Jefferson and Madison in Warsaw:What Would They Do Author of this text: Kaz Dziamka
Catholic priests receive salaries from the state budget for teaching
religion (Catholicism) in public schools and preschools.
(Catholic) representatives are included on a commission that determines whether
books for teaching religion and ethics qualify for school use.
State funding of the Lublin Catholic University and the Papal Theological
Academy of Cracow (Concordat, Article 15, Section 3). Article 22 also obligates
the Polish government to support the renovation and conservation of
„valuable" Catholic churches and other buildings, as well as „works of
art," described as part of Polish Christian "cultural heritage."
Catholic weddings have civil law status (are legally binding if
registered within five days) (Concordat, Article 10).
diplomatic (ambassadorial) ties with the Vatican.
Article 9 requires that Christian (Catholic) holidays be recognized as
public holidays, for example, January 1 (in celebration of Mary, „Holy Mother
of God" and „Queen of Poland") and August 15 (the Day of the Ascension of
the „most Holy Virgin Mary").
8. A crucifix hangs in both the upper and lower houses of Parliament.
State-run radio broadcasts
Catholic mass on Sundays.
if Madison and Jefferson were alive, they would be appalled by how the recent,
unique opportunity for a truly free, democratic Poland was compromised by
establishing a de facto state — supported
Catholic Church in the Polish Third Republic.
We can safely assume that Madison and Jefferson would have considered all
of the above cases violations of the principle of church-state separation.
But, in particular, we know what they would have said about the first
four religious privileges because the problem of tax-supported Christian
education arose several years before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution
1784, Patrick Henry, independent Virginia's first governor, introduced a „Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion," a tax which is essentially equivalent to Poland's current system of
state-supported religious instruction in Polish public schools and of the
financial aid to Catholic schools, churches, and other buildings. Henry's proposed tax required everybody to "pay a moderate tax or contribution annually for the support of the Christian religion,
or of some Christian church, denomination or communion of Christians, or for
some form of Christian worship" (qtd in Boston 58).
this danger to religious freedom and secular government, Madison quickly swung
into action and in 1785 wrote the famous "Memorial and Remonstrance Against
Religious Assessments," a rigorous rebuttal of Henry's Bill. In
"Remonstrance," Madison compellingly spells out fifteen major reasons why
Henry's Bill is dangerous and should be rejected. Some of these reasons bear
quoting at some length because the same reasons should be used today against the
Polish system of sponsoring Catholicism and bonding church and state.
Several of Madison's arguments against
state-supported religious education:
[Henry's] bill „will be a dangerous
abuse of power.…"
religion … of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every
man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate."
support of the Christian religion through a legal system] „is a contradiction
to the Christian religion itself; for every page of it disavows a dependence on
the powers of this world."
experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining
the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During
almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on
trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and
indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity, on both,
superstition, bigotry, and persecution."
influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In
some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of
civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of
political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the
liberties of the people." (emphasis
added) (Annals 16-20)
to say, Madison's implacable logic and political expertise helped win the day
in Virginia's fight for religious freedom: Henry's Bill was rejected and
„Remonstrance" went on to become the political foundation of the First
can be no doubt that the Polish Sejm's failure to separate church and state in
Poland is a fatal flaw of Polish democracy.
The provisions of the Polish Concordatas well as other, traditional, privileges of Poland's Catholic
Church have helped strengthen this powerful religious and political
organization, now officially linked with the Vatican. In the Vatican, government and religion are one, and the
ultimate authority is given to and exercised by one man — the Pope. Such a government should be
considered the most undemocratic in existence, as it was so considered by
Madison. As he pointed out in a letter to Rev. Adams in 1832: „In the Papal
System, Government and Religion are in a manner consolidated, & that is
found to be the worst form of Governments" (Padover 311).
course, as long as Karol Wojtyła remains the Pope, the Polish Concordat may
be of some political benefit to Poland. But it is very unlikely that there will
be another Polish pope. What then will be the benefit of the Polish Concordat?
And what were the benefits of the Vatican's policy towards Poland in the past?
Perhaps a few illustrations will suffice.
What did Poland gain from Pope Pius XII's pro-Nazi policy before and
during the Second World War? In Papal
Politics in the 20th Century, Karheinz Deschner, the
distinguished German scholar and critic of the Catholic Church, quotes
Poland's foreign minister Józef Beck: „The Vatican is the most responsible
for the tragedy of my country. Too late did I realize that our foreign policy
had been shaped to serve the egotistical goals of the Catholic Church" (29).
From the perspective of a pro-Nazi pope, Poland could be sacrificed because to
the Vatican the destruction of the Polish nation was an acceptable price to pay
in the Vatican's ideological war against Soviet atheism.
early as the sixteenth century, Poland's foreign policy, particularly towards
Russia, was shaped by the Vatican, a policy contrary to Poland's national
interests. After the Counter-Reformation, the process of catholicizing the
Polish nation intensified so much that in the eighteenth century the number of
Polish Catholic clerics exceeded the number of Polish troops. In The
Polish Myth: Zadruga, Antoni Wacyk recalls that at the end of the eighteenth
century, when Poland had already suffered the humiliation of the First
Partition, the Polish army numbered only about 18,425 troops, while the number
of Catholic priests at the time was 31,137! (40-41).
with an army of Catholic clerics, almost twice as large as its military (one
third of which were officers), Poland was wiped out off the map of Europe by the
end of the eighteenth century. Is this any wonder? From the point of view of the
Vatican, it is more important that Poland should have more Catholic priests and
Catholics to support the Catholic Church than Polish troops to defend Poland's
sovereignty. This is why none of the Three Partitions of Poland was condemned by
the Vatican. This is also why such prominent Polish Catholics like the
Archbishop of Lvov, Wacław Sierakowski, welcomed the invaders in 1772,
after the First Partition, when Poland lost 211,000 square kilometers of its
territory (Wacyk 42). But to many catholicized Poles, the primary duty was to
protect the interests of the Catholic Church rather than to protect one's
country. As Jesuit Piotr Skarga once said: „First, you have to fight for the
Church and your soul rather than for your country… First, you must be
concerned with your perennial country rather than with your temporary country"
what else if not state — supported Polish Catholicism can ultimately account for
traditional Polish anti-Semitism and the costly political price Poland has to
pay, as for example, in the wake of the recently revealed Jedwabne massacre?
Polish anti-Semitism — like
any Christian anti-Semitism — is
fed by the popular Christian misconception that one of the founders of
Christianity, Jesus Christ, was murdered by the Jews. It is bad enough that such a misconception is perpetuated by believers in the dogma of Christ's divinity.
It is much worse when this misconception becomes
institutionalized through a Concordat with a political organization that used to
promote anti-Semitism, suppress scientific investigation, and torture and
execute heretics and dissenters during the Inquisition.
we forget that Copernicus' epoch-making book published in 1543 remained on the
Papal Index until 1835? Or that in
1689, Kazimierz Łyszczyński was executed for questioning the existence of God?
And who remembers now what happened in 1611 in Bielsko Podlaskie to Iwan
Tyszkowic, a Polish Socinian? Do
Polish history instructors tell their students in Polish public schools
monitored by the Catholic Church that Tyszkowic's tongue was torn out, his
hand and leg cut off, and what remained burned only because he challenged the
dogma of the Trinity?
Madison would consider the Polish Catholic Church a powerful
„faction," a term he uses to describe a group of citizens "whether
amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by
some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the right of other
citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community" (78).
In Poland, such impulses of passion and of interest of the Catholic majority -
based faction adversely affect the rights of not only non-Catholics
like Polish agnostics, atheists, pagans, Jews, Muslims, and other minority
religious groups. They also adversely affect the civil rights of many Catholics
themselves, as for example through the anti-abortion laws enacted by Catholic
politicians. Perhaps the worst — and
now probably irrevocable — effect
of this tyranny of a majority — based Catholic faction is the annihilation of the
original Polish pagan culture and religion to such an extent that the current
Polish Constitution does not even mention Poland's pre-Christian, Slavonic
heritage. As I pointed out above, the Polish Constitution either deceitfully or
ignorantly talks about "Polish culture being rooted in the Christian
"heritage," as if Polish Slavonic tribes had not existed for two millennia
before the implacable, unrelenting eradication of Slavonic culture and religion
began in the tenth century with the forced adoption of Christianity.
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« (Published: 05-06-2003 Last change: 25-11-2003)
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