Cover Image: The former editor-in-chief of the magazine Tygodnik Powszechny in Krakow was close to Pope John Paul II (photo). / Jacky Naegelen/Reuters
November 21, 2017
Poland’s bishops have forced Fr Adam Boniecki, a historic figure at the intellectual Polish Catholic weekly, "Tygodnik Powszechny", to reduce his media involvement because of views regarded as too liberal. This amounts to the re-introduction of a sanction previously imposed on the former editor in chief of the Krakow journal Tygodnik Powszechny. According to Henryk Wozkiakowski, director of Znak, an independent publisher, “Poland today is caught up in a battle of culture. On one side, we have the anti-religious modernists and, on the other, the tenants of a combative Catholicism focused on the defense of life and traditional values, ranging from the most liberal to the most conservative, everyone is claiming to be the heir of John Paul II.” Isaac Gomes, Asso. Editor, Church Citizens' Voice.
The religious order of Fr Adam Boniecki MIC, a key thinker from the liberal wing of Polish Catholicism, announced this weekend that he is prohibited from speaking to the media.
This amounts to the re-introduction of a sanction previously imposed on the former editor in chief of the Krakow journal Tygodnik Powszechny.
The ban on Fr Boniecki, who used to be close to Pope John Paul II, was only lifted in July. As “senior editor in chief” of the paper, the 83-year old retains the right to continue writing in the journal, where he regularly criticizes the conservative Polish government.
According to a statement by Fr Boniecki’s order, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, the prohibition was imposed as a result of certain comments with respect to Church teaching on the moral judgment of suicide.
The Marians also referred to a message posted on a Facebook page belonging to the LGBT community. They said the post “illustrated without any possible doubt Fr Adam Boniecki’s support for so-called sexual minority groups, whose activities are in total contradiction with the moral teaching of the Church".
The latter criticism was immediately rejected by the editors of Tygodnik Powszechny. “Fr Adam has neither posted any message nor made any gesture of support and he has been a victim of manipulation,” the paper said in a statement.
“People have taken advantage of his benevolence and of the fact that he is opposed to discrimination against homosexuals."
Regarding the suicide issue, the order reproached Fr Boniecki for his sermon at the funeral of a man who set himself alight last month in Warsaw in protest against government policy.
Citing §2283 of the Catholic Catechism, Fr Boniecki raised the possibility of salvation for people committing suicide.
“A section of the hierarchy does not like Fr Boniecki,” Henryk Wozkiakowski, director of Znak, who was in France for the Social Week, told La Croix. Znak is an independent publisher close to liberal Catholic circles and the line defended by Tygodnik Powszechny.
“Poland today is caught up in a battle of culture. On one side, we have the anti-religious modernists and, on the other, the tenants of a combative Catholicism focused on the defense of life and traditional values," Wozkiakowski said.
“According to this fringe group, any gesture of mercy towards homosexuals such as the one by Boniecki is suspect."
In this polarized context, capturing the legacy of John Paul II has become a major issue.
“Ranging from the most liberal to the most conservative, everyone is claiming to be the heir of John Paul II,” Wozkiakowski added.
Founded in 1945 by Cardinal Sapieha of Krakow, Tygodnik Powszechny (“The Universal Weekly”) published articles written by the young Karol Wojytyla following a long trip to France and Belgium in 1946.
Later forced to close, the weekly benefited from a tacit agreement reached by the Church and the communist authorities at the end of the 1950s. This was when Fr Boniecki made his start with the paper.
Among the regular evening-visitors to the paper’s offices was the young Archbishop Wojytyla, his sleeves rolled up and cap stuffed in his pocket. The future Pope John Paul II reported on the Vatican II debates in Rome in which he had participated and that as pontiff he later worked to implement.
Although well in his eighties, Fr Boniecki continues to receive visitors, particularly Polish and foreign journalists, in the historic offices of the paper, with its old floor, leather chairs, black and white photos of former collaborators.
Conscious of the battle between the Church and Polish society over the heritage of John Paul II, shortly before the Polish pope's beatification in 2011, he confided that “we are experiencing a decisive moment".
“Who will John Paul II be for the Polish people in the future? Just another monument in the great gallery of national history or a spiritual reference still capable of changing their lives?” Fr Boniecki asked.