The Bishops and Nationalism (followup)

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The Bishops and Nationalism (followup)

We have the first test case to see what the Polish bishops really meant with their statement on nationalism from last Thursday, which I wrote about here. On Saturday, the furthest of far-right nationalist groups, the National-Radical Camp (Obóz NarodowoRadykalny or ONR), had a march in Warsaw, presenting us with a scene that sent a chill down my spine.

There should be no ambiguity here: if there is any group in Poland that violates the principles outlined in the bishops’ condemnation on nationalism, it is the ONR.  Yet a popular priest named Roman Kneblewski immediately sent out this tweet, which roughly translates as “Today the ONR in Warsaw. It lifts our hearts!”

Not surprisingly, there was an outcry against the idea that a Catholic priest would be openly supporting a group with paramilitary trappings that openly spreads hatred and bigotry — and just days after the bishops had supposedly condemned such things.  The tweet shown above was quickly taken down from his feed, but plenty of tweets exemplifying his support of nationalism in general, and the ONR in particular, remained.  In fact, some came after the bishops’ statement, in explicit repudiation of that document. For example, he re-posted a recording of a sermon in which he defended nationalism, and a quote from the revered Primate from the communist times, Stefan Wyszyński, in support of nationalism.

So Father Kneblewski obviously wants to continue to use the word nationalism, and support groups like the ONR.  What happens now?  In recent years the Church authorities have silenced priests who spoke out in favor of tolerance and dialogue with nonbelievers (Father Adam Boniecki), or challenged the Catholic ban on in-vitro fertilization treatments (Father Wojciech Lemański). In other words, they are willing to use firm disciplinary measures to maintain a unified voice on issues that matter to them. If over the coming days we see similar steps taken to bring Kneblewski into line, then we will know that the condemnation of nationalism in last week’s statement is to be taken seriously.  If, on the other hand, nothing is done about priests who openly support the ONR, then we will know that the position taken on nationalism is just a rhetorical gesture that no one need take too seriously. Let’s see….


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Brian Porter-Szucs

Brian Porter-Szucs is a Thurnau Professor of History at the University of Michigan, where he specializes in the history of Poland, Catholicism, and modern economic thought.

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