Sponsored articles appeared in the last two issues of the weekly "Do Rzeczy". They were titled "In defence of Christians" and "Catholics pilloried". The publications were paid for by the Ministry of Justice, and no author was indicated. Both texts were homophobic and filled with false information.
First came the red flags, now they're rainbow flags
"Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and the number of attacks on them is increasing year on year." - claims the Ministry of Justice. It says that in Poland alone there are several hundred attacks a year. The articles quote deputy minister Marcin Romanowski, according to whom "attacks on the Church are part of the planned political strategy". His solution? "If we punish for anti-Semitism, we should punish for Christianophobia too."
The current situation in Poland is compared to the march of the Red Army in 1945: "They Soviets were also marching under the banners of tolerance and freedom, only now, instead of the red flags, they hang rainbow-colored ones on the walls. Their goals are linked by hatred for people with different views".
According to the anonymous author, the reason for the "increase in aggression against Christians in Poland" is the "offensive of circles that would most willingly remove completely Christian roots of Europe. (...) Members of the LGBTQ+ community and left-wing circles are hitting the Church harder and harder. One of the article subsection is titled "The barbarity of LGBT+".
The publications coincided with the premiere of "Playing Hide-and-seek", the second film by the Sekielski brothers about the scandals related to pedophilia in the Church. The film shows how the bishop of Kalisz, Edward Janiak, protected a pedophile priest for three years. He did not inform the Vatican about the priest's crimes, despite the fact he was obliged to do so. The episcopate confirmed that the bishop did not fulfill his duties. Janiak may be the first bishop in Poland to be removed from office for covering up pedophilia.
In the article published by "Do Rzeczy", the Ministry explicitly mentions the Sekielski brothers. It claims that their previous film, "Tylko nie mów nikomu" ("Just don't tell anybody"), inspired a stabbing in Wrocław. A year ago, Zygmunt W. attacked Father Ireneusz Bakalarczyk. When the police stopped him, he explained that he "wanted to teach the priest a lesson for all the children hurt by the clergy". The attacker allegedly testified that he was inspired by the documentary. His trial is ongoing.
The Deputy Minister: every hand raised against the Church is a hand raised against Poland
The Ministry of Justice refused to reveal how much it paid to have these articles published. They were paid for by the Justice Fund, which is supposed to support victims and witnesses of crimes.
"The irrational fear or hatred felt towards Christianity leads, as we often find out, to criminal acts, and this is what the Justice Fund is trying to counteract." - wrote us Deputy Minister Marcin Romanowski.
The Ministry of Zbigniew Ziobro is famous for sponsoring favourable press publications. The Ministry used to pay for campaigns in the Christian fundamentalist TV Trwam from the Justice Fund. Earlier this year, the Oko.press portal wrote about the stream of money that flowed from the ministry to Wirtualna Polska, a leading Polish horizontal news media portal. Sponsored articles praised the Ministry, the Law and Justice government and state-owned companies. Tomasz Machała, the Editor in Chief of the website, lost his position after the scandal was revealed.
Deputy Minister Romanowski does not explain why the ministry decided to deal with the subject of persecuted Christians right now. Is it related to the premiere of the new film by the Sekielski brothers? We did not receive an answer.
Instead, the press office sent us Romanowski's extensive monologue. A large part of it was an attack on "Wyborcza". "I regret that you don't stigmatize celebrities entangled in a pedophile group with equal zeal as the characters of the Sekielski brothers' film. (...) Hypocrisy - this word best illustrates the line of your writing, which also manifests itself in questions addressed to me". - is written by the Deputy Minister.
He stresses: "The history of Poland has often shown that if someone tried to subjugate our country and - figuratively speaking - cut off the head of Polishness, he or she started with the fight against the Church. Therefore, I agree with the words of the Chairman of the Law and Justice party Jaroslaw Kaczynski that every hand raised against the Church is a hand raised against Poland'.
Marcin Romanowski is one of the most faithful and trusted people of the current Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobra. Last year, the independent online news portal Oko.press prepared a detailed profile of him. Romanowski is a numerary of the Opus Dei, an influential institution of the Catholic Church. Although they are lay people and work professionally, they remain in celibacy and live in Opus Dei centres. They commit themselves to chastity, poverty and obedience to superiors.
RPO: A great deal of false information
- The number of untrue information in the article published on behalf of the Ministry is worrying - says Anna Błaszczak-Banasiak from the Office of the Ombudsman.
- In the Penal Code we have three provisions protecting against discrimination on the grounds of religion. This protection also covers Catholics and Christians. The prosecutor's office collects data on the religion of the victims of such crimes, although it has not published them for two years. However, we have data from 2017, which contradict the theses of the Ministry. Among the victims were 328 Muslims, 119 Jews and 66 Catholics. These data may, of course, be incomplete, because not every crime is reported, but such a problem affects every religious group. Therefore, the information about hundreds of crimes motivated by hatred of Catholics is false.
The Ombudsman was interested in the attack on a priest from Wrocław, which was mentioned by the Ministry. - We wanted the prosecutor's office to apply Article 119 of the Penal Code - precisely because the violence was motivated by religious hatred. But the prosecutor's office did not share our opinion. And the head of the prosecutor's office is Minister Ziobro - notes Anna Błaszczak-Banasiak.
- So we have appropriate regulations, there is no need to change the law, it is enough for the prosecutor's office to apply them.
"However, the texts sponsored by the ministry contain a homophobic message, they can lead to an increase in hatred. Unlike Catholics, LGBT people are not protected. We would expect the ministry to take special care to ensure that the message is consistent with the facts and the legal situation."
In the meantime, Catholics are told that the law does not protect them. This may discourage them from reporting crimes,' says the representative of the RPO.
Mateusz Sulwiński, President of the Stonewall Group in Poznań, an NGO active in protecting the rights of the LGBT+ community: - These publications are monumental nonsense. Promoting the thesis that Catholics are discriminated against in Poland is a manipulation used by right-wing circles. Writing about "the barbarity of LGBT" is a scandal. We are not interested in the Church, we do not meddle in its affairs. We are only fighting to have the same rights as other citizens.
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