Poles apart … over a cross

Poles apart … over a cross October 15, 2011

MORE bad news for the Vatican … Poland, once one of Europe’s staunchest bastions of Catholicism, seems to be falling out of love with the faith.
The latest manifestation of growing secularism in the country occurred earlier this week when the leader of a new ultra-liberal party – Janusz Palikot of the Palikot’s Movement – demanded the removal of a wooden crucifix from the Polish parliament.

Janusz Palikot
According to this report, the former vodka tycoon, whose party became Poland’s third largest political force following last Sunday’s election, wants the symbol removed as part of his drive to reduce the clout of the Roman Catholic Church. He said:

We respect the religious character of the cross. That is why it should not be pulled into political disputes and should not hang in the parliament.

Palikot’s party has scandalised conservative Poles with its support for abortion, gay rights and legalisation of marijuana. Its 40 newly-elected lawmakers include Poland’s first transsexual MP and its first openly gay MP.
The cross in question has hung above the entrance in the main chamber since 1997, when it was placed there one night by two conservative politicians.
A defender of the cross – Jaroslaw Kaczynski, whose party came second in last weekend’s election – described it as a symbol of Polish history and Christian-based culture.

There is no reason to be ashamed that we’re Catholics. Every country has its tradition and those who want to destroy it are destroying our nation.

If his demand is rejected, Palikot said he would take the matter to the constitutional tribunal and, ultimately, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The church is still revered by many Poles for its role in the overthrow of communism two decades ago with the backing of the “Polish pope”, John Paul II. But a growing number of young Poles have balked at its influence in politics and everyday life.

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  • JohnMWhite

    Sounds like the cross was initially installed in what in any other context would have been described as an act of vandalism. I wonder how many would be so quick to defend its position there as part of Polish tradition had it been a hammer and sickle strapped to the wall…
    Getting rid of lumps of wood is probably not the highest priority for a parliament but it is important for the unity of a people that their governing institutions demonstrate both a level of maturity and inclusivity that allows the average citizen to feel that everyone is welcome and part of the gang. The desperate special pleading as to why a Christian or Catholic symbol should be allowed to be stuck up in parliament and kept there is just undignified.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Indeed, would these same people be so willing to demand it’s retention if it had been an islamic crescent that had been erected? It has no place in parliament which should welcome everyone, irrespective of their religion or lack there of.

  • AngieRs

    Well done, Janusz Palikot. I’m sure many in the various LGBT communities in Europe saw Poland as a worrying influence. Hopefully, Poland will thrive under this new leadership.

  • Stonyground

    I love the way some Christians like to assert that their country has a Christian heritage and will totally fall apart if we lose sight of that. As far as I can see, our long slow climb toward civilisation has mainly been a result of leaving this Christian Heritage behind us. In particular, moves toward equality and fairness for everybody have always been opposed by the religious lobby and still are as this case shows. They just don’t seem to be able to get their heads around the fact that the parliament represents all citizens, Christian and non-Christian and as such, is an inappropriate place for their symbol. Move it into a Church where it belongs and where it would not cause problems.

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  • Stuart H.

    I keep reading this bollocks about how important the role of the church was in ‘opposing communism’ throughout East Europe, but I have East European friends and relatives who live through that and it isn’t the way they tell it.
    To give a few examples –
    Firstly, churches were the only public places not directly owned or run by the government, so the only venue for ‘independent’ public meetings, and paradoxically because there was historical respect for the church, the only places police couldn’t raid without a fuss. Secondly, commie party hacks continued to worship regularly in major churches – for one thing it was the best way to prove they weren’t Jewish, which really would get you persecuted. Behind the scenes there was also an attitude that if priests kept the peasants in line anyway with threats of hell that was less work for the Stasi.
    Thirdly, training for the priesthood at church-run higher education facilities was the only way to get some kind of university level education on human rights. I have any number of friends who did it, then quit when the wall came down and have since become trenchant critics of the religious quasi-fascist right which emerged when churches started getting massive compensation and a role in schools,hospitals and social services because the state didn’t have the infrastructure to run such things – all financed by EU money which has found its way into church coffers of course.

  • Adam

    I’m from Poland and to be honest I’m dissaponted with Palikot’s actions, because economy of our country could be in much better condition, if they would try to vote on some act’s that Palikot promised to try to vote on. I have voted on Palikot in this election, and I’m very happy about the result of his party, but I think he is a little bit overusing the vote of confidence which i gave him with my vote.
    Sorry for eventual mistakes in this comment, but I hope that You have understanded me. 🙂

  • kinia

    I am also from Poland, and really glad that Palikot started that discussion.
    I know that there are so many problem waiting to be solved, but – this is also one of the major problem in Poland.
    Church and vatikan want too much from us, and they want to be in all parts of political life – but I don’t thing thi is their firld.
    I hope he won’t stop…
    Polish people desreves for some normality….without Roman Catholic Church in thei beds, homes, and everywhere……

  • Also come from Poland and I’m glad that someone finally addresses this problem and it can be heard not only locally. Case of the Cross, faith and religion is not only the Polish question. I hope that more people will support this process and manage to work out a compromise. We live in a world where you have to publicize the matter that has been sufficiently heard, so some of Janusz Palikot may seem bizarre, but I hope that this is a deeper meaning.
    sorry for my English, it is not smooth

  • carlos

    I think that the cross has no legal place in the parliament and should be therefore removed because of that if not for the simple reason that the nation consists not only of Catholics and it is boldly unfair which should be easily noticable to anyone.It is so logic,yet the majority of the country is not capable of admitting it.We should get rid of Catholicism as a ruling force once and forever.As already said by a member of this site: As far as I can see, our long slow climb toward civilisation has mainly been a result of leaving this Christian Heritage behind us.