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Jefferson and Madison in Warsaw:What Would They Do [2]
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2. Catholic priests receive salaries from the state budget for teaching religion (Catholicism) in public schools and preschools.

3. Church (Catholic) representatives are included on a commission that determines whether books for teaching religion and ethics qualify for school use.

4. 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."

5. Catholic weddings have civil law status (are legally binding if registered within five days) (Concordat, Article 10).

6. Full diplomatic (ambassadorial) ties with the Vatican.

7. 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.

9. State-run radio broadcasts Catholic mass on Sundays.

Today, 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 in 1788.

In 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).

Against 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.…"

· "The 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."

· [The 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."

· "What 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)

Needless 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 Amendment.

There 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).

Of 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.

As 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).

Burdened 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" (Wacyk 37).

And 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.

Should 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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Kaz Dziamka
A college professor, editor of The American Rationalist (since 1996) and English section of Racjonalista (since May 2003) and writer from New Mexico. More...

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