17 May 2023, The Tablet

Polish bishops assert political neutrality

“We appeal again to politicians of all parties to avoid the temptation of demagoguery and populism and the ruthless discrediting of opponents.”

Polish bishops assert political neutrality

This autumn will see elections to the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament.
Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Poland’s Catholic bishops have sworn their Church will not be “take sides” in crucial autumn elections, while urging media and politicians to show greater “responsibility for the homeland”. 

“However deep the differences and divisions, Polish politics can and should retain a prudent concern for the common good,” the main council of the bishops’ conference said in a statement. 

“When political rivalry is seen as a ruthless power game, we wish to recall, in line with the Church's social teaching, that politics is, in its deepest essence, a call to love of neighbour, expressed in service to the truth, human dignity, freedom, justice and solidarity.”

The statement was issued at the national Jasna Gora sanctuary as campaigning intensified for elections to Poland’s 460-seat Sejm, with opinion surveys suggesting neither the governing Law and Justice party (PiS) nor the liberal opposition Civic Platform will gain a decisive majority.

It said would-be politicians should help build a “broad national coalition for life, family and future generations”, taking into account the aspirations of women and young people, as well as “social responsibility and entrepreneurship” and care for “public institutions and state security”. 

“We appeal again to politicians of all parties to avoid the temptation of demagoguery and populism and the ruthless discrediting of opponents,” the bishops said.

“We must all remember the goal of electoral rivalry is to choose a government that enjoys widest possible support, which will serve all Poles with energy, rather than defeating or destroying political rivals.”

Although widely accused of favouring PiS, in power since 2015, the bishops’ conference has clashed with the government of premier Mateusz Morawiecki on several issues, including its treatment of migrants and refugees.

The bishops accused the government in August 2021 of violating Poland’s 1993 Vatican Concordat and 1997 constitution by failing to uphold Church rights or comply with legislative and consultative requirements.

In its statement, the main council urged the Polish media to avoid “sowing fear and hostility” and fostering “a simplified, one-sided, ideologised and sometimes partisan image of social life”. 

It added that the Church would avoid standing “on the right, left or centre” while Catholic clergy were “called to serve unity in a divided society and to keep their distance from political parties” and appealed to election campaigners “to refrain from instrumentalising the Church” and stirring “anti-clerical emotions”. 

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