If Catholic leaders are ever curious about the harm their LGBTQ-negative positions do to the life of the church, they need look no further than Poland. A new survey shows just how severe that damage can be.
Katholisch.de, the German bishops’ news outlet, reported that 65.7% of Poles viewed the church’s role in public life as negative in a nation where roughly 90% of the population is Catholic. Further, 50% of actively practicing Catholics believe similarly. The Guardian reports that only 9% of younger Poles surveyed have a positive view of the church, and that “the number of priests abandoning their vocations is among the highest in Europe.”
Further data on individual religiosity, or how involved one is with their faith rather than simply identifying as a believer, showed under 6% of Poles were “strongly committed” to their faith. 34% of people identified with a religious group, but said they were not active, and, in the 25-34 age group, some 51% were fell into this uncommitted or outside organized religion group.
In recent years, Polish church officials have taken an increasingly harsh stance against LGBTQ people, often in conjunction with the nation’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) which has made homophobia and transphobia hallmarks of its political platform. But anti-LGBTQ positions may not be the only reason Poland’s citizens are upset with the institutional church. The nation’s bishops have supported a proposed law that would nearly ban abortion. The bill and the bishops’ support of it have sparked large, sustained protests. And there have been revelations in recent years of how church leaders both covered up sexual abuse and cooperated with Poland’s late 20th century totalitarian regime. But given how severely and frequently church and civil leaders alike target LGBTQ people, opposition to equality is likely a significant factor, too.
This opposition by Polish church leaders has been intense. In recent years, Poland’s episcopal conference issued a document that claimed church teaching on homosexuality was infallible and seemingly endorsed conversion therapy. Some archbishops have suggested that the movement for LGBTQ equality is “the most serious threat to humanity” or that it is a “rainbow plague” comparable to totalitarianism. Other times, church leaders have been slow to condemn violent attacks against Pride marches and remained silent when some Polish towns were declared “LGBT-Free Zones.”
Most recently, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznan, head of the nation’s episcopal conference, blamed protests against a proposed ban on nearly all abortions to the influence of “cultural Marxists,” Netflix, and social media who allegedly promote “homosexuality, hedonism and promiscuity.” And, in a homily, Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Krakow endorsed the government’s opposition to European Union funding for Covid relief because it “wants to introduce by force gender and LGBT ideology in preschools, so-called ‘gay marriage’, and the adoption of children by [such couples],” reported Notes from Poland. (For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage on Poland, click here.)
Poland is, in many ways, an extreme example when it comes to the Catholic Church and LGBTQ issues. The Guardian suggested in an editorial that the nation was nearly a “theocracy in the heart of the EU [European Union].” Many European nations, especially in the West, are well ahead of Poland when it comes to legalizing LGBTQ rights and societal acceptance.
Church leaders in other nations should learn from the Polish sitution. It is striking that support for the Catholic Church is decreasing so rapidly in a nation where the institution was once-dominant not only in politics, but in the popular imagination. Poland may be an extreme case, but it is a warning sign that church leaders should be wary of forming alliances with those who win power by targeting LGBTQ people with hate speech and violence.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 4, 2021