Poland’s bishops call for dialogue with protesters

Crowds of demonstrators gathered in Warsaw to protest the Constitutional Court ruling on tightening the country’s abortion law. Photo: Jakub Zabinski (CC-BY-SA) 
Crowds of demonstrators gathered in Warsaw to protest the Constitutional Court ruling on tightening the country’s abortion law. Photo: Jakub Zabinski (CC-BY-SA) 

Ruling of Constitutional Court sparks largest protests since 1980s 

(LWI) - The Church’s mission is to preach the Gospel and to shape consciences, “not to coerce, impose its will or control.” That conviction is at the heart of a statement from the Lutheran Bishops in Poland, calling for peaceful dialogue between the government and demonstrators protesting against proposed changes to the country’s restrictive abortion law. 

The Bishops of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland call for “mutual respect,” appealing to “those in power to avoid using force and to seek the necessary compromise” in dealing with the protesters. The Church leaders note that divisions over a recent ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court have sparked the largest protests since the general strikes, organized by the Solidarnosc trade union in the early 1980s.  

In October, the tribunal ruled that abortion on grounds of foetal defects is unconstitutional, meaning that termination of a pregnancy would only be allowed in cases of rape, incest or threats to a mother’s life and health. On 2 November, following ten days of demonstrations in major cities across the country, the government appeared to delay implementation of the ruling by not publishing it, as required, in its legislative journal.  

Formation of hearts and consciences 

In their statement, the bishops say they “cannot remain indifferent to what is happening in our society,” adding that the Church “must listen to questions, complaints, grievances and even screams of people.” Lutheran theology, they continue, “based on Reformation doctrine, points to a clear separation of church and state powers”. The mission of the Church, they insist, is to bear witness but “not to force certain moral solutions by imposing them through legal regulations in the sphere of the state.” 

By preaching the Gospel of justification by grace through faith, the Church promotes an ethic of responsibility based on awareness of Christian freedom. 
Statement adopted on 2 November by Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland

The bishops note that the existing abortion law, adopted twenty-seven years ago, is “aimed at protecting the human foetus, while at the same time ensuring the protection of the life, health and dignity of a pregnant woman and ensuring freedom of decision making in situations of extremely difficult moral choices.” The Bible teaches that “we have been endowed with the freedom of God’s children,” they say, which implies both “making decisions for ourselves [...] and taking responsibility for the choices made.” 

The statement refers to a 1991 declaration by the Synod of the Lutheran Church in Poland which upholds the “sanctity of life, indicating at the same time that it is not the task of the Church to influence the legislator to penalize abortion.” The Church’s teaching, the bishops stress, is focused on “the formation of human hearts and consciences and on education.”  

The Church leaders add that women, “who have had to undergo an abortion for medical reasons, as a result of crimes or lethal defects,” should have access to appropriate spiritual counselling “and under no circumstances should they develop feelings of guilt.” At the same time, they say, comprehensive care should be provided for families “who take up the heroic challenge of bringing up children with genetic defects.” 

 

Read the statement