Let Us Be Brave: Jazdzewski’s Constitution Day’s Speech Stirs Up Controversy in Poland

On May 3, 2019, on Fundacja Liberte!’s invitation, President of European Council Donald Tusk was to deliver a lecture at the University of Warsaw to celebrate the Constitution Day with Poles in a joyous and positive manner. It was not, however, the speech by Donald Tusk that has stirred up public opinion in Poland the most – it was actually Leszek Jazdzewski, Editor-in-Chief of Liberte!, with his honest introductory address that has caused a lot of controversy in all mainstream media, on social media, among politicians and within the society.

Since then, Jazdzewski has been a frequent guest of all major TV and radio programs, promoting the idea of separating the Church from the state, thus hitting the right note with a massive part of the Polish society (and aggravating the defenders of the status quo), and mobilizing the liberal electorate before the 2019 EP election.

Jazdzewski on His May 3rd Address and Its Aftermath (Commentary)

May 3rd Celebrations in Warsaw
May 3rd Celebrations in Warsaw

We shouldn’t let the nationalist right push ourselves aside. As only hypocrisy and a belief that a “some-things-must-remain-unspoken” attitude will safeguard their hold on the power in Poland. Nothing is more painful than hearing the truth that may be difficult to stomach.

The things I said at the University of Warsaw on May 3, 2019, in my short address before the lecture delivered by Donald Tusk, caused a sheer madness in the right-wing part of the internet. The Catholic Church in Poland, still burdened by unresolved scandals around pedophilia, bound by its fight for money and power, has lost its moral mandate to serve as the conscience of the nation.

Those who seek transcendence and an absolute in the Church will be disappointed. Those who seek morality in the Church will not find it. Those who seek spiritual food will leave hungry.

The Polish Church has moved away from the gospel, from Jesus Christ. If Jesus were to be crucified once again, it would be by the hands of those who use the cross as a beating stick to force submissive sheep back into a pen.

Krystyna Pawłowicz, an infamous Law and Justice (PiS) MP, called me a “satano-fscist”. TVP, the Polish state tv broadcaster, labelled me a “satanic trial jumper”. Paweł Lisicki, the Editor-in-Chief of a right-wing Do Rzeczy magazine, urged not to shake hands with me.

The Episcopate issued a statement declaring that my words are a “manifestation of hate”. Wiadomości, an evening news program aired by TVP, devoted to me a special segment. Jaroslaw Kaczynski himself claimed that “Those who raise their hand on the Church, raise their hand on Poland”.

President of European Council Donald Tusk speaking during May 3rd Celebrations in Warsaw
President of European Council Donald Tusk speaking during May 3rd Celebrations in Warsaw

These are precisely the people whom I had in mind when delivering my speech on May 3, saying a few words of truth about the Polish Church.

Today, the themes that are being discussed are selected by enemies of modernity – sorcerers who intend to win over the hearts and minds of the Poles by employing spells and by feeding on bad emotions.

I don’t plan on responding to hate with hate as it only further strengthens those who – just like Jacek Kurski and his clique at TVP – have no self-restraint; who – just like Jaroslaw Kaczynski – feed on negative energy.

But entering a competition in invectives and negative emotions with them is pointless, which is why after a few hours of wrestling a pig in the mud you finally realize that, actually, the pig enjoys it. We need to change the rules of the game. There can be no talk of the renewal of politics if any discussion about it begins with the question: “Whose side are you on?” instead of “What do you fight for?”.

We cannot let the nationalist right wing force us back into a pen. As only hypocrisy and a belief that a “some-things-must-remain-unspoken” attitude will safeguard their hold on the power in our country.

This belief is based on the fact that many people are convinced that we cannot openly talk about the things that we feel are true: that the Church has no basis to claim the right to be the moral authority in Poland.

The issue of pedophilia is not limited only to the Church, true. But only the Church is the only institution I recall that helps cover up for pedophiles and their crimes.

The Church forces politicians to transfer huge amounts of money back to their coffers, earning a fortune from the “regained” plots of land in a way that – of course, only after the procedure had been carried out – turned out to be against the Polish Constitution, following a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal. The religion lessons in schools alone cost app. PLN 1.3 mln each year.

Leszek Jazdzewski delivering his speech during May 3rd Celebrations in Warsaw
Leszek Jazdzewski delivering his speech during May 3rd Celebrations in Warsaw

Meanwhile, the Church supports banning abortion, which would force raped women to give birth. It also does its utmost to fight contraception (!) and sexual education, which could reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Of course, there are many decent priests. Unfortunately, they don’t have any influence on this typially hierarchical institution. The ideology and actions of the Catholic Church in Poland have nothing to do with the gospel of Christ. Moreover, it behaves in a manner that s not in line with the teachings of Pope Francis.

Polish right wing preys on Polish religiosity, cynically exploiting the alliance with the Episcopate to push for their own agenda. But the majority of Poles opposes the involvement of the Church in politics. Several years of the rule of the Law and Justice party, close ties that exist between the throne and the altar, evoke increasingly strong emotions.

Currently, there are far more opponents of religion lessons in schools than its supporters, more supporters of liberalizing abortion than making the abortion laws stricter.

European Coalition and many commentators who support this political amalgam suffer from a kind of Stockholm syndrome. Even though the Church supports their opponents, even though the electorates of Civic Platform (PO), Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), and Nowoczesna are mostly not the audience of Wiadomości or right-wing press, they still bury their heads in the sand.

They let PiS and its acolytes blackmail them as they fail to understand that Poles whom they address – including the church-goers – await a completely different kind of leadership. Leadership that isn’t afraid of telling the truth – even when it’s harsh, we very much need it.

This is why I address all of you directly: Be brave, don’t lose hope. Sooner or later, the hope will prevail.

The commentary by Leszek Jażdżewski was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/badzcie-odwazni/

Translated by Olga Łabendowicz