A priest in Poland taught school children that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be “cured” with electric shocks and genital mutilation, leading to support from a national politician and criticism from his diocese.
The Barricade summarized the content of the priest’s lesson:
“Homosexuality is a ‘mental disorder’ caused by ‘hormonal imbalances during pregnancy,’ ‘failed relationships with women,’ or living in a ‘hermetic male environment,’ among other things. To ‘treat homosexuality,’ electric shocks, ovaries or clitoris excision, and other methods can be used. This is the ‘knowledge’ that a priest from Limanowa, a small town in southern Poland, shared with his students during online religion classes. On the last day of April, a little-known Silesia-based Polish blogger named Klaudia Szubert leaked the presentation the priest had prepared and then sent to the children.”
In the midst of widely-publicized criticism of the lesson, the priest, whose name was not made public, has had others come to his defense, most notably Edward Siarka, Poland’s deputy climate and environmental minister. Siarka sent a letter to Limanowa.in, a local news outlet, which said in part:
“An attack on a pastor who conducts catechesis in accordance with church teachings is unacceptable. It is yet another attempt to offend religious sensibilities and an assault on Christian values. The article makes false accusations against the priest, and deliberate defamation is a crime. As an MP and minister from the Nowy Sącz-Podhale region, I implore you to clear the priest’s name. There is no tolerance for slander and insults directed at Catholic Church clergy.”
That same day, Siarka tweeted:
“Another attack by leftist circles on pastors who teach the Church’s teachings. Defending Christian values runs counter to gender ideology. The Church cannot give in to the anti-clerical lobby. It must adhere to the preached Gospel.”
In response to the backlash, the priest called his presentation a “mistake,” in an email addressed to the Diocese of Tarnów and the students who received the lesson. In the email, the priest commented, “My intention was not to hurt or offend anyone, but to present the church’s teaching.”
The Diocese of Tarnów’s Catechetical Department contradicted the priest’s claim that he was simply presenting church teaching, releasing a statement that read, in part:
“The presentation was devoted to the sixth and ninth commandments of the Decalogue and, for the most part, was based on Catholic Church teaching and the Holy Scriptures, as recognized by the committee of the Catechetical Department of the Diocesan Curia in Tarnów. This does not apply to the homosexuality content, which was presented as a disease caused by hormones.”
According to PinkNews, the province of Lesser Poland, where the lesson took place, is considered an “LGBT-free zone,” along with over 100 other counties, municipalities, and provinces in Poland. The self-designation means the areas have symbolically declared themselves free of an alleged LGBTQ ideology. In these areas, local leaders have banned Pride marches and defunded pro-LGBTQ organizations.
Polish church officials have a largely negative record on LGBTQ issues, including on questions of conversion therapy for which the priest in this incident expressed support. Back in 2020, the Polish Bishops’ Conference released a document on LGBTQ issues in which it seemingly endorsed ex-gay practices (in addition to the novel claim that church teachings on homosexuality are infallible). The chair of the conference’s bioethics committee, Bishop Józef Wróbel, said there had been a “misunderstanding” about that document and conversion therapy. LGBTQ advocates have remained skeptical, however, because even in the clarification, Wróbel said it was possible for some people to shift their sexual orientation.
Robert Shine, associate director of New Ways Ministry, commented on this priest’s remarks and the responses to them:
“Acknowledging that Catholic teaching does not support alleged conversion therapies, especially torturous ones that would harm a person’s body in severe ways, is a necessary first step on the part of the Diocese of Tarnów. But clarifications from the chancery only go so far, and they likely do little to help LGBQ students themselves who were harmed by the priest. Further action is needed now to consider whether the priest behind these ill-informed, dangerous comments is really fit to continue in ministry.”
—Beth Mueller Stewart, New Ways Ministry, June 2, 2021