Let’s start with the obvious: Poland is not the United States of America.
Whenever people try to tell me that America is a “Christian nation,” I argue that America is not a Christian nation — it is essentially a Protestant nation. It’s impossible to pin one religion label on the founders, whose perspectives ranged all over the place. (yes, including the views of Deists and the Thomas Jefferson enlightened Neo-Unitarian crowd).
No one perspective would rule. But the free exercise of religious beliefs and convictions would be protected — at the level of the First Amendment.
That said, the most religious corner of the American Bible Belt has nothing in its cultural DNA that resembles the history of Polish Catholicism, especially in the 20th century. Believers there know what a tyranny of iron looks like. They have fears and concerns that Americans cannot understand.
Obviously, this history includes hellish, horrible wrongs committed in the name of religion — like Polish individuals who cooperated with Nazis to crush Polish Jews (while others, like the future Pope St. John Paul II worked to protect Jews). The Catholic DNA in Polish life has also led to almost transcendent moments of constructive, positive action in public life. Think Solidarity.
So what is happening in Poland right now, with the clashes between Catholicism and the cultural armies of the European Union, “woke” multinational corporations and American popular culture?
It appears that editors at The New York Times are absolutely sure they know what is happening, as demonstrated in a recent story with this headline: “Anti-Gay Brutality in a Polish Town Blamed on Poisonous Propaganda.” Here is the overture:
BIALYSTOK, Poland — The marchers at the first gay pride parade here in the conservative Polish city of Bialystok expected that they would be met with resistance.
But last week when Katarzyna Sztop-Rutkowska saw the angry mob of thousands that awaited the marchers, who numbered only a few hundred, she was shocked.
“The most aggressive were the football hooligans, but they were joined by normal people — people with families, people with small children, elderly people,” she said.
They blocked her way, first hurling invective, then bricks and stones and fireworks, she said. From the balconies, people threw eggs and rotten vegetables. Even before the march started, there were violent confrontations, and by the time the tear gas cleared and the crowd dispersed, dozens were injured and Poland was left reeling.
First things first. It’s obvious that horrible violence took place, while different groups inside Poland may argue about the details. Second, it’s easy to find “poisonous propaganda” in Poland on LGBTQ issues.
But here is the big question raised in this story: Can readers trust the college of cultural cardinals at the Times to draw an accurate line separating violent opposition to European-style gay rights and the actions of Catholics — Pope Francis, even — who fear that some LGBTQ “reforms” are a form of aggressive Western colonialism in new garb?
Read the whole Times report and then ask this question: How well did the story deal with the views of Polish people who oppose the violent mobs and reject hooliganism — but who are working to defend the teachings of the Catholic church?
Well, there is this:
The anti-gay language has also been pushed by many figures in the Roman Catholic Church.
Two weeks before the march, Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda issued a letter that was read aloud in all churches in Bialystok and the surrounding province of Podlasie, asserting that gay pride events constituted “blasphemy against God.” He invoked a Latin phrase that was once the rallying cry of priests fighting for freedom against Communist rule. “Non possumus,” he wrote. “We cannot accept this!”
Now, is that kind of anti-gay-rights language the same thing as calling for violent mobs to crack skulls?
Well, (1) there are many Polish Catholics and others — while rejecting the violence — who would say that it is not the same thing.
However, (2) lots of LGBTQ activists would say that the Catholic church’s teachings provide a foundation that makes the violence possible and even inevitable.
The Times article — as it should — does a good job of describing the views of this second group (a group that includes activists who can accurately be called anti-Catholic).
However, try to find interviews and a balanced presentation of those who oppose the violence, but want to weaken what they see as an invasion of their country by — in the words of Pope Francis — “ideological colonization.”
My friend Rod “Benedict Option” Dreher visited Poland several weeks ago. I recommend his remarks in this post — “Poland’s Anti-Gay Violence” — and the commentary by some of his readers. Here is a sample from Dreher:
Violence is not acceptable, ever. Not only is it cruel and wrong in and of itself, it also only serves to help discredit the Polish opposition to the spread of gender ideology and suchlike. The Times story blames anti-gay “propaganda” for the violence. It is reasonable to assume that there has been hateful propaganda in Poland — and shame on anybody who has broadcast or published it.
We should be skeptical, though, because to many liberals, any pushback at all against LGBT messaging is considered “hate” and “propaganda.” Catholic, conservative Poles have a right and a responsibility to defend their values in the public square. There are plenty of Poles who oppose the LGBT movement, but who would never lift a hand in violence against a gay or transgender person. I met Poles like this earlier this month on my visit to Poland.
Whatever the truth about the state of the debate over gay rights in Poland, people should be free to demonstrate peacefully without having to fear physical assault from hooligans.
So try this out. Get yourself a copy of this Times report — print one out on paper. Then get three highlighter pens in three different colors.
First, mark the passages that reflect the LGBTQ perspective, in terms of information and opinions. Then, in a different color, do the same for the point of view of Catholic leaders who oppose the violence, but defend the church’s teachings. Now, with the third color, mark the on-the-record statements of those calling for violence.
What did you see when you did this little journalism exercise?