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)
The final step before the signing was the “power of attorney”, the papal authorisation of the nuncio to Poland to act on his behalf. For this was no unofficial “protocol”, like the 1950 Modus vivendi between the Polish episcopate and the Communists, but rather a full-fledged concordat.
Lauded by Pope John Paul II as a model for other post-communist countries, this concordat was drawn up before the new constitution. Thus the Polish legal framework had to conform to the concordat, not vice versa and there could be no constitutional separation of church and state.
This is a timid unilateral attempt by the Polish Government to “interpret” some of the more politically controversial items in the concordat. In the debate in the Polish parliament it was said that the Vatican promised orally to include this Polish contribution in the concordat as a standard “protocol”, but later declined to do so.
This is not a concordat with the Vatican, but an agreement with the Polish episcopate, which shelters under the concordat. This pact between the Military Bishop and the Polish Border Guard enumerates the privileges for the Church but fails to itemise the costs for the taxpayers.