TO PROTECT THE FAITH AGAINST STATE ATHEISM
Pastoral letter from the bishops of Poland
An Open and Methodical Struggle
In a lecture delivered on May 5, 1976 by Minister Kasimir Kakol,
Head of the Office of Worship in Poland, to journalist members of the Polish
Press Agency, militants of the Communist party and other collaborators, the
Minister affirmed very categorically the struggle led openly by the Communist
authorities against the Church. He recognized that their aim was "to eradicate
religion from human conscience and thought". "As a Communist," he said further,
"I will fight religion and the Church incessantly"; he also indicated the
tactical means to use for this purpose.
It is clear that this methodical struggle carried out by a
dictatorial regime exposes the faith of Catholics to serious dangers. So, at
the end of their 154th National Conference, the Polish bishops published a
collective pastoral letter to exhort the faithful to struggle for the defense
of their faith, threatened by the anti religious programmes of the authorities.
L'Osservatore Romano points out that it is an eloquent document which
calls for serious thought not only on the part of Polish Catholics, but of all
those who still imagine that there is no contradiction-and no danger - between
the Christian profession and support given to anti-religious ideologies and
regimes which aim openly at the destruction of the Faith and the Church.
Mary, Shield of Our Faith
Beloved Sons of the Church of Christ in Poland! It is with
sentiments of deep gratitude for the motherly sovereignty of Mary, the Queen of
Poland, over our nation, that we are looking forward to the 600th anniversary
of the presence of the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin at Jasna Gora. In
the first year of preparation for this Jubilee, we recall the history of our
country and we see that this history is permeated by the miraculous action of
the Queen of Jasna Gora.
The Blessed Virgin of the Sanctuary of Czestochowa intercedes in
favor of individuals. But it must also be recognized that for six hundred years
She has been our help in defense of the highest values of our Christian nation.
Above all She has been a shield in defense of the Holy Faith: for centuries She
has sustained, consolidated and defended our faithfulness to God and our
membership of the Church of Christ.
Supreme Value of Faith
Who does not know what great importance faith and love of God
has not only for our personal life but also for families, peoples and the whole
Faith in God satisfies the deepest desires and the most intimate
aspirations of man. In each of us God has instilled the aspiration to Supreme
Good and to lasting happiness. No temporal value, therefore, can fully satisfy
the hunger of the human heart. Only the True, Living God is capable of filling
us with supreme happiness, because He is Love.
Faith increases your vigor in all sectors of life and personal
and social work. The desire of the Living God makes men obedient to divine
aspirations. In this way they make the style of life and of society more and
more noble and worthy of man. For all believers one of the conditions to meet
God and possess Him forever is love of their neighbor in daily life.
Its Extreme Importance for Family and National Life
Faith is very important also for family life. No human law,
regulation or sanctions can ensure the integrity, compactness and fruitfulness
of the family as much as the living and unifying faith of all its members.
This is what can be done by the living faith of the whole nation
in God, the Father of all men. Poland has exceptional experiences as regards
how living Faith and the Church of God have helped it to overcome so many
persecutions, moral vexations, slavery and occupation.
The Catholic Faith has strengthened and united Poland for over a
thousand years. So today, too, as throughout the centuries, we consider it our
essential, fundamental tie of a national-religious character. And today we
raise a hymn of thanks to the Madonna of Czestochowa who, from the Sanctuary of
Jasna Gora, has helped us to defend faith in Christ for 600 years.
The Dangers that Threaten Our Faith
But it is not only to joyful feelings of gratitude that we must
call you, but also to vigilance. Our greatest treasure, the Catholic Faith, is
continually threatened. The skillfully masked programme of making the nation
atheistic is becoming an evermore serious matter, since it tries in every way
to deprive the life of our social community of the spirit of Christ's Gospel.
A superficial glance at the life of the Church in Poland may
give the illusion that the activity of the Church in our State meets with no
obstacles. Everyone, in fact, desires normalization. In actual fact, however,
the hateful, brutal struggle against faith in God and against the Church of
Christ has not yet ended. A mysterious conspiracy against God is felt
everywhere, at all times. The programme of making the nation atheistic is being
undertaken and carried out on an ever vaster scale also by institutions of
formation and by social and political institutions.
In Violation of Human Rights
But the state community, as a public institution, must act for
the good of the whole of society; it has no right to carry out a hostile action
against religion, against freedom of conscience and against the faith of
citizens. Such an action is, above all, a violation of the natural rights of
every citizen. On these rights are based the articles of all constitutions and
of all international declarations, such as the United Nations Charter of Human
Rights, which guarantee every citizen freedom of religion and confession. In
our country the majority of citizens are believers and they belong to the
Catholic Church. If, then, civil servants carry on the struggle against
religion, they are guilty of a serious abuse as regards the citizens, who pay
taxes for their maintenance. The struggle against religion is sustained with
funds that come out of the pockets of believing Catholics. Who does not see,
then, a strange ambiguity in this painful state of affairs?
Authorizations for the Construction of Churches Refused
Unfortunately, similar abuses take place quite often in our
country. The regulations of the law on building are used to hinder the progress
of religion and also to limit veneration of God. The necessary authorizations
for the construction of churches and chapels are refused for years. These
churches are needed above all in the new urban districts and in the new
industrial agglomerates. And when the inhabitants, impatient at the continual
refusals, begin to build temporary chapels to be able to carry out their
religious duties in the neighborhood of their homes, then they are severely
punished or subjected to various vexations. This problem, which, with the
growth of cities and other human agglomerates, is becoming a more and more
painful one, has not yet been solved, since the number of permits for the
building of new churches is not sufficient to meet the needs. So the Bishops
have to publish various communiqués and call upon the faithful to pray
to obtain freedom to erect buildings for worship.
Discrimination in the Right to Work
Another painful problem is constituted by religious
discrimination in the application of the right to work. The exercise of some
professions and the obtaining of various positions, especially on an executive
level, are reserved almost entirely for persons who declare they are
unbelievers or lapsed Catholics. Promotion in some sectors of work depends on
membership of socio-political organizations, which require from their members
the profession of atheism, putting a stop to church-going and to the religious
education of their children. Even the acceptance of candidates in some schools
depends on the declaration of disbelief.
Because of their so-called religious activity, believers are
often deprived of certain posts and also of work, even though they had carried
out their professional duties very well, having obtained distinctions and
prizes for their good work. This is often done openly, but even more often in
an underhand way, on the pretext of various motivations.
Various Methods of Struggle Against Religion
The methods used in the planned campaign are various. In social
life, in the juridical system, some changes are introduced from time to time.
It is said officially that they are for the purpose of the economic
restructuration of the system. Actually, however, we find ourselves up against
new methods of struggle against the Faith and against the Church. It is known
that the struggle against religion also hinders economic and social reforms,
since it arouses concern and distrust of the State, leading to a slackening of
the rate of work and performance. Embittered people are not good workers.
Struggle Carried Out Through the Mass Media
The struggle against religion, carried out by means of pressure
of a juridical and administrative character, is difficult and risky, since it
arouses reactions and it compromises the State authorities in the eyes of world
public opinion. It cannot be carried out universally and radically. Therefore
another system has been applied: to appeal to the mass media, that is, to
culture. A vast sector of Polish theater, television and even publishing has
been mobilized in anti-religious propaganda. This struggle, well concealed to
begin with, has now become open and aggressive, Atheistic propaganda often
presents the history of the Church, in Poland, particularly, in a false light,
distorts the content of Holy Scripture and presents religious practices in a
way that hurts the feelings of believers. Liturgical and sacramental life is
replaced by a lay ceremonial, which is often very shallow.
The media of social communication, on the other hand, propagate
anti-Christian moral principles. This concerns above all the indissolubility of
marriage, the problems of sexual morality and the interruption of pregnancy. As
is known, one of the ways that lead to unbelief is the spread of corruption.
One often has the impression that the media of socio-cultural communication
have gone over to the service of depravation. Plays, films and publications
that are openly pornographic and sacrilegious, are multiplying. These plays,
films and publications are imposed more and more often on children and young
people. They often strike at literary works of great moral and Christian value,
distorting them and depriving them of religious spirituality.
We are saddened and surprised that some respectable creators and
artists or editors dedicate their artistic and professional capacities to a
service which is so repugnant and harmful socially. All of us must appeal to
the central authorities to end these abuses, which harm the dignity and the
very conscience of our nation.
The Struggle in Defense of the Moral Health of the Young
So the struggle in defense of the Faith and integrity of the
hearts of the young, goes on. Catholic parents and their children say more and
more often that teaching in schools at the various levels and also in schools
of higher education, serves to instill unbelief. It is proclaimed without any
justification that religious concepts cannot be reconciled with the results of
contemporary science. In many places, children and young people are prevented,
or an attempt is made to prevent them, from benefiting from catechetical
instruction, taking part in Holy Mass and sacred services or carrying out other
religious practices. This concerns particularly the children and the young in
the State nursery schools and boarding schools. In the summer holiday camps,
this year, too, it was forbidden to take part in religious practices, and
sometimes even to keep any religious sign such as, for example, medals,
crucifixes or sacred images. Resistance may cause the exclusion of the child
from the summer camps or the application of other illicit sanctions.
Various captious objections are used also against University
students who are believers. Threats are used, blackmail, long and tiring
interrogations, to dissuade students from taking advantage of the religious aid
of the University apostolate.
Declarations of a Member of the Government
The main aim of the anti-religious plans concerns the faith of
youth and, what must arouse the most energetic opposition, the budding faith of
helpless children, even of the children who are not yet of school age. In the
current year, a well-known Government exponent declared in a speech that the
new times of holidays must upset the programme of work of the liturgical
calendar of Catholic activities and the religious compactness of Polish
families. He also added that the new system of training children and young
people in the so-called collective schools, will make its own contribution to
uproot the Faith in the hearts of children. For this purpose, tourist trips
and, above all, the so-called social acts and Sunday work will be organized by
the industries or other public institutions on Sundays and other feast days.
A Well-Prepared Plan to Destroy the Faith
This is the distressing picture of the conditions under which
the Church is working in our country. The political programme to implement
atheism is being carried out more and more energetically. Its introduction into
practical life proceeds in stages, so that our society will not realize easily
that it has been subjected to the maneuvered process of the destruction of
Keep Watch and Pray
Our Lady of Jasna Gora
Part of the Pope's prayer to Our Lady of Jasna Gora, who is the defence of the Polish people:
"I recall yet again the time when you were "imprisoned" while you were making your pilgrim visit ...
Yet your visit continued.
Your image did not arrive at the parish, but you came - without the image, in an empty frame and thanks to this empty frame, everyone experienced your presence just the same: more sadly, but perhaps more deeply."
Beloved Sons, are we Polish Bishops to remain silent in this
situation? Someone must tell the Catholic nation the truth. We do not wish to
frighten you with this presentation of the enormity of the dangers, but rather
we desire to repeat here the words of St. Peter the Apostle: "Brothers, be
sober, keep watch! Your enemy, Satan, like a lion ... " ( 1 Peter 5: 8).
We beseech you, confess your faith in Christ courageously and
faithfully. Watch over the catechetics of children and the young. Cultivate the
Holy Faith in families. Above all, defend the Faith with fervent prayer. We
call you to prayer in common. Remember the assurance that Jesus gave us: "If
two of you gather in My name, I shall be with you ...".
We will pray through the intercession of the Madonna of Jasna
Gora, Who is help in defense of our nation. Where shall we find another help
capable of defending our Faith, if not in the Mother of God? In whose name can
we unite in this way for the defense of God's cause in our country, if not in
the name of Mary of Jasna Gora?
In the next few weeks, in all Polish parishes your pastors of
souls will invite you to the Day of Prayer to the Madonna of Jasna Gora in
defense of the Faith. They will communicate to you the dates and other details
of this day of prayer. Do not grudge time for these prayers. Pack our churches
as full as possible. Ask Jesus Christ confidently to make the efforts of the
enemies of religion vain. Raise your supplications for the intercession of Our
Lady, Mother of Heaven and Earth, the Mother of the Church.
We entrust you to the vigilant protection of the Mother of Jasna
Gora, and from the bottom of our heart we bless your prayers for the defense
of Christ's Faith: since the victory that conquers the world is our
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