Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Catholic Church and State Resume Old Battle over Power in Poland

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Catholic Church and State Resume Old Battle over Power in Poland

Article excerpt

THE Roman Catholic Church and the Polish government are waging a battle in a war some compare to the church's hard-won fight against communist repression.

At stake is the Catholic Church's role in this country: A proposed diplomatic agreement with the Vatican would give the church jurisdiction in certain state affairs along with giving it preference over other religions.

Proponents say it would restore Poland's historic role as a rampart of Roman Catholicism in Europe. They feel that increasing the church's influence would balance out not only decades of secularization under Communist rule, but also the materialism they see in a free-market society. More than 90 percent of Poles are Catholics.

But the Alliance of Leftist Democrats (SLD) - part of the ruling government coalition - is now on the rise partly because a majority of Poles reject an increase of the church's influence in society. The former communists seemed to have hampered the church's advances.

The conflict is all the more intense since Poland is in the middle of its second presidential campaign since 1990. Tempers flared highest when the parliament recently rejected a parliamentary report that, if approved, would have paved the way to ratifying the concordat.

"The government's proceedings are disturbing and serious," said Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, secretary general of the Episcopate of Poland. "It is astonishing that the government delegates people {for the commission} and subsequently rejects their report...."

A coalition divided

The coalition government of the former communists in the SLD and their partners, the Peasant Party (PSL), split down party lines over the issue, with the Peasant Party in favor of the report.

The opposition Worker's Union (UP) backed the SLD, however. "The UP does not choose to have a religious war, but we don't agree with the conclusion of the commission, " said Konrad Napicrala, a UP member of parliament.

The PSL, which is supported by many church-going rural folk, wants to prove its distinction from the SLD and is for quick ratification of the concordat. …

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