Poland’s bishops have called on pro-abortion activists to cease their attacks on churches and have urged for more dialogue in the wake of a court ruling that banned abortions in cases of foetal abnormalities.
The country’s Constitutional Court ruled last week that the 1993 abortion law’s provision for abortions on the grounds of “severe and irreparable foetal damage” was unconstitutional.
The ruling will mean that abortions in Poland will be restricted to cases of rape, incest and severe health risk to the mother, but such cases only accounted for 2.4 per cent of the 1,100 abortions carried out in Poland last year, with the remainder of cases involving unborn children diagnosed with severe disabilities.
Since the ruling, tens of thousands of Poles defied coronavirus restrictions to protest the court’s decision. And on Sunday, many of the protestors turned their ire on the Church, disrupting Masses across the country and spray painting churches with pro-abortion slogans.
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, president of the bishops’ conference, said that “the vulgarities, abusive graffiti, service disruptions and profanations seen in recent days are not a proper form of action in a democratic state, however much they may help certain people relieve their emotions.”
The archbishop instead called for protestors to “express their views in a socially acceptable way” and encouraged the country dialogue on the question of “how to protect the right to life and women’s rights”.
He also requested “politicians and journalists not to escalate the tensions and show responsibility for social peace.”
On Tuesday, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the Law and Justice party, condemned the protestors’ actions and called on his supporters to defend churches “at every price”.
“This attack [on churches] is an attack that is meant to destroy Poland. It is supposed to lead to a triumph of forces whose power in fact will end the Polish nation as we know it,” he said.
Poland’s deputy justice minister, Michal Wos, added in a conversation with KAI that the protesters at churches were guilty of “criminality and barbarism” and could be prosecuted for their actions.
Meanwhile, Bishop Wieslaw Smigiel of Torun told the KAI that the court ruling “presented Church and state with an even greater task” of providing “concrete help for families with handicapped children.”
Poland remains a strongly Catholic country, with 87 per cent of Poles still identifying as Catholic, but religious observance is falling amongst the youth who grew up in the post-Soviet era.
A 2018 Pew study found that, Poland had the largest generational gap in religious attendance, where 26 per cent of young adults attend weekly services, compared with 55 per cent of their elders.
Dr Marta Kolodziejczak, a sociologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences, told the Financial Times that the attacks on churches marked a significant “shift” in the country’s politics.
“Of course you have protests with anticlerical programmes, but I have never seen a physical protester in a church, or spraying them with paint,” she said. “In contemporary Poland this is something very different.”