A Polish archbishop has defended his denunciation of gay and lesbian campaigners as a "rainbow pestilence", despite widespread condemnations, and urged Catholics to resist their attempts to "deprave the nation".
"I didn't call for struggle or hatred against people - the Church never condemns people, only evil", Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow told Poland's Catholic Radio Maryja. "LGBT ideology represents a clearly defined system of thought and anti-values, which is also anti-Christian and rejects the Christian notion that God created humanity in his image and likeness as man and woman".
The 70-year-old Church leader was speaking amid reactions to his 1 August homily in the southern city's Assumption Basilica, in which he claimed the "red pestilence" of communism had been replaced by "a rainbow one", which also sought "to conquer spirits, hearts and minds" while fostering "violence, humiliation and the ridiculing of sacred symbols".
He said Jesus Christ had "died for all people", including LGBT activists, who could be saved if they confessed their sins. However, he added that the Church would resist calls to have LGBT awareness included on school curricula, and said he expected a retraction and apology from the Krakow-based Catholic Tygodnik Powszechny weekly, which last week accused him of violating the teachings of Christ and Pope Francis by inflaming "a fight not against sin but against people".
LGBT groups have frequently complained of discrimination in Poland, where the predominant Catholic Church has vigorously rejected same-sex partnerships and backed the exclusion of gay and lesbian staffers from Catholic schools.
In July, gay rights campaigners accused Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda of Bialystok of inciting violence against an LGBT equality march, during which police used stun grenades and pepper spray to hold back aggressive counter-protesters. At least a dozen further marches are planned across the country until October, and Polish Church leaders have adamantly denied encouraging anti-LGBT direct action.
Protesters demanded Archbishop Jedraszewski's dismissal in demonstrations last week outside the Krakow curia and the Vatican's Warsaw Nunciature, attended by lay Catholics from a "Faith and Rainbow" group. Meanwhile, news reports said Radio Maryja had been ordered by Google to remove the archbishop's homily from its YouTube channel on grounds it "promoted hatred", although the order was rescinded after threats of government action.
However, several Polish bishops also pledged support for Archbishop Jedraszewski, including the retired Cardinals Stanislaw Dziwisz and Zenon Grocholewski and the Bishops Conference president, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, who blamed the conflict on "an offensive by LGBT+ circles" and appealed to parliamentarians and local officials to resist LGBT demands for legal changes.
"People belonging to so-called sexual minority circles are our brothers and sisters for whom Christ gave his life", Archbishop Gadecki said in a statement. "But respect for specific people cannot lead to accepting an ideology which aims at a revolution in social norms and inter-personal relations. This revolution in custom and morals, as Pope Francis stresses, often brandishes a flag of freedom, while in reality inflicting spiritual and material devastation".
Among messages of support from abroad, the Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka told Archbishop Gadecki in a weekend open letter he believed "LGBT ideology" included "atheist and satanic programmes".
Preaching on Sunday at Poland's Jasna Gora national sanctuary, Archbishop Jedraszewski thanked supporters and called on Catholics to "defend authentic freedom" and not "surrender to spiritual falsehood and conformism".
"We must witness to our unambiguous opposition to all attempts to force depravity on the Polish nation", the archbishop added. "Don't allow the evil which threatens us from gender and LGBT ideology to flow across Poland, poisoning the hearts and minds of Poles and inflicting vast spiritual damage, especially to children and young people".
In commentaries last week, the Polish Church's Catholic Information Agency, KAI, insisted Pope Francis had followed "the same approach as his predecessors" on LGBT issues, despite claims to the contrary, and said LGBT citizens already enjoyed "full civic and personal human rights" and full protection from discrimination in Poland.