This figure-ground papercut shows the Polish eagle alternating with the Holy Ghost (tucked between the delightfully rural goats supporting the shields). The Vatican hopes to use Poland's identification with Catholicism to influence the European Union. According to a confidential memo by US ambassador Francis Rooney, “the Holy See hopes that Poland will hold the line at the EU on 'life and family' issues that arise” and would “serve as a counterweight to western European secularism” once the country had integrated into the EU.
Poland has a pyramid of legally-sanctioned religious privilege. At the apex is the Catholic Church with its international concordat, then follow the 15 other religious groups (the latest being the Muslims) whose relationship with the state is governed only by specific national legislation. After those come 155 merely registered religious groups, and finally the rest.
In 1939, just three months after the German invasion of Poland, the Germanophile Pope Pius XII decided to put a German bishop in charge of a Polish diocese. His explanation that this was only a temporary apostolic administration did not satisfy the Polish Government in exile in London. It considered that this violated Article 9 of the 1925 concordat which stated that no part of Polish territory could be placed under the jurisdiction of a bishop whose see was located outside Poland. At the end of the war the Polish Communists made this official, and annulled the concordat on 12 September 1945. After this, relations with the Vatican had to be rebuilt stepwise from scratch:
♦ 1950 Modus vivendi (a foot in the door with the Communist regime, made with the Polish bishops)
♦ 1974 Protocol (to take up diplomatic relations with a regime the Vatican felt was there to stay)
♦ 1988 (unsigned) Convention (a draft concordat with the Communists which was quickly suppressed when the regime fell the following year, raising prospects of a better deal)
♦ 1991 Draft Concordat
♦ Papal signing authority for the following Concordat (7 July 1993)
♦ 1993 Concordat (ratified 1998) (gives the Vatican far more than the 1988 Draft Convention)
♦ 1998 Declaration by the Polish Government, an unsuccessful attempt to get some input in the form of a Supplementary Protocol to the Concordat, which the Vatican rejected
♦ 2007 Military chaplaincy agreement (a result of the concordat, but made with the Polish Bishops' Conference, not the Vatican)
Dr Paweł Borecki, an expert in church law, has studied the effects of this unequal contract between the Vatican and the Polish state. He says that in the almost 20 years since the signing of the concordat, the Church has applied those provisions that favour it and ignored the ones that don't. It is given a free hand due to “the state's submissiveness”.
Three Poles describe increased Church influence and restrictions on women since the end of Communism. “After 1989 women found that a democratically elected government gave them the right to vote in fair elections, but took away the right to decide about their own bodies.”
It took ten years of planning, three papal visits and numerous legislative tricks, but in 1998 the Vatican finally managed to get the Polish concordat ratified. After that, a Declaration was attached to Poland's Accession Treaty to protect the concordat from EU human rights legislation.
In 1717 Clement XI had his nuncio crown an icon of the Virgin as Poland's Queen. The Virgin was also made responsible for the military protection of Poland, with the official title of Hetmanka, Commander-in-chief. John Paul II continued the tradition of militant marianism when in 1981 he enlisted a statue of the Virgin to help combat communism. (The Virgin had this role in Argentina, as well.)
The 1950 Modus vivendi with the Soviet satellite of Poland was the first agreement between the Vatican and a Communist state. Never published in the official gazette, this pragmatic agreement was meant to grant secret concessions which set no precedent.
In two short accounts Bishop Alojzy Orszulik and Fr. Professor Wojciech Góralski present the negotiations as the Vatican would have them seen — as if the concordat originated in Warsaw, not Rome. Only passing mention is made of two key Vatican diplomats, the Cardinals Cesaroli and Silvestrini.
Legal expert, Dr. Pawel Borecki, discusses frankly Vatican manoeuvres to get the Polish concordat through before the country's new constitution. This meant that Poland's whole legal framework had to conform to the concordat and this contributed to the "further clericalisation of public life". Included at the end is a remarkably deferential note to the Pope from a future Polish Prime Minister.
This Complaint to the European Union shows how Polish laws favour the Church at the taxpayers' expense: in the way the laws are framed, in the way they're applied and in the way they're skilfully evaded. The chances of success of this complaint to the Barroso Commission may be slim, but it does contains solidly sourced information which is hard to find elsewhere in English.
Poland's parliamentary and presidential chapels are state-funded and have their own Catholic chaplain. They offer religious services on topics of current political interest and afford clerics privileged access to the lawmakers. And in the summer of 2006 the parliamentary chapel was the scene of what was greeted with mirth as a rainmaking ceremnony.
The Polish Bishops claim to want to “standardise the interpretation of the [Vatican] guidelines”, but are actually erecting special barriers for Poles to leave the Universal Church. Most are nowhere to be found in the 2006 Vatican note to the bishops telling them in general terms to keep control of the process and not let it be handled by the state. Many of the restrictive Polish requirements would not likely be tolerated elsewhere.
How the Catholic Church became the biggest landowner in Poland
The Polish Government can afford to subsidise Church influence in every corner of society, from salaries for the chaplains in the civil service, to holiday pay for the monks and nuns teaching religion in state schools. Yet it is unable to provide free school lunches for Polish children, a quarter of whom are malnourished. This is an itemised list of state subventions to the Church for 2008. The numbers will change from year to year, but the categories are likely to remain the same.