Polish Archbishop Says LGBTQ Movement Is ‘Great Threat to Freedom’ as Catholics Demand End to Violent Rhetoric

Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski

A top archbishop has again disparaged the LGBTQ movement, comparing it to the oppressive regime that ruled Poland in the late 20th century. But international church reformers are calling on the Polish hierarchy to comply with church teaching about respecting LGBTQ people and to avoid condemnatory rhetoric.

Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Krakow published a pastoral letter in September that focused on Pope John Paul II’s legacy in Poland. Even with such an unrelated topic, the archbishop managed to disparage the LGBTQ community, which he claimed was the “next great threat to our freedom.” The movement for equality, Jędraszewski wrote, is “just like the totalitarianism of the 20th century” and is premised on a “radical rejection of God.” The letter continued:

“As a consequence of this rejection, a completely new vision of man is proclaimed, which makes him a caricature of himself. As part of gender ideology, there are attempts to blur the natural differences between a woman and a man. Moreover, through the aggressive propaganda of LGBT ideology in the name of the so-called ‘tolerance’ and ‘progress’, that which is most sacred to us is mocked. At the same time, people, including believers, are being forced to promote LGBT ideology. Thus, by breaking the freedom of conscience, they are urged to depart from the principles of their Christian faith. This clearly reminds us of the totalitarian times of the Polish People’s Republic, when social advancements were guaranteed only to members of the Communist Party, and believers were treated as second-class citizens.”

Jędraszewski also criticized sexual education programs:

“Another very dangerous manifestation of this anti-morality offensive is the introduction of sex education programs recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) by some local governments to kindergartens and schools, which in their content lead to great spiritual harm done to children and young people. All this is clearly an offense to God the Creator. There is no doubt that the approval of such programs, consent to them and participation in them is a serious moral offense. Similarly, the attitude of indifference to this kind of threats that destroys order and poses a great threat to the lives and proper development of individual people, families, societies and nations is worth stigmatizing.”

This pastoral letter follows Jedraszewski’s summer attack on the LGBTQ movement, in which he also compared it to Poland’s 20th century totalitarian regime and said further that the movement was a “rainbow disease” infecting the nation. Some Catholics, like Dominican Fr. Pawel Gużyński, and veterans of the Warsaw Uprising, who were being honored during the Mass during which the archbishop made his comments, condemned Jedraszewski’s words. But many church leaders offered support, including Bishop Wieslaw Mering of Włocławek who said the archbishop was being persecuted like Jesus for refusing to “submit to political correctness.” Several other Polish bishops, as well as church leaders in the Czech RepublicSlovakia and Hungary expressed their support.

Pride marches occurring in several Polish cities this summer, along with the ruling Law and Justice Party’s anti-LGBTQ campaign have prompted other bishops to be harshly critical of LGBTQ people. Poland’s bishops had remained silent about anti-LGBTQ violence in the past. But Catholic LGBTQ advocates gathered in Poland last month pushed back against the bishop’s extreme rhetoric.

In late September, the International Catholic Reform Network, a coalition of Catholic reform leaders from around the globe, held its annual meeting in Warsaw. The Network issued a letter to Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznań, head of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, calling on the nation’s hierarchy to abide by church teaching’s call for LGBTQ people to be respected. Three members of the network signed as representatives: Sr. Jeannine Gramick, SL, of New Ways Ministry; Martha Heizer of We Are Church Austria; and Colm Holmes of We Are Church International. The letter shared:

“When we learned that Bishop Wieslaw Mering of Wloclawek defended Professor Aleksander Nalaskowski who called LGBT people ‘Traveling Rapists,’ we felt that he did not follow the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s mandate to treat lesbian and gay people with ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ (par. 2358).

“The Equality Marches in Warsaw, Gdansk, Bialystok, and Poznan this year were opportunities for the Catholic bishops of Poland to show pastoral sensitivity for LGBT people. Instead the Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda of Bialystok described the Equality March as ‘an act of discrimination against Catholics.’ Such rhetoric, we believe, fueled, or perhaps instigated, the attacks of throwing rocks and firecrackers, along with degrading slurs, against the marchers in Bialystok.

“We would like to remind the Polish bishops of the 1986 statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which said, ‘It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech and action.  Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs’ (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons).

“We were appalled to learn that Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow, on the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, used the occasion to disparage LGBT people by saying that ‘a red plague is not gripping our land anymore’ but that there is a new plague which is ‘not red, but rainbow’ and that Poland is ‘suffering from a rainbow disease.’  Such remarks do not show respect for human beings who have been the object of discrimination and social intolerance.

“We ask you to call upon the Polish bishops to comply with the Vatican’s instruction that ‘The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, action and in law’ and ‘to support with the means at their disposal, the development of appropriate forms of pastoral care for homosexual persons’ (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons).”

Gramick commented to Bondings 2.0 that the call in that letter stemmed from the wider meeting focused on how Catholics worldwide are moving forward in building up a more inclusive church:

“At the Warsaw meeting, I saw change bubbling up from grassroots Catholics in such diverse areas as India, Brazil, and Australia, as well as the Western world. The church is in the throes of a seismic shift–from being governed by bishops to being led by the Spirit through the community. And this change is good news for the LGBTQ community. This gives me great hope!”

In upcoming elections, Poland’s reigning Law and Justice Party aims to retain power by scapegoating LGBTQ people. Violence against sexual and gender minorities has already occurred on several occasions.  Where church leaders should be a moderating voice in this tense moment, listening to Catholics’ calls for them to show greater respect, they instead choose extremist words that fuel anti-LGBTQ fires stoked by political actors. This dangerous game that Archbishop Jedraszewski and his fellow bishops are playing with people’s lives needs to stop.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 10, 2019

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