In the name of those unidentified values everything that alludes to the Christian past should be – according to these modern ideologists – removed. In this case – crosses. So they are doing exactly the same thing that has been imprinted in our Polish memory as the achievements of nazi Germany and Bolsheviks – Krakow Metropolitan Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski tells Sławomir Skiba and Krystian Kratiuk in an interview.
Your Excellency, a few weeks ago French authorities made a decision about a cross surmounting a memorial of John Paul II in one of their towns. It is supposed to be removed. It seems that this decision is the beginning of a new stage of aggressive secularization. How to understand this?
More less ten years ago a book by George Weigel was published. It’s title was peculiar: The Cube and the Cathedral. The author already presented this problem there – the problem of a huge secularization process, which means departing from our Christian roots. The book was exactly about France. I refer to Weigel as his view is the one of a „man from outside”, not a Frenchman – it’s important because we should ask the French about such issues first of all. Probably we would get a whole range of various opinions. But we, the same as Weigel, are outside and we all can see this worrying process of leaving Christianity by France and it’s all natural for us to ask the same question John Paul II asked the French at the beginning of his pontificate: “France, what have you done with your baptism?” It’s a very important question.
As we can see this nation has been leaving Christianity since the Great French Revolution. Of course there have been attempts to regain their Catholic identity and then strong opposite processes, negating that tendency, but the turning point was no doubt the year 1905 when the separation of Church and State understood in a particular way was implemented. Today’s decisions are the effect of those times. In front of our very eyes a peculiar paradox is being achieved – the French elites, thinkers, politicians don’t want to see their own roots. Only because they are Christian! But Gaul was one of the first daughters of the Church! Great witnesses to the Faith lived in its area – priests and martyrs – such as St. Ireneaus. And today all those things are being removed, not even forgotten – they are not supposed to be! They do not exist.
But there must be something instead.
Exactly. „Modern cathedrals” are being built instead. For example I would name the French Arch of Triumph as such. I managed to see it a year ago. This is that „Cube” in the title of Weigel’s book. That cube indeed gives an observer an impression of utter emptiness – as there is no meaning in it. We can see a certain shape, we can see its bulk (something that might impress some people), but we are struck by emptiness.
And what about when we look at Notre Dame Cathedral? Then the reaction is totally opposite! It is still full of meaning, even when there are crowds of tourists walking through it, still some part of it is sectioned off as a place for those who pray. What’s interesting – next to the cathedral there is a huge monument of John Paul II. Made by the same artists who created the memorial in Ploermel which is supposed to be deprived of its cross.
The monument in Paris has not been in danger so far.
Up to now, but what will happen tomorrow? Who knows what interpretation their judicial authorities will make? For among many representatives of Western countries we can see – using Czesław Miłosz’s term – the „Hegelian sting”. Once it was pointed out to Hegel that illustrating one of his propositions with an example he had referred to something that turned out not to be true. Then without any hesitation he answered: „so much the worse for the facts”. In leftist thinking, the Hegelian one, taking on neo-Marxist or extreme leftist forms, there is a tendency not to mind facts and tell things contrary to them. What’s important is only the narratives prepared by them.
It’s part of a certain term which was very popular last year – the „post-truth”. And what is the narrative today, what is the binding post-truth today? That Christianity has never existed! Although France is still covered with monuments illustrating the past glory of Christianity (even though many of those monuments, that is churches, are squalid and desolate as they are in possession of the state) they want to convince people that these monuments have never been there! Or at best that it’s not important. That now is this time of new narratives, new symbols, new values!
What values are these?
They call them European. But nobody has ever defined what it actually means. In the name of those unidentified values everything that alludes to the Christian past should be – according to these modern ideologists – removed. In this case – crosses. So they are doing exactly the same thing that has been imprinted in our Polish memory as the achievements of nazi Germany and Bolsheviks. They did exactly the same thing: they destroyed crosses! And it is deep in us, Poles, the memory of those times is still vivid. So when we hear that in a remote French town, we have even not known before, a cross is a problem, it brings back memories of the persecution of Christianity and the fight against our symbols.
But the problem of removing crosses from the public space is not only the French one. Also in Poland we have had a few attempts to launch a campaign against the cross in public places – as for example in one of schools in Wrocław. Then ordinary Catholics resisted and stopped the plan to remove that cross.
I see it as an attempt to test us – how much we will let them do. It’s also an attempt to introduce a system in Poland which Benedict XVI called a „dictatorship of relativism”. Some group imposes their rules and point of view upon the majority and claims that this is just democracy (which is defended by the extreme left only when the case concerns alleged minority rights). I have also been a witness to such an experiment, it happened during my ministry in Poznań. There is a Jewish synagogue which during the war was converted into a swimming pool by Germans. After 1989 the citizens of Poznań wanted to give it back to the Jews.
The topography of Poznań looks like that: the cathedral creates a certain line with that synagogue which is in a way cut by a chimney standing near the Warta. Someone came up with an idea of putting a Muslim symbol on that chimney. What was the purpose of that? To make Poznań „a city open to all great monotheistic religions”. But there is one problem – there were no Muslims in Poznań that time, maybe apart from a dozen of students or so. No community! But that was already an attempt to impose a certain religious relativism upon the society. And for sure an attempt to overshadow the truth that the beginning of Christianity in Poland is connected with Poznań. The first bishop on the Polish territory was there in 968.
This is a subtler way of falsifying reality – it is still not a fight against Christian symbols but a lie about that city. Finally the realization of that idea was blocked. But it was also part of this action of testing our Polish society – what will we allow them to do at this stage of acquiring „European consciousness”.
While still on the subject of how far it is possible to go in Poland – today the Polish are traveling around Europe and seem to be prouder than even two decades ago. And it results from a sense of uniqueness – also in the issue of Christian identity. They have not let this relativism to get them brainwashed yet. Also other nations of Central Europe keep peeking at us with hope. What does it mean?
The culture of Europe was based on three pillars – ancient Greek thought, Roman law and Christianity. All of these pillars must exist at the same time for us to be able to speak about Europe. Today Christianity is being removed from public life, but also the truth ancient philosophers taught about. And what about the law? Very often it becomes its own caricature. Some time ago the law served to promote certain social values but today only to promote pleasure. But in Poland and in those countries you mentioned there is still Christianity. What’s more we can say: Europe is just here!
Those young people maybe can’t define their feelings the way we are doing it right now but they feel it intuitively. Being in Poland they feel at home. But being in the West they look critically at it because more and more they see that it’s hard to judge and define Europe only based on the standard of civilized living or just their economic achievements. The ethos of Europe is more important. But it is easier to see emptiness than that ethos in the West. And it is a programmed emptiness as well, which they want to give us as the greatest heritage of Europe. And in the meantime we see that the young people clearly oppose to such gifts. The youth from our part of Europe understand each other very well – they have a European DNA, encoded, understood to each other and thanks to that they feel together very well but on the other hand they can critically look at the wealthiest neighbors of the West.
If that broadly understood West rejects the knowledge of their own roots today, doesn’t that mean that at the same time they reject a possibility of getting to know, so actually they reject reason?
If one rejects the truth, it means one rejects reason. And vice versa, rejecting reason one never learns the truth. Please, pay attention to the modern language: nobody asks in the media „What do you think of that?”, „How do you judge that?”, but only „How did it affect you?”, „What are your emotions?”. It means deliberate resignation from reason for a clearly emotional level of reacting to certain facts by man. This means resigning from something that constitutes the essence of man, what definitely distinguishes man from the world of animals! Please notice this: it is followed by a certain vision of man, his gradual degradation. And this is contrary to Christianity.
Despite such nice words which we often direct to the Polish youth, there is a certain ground for agreement between young Poles and their peers from the West. We mean the attitude to the topic of family, sexual and marital ethics. More and more marriages are breaking up – all of that is due to surrendering to a more and more aggressive promotion of sin. That promotion is also part of the fight against Christianity, although on a bit different level than destroying crosses, isn’t it?
Indeed, this huge number of divorces is a real tragedy. It involves different matters, including leaving the Faith and the Church, but also associating with the dominant culture promoted by mass media today. Nowadays very young people have tools allowing them access to the content which a child should never, under no circumstances, know. And their parents either don’t know about it at all, or they cannot prevent that, not being able to find their way in today’s world of information technology. No wonder that young people, already corrupt by various kinds of gadgets (at first unwittingly) turn out to be helpless in the face of new problems in their life, including marital ones.
Moreover young people tend to mature – emotionally and in terms of their personality – much later today. In consequence the number of marriages has declined due to reluctance to livelong commitments or marriages breaking up quickly when the first problems and difficulties appear. All of that is also connected with a false vision of love being promoted today. This is not love meant as a gift of self. Love is confused with falling in love, which means the thing which is purely emotional – and when those emotions fall, when the everyday humdrum is back, a person formed this way is not capable of coping with problems and thinks it is necessary to terminate their marriage.
What can we do with that?
I think we should point out that everybody’s huge concern is necessary, including social institutions, also the national ones. Some time ago our Prime Minister reported on her two years of government, emphasizing that the priority for the present state is family. Indeed a lot has been done for the family, but has anything significant been done in the area we’re talking about? In the area of protecting children from inappropriate content? To promote family stability?
Society produces today, to use this terrible expression, people who don’t care about such matters. People who react to everything very emotionally, not being able to talk with each other, and in addition to that very demanding. Mass culture is one big praise of egoism! It is really hard to build a stable family on such foundations! And this egoism manifests itself in spouses by the lack of care for children, who always suffer the most after all when their parents part. This is an absolute tragedy and wound, which, even if it heals one day, will remain a visible scar for ever.
Thank you for the conversation.
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