Leading priests and lay Catholics in Poland have urged their Church to distance itself from the governing Law and Justice party, as the Polish bishops' conference warned Catholics not to participate in current pro-abortion protests.
The priests, from the Jesuit, Dominican, Franciscan and Marian orders, as well as the Krakow-based Tygodnik Powszechny Catholic weekly, issued the statement as mass protests continued against a Constitutional Court judgment, overturning a clause in Poland's 1993 abortion law, that allowed terminations in cases of “severe and irreparable foetal damage”.
They said they were “saying no” to “abuses by politicians and sins by the Church”, and demanding “a sincere and real openness to dialogue with those thinking differently”.
A group of leading lay Catholics also urged Poland's bishops to reject a recent call by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader, to “defend the Church at any price”, and “abandon anything which, in the eyes of many, including Catholics, smacks of a throne-altar alliance”.
In their appeal, they said: “The head of the ruling party is trying to convince the public our country's Church faces the ultimate threat which party activists must defend it against. We call on the Polish bishops to condemn this latest attempt to exploit the Church for the political interests of the ruling party".
Pro-choice demonstrators have disrupted Masses and daubed slogans in protest at Catholic Church support for the Court ban, which followed a petition by Law and Justice MPs. Meanwhile, counter-demonstrators attacked protesters in several cities following last week's video appeal by Kaczynski, who is also accusing pro-choice activists of seeking to “destroy Poland”.
Poland's bishops thanked citizens for “bravely standing in defence of their churches” and urged an end to the violence, but reiterated in a message that the Catholic Church would always “declare itself for life and support initiatives to protect it”.
Meanwhile, the bishops' spokesman, Fr Leszek Gesiak, warned in a TV interview that Catholics would be sinning if they took part in pro-abortion demonstrations, as Poland's Federation of Pro-Life Movements protested plans by President Andrzej Duda to table new compromise legislation to allow abortions for babies with “lethal defects”.