Poland’s Bishops are being accused of complicity in a controversial new draft law that could see teachers of sex education to children punished with five-year jail terms.
Driving the news
In their first move after winning Sunday’s parliamentary elections, the Polish Law and Justice (PiS) party have started working on a new bill to criminalise “the promotion of underage sexual activity”.
The draft bill went through to commission stage in a vote Wednesday.
Defenders of the draft law say it’s needed to counter the LGBTQ community’s attempts to sow “depravity and demoralization” among young people.
The draft legislation “only says that it is not allowed to encourage a person younger than 15… to have sex or to conduct other sexual activities”, newly-elected PiS deputy Marcin Ociepa told private radio TOK FM.
But critics say it’s a return “to the Middle Ages”.
“The party that just won the elections is now supporting a bill introducing five-year jail terms for sex education at schools”, denounced Marcin Zaborowski, a senior associate at the Visegrad Insight think tank.
“The attempt to limit access to education is a direct attack on all of us”, added Anton Lewandowska from the Ponton Group, a sex education activism and awareness organisation.
“Many people I know who do sex education are scared to do our work despite the fact that it is a basic right of every person”, Lewandowska denounced.
Formal sex education courses are currently not offered in Polish schools.
Instead, students generally receive instruction on how to “prepare for family life”.
But in some cities run by liberal governments, sex education courses are gradually being introduced, leading to criticisms from PiS and the Catholic Church.
It’s courses like these, critics say, that PiS wants to stamp out, in a show of ultra-Catholic credibility after a worse than expected showing at the polls last Sunday, when the party lost the Senate.
“This is their [PiS’] gesture towards ultra-Catholics and the Church. They don’t understand what sex education is and why it is important”, denounced Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, of the opposition Now! party.
“They are trying to impose a narrative that we are in a culture and civilization war” warned the opposition lawmaker, who added that if passed as is the bill will intimidate and silence educators and activists.
Why it matters
Poland’s Bishops have long been fighting against what they see as anti-Christian sex “ideologies”.
Ignacy Dec, Bishop of the Swidnica diocese, recently told right-wing newspaper Nasz Dziennik that “it is worrying that some local authorities are introducing to pre-schools and schools sexualisation programmes recommended by the World Health Organization, which just harm children and youths”.
Earlier this month, Archbishop of Krakow Marek Jedraszewski blasted the “totalitarian nature” of the LGBT rights movement, calling it “the next great threat to our freedom”.
In August, Jedraszewski attracted ire from all over the world for calling the LGBT movement a “rainbow plague” that threatens “to control our souls, hearts and minds”.
In June, the Polish Bishops thanked the 200,000 participants in the Marches for Life and Family held in 130 cities across the country.
The prelates made the most of that occasion to warn against “the promotion of ideologies inimical to natural law and Christian values and against the attempts at introducing such ideologies to schools under the guise of sexual education”.
But some Polish Catholics have also found the courage to stand up to their bishops.
In July, LGBT activists accused the bishops of “blessing hatred”.
In August, in an editorial republished in the Washington Post, journalists of the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper accused the bishops of complicity with the PiS in an increasingly repressive “authoritarian state” that “brings to mind the darkest years of the 20th century”.
That same month, hundreds of people rallied for the resignation of Archbishop of Krakow Jedraszewski, whom they accused of driving away vocations and of facilitating the “black plague” of Church pedophilia.
Two brave Polish priests, Pawel Guzynski and Andrzej Szostek, also protested accused the “scandal” Jedraszewski provoked, but Guzynski was sent away by his provincial on a forced retreat.
Earlier this month, Polish Catholics’ frustration with their ultraconservative priests and bishops boiled over into protests in Krakow and Szczecin.
“We want the Church back”, was the cry of those protesters.