Anti-LGBTQ Violence Rocks Poland
Catholic leaders whipped up the mob, and they’re doubling down
Anti-LGBTQ violence has erupted in Poland
In cities all over the country, mobs have attacked LGBT Pride parades. In the medium-sized city of Bialystok, eyewitnesses report violence reminiscent of Nazi pogroms. Major news outlets have reported the story, but it’s gained little traction, and almost nobody outside Poland is paying attention. Ranking bishops of the Polish Roman Catholic Church incited the violence, and they’re doing next to nothing to take responsibility.
The highest-ranking Catholic leaders in Poland are calling LGBTQ Pride participants ‘Nazis,’ ‘Marxists,’ and ‘deadly sinners’. Catholic leaders outside of Poland have said nothing. Pope Francis has not spoken up to instruct Polish Catholics to stop beating LGBTQ people or to instruct Polish bishops to stop fanning the flames of homophobic and transphobic bigotry.
Katarzyna Sztop-Rutkowska, detailing violence at Bialystok Pride:
“The most aggressive were the football hooligans, but they were joined by normal people — people with families, people with small children, elderly people.”
“They blocked the Pride march, first hurling obscenities, then bricks, stones, and fireworks,” Katarzyna told New York Times. “Ordinary families pelted the route from balconies with eggs and rotten vegetables.”
Videos show mobs chasing people down and beating them. One ends with a group of large men stomping on a young boy until he stops moving. Witnesses report he was 14 years old. News reports about his survival are contradictory.
Jacek Dehnel, reporting from Bialystok in The Guardian:
“Now and then, a lorry drives along the march with a megaphone, spitting out Catholic propaganda about how gays and lesbians rape children by the dozen.”
“We turn into Blues Avenue, then into Suraska Street. Just before the square, we can see gangs of thugs 10 metres ahead of us, attacking people: a large guy in a red balaclava is kicking everyone in sight, including some teenage girls, with the full weight of his body. Some in the crowd run away, but more of the “warriors”, beefy men with angry faces, go for them.”
It comes down to them waving a rainbow flag and trying to steal our internal values like truth, love, human life, family based on marriage, and morality.
“We take refuge in a pharmacy... There’s a frightened girl of about 10 with her mother. ‘Do something, Mummy,’ she wails. ‘Get me out of here, I’m scared.’ Moments later, a trembling teenage girl rushes in, with what’s left of her ripped handbag hanging from her shoulder. She tries to call the friend with whom she was marching, but he was attacked again and they’ve lost phone contact.”
“A woman with a toddler, aged about two or three, both of whose tiny hands she was posing to show the middle finger, said: “This is how you do it!” And then she chanted: “Fuck-off-fag-gots! Fuck-off-fag-gots!”
Journalist Przemyslaw Witkowski beaten in Wroclaw
He was riding a bicycle with his girlfriend a week after the violence in Bialystok. Spotting some anti-LBGT graffiti, he told her it was shameful.
Apparently, someone overheard him. A man confronted the pair.
“You don’t like this graffiti?” he asked.
“I said I did not,” responded Witkowski.
The man knocked him to the ground and beat him savagely.
“He beat me badly, leaving me on the ground bleeding,” Witkowski said. His injuries included a broken nose and multiple facial fractures. Photos of his bloody face have been widely shared on social media across Poland.
Anna Dryjanska, a Warsaw-based campaigner for equal rights
“The archbishop inflamed the faithful to violence against LGBT people. There was a pogrom atmosphere. If the police hadn’t been there in force, something truly dreadful would have happened. When it turned out people had been beaten and injured, the Catholic bishops washed their hands with banal statements about opposing violence.”
Dozens of LGBTQ people hospitalized across Poland
In Bialystok alone, the police have accused over 100 people of attacking Pride marchers. At least 77 have been fined or charged. One man was charged with beating a 14-year-old boy.
The violence has since been condemned by officials from both the governing Law and Justice Party and the Church, though both have denied responsibility for the consequences of months of fear mongering and propaganda.
Catholic fear-mongering incited the violence
“What happened in Bialystok was the result of months of propaganda,” according to Sztop-Rutkowska. She told the NY Times that leading and respected figures in the Roman Catholic Church have been pushing extreme anti-gay language.
For example, two weeks before the Bialystok Pride, Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda distributed a letter to be read aloud in all churches in Bialystok and surrounding provinces. He claimed that LGBT pride events constituted “blasphemy against God,” invoking a Latin phrase that priests used during the Soviet era as a rallying cry against Communist rule. “Non possumus!” “We cannot accept this!”
Other leaders in the Polish Church joined Wojda
Marek Dziewiecki, a well-known Catholic priest and respected educator, told a national radio audience that the plus in “LGBTQ+” stood for “pedophiles, zoophiles, and necrophiles,” and that the ultimate goal was to “make people into infertile erotomaniacs.”
Another priest, Henryk Grzadko, addressed some 1,500 supporters of far-right groups in Czestochowa, Poland’s holiest site, last month, warning them that Poland was experiencing a “civilizational invasion.”
He conducted a Mass for the group and praised them in remarks publicized across Poland, saying, “It comes down to them waving a rainbow flag and trying to steal our internal values like truth, love, human life, family based on marriage, and morality.”
Catholic Church authorities like Archbishop Wacław Depo organized protests of Pride parades, citing supposed dangers to Poland’s children and so-called desecration of religious and national symbols. They called on the ‘faithful’ to turn out and block LGBT Pride events.
The faithful heeded the call
Now, after waves of violence, Church leaders double down
According to NBC News, the Poland Catholic Church has doubled down on anti-gay rhetoric since the outbreak of violence. In a sermon marking the 75th anniversary of Warsaw’s uprising against Nazis, the archbishop of Krakow Marek Jedraszewski said Poland is under siege from a rainbow plague.
In a nationally televised mass, he said, “Our land is no longer affected by the red plague, which does not mean that there is no new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds. Not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit, neo-Marxist. Not red, but rainbow.”
The bishop’s language is incendiary, especially in the wake of the waves of violence. But he has the support of the official Polish Catholic hierarchy.
Polish Bishops Conference cites ‘blasphemy’ by LGBTQ people
In a July 21 statement, a Polish bishops’ conference spokesman announced that the Catholic Church would continue speaking out against the deadly sin of homosexuality, while disapproving of “acts of aggression.” The statement concentrated not on the beatings and mob violence, but on supposed acts of disrespect and blasphemy by LGBTQ people.
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, complained to the Catholic Niedziela newspaper that previous Pride events in Polish cities had included parodies of the Virgin Mary and other Catholic symbols. He suggested that LGBTQ people incite “hatred for the church and its clergy,” and turn their meetings into “places of blatant intolerance, obscene presentations and scorn for Christianity.”
In jaw-dropping conclusion, the senior bishop complained that LGBTQ activists were using recent revelations about child sexual abuse by Catholic priests “for attacks against the Church.”
Pope Francis and the Vatican are silent
Priests and bishops in Poland have used the doctrines of the Catholic Church to whip up mob violence against LGBTQ people, paying faint lip service to Catholic teachings against violence.
This ought to be a perfect moment for Francis and others to talk about the Catholic Catechism, which, while teaching that LGBT people are depraved and disordered, nevertheless instructs Catholics that same-sex attracted people “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
I would suggest to Pope Francis and to his “Princes of the Church” in Rome that inciting Catholic congregations to block and prevent Pride events is as unjust a discrimination as could possibly exist.
I would further suggest that Catholic priests and bishops who spread propaganda accusing LGBTQ people of being child rapists, zoophiles, and necrophiles are not acting with anything like respect, compassion, or sensitivity.
Those priests are behaving like thugs, and the consequences of their behavior have been predictable. Scores of people have been beaten, some nearly to death, by Catholic faithful.
Catholic faithful need to speak up loudly and forcefully
The violence happening right now in Poland is horrifying. What’s more horrifying is that a Church that claims to center itself around Christian love is causing the violence.
The leaders who incited the mobs have not toned down their rhetoric. Some have ramped up their incitement. Nobody in the larger Church is doing anything to stop them.
If Catholics are serious about respecting LGBTQ people despite the hateful language of their official doctrines, then the time to act is NOW. The time to demand action of Church leaders is NOW. The time to withhold money and other support from the Church is NOW.