A Polish bishop claimed in a homily that the LGBTQ movement is “the most serious threat to humanity,” escalating tensions in that country between advocates for equality and the nation’s episcopate, who have continued to receive criticism–from a philosopher and a Jesuit theologian/psychotherapist–about their August offensive statements.
Bishop Ignacy Dec, who once headed the Diocese of Świdnica before his retirement earlier this year, made the anti-LGBTQ remark during a September 5th homily. Radio Maryja reported (via Google Translate):
“The [bishop] drew attention to the negative influence of LGBT communities on society. Offensive actions by representatives of this environment destroys the existing values and ‘exceeds the norms of ordinary human decency.’
“‘Currently, the most serious threat to humanity is not infectious diseases or hunger, or even ecological catastrophes, but precisely the gender ideology, which is a new variant of Marxism, especially the philosophy of Frederick Engels, which strikes at marriage and family, reducing people to the level of degenerate beings, unable to transmit further life,’ emphasized the clergyman.”
Dec taught that, as Christians, the response to “such satanic actions” is not to respond to evil with evil. Radio Maryja’s reported, “Bishop Ignacy Dec explained that the LGBT community ‘will never find the approval of the Church that upholds the revealed truth and the order established by God.'”
The bishop’s remark is but the latest offensive comment by Poland’s prelates. In August, the nation’s episcopal conference released a document on LGBT issues that claimed church teaching on homosexuality was infallible, and they seemingly endorsed conversion therapy. In the past, bishops in Poland have compared LGBTQ people to child abusers, a “rainbow plague,” a totalitarian regime, and persecutors of Jesus. They have either remained silent when LGBTQ equality marches were violently attacked or offered weak condemnations. Other bishops, including from outside Poland, have come to the defense of the prelates who made such remarks.
Many Catholics and LGBTQ advocates have quickly and sharply condemned the Polish bishops’ August document and comments, as they have done previously when anti-LGBTQ statements arise. Scientist and philosopher Lukasz Kwiatek took on Dec’s comment, writing in Tygodnik Powszechny (via Google Translate):
“Such statements, especially from prominent hierarchs, are dangerous: because they heat up emotions and can provoke violence against people who identify with the LGBT + acronym and the rainbow flag – or even against people who are simply associated by aggressors with the LGBT + movement. . .Being a bishop, of course, he also has the right to invoke theological reasons in matters important for the spiritual life of the faithful. The problem with his statement, however, is that it goes far beyond the field of theology. . .
“Let us emphasize then that the words of Bishop Dec is not about theology – it is about ecology, because it is this discipline that deals with species extinctions. And when we are in the field of ecology and not theology, we should listen to ecologists, not bishops. In the publications of specialists in this field, there are no voices about the threats to humanity from LGBT + movements. . .
“On the level of facts, the [Dec’s] words quoted from the Toruń sanctuary are in no way defensible. On the level of values, the bishop can be accused of disregarding the fate of the victims – the current pandemic, hunger or wars, which still cause unimaginable amounts of suffering in the world. It also disregards the activities of humanitarian organizations, including Catholic organizations, which offer help all over the world, often endangering the lives of doctors, missionaries and volunteers – since the fight against the ‘gender ideology’ is to be more important (it is easy to imagine what circles would be most eager to fight this fight). It is also difficult to defend the words about ‘degenerated beings unable to transmit life’, which may affect all those struggling with the problem of infertility – not only among LGBT + people.”
Kwiatek concludes that Poland needs “a substantive discussion” about LGBTQ people, including theological issues, but if Poland’s church leaders “confuse theology with ecology and make absurd theses on the basis of the latter” such a discussion becomes increasingly hard.
Elsewhere, Jesuit Fr. Jacek Prusak, who is a theologian and pyschotherapist, as well as vice-rector of the Ignatianum Academy in Kraków, challenged the bishops’ document. He wrote in Tygodnik Powszechny (via Google Translate):
“From a psychological and psychotherapeutic point of view, the bishops’ document is anti-scientific and, in some respects, even harmful. It is anti-scientific because research does not confirm the existence of a single model of development of a given orientation for men and women, just as it does not confirm the possibility of changing this orientation. It is harmful from the pastoral point of view, because it only deepens the internal conflicts of such people, if they consider themselves believers. From the psychotherapeutic side, it is harmful because it legitimizes harmful psychological interventions recommended for religious reasons and having negative consequences for mental well-being.”
Prusak also noted that, because the document rejects a dialogue between theology and science, a wholly Catholic concept, he fears “it will become an easy ‘cheat’ for the ignorant crowd, who will consider it ‘heaven’s help’ in their ‘crusades’ and will deepen the stereotypes.” Prusak has previously said of the document, “This is a message to treat the Bible as a psychology textbook and a constitution for all Poles, and this cannot be done.”
With every prejudiced remark from individual bishops, and an anti-LGBTQ document endorsed by the national episcopal conference, Poland’s bishops continue to ignore their duties to be pastoral ministers in service to the People of God. Unwittingly or not, they become instead religious cover for Poland’s right wing Catholics and politicians to speak and act against LGBTQ people.
—Robert Shine, September 14, 2020