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 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.
Poland's concordat removes Church land claims from parliamentary control. For two decades the Property Commission, which compensated the Catholic Church with land and money, accepted the Church valuation of the land it wanted. Yet the often drastic undervaluation could not be challenged in any Polish court. In 2004 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that this let the Polish Property Commission violate the right to a fair trial.
In 1950 the Communists set up a “Church Fund” to compensate the Polish Church. But after accepting this, the Church demanded more, and not only compensation for land still in Poland, also for land now in Lithuania, Belarus and the Ukraine, as well as for land formerly owned by the Catholic Church in Germany. By 2004 the Church had lost 87,000 hectares and got “back” 94,000. Finally in 2011 Poland ended this by closing down the Property Commission which for 20 years had been effectively set its own prices for land returned to the Church.
How the Polish bishops' 1999 evanglisation plan for schools and universities is being implemented step by step.
Although unwanted by most parents, Catholic Religious Education (catechism) has been inserted stepwise into Polish state schools. In June 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that this violated religious freedom. Two translated newspaper articles report on what's happening in Polish state schools.
Bit by bit over twenty years, the Church has moved far beyond the education clause in the current concordat which guarantees catechism in state schools only where it is requested. Now, in practice, catechism is often compulsory, as it was officially in the 1925 concordat.* To see what this list means in terms of the pupils and their futures, see “Creeping evangelisation in state schools”.
The Polish government decided in 2009 that compulsory sex education is unconstitutional. A report released the same year reveals what actually goes on in these ― now optional ― classes. Youngsters have been taught that homosexuals should be quarantined and cured, that contraception is an invention of Satan, and that condoms can lead to impotence.
This was the first agreement between the Vatican and a Communist state. Never published in the official gazette, this pragmatic arrangement was meant to grant secret concessions on both sides in order to set no precedent. In return for supporting the Polish Communists (and preventing disturbances that could bring in Russian tanks), the state permitted the Church to retain more influence than in other Communist countries.
After the pope devised a face-saving way to open up talks with the Communists in 1961, there followed agreements in 1964 with Hungary, in 1966 with Yugoslavia and in 1974 this one with Poland. The same process is still being carried out today, with, for instance, the Vietnam-Vatican Joint Working Group, established on 16-17 February 2009 with a view to establishing diplomatic relations.
This was a “convention”, not a concordat, as it was signed by a Polish Archbishop and not by a representative of the Vatican. This ill-timed agreement was “annulled” ― ostensibly due to socio-political changes, to which the Church “wished” to adapt ― when the Church realised that it could soon get a far better terms after the collapse of Communism. With this, the Convention was regarded as void.
This draft concordat remained unpublished until it was leaked more than ten years later. Shortly after it was drawn up it was replaced by a new draft which was also kept secret ― even from the members of parliament who were to vote on it ― until it had already been signed.