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Author Topic: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)  (Read 427 times)

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Offline BeorningTopic starter

Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« on: June 22, 2015, 08:45:46 AM »
Here's something small to discuss...

In the last month, Poland's PM Kopacz has done two things that raised an ire of some liberal commentators. Both of these things are religion-related.

Thing #1: A few weeks ago, Kopacz was asked by the journalists whether Poland was going to do something about Christians from ISIS-controlled lands who faced persecution. Kopacz replied that, yes, the government was going to help them - because Poland is a "Christian nation". This comment made some people very angry - one commentator went so far to say that with these words, Kopacz made Poland into a theocratic state.

Thing #2: Last week or, Kopacz paid a visit to Pope Francis at Vatican. According to the reports, she entered the papal chambers wearing a head covering and that she welcomed him by kissing him into his papal ring. Again, I've heard one commentator say that it was preposterous, that Kopacz humiliated the whole country by behaving that way and that no other country leader would behave in such a manner.

I was wondering: what's your opinion on these incidents? Is the criticism valid or just some people being overly sensitive?

Offline Caehlim

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2015, 11:18:43 PM »
Thing #1: A few weeks ago, Kopacz was asked by the journalists whether Poland was going to do something about Christians from ISIS-controlled lands who faced persecution. Kopacz replied that, yes, the government was going to help them - because Poland is a "Christian nation". This comment made some people very angry - one commentator went so far to say that with these words, Kopacz made Poland into a theocratic state.

Poland is a nation with a majority Christian population. It is not however a Christian state as Article 53 of the Polish Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

Without speaking Polish I can't say where on the line between the two Kopacz's statement falls in terms of semantics.

I'm not really sure about the other point.

Offline Aethereal

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2015, 04:18:11 AM »
Quote
Is the criticism valid or just some people being overly sensitive?
I'd say a bit of both, at least in the first case. It was a poorly worded statement, but the outcry over it was a bit excessive. The second is mostly a matter of how much a person is allowed to be a person atop of representative of the country (and to which extent it was an official, "work-related" visit).

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2015, 05:07:50 AM »
Poland is a nation with a majority Christian population. It is not however a Christian state as Article 53 of the Polish Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

Without speaking Polish I can't say where on the line between the two Kopacz's statement falls in terms of semantics.

Admittedly, I speak Polish and can't say that, either ;)

It is a comment that could be taken both ways and I wonder what she meant by that. Personally, though, I wasn't too bothered by it - and I'm an atheist very supportive of state-church separation. The thing is, even taking all the modern religious diversity in the country, most people here *are* Christians... so, I see no harm in the PM acknowledging that.

The second is mostly a matter of how much a person is allowed to be a person atop of representative of the country (and to which extent it was an official, "work-related" visit).

Hm. I think it was an official visit...

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2015, 08:04:53 AM »
The first: Definitely "bit of both". Hearing "We are a Christian nation." from my own leaders would make me profoundly uncomfortable and make me look for somewhere else to put my vote, but equating it with actual theocracy is ridiculously hyperbolic. The second... if he was wearing his "Prime Minister" hat at the time, not cool. If it was as a private citizen, his business.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2015, 08:26:16 AM »
As far as the ring-kissing, that appears to be traditional if the person meeting the Pope is Catholic.  http://people.opposingviews.com/etiquette-towards-pope-2846.html The alternative handshake would probably have caused less of a stir, but it's not considered inappropriate for a world leader.  Addressing the Pope incorrectly (as GWB managed to do twice) would have also raised eyebrows.

As to the 'Christian nation':  I would be more concerned if the PM had said that Poland was a 'Catholic' nation (since Catholics are supposed to take direction from the Pope), but there are many flavors of Christianity (thank you, Reformation).  Christian would encompass both Catholics and Protestants, but I could see Polish Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians getting twitchy.  The mere fact that there are so many flavors of Christianity would keep it at least as far from a theocracy as the US.  (Insert inappropriate jokes here.)

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2015, 09:07:17 AM »
I stand corrected on the issue of the Papal ring.

The mere fact that there are so many flavors of Christianity would keep it at least as far from a theocracy as the US.  (Insert inappropriate jokes here.)
No joke: This is exactly why that statement would make me twitchy. I'm used to hearing it from US politicos and pundits who actively want theocracy, so it would ring a lot of alarm bells hearing it coming from the Prime Minister.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2015, 11:19:30 AM »
Well, hearing this from this particular Prime Minister doesn't actually make me worried... Kopacz is backed by Civic Platform, which is a middle-of-the-road, sometimes-conservative, sometimes-liberal party. They are a party that *is* afraid to confront the Church (their MPs have been literally heard admitting off-record that they don't want to "anger the bishops"), true - that's why it took years for the current government to get to passing the in-vitro fertilization bill. On the other hand, they aren't actively promoting the Church's point of view, either... So, Kopacz commenting on the "Christian nation" doesn't worry me - I see it simply as referring to the fact that most of the people here are, in some extent, Christians.

On the other hand, if the soon-to-be-President Duda said a thing like that, that *would* raise a red flag for me. One of the guy's selling points during the presidential campaign was that he is "fervently Catholic" (as advertised by his own party). And one of the members of his future cabinet is a guy who actually did say that Poland should be a theocracy...

Anyway... One thing I'm wondering regarding Kopacz's statement is the whole idea of a country's government deciding to help one particular religious group. I can get why Kopacz said that thing - Christians are being persecuted by ISIS, most of our country identifies with Christianity, so it kind of seems... natural that we should be helping these people. Still, should a government head make a decision based on such criteria? Shouldn't she rather be declaring help for all refugees regardless of their religion?

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2015, 11:33:37 AM »
If he was asked specifically about the Christians, I would call it a minor misstep - he doesn't lose points, really, so much as fail to earn some. Now, if Poland actually helps only Christians as a matter of policy, that's a huge problem.

Offline consortium11

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2015, 04:44:46 PM »
I'm not sure if this is me playing devil's advocate or not (I'm genuinely not sure) but in purely descriptive terms she's pretty much right. Poland is what, somewhere around 90% Catholic and 1% Orthodox. If a state is 90+% Christian I can see a strong descriptive case for calling it a Christian state, regardless of the status (or lack thereof) of an official religion. Israel is about 75% Jewish in both ethnicity and religion; most are happy to describe it as a Jewish state.

Even in a more technical sense she may have a point. As far as I'm aware Poland doesn't have an official state religion in the way that say the UK does but there's a crucifix hanging in the lower house of parliament and no religious iconography from other religions that I know of. In addition, and my memory might be getting a little fuzzy, wasn't the post-Communist concordat with the Papacy signed prior to the new constitution and thus the constitution of Poland had to abide by it? Official religion or not when there's a crucifix hanging in the legislative chamber and the Constitution itself was bound by what a religious group had already agreed I can see some strength in a claim that Poland is a Christian (and quite likely Catholic) nation in technical as well as descriptive terms.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2015, 06:03:39 PM by consortium11 »

Offline Caehlim

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2015, 05:36:45 PM »
In addition, and my memory might be getting a little fuzzy, wasn't the post-Communist concordat with the Papacy signed prior to the new constitution and thus the constitution of Poland had to abide by it?

Thanks for bringing that to my attention, I've just been reading up on it and that turns out to be a really interesting treaty to find out about. As an aside people might find Concordat Watch an interesting website with a lot of critical opinions about the Concordat and the Catholic Church's influence in Poland.

Anyway from what I can find out the concordat was signed in 1993, before the current constitution of 1997. However it was not ratified by the Polish Sejm until 1998, so it was brought into law by a parliament convened under the new 1997 constitution. In theory then it should be subject to article 53 of the Polish Constitution.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2015, 05:49:32 PM »
Wow, you people are good at research...  :o

I don't actually know what the relationship between the concordat and the 1997's constitution is. As far as I know, it didn't influence that constitution in some meaningful way, but maybe I'm not well-informed enough...

When it comes to that crucifix hanging at Sejm... it's actually a bit complicated. This cross has not been put there by any official act... rather, in early 90s, some right-wing MPs just hung it there (at night, IIRC). And it's been hanging there since then, as nobody bothered to take it down. A few years ago, when the very liberal / leftist Palikot Movement (now Your Movement) got some MPs, they threatened to take it down, saying it was hanging there illegally, but nothing came out of it. So, the cross keeps hanging there...

In a way, it's quite symbolic. According to the current constitution, there's a "friendly separation" between the state and the Church... but, in practice, the Church has a lot more of influence.

BTW. One general note: Kopacz is a woman ;)

Offline consortium11

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2015, 06:03:59 PM »
BTW. One general note: Kopacz is a woman ;)

*Ninja edits*

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2015, 07:05:12 PM »
I'm not sure if this is me playing devil's advocate or not (I'm genuinely not sure) but in purely descriptive terms she's pretty much right. Poland is what, somewhere around 90% Catholic and 1% Orthodox. If a state is 90+% Christian I can see a strong descriptive case for calling it a Christian state, regardless of the status (or lack thereof) of an official religion. Israel is about 75% Jewish in both ethnicity and religion; most are happy to describe it as a Jewish state.
Israel is self-described in law as a Jewish state, and gives a number of special legal concessions to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. This doesn't map to the Polish situation.

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Prime Minister Kopacz's religious missteps (?)
« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2015, 04:29:18 AM »

Regarding the head covering and ring kissing bit, doing this is an act of submission and makes Kopacz look rather weak and inferior while empowering the pope/Rome.  It shows or suggests that he has authority over her and by extension, over Poland. While I know nothing about Poland or Kopacz, I don't really think the leader of a country should submit to another leader like this on religious grounds.   I don't think relgious groups should be given this sort of power either.