The fates of two very different priests in Poland have revealed the distance of the country’s institutional Church from the Gospel message.
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Politico reported last week on the story of “Poland’s most politically powerful priest”, Tadeusz Rydzyk.
Citing Polish media, Politico said Rydzyk’s foundation has received 48 million euros in public funds since 2015, “for projects ranging from energy to a museum, cancer research and a memorial park”.
But opponents say the funds are repayments for Rydzyk’s support for the country’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS).
“Rydzyk has supported PiS for decades using his Radio Maryja network, his TV Trwam television station and the Nasz Dziennik newspaper”, Politico said.
Rydzyk’s latest project is a nine million euro geothermal power plant in the central city of Toruń financed partly by EU funds and by government loans and subsidies.
But the plant – which will supply hot water to Rydzyk’s university and church, as well as to the city – is being criticised by opponents as inefficient.
“Geothermal is not the best investment, but energy — alongside the health system — is the best place to invest in Poland going forward and in some places is a kind of cash cow”, Michal Kruszewski, a researcher at the International Geothermal Center in Bochum, Germany, told Politico.
Sławomir Neumann, parliamentary leader of the opposition Civic Platform party, said the Government grants for Rydzyk’s geothermal plant – which add up to at least six million euros – were a “stunning sum”.
Neumann added public money will continue to flow into the priest’s pockets until October’s elections, “because the whole media empire of Tadeusz Rydzyk is meant to serve the ruling party”.
Rydzyk’s coziness with power contrasts sharply with the fate of another Polish priest, Pawel Guzynski, who as New Ways Ministry reports has been punished for criticising an archbishop who called the LGBT+ rights movement a “rainbow disease”.
At an August 1 Mass, Krakow Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski said “the Red Plague no longer threatens our land, but a new plague has emerged, neo-Marxist, which wants to seize our souls, hearts and minds. A plague that is not red but rainbow”.
Three days later, Guzynski began a Facebook petition calling on people to send letters to Jedraszewski to ask him to resign.
“I don’t mean a church rebellion!!!”, the Dominican was careful to point out in a Facebook post.
The priest encouraged his contacts to undertake the campaign “together, consistently and with due respect for the office of a bishop”, maintaining “the strength of our decency”.
But now Guzynski has been sent by his provincial on a multi-week penitential silent retreat so he can “find the right way for a clergyman to speak on matters of faith and morals and to conduct ideological disputes”.
But other priests are following Guzynski’s example in defence of LGBT+ people.
New Ways Ministry reports on the case of Fr. Andrzej Szostek, who blasted Archbishop Jedraszewski’s homophobic attitude as “deeply anti-human, but also deeply anti-Christian”.
“Jesus is open to everyone”, Szostek said. “For him there are no strangers, no enemies, no one to turn his back on, no one to attack”.
“They want to justify this kind of action in the name of Christianity? This is more than a scandal for me”.