Father Coughlin po polsku


I suppose it’s possible, indeed likely, that most people here won’t be regular readers of The Tablet (subscription required). This would be a pity, because its news coverage is often quite excellent, and you get to hear what all is going on in the wacky world of international Catholicism. Why can’t we have a paper like this in Ireland?

Anyway, the 25 August issue has a fascinating article about one Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk. Fr Rydzyk, 62, is a Redemptorist media mogul, which in itself should raise an eyebrow, and boss of the popular station (upwards of 1.2m listeners) Radio Maryja. The station’s “Catholic patriotic” stance could best be described in terms of, well, imagine if Gerry McGeough was running a radio station with a mass audience. Radio Maryja’s populist campaigning around law and order, demands for the prosecution of members of the old socialist regime, and opposition to the European Union is combined with railing against Jews, gays, foreigners and Freemasons, but mostly Jews. It’s a familiar brand of Polish nationalism, but so virulent in form as to make the late Field Marshal Piłsudski appear like a soft liberal.

The Polish hierarchy have never been known as the most progressive bunch, but even they have found Rydzyk a bit rich for their blood. The former Primate, Cardinal Józef Glemp, condemned him as far back as 2002. The Tablet reports that the papal nuncio, Archbishop Józef Kowalczyk, has been canvassing the bishops to do something about Radio Maryja, and a significant number of clergy and lay Catholics have protested the station’s pervasive anti-Semitism. And yet, Rydzyk seems untouchable. He has a very close relationship with the Kaczyński brothers who run Poland’s hard-right government – although that hasn’t stopped him saying that the president’s wife, Maria Kaczyńska, is a “witch” who should be “put down” because she supports legal abortion for rape victims. The Redemptorist order, either in Poland or internationally, has shown no concern over Rydzyk’s activities. Indeed, a few weeks back Fr Zdzisław Klafka, Poland’s Redemptorist provincial, took Rydzyk with him to an audience with Pope Benny. Benny himself, following in the footsteps of the late JP2, has been keen to distance himself from traditional Catholic anti-Semitism, so here’s a bit of a test for him.

Rud eile: While on the subject of mad Catholics, the August issue of the Hibernian (“For Fascism and Our Lady”) doesn’t quite live up to the paper’s usual bonkers standards. But there is a piece on the significance of Benny’s rehabilitation of the Latin Mass, and Gerry McGeough continues his survey of great counter-revolutionary movements of the past with a major piece on the Vendée revolt, when God-fearing Catholic peasants rose up against the Masonic Jacobin dictatorship.


  1. ejh said,

    September 1, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Has he done the Pilgrimage of Grace yet?

  2. ejh said,

    September 3, 2007 at 10:45 am

    I see the President’s in hospital. Maybe the missus poisoned his breakfast before he did the same to her on Rydzyk’s say-so.

  3. Mike said,

    September 6, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    As a regular reader of The Tablet I think it interesting that the Catholic clergy can, quite easily, contain clerico-fascist nutjobs like Rydzyk despite that bodies much repeated, since Vatican 2, opposition to racism and anti-semitism in particular. Mind you the Romanists will never support a genuinly independent workers movement. Well not unless they dump Rerum Novarum.

  4. Mike said,

    September 6, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    I wonder if any of the ‘forces of darkness’ dare to defend obscurantism?

  5. Red Maria said,

    September 7, 2007 at 1:42 am

    You can and always have been able to get The Tablet in Ireland. The Tablet will have a strong Irish readership – always has. I agree that its an excellent publication – I would say that because I write for it.
    A few comments also about Polish Catholicism (including the hierarchy) which should be viewed in all its complexity. There’s a stab at that when you conceed that Pope John Paul the Great, himself a member of the Polish Catholic hierarchy until 1978 was “keen to distance himself from traditional Catholic anti-Semitism”.
    That’s putting it mildly. Pope John Paul was both personally and in his priestly, episcopal and papal role a staunch opponent of anti-Semitism.
    As a young priest he escorted Jewish children to school past endeja thugs who were in the habit of gathering outside the precincts to shout at and intimidate them. During the war he gave succour to Jewish people on the run from nazis. Indeed such was his repute that apochryphal stories were told about his goodness in this regard, including one that he refused to baptise a Jewish child on the grounds that this is not what its parents would have wanted.
    By 1958 Wojtyla was the youngest bishop in Poland. I think we see his influence in 1968 when during the student uprising and anti-semitic purge, the Polish Bishops released a letter saying the Student Movement was “striving for truth and freedom, which is the natural right of each human being,” adding the “brutal use of force [against the students] disgraces human dignity.”
    As Pope he bluntly denounced anti-Semitism as a “sin against God and humanity,” while his commitment to reconciliation between the RCC and the Jewish people was evident in his description of Judaism as “the elder brother of the Christian faith” and in the Vatican document “We remember, a reflection on the Shoah”.
    Signficantly, the letter signed by over 600 Polish Catholic priests, activists and intellectuals protesting against Rydzyk’s anti-Semitism made explicit reference to Pope John Paul, noted that Rydzyk’s remarks:
    ‘contradict the teaching of our compatriot, the Pope John Paul II, who called the Jews “our elder brothers in faith”, and described anti-Semitism as “a grave sin”‘

  6. ejh said,

    September 7, 2007 at 8:49 am

    Good to see the hagiographic tradition has survived the agonies of modernity….

  7. Red Maria said,

    September 7, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Is recounting the genuinely heroic actions of Wojtyla in the 30s and 40s really hagiography?

  8. ejh said,

    September 7, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    I suppose actually including the word “apocryphal” suggests that even the Church has moved on a bit…

  9. Red Maria said,

    September 7, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Just as I suppose the desperate clinging onto the word apochryal while missing out the preceding sentences which refer to actual events, show that some people haven’t “moved on” (bad cliche phrase, yeurghh) a bit from their own crude comic-book view of the Roman Catholic Church.

  10. ejh said,

    September 7, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Yeah, something like that.

    Mea maxima culpa.

  11. Red Maria said,

    September 8, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Deo Gratias.
    Dimíssis peccátis tuis.

  12. Mike said,

    September 8, 2007 at 12:14 am

    ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.’ P. Smith.

  13. ejh said,

    September 8, 2007 at 8:47 am

    That’s a remarkable record.

    If they made Patti Smith the Pope I’d go to church just for the hymns.

  14. chekov said,

    September 8, 2007 at 10:49 am

    “Is recounting the genuinely heroic actions of Wojtyla in the 30s and 40s really hagiography?”

    You refered to him as “John Paul the Great”. I’d also question how heroic it really is not to hate people for being jewish. I mean I manage it and have never thought of myself as a hero on that account (of course I’m a hero for all sorts of other reasons)

  15. Mike said,

    September 8, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Chekov if you read Red Maria’s post you will find that JP2, old obscurantist that he was, did more than say anti-semitism is a bad thing. That said concentrating on the record of one man tells us next to nothing with regard to the Catholic hierarchy in any given state.

    Thus it has to be said that JP2 won promotion to the rank of Bishop in part due to the lack of eligible candidates who had not been mired by their pre-1945 political views. At the same time the support of the Polish RC hierarchy for thestudents in 68 and Solidarnosc later was, to some considerable degree, due to their opposition to the bureaucratic state capitalist regime. A regime however which they never sought to mobilse their flock against actively given their relatively priviliged position.

  16. ejh said,

    September 8, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    You referred to him as “John Paul the Great”.

    God, I missed that. That really does look like a clincher, doesn’t it?

  17. chekov said,

    September 8, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    “you will find that JP2, old obscurantist that he was, did more than say anti-semitism is a bad thing”

    I accept that he acted in a way that was consistent with not hating jews, however, I still wonder what on earth is heroic about that. We have a claim that he escorted jewish children past some thugs (which I don’t believe actually happened) and that he “offered succour” to jewish people during the war, which is pretty meaningless really.

  18. Mike said,

    September 8, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Well you are entitled to believe what you wish of course. But for my part I prefer to hold to facts of which there is abundant proof as is the case with JP2’s actions which led to the saving of the lives of individual Jews. Which in the context of Poland both before WW2 and during it cannot be other than fairly described as anything other than heroic for reasons that should be obvious.

    This does not suggest that the young JP2 was saintly, as many believers would claim, given that such heroic actions were characteristic of many in Poland in the period concerned although not of the majority. It does mean that he had much in common with those secular Poles who, in their various fashions, fought against fascism and/or acted in such a manner as to save the lives of the innocent. That is admirable in my book regardless of the beliefs of the persons in question. Indeed if we deny such a fact we only do the cause of socialism a diservice by falsifying events.

  19. ejh said,

    September 9, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Still doesn’t explain “the Great” though, does it?

  20. chekov said,

    September 10, 2007 at 4:47 am

    “But for my part I prefer to hold to facts of which there is abundant proof as is the case with JP2’s actions which led to the saving of the lives of individual Jews. Which in the context of Poland both before WW2 and during it cannot be other than fairly described as anything other than heroic for reasons that should be obvious.”

    If there really was “abundant proof” then you would have no problem in pointing me towards it rather than merely asserting it as you do. Now I’m far from being an expert on JP’s life, but some trawling around on the internet leads me towards the conclusion that your assertion is just totally wrong. For example, here is a sympathetic article defending JP for essentially keeping his head down during the war: http://www.post-gazette.com/forum/20000305rodgers3.asp

    If his defenders don’t even try to claim that he acted heroically (just that he had little choice but to keep his head down), then it is highly, highly unlikely that he did indeed act heroically (not that everybody has to be a hero).

    “Indeed if we deny such a fact we only do the cause of socialism a diservice by falsifying events”

    The point is that it’s not a fact, it’s just something you have asserted that seems to be contradicted by the actual evidence. I’ve no problem accepting the heroism of some Polish church figures in WW2, for example Kolbe definitely acted in a heroic manner, but it seems that JP simply didn’t act similarly and I can’t imagine how it’s doing a service to anything or anybody to pretend otherwise.

  21. Red Maria said,

    September 15, 2007 at 2:24 am

    I find it extremely strange that you’re citing that article in support of your contention that John Paul II of beloved memory did not act heroically during WW2.
    If I may just quote from it:

    “It has been said that Wojtyla should at least have smuggled false papers to Jews. By at least one credible account, he did so.”

    “A year later as a college freshman, Wojtyla fought the imposition of anti-Semitic policies at his school. Until the Nazis closed the university, he escorted a Jewish student about campus to protect her from anti-Semitic bullies. Early in the occupation another Jewish girl with whom he had often appeared on stage was shot dead on the street.”

  22. ejh said,

    September 15, 2007 at 8:59 am

    Not sure how that last sentence supports anything, but while you’re here – could you explain your earlier use of the epithet The Great and why it does not constitute hagiography?

  23. Cian said,

    September 15, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    I’d rather talk about JP’s role in Italian/mafiosi money laundering.

  24. chekov said,

    September 15, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    “By at least one credible account, he did so.”

    Curiously the article doesn’t say anything more about this account and concentrates on defending him for doing nothing, ergo I assume the author doesn’t really think it is a point worth defending – if you can point me towards this credible account I might reconsider, but the balance of evidence is very strongly on the side of him not doing anything beyond keeping his head down (especially strong is the fact that he never claimed to have done so, even when asked directly).

    The second point “escorting” a jewish student around the university is really not very meaningful as evidence without some context – one would assume that, if this happened, it’s more likely that he had a romantic interest in the student (individualised body-guarding as a response to anti-semitic bullying is not in my opinion remotely plausible).

    The third point – that somebody who he once performed with was later killed by the nazis highlights my point. It says absolutely nothing about JP or his courage, or even his attitude towards jewish people at all. The fact that his defenders have to use such non-evidence to big him up just shows how weak their case is.

  25. ejh said,

    September 15, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    In fact it’s bizarre. On the evidence presented, JPII is no more worthy of praise, for having associated with somebody later murdered, than my brother is blameworthy because he was in the same chess club as the bloke who later murdered Daniel Pearl.

  26. Mike said,

    September 17, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    I’m rather baffled by some of the responses on this thread. Indeed having read the article cited above it strikes me that JP2’s record as an opponent of anti-semitism is well established. Quite why individuals seem to feel that he ought to have acted in a more heroic manner – would you or I have done so – totally escapes me.

    As a politician JP2 was an enemy of the workers movement, albeit one who concealed that view by pretending to be neutral as a representative of his church, and not therefore an individual I can find any affinity with. But why deny that he acted in good conscience during and before WW2?

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