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  • April 2023 : Controversy concerning Karol Wojtyła

A major public controversy was sparked by the results of two journalistic investigations, published in March 2023, revealing the alleged role of the Cracow archbishop Karol Wojtyła (the future pope John Paul II) in concealing cases of paedophilia among his diocesan priests and helping the perpetrators to disappear from public view.

The controversy – ostensibly a debate among experts about the proper reading of the historical sources – has immediately been politicised. The conservative Law and Justice-dominated parliament adopted a resolution declaring the investigations a malicious “smear campaign” on “the greatest Pole in history” and enumerating the saint’s contribution to dismantling communism. This left the opposition divided between a relatively small anticlerical left and the centrist core unable to condemn the Wojtyła’s indifference to sexual abuse while salvaging his national-political heritage. No political force has occupied the middle ground between total rejection of any accusations, however well documented, on the one hand, and the cancelling of all his accomplishments, on the other.

In the short term, the controversy may serve to mobilise the Law and Justice electorate in the months leading up to the general election in November 2023, also beyond the hard core of the most committed party supporters. The party has already inaugurated a series of rallies and marches, likely to continue until the election, in defence of the Pope’s name. Pubic opinion’s initial reaction is the increase in support for the Church which had been on the decline in the last couple of years. In the longer perspective, however, especially if the allegations find additional evidence, it may contribute to the further erosion of the Church’s public influence. This is due to both declining religiosity in Poland, particularly as measured by the frequency of religious practice (the most reliable indicator of a religion’s influence on political behaviour) and the generational gap in religiosity – the largest in the world, according to a recent Pew study.

* The two books containing the allegations are :
 Overbeek Ekke, Maxima Culpa. Jan Paweł II wiedział, Warszawa : Agora, 2023.
 Gutowski Marcin, Bielmo. Co wiedział Jan Paweł II, Warszawa : Agora, 2022.

D 24 avril 2023    AMaciej Potz

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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