Secular state and politics of coffins and tombs
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Poland is a secular state - said on 15 April the Speaker of the Polish Parliament Bronislaw Komorowski on the radio TOK FM .
As rationalist, atheist and feminist I have been waiting for a long time for these words. This would merit a declaration of gratitude from those who are fighting every day in Poland for the respect for the constitutionnal principle of neutral State, if this fundamental principle was not mentioned by Mr. Komorowski in the specific context.
The declaration on secular state has been made to justify a non-involvement of the Polish official authorities in decision-making process about the President Lech Kaczynski burial in the Wawel Castle; the decision which is contested by many Poles, regardless of their political opinions. It can only be understood as an information that the decision was taken by the Polish Catholic Church, without consultation with the representatives of the democratic state structures. The words of Mr. Komorowski do not express so much his will to protect the constitutional principle of autonomy and mutual independence of church and state, repeatedly broken in Poland. It is rather a confirmation of a total abdication of the Polish state in its relationship with the Catholic Church. According to the Polish Constitution the President is the supreme representative of the Polish Republic, elected by the nation.
The fact that the decisions on funeral ceremonies of the head of state have been taken out of (or above) the state institutions cannot be justified by anything, least of all by the separation of the Church from the state. Such a situation can be considered as normal only in a theocratic state. Let’s put aside the discussion on whether President Lech Kaczynski was a hero like ex.Tadeusz Kosciuszko or not , and whether his death in a plane crash is a sufficient legitimacy to bury him at the side of kings and heroes of the nation. A mourning is not a time for such assessment, which would be rather ambiguous one. But regardless of that assessment, how it is possible that so important - for their symbolic dimension - decisions are being taken outside the democratic structures of the state? In such situation an irruption of the citizens’ anger should not be surprising and not on them should fall the responsibility for violation of mourning, which cannot be used as a pretext to make the people shut theirs mouths. The citizens should not be blaimed when they disagree with the abuse of the mood of mourning - after the death not only of the President - for political purposes, with use of moral blackmail and with the politics "of coffins and tombs."
The declaration on a secular state made by the highest representative of the Polish state - Parliament Speaker Bronislaw Komorowski, who took over the duties of the President under the circumstances, and who is a main Presidential candidate , has been noticed and will be remembered, though there is no support for the instrumental use of the Polish Constitution. Defenders of the constitutional principle of neutral state will insist on its consistent application, including the cases where this rule is now broken: anti-abortion law, teaching of religion in schools, protection of the religious feelings or the draft law on prohibition of vitro fertilization. One can also hope that today’s public confirmation by Mr. Komorowski of the secular state principle will protect the unbelievers and the representatives of different confessions from the appropriation of the state in Poland by the dominant Catholic religion with its ostentatious religious symbols and practices in public offices.
I’m not trying to use the situation to lounch an ideological war; it is hard however to remain silent when a part of political forces abuse of the national mourning and use the power of the Catholic Church to gain more political power, while another part uses this power to avoid the responsibility for governance in the country.
April 15, 2010