones. In May, an artist was arrested for depicting the icon of the Mother of God of Czestochowa with a rainbow background which a top government official said was intended to “humiliate Catholics.”

Of particular concern for Catholics who care about LGBTQ equality is how closely this uptick in anti-LGBTQ sentiments and violence is tied to the church. While Poland’s bishops at times have distanced themselves from Law and Justice, the party has strong support from the lay Catholic faithful, who comprise 95% of Poland’s population. And the bishops have not shied away from harshly condemning LGBTQ equality on their own.

In such a traditionalist country, nothing will fundamentally change until the bishops take responsibility for the real harm they are causing. They should be able to condemn, without qualification, all discrimination and violence targeting LGBTQ people. The clash in Bialystok was an easy moment to show such solidarity, and yet they failed to do so. Let us pray that should such violence ever happen again, the bishops will find the courage to offer an unqualified condemnation. Until then, it seems best that they just remain quiet.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 26, 2019

8 replies
  1. Richard Boyle
    Richard Boyle says:

    “In a July 21 statement, the Polish bishops’ conference spokesman, Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, said the Catholic Church would continue speaking out against the ‘deadly sin’ of homosexuality, while ‘unequivocally disapproving’ acts of aggression. . .”

    This just one more of the endless examples of the Church engaging the in the type of “doublespeak” which is a version of it’s wanting to “have it’s cake and eat it too.”

    I continue to believe and live by the dictum that “an injustice toward one is an injustice toward all.”

    Church, you cannot have it both ways… repent!

  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    And it’s happened again! Here’s the quote: “[T]he party has strong support from the lay Catholic faithful, who compromise 95% of Poland’s population.” In this instance, it wrongly implies that the “Catholic faithful” are “compromising” Poland’s population. Editors: please put a post-it note on your console, as a reminder of the crucial difference between “comprising” and “compromising”. Choosing the wrong word reverses the intended meaning of the sentence.

    • Francis DeBernardo, Editor
      Francis DeBernardo, Editor says:

      I will have to get some younger eyes than mine to do the proofreading! 🙂 Thanks for your eagle eyes!

  3. Cheryl Rogers
    Cheryl Rogers says:

    Heartbreaking and I am horrified that Poland who dealt with the Nazi’s are themselves acting like Nazi’s to the LBGTQ populous? Just awful. Tired of the Church fueling this hate and then not even accepting the responsibility that they are the prime contributors of such hate and violence against a ‘neighbor’. WWJS? This is not the Christian path that I believe Christ came to show us, and the Church wonders why so many LBGTQ and family/friends leave/are leaving/ or have left the Catholic Church. The unfortunate sorrow is that many are also leaving Jesus and God!!!!!! Who will answer to this great loss after Jesus Himself came to save all! Such a loss of souls, good loving souls.

  4. Gabriela Assagioli
    Gabriela Assagioli says:

    It is not surprising to me that this is happening in Poland. The country has a horrendous history of annihilating those who think and pray differently. Sadly church and marriage have be blocked to willing participation by millions of Catholics, Jews, Muslim, etc. and spiritually driven LGBT community. Many want to be included in the Catholic Church and other Churches which is the opposite of what has been portrayed by hierarchy. In many countries including US there has been a seething or rage for LGBT people who have been able to marry both legally and spiritually. Difference is no longer seen as a asset.

  5. Anton
    Anton says:

    Though American-born, I do have connections and knowledge of Polish church situations and a good number of the clergy – even in “high places.” It seems to me on this issue Bishop Wojda, et al, are forgetting about John, Chapter 8 and “the woman taken in adultery.” “Let the one WITHOUT sin cast the first stone.” The event in Bialystok is comparable to the incident in John, magnified. In John’s story, they dropped their rocks “beginning with the elders” – would that the bishops and Polish “patriots” learn from that and truly become “Mother Church.” Beautiful story of an Australian Christian woman who had hard time accepting her son being gay. She prayed fervently to God about the situation not wanting to give up either God OR her son. She heard a “voice”: “I give up MY son so that YOU wouldn’t have to give up YOURS.” She wore a rainbow sash walking her son down the aisle at his wedding to his husband. A symbol put in the sky by God as a promise to Noah. Bogu niech beda dzieki!

    • Gabriela Assagioli
      Gabriela Assagioli says:

      Anton’s story of the woman who found a way to love her son and remain a Catholic is lovely. I am so happy that her love of both found a way of being one.
      The reference to “those without sin” isn’t as effective, for me. For me this assumes that homosexuality is a sin. I feel certain that you don’t mean that, but I just think that that scripture verse works well in this circumstance. Peace to you an all of us who love fully.

  6. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    I wonder how many of these folks who condemn LGBTQ persons actually KNOW one – or any of them. They might be surprised to learn how much everyone has in common – all seeking love and acceptance in a complicated world; working hard to support their families and becoming valued members of society, How difficult it must be to reassure family members over and over again that God loves each and every person He has created – all in His image and likeness. The evidence is clear that the image and likeness of God must have a very broad spectrum. Some would rather cling to a time when there was scant research done on this subject. Now, lines of communication have opened and volumes of research have become available for anyone wanting to learn. We need not feed avenues of division. Let us pray for a time of enlightenment and acceptance of reality.


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