By Patrick B. Craine

KATOWICE, Poland, September 25, 2009 ( – Pope John Paul II's former personal secretary and current Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, has condemned the Wednesday court ruling that ordered a Polish Catholic newspaper and its editor-in-chief to publish an apology after having compared abortion to horrors wrought by the Nazis.  The Cardinal has been joined by numerous other Polish Church leaders, as well as politicians and public personalities.

The ruling, which also carried a fine of $11,000, was made against the Archdiocese of Katowice and the editor-in-chief of its weekly newspaper, Fr. Marek Gancarczyk.  The paper, named Gosc Niedzielny (Sunday Visitor), is Poland's largest Catholic weekly.

“I received the verdict condemning 'Gosc Niedzielny' with sadness and unbelief,” Cardinal Dziwisz stated. “Simple logic and common sense failed, and the attitude of the civilization of death triumphed.”

“I dare say that this verdict brings back the spirit of the past, when true words had to be paid for with guilty court verdicts,” he continued.  “I express my full solidarity with Fr. Marek Gancarczyk and his care for the protection of human life.”

In an October 2007 editorial, Fr. Gancarczyk condemned the European Court for Human Rights'  earlier ruling that forced the Polish government to pay Alicja Tysiac damages of 25,000 euros for the 'wrongful birth' of her daughter in 2000.  Ms. Tysiac, who has an eye condition, had been denied an abortion because her doctors decided that the pregnancy would not seriously damage her health.

While the judge perceived that Fr. Gancarczyk had compared Ms. Tysiac to the Nazis, mandating he apologize to that effect, his editorial actually draws the comparison with the judges in the 2007 case, not Ms. Tysiac.  Further, the judge objected to a statement made by the priest indicating that in seeking an abortion for her child, Ms. Tysiac sought to 'kill' her daughter.

The Polish Conference of Bishops issued a statement today in response to the ruling, signed by Archbishop Jozef Michalik, the Head of the Conference; Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the Deputy Head; and Archbishop Stanislaw Budzik, the Secretary General.

“We treat this verdict as an attempt against freedom of speech and the right of the Church to moral judgement of human behavior,” they state.  “Proclaiming the Gospel of life is in the mind of the Church one of its basic duties. To deny the Church this right, and what's worse to impose legal punishment for reminding the truth about the fact that nobody has authority over the life of another person, is an unacceptable limitation of the Church's mission.”

Continuing, they “express solidarity” with the paper and Fr. Gancarczyk, “stressing the merits of this paper in promoting family and social values, as well as in presenting the role of the Church in the life of the Nation.”

According to Archbishop Zimon of the Katowice Archdiocese, the verdict “is not only an indication of limiting the freedom of the press, but also a manifestation of the civilization of death. … I don't understand the court's statement that abortion can be called 'killing' in the general sense, but not when referring to a particular person.”

Bishop Antoni Dydycz of the Drohiczyn diocese stated that “the court convicted a Catholic newspaper for telling the truth about responsibility for abortion, which is killing.”

Various Catholic and secular organizations, as well as politicians, journalists, celebrities, and scholars have added their voices to the objections.

Psychologist Fr. Marek Dziewiecki asserted that he is willing to be imprisoned for condemning abortion.  “If somebody speaks publically against the 5th commandment, Christians must not remain silent, they have a moral obligation to take a stand,” he said.  “If the court finds me guilty for these words, I am ready to go to jail.”

“The killers of unborn children (both women committing abortion, as well as doctors), are murderers, baby killers and no verdicts will ban Catholic media from speaking out and writing the truth,” said the Catholic Journalists Association.

“Calling abortion 'murder' is not 'hate speech',” said head of the Media Ethics Council Magdalena Bajer, referring to language used by the judge, “it is a straightforward judgement of the essence of abortion, from the Catholic point of view.”

“If abortion is not the killing of a baby at a certain stage of its embryonic life, then what is it?” asked MP Boleslaw Piecha, a doctor who ceased conducting abortions after a conversion.  “Eviction from the uterus?”

“Maybe thanks to this verdict we will realize that there is an open war on the Church,” commented writer, and TV/radio celebrity Wojciech Cejrowski.  “We cannot use a thousand words to describe abortion. We have to use just one word: murder. … You have to call murder a murder, not 'abortion', or 'surgical procedure'.”

Additionally, a letter signed by numerous public people, including journalists, TV and radio personalities, politicians, and scholars, was published today at the Polish Catholic online news site  The letter concludes with a declaration that all signatories sign their names to the statements judged “unlawful” by the court, meaning that they can all now, in theory, be sued.

A public opinion survey conducted by the Polish national news channel TVP.INFO revealed that 80% of respondents think the verdict limits Catholics' freedom of speech.

See related coverage:

Polish Priest Fined for Comparing Abortion to Holocaust, Saying Abortion is “Killing”