Apparently, it is in NATO’s interest to prevent public discussion of Pope John Paul II’s role in covering up child abuse. At any rate, this was the message sent out into the world by Poland’s right-wing government in early March.
Not three weeks after President Joe Biden’s second state visit to Poland inside of a year, Poland’s foreign ministry issued a “summons” to U.S. Ambassador Mark Brzezinski regarding an alleged campaign “to weaken the Polish Republic’s ability to fend off a potential enemy as well as its resistance to threats.” The so-called campaign began with a documentary film aired on March 6 on Poland’s TVN, whose principal owner is actually Warner Bros. Discovery. TVN is well known for its opposition to the current government—in fact, given the government’s stranglehold on state-subsidized as well as religious media, TVN has effectively become Poland’s only independent TV network.
The film, Franciszkańska 3 (named for the street address of Karol Wojtyła’s residence as Archbishop of Kraków), offers detailed testimony and investigative reporting showing that the future pope covered up child molestation by priests in his archdiocese. Mere discussion of this testimony, according to Poland’s current minister of culture, is tantamount both to an “attack on the Polish national interest” and to “hybrid warfare” that will weaken Poland’s ability to fulfill its NATO obligations and to support its neighbor, Ukraine.
Biden is only the second Roman Catholic president in U.S. history, and the first sitting Catholic U.S. president to visit Poland. (John F. Kennedy visited as a senator.) His February trip to Warsaw overlapped with Ash Wednesday, yet rather than attend Mass publicly in the company of Polish officials, Biden attended a private Mass in his suite at the Marriott. The choice of celebrant is telling: it was not a bishop, but an Augustinian monk who is former head of the Polish Council for Christian-Jewish dialogue and is closely tied to Poland’s storied but rapidly dwindling movement of liberal Catholic intellectuals.
Biden has indicated that his private meeting with John Paul II in 1980, when Biden was a senator, was among the highlights of his life. But now, visiting that pontiff’s homeland, a country that ranks, demographically and historically, among the most Catholic in the world, on an important day in the Catholic liturgical calendar, the deeply Catholic U.S. president avoided any direct contact with Poland’s Catholic hierarchy.
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