A professor at a Catholic university in Poland has resigned in protest after that university sanctioned another professor for comments critical of the nation’s bishops and their LGBTQ-negative record.
Fr. Andrzej Szostek, a professor described in The Tablet “as a Marian order priest who studied with the future Pope [John Paul II] at the Catholic University of Lublin,” offered his resignation from Poland’s Catholic University earlier this month. It came following the university’s reprimand of Fr. Alfred Wierzbicki, an ethics professor, for his criticism of a document from the Polish bishops on LGBTQ issues. The Tablet reported:
“‘I cannot continue co-operating with an academy whose directors treat their own professor so hurtfully, especially one who has the courage, for ethical reasons I share, to speak out on issues of such moral significance,” said Professor Andrzej Szostek. . .
“‘Certainly, he has been critical of statements and decisions by certain Polish Church hierarchs. But this does not constitute a violation of the purity of doctrine or of the Church’s teaching office’. . .
“In a resignation letter, [Szostek] said the university had given no reason for its reprimand, and had ignored messages of support for Fr Wierzbicki, a former head of the university’s prestigious John Paul II Institute, from a dozen fellow-professors and 700 other Catholic signatories. . .
“‘I know referring this matter to the disciplinary commissioner is not officially a sentence, but it sets a worrying precedent’, said Fr Szostek. ‘It also sounds like a sentence, and it fills me with great pain’.”
The episcopal statement in question, released in August, falsely claimed that church teaching on homosexuality was infallible, and seemingly endorsed conversion therapy. The Tablet shared of Fr. Wierzbicki’s critique:
“[He] said the bishops’ statement contained ‘muddled assertions’ and appeared to have been written ‘on the moon, not in Poland, where people are being persecuted’. He also called on the Polish Church ‘to be more careful, rather than endlessly repeating that homosexuality is a sin’, and said he believed same-sex partnerships posed no danger to families.”
The situation for LGBTQ people in Poland is increasingly dangerous, and the church’s hierarchy, as well as many of the faithful, are complicit. Beyond the episcopal conference’s statement, high profile prelates have claimed the LGBTQ movement is a “rainbow plague,” defended a professor who described Pride marchers as “traveling rapists,” and remained silent on anti-LGBTQ violence, among other troubling statements and actions. All of this contributes to the ruling Law and Justice party’s use of anti-LGBTQ sentiments to hold political power, realized in actions like towns declaring themselves “LGBT-Free Zones” and like Pride marches being assaulted.
Frs. Szostek and Wierzbicki join Dominican priest, Fr. Pawel Gużyński, as church officials willing to challenge the Polish bishops’ highly anti-LGBTQ record. Last year, Gużyński encouraged Catholics to write Krakow’s Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski and ask him to resign over the archbishop’s harsh comments against LGBTQ people. Gużyński was later sanctioned with a penitential silent retreat by his provincial.
These three priests should be commended for their courageous choice to speak out. Poland’s bishops would be wise to listen.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 19, 2020