February 26 1984 Freedom of Religion and Education


[opening remarks]

A prayer is a conversation with God. At our Holy Mass for Our Country, for those who suffer for her the most, we want to tell God about our Country’s difficult problems. So we commend to God, to the merciful God the imprisoned leaders, the Committee for the Defense of Workers and their families, the imprisoned Dr.Benarkiewicz from our parish and all those imprisoned for their convictions, those deprived of their jobs. We commend our teachers who fight for the right of conveying the truth to our children and our youth. We commend to God everything that hurts us. That worries us and we ask Him, through our prayers, to keep us strong in our faith, hope, and love.

Holy Mass for the Fatherland on February 26 1984 was celebrated by Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko who delivered the Sermon.

[homily]

“Let the children come to me and do not prevent them” (Luke 18, 16)

These words spoken by Christ and read just a moment ago, in the Gospel, sound the same as they did two thousand years ago. They are especially important in our post-war history. They are valid even today.

These words spoken by Christ and read just a moment ago, in the Gospel, sound the same as they did two thousand years ago. They are especially important in our post-war history. They are valid even today.

We are children of our Nation, the nation which for over one thousand years gives glory to God in the Holy Trinity. Our Nation was famous for its world acknowledged religious tolerance. With us, those who because of their religious persecution had to leave their native lands, found shelter.
In our Polish nation Christian upbringing was related to our history and had an effect on all aspects of our lives. That is why in today’s education we must not separate ourselves from what has been the basis of our character for a thousand years.

The Christian method of upbringing, based on Christ and His Gospel, has passed many tests in the history of our Nation, and especially in its most difficult times. Hence the Catholic Polish Nation is conscious of the losses and moral damage which it suffered, and suffers as a result of superimposing on the believers a program of atheism, a program against religion. The years since World War II represent one great battle for the monopoly of atheist education, an education without God, the tearing of God out of the hearts of children and youth.

February 26 1984 Freedom of Religion and Education

The years since World War II represent one great battle for the monopoly of atheist education, an education without God, the tearing of God out of the hearts of children and youth.

Today let us look at this problem a little closer.

A child’s life starts below its mother’s heart. It is the mother who makes the greatest effort to bring the child into the world. Then come the parents to bring up the child. School and the entire nation also take part in this process. However, in its function, the school must nevertheless be dependent on the parents. The school cannot destroy, in the children’s hearts, the values that the family had placed there.

School belongs to the Nation, to the family and the people, but not to this or that sect or group which occupies itself with unworthy, and even hostile and damaging to the nation, and to the people job of erasing faith from the hearts of children and young people1 – cried the late Primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski.

So, in spite of the nationalization of schools, they have the same duty to serve the family and the nation, because a nation is made up of families. School must be of the nation. It must give the children and the youth love of its Motherland and of their native culture. Schools must pay attention to the nation, its demands, its culture, customs and religion.

The duty of caring for that type of school, for proper education, belongs to the country, the teachers and the family. But when the state neglects this duty greater responsibility falls on teachers and educators. It is worse when the society, under the pretext of new educational projects, the excuse of easing parents lives, fights for the monopoly of teaching and atheist upbringing against the will of the parents.
The atheist program leads to an absurd situation, it creates a feeling of social rebellion and of slavery of the individual.

“The disgrace of our times – wrote the bishops in 1968 – is that there are so many attempts at depriving our youth of their faith in God and their connection to Church – contrary to the voice of conscience of all civilized nations”2.

Government rules which deal with education cannot be contrary to God’s laws because then they do not bind the conscience. A forceful introduction to an attitude that denies freedom of religion and love of God, deprivation of all religious aspirations and desires, is an attempt at enslavement.

One might say that today no one is forbidden to attend church. We have lived through a similar time after the war. Even today, many adults ask to be baptized only because their parents were threatened with loss of work or position by baptizing or giving their children Catholic education privately.

Still the matter of education, freedom and religion is not just a question of attending church. Government cannot impose its religion, and its opinions, it cannot dictate what citizens must believe and what they are not allowed to believe. Is the forcing of atheism and lack of tolerance not apparent in the fact that in a Catholic nation, lay press reaches millions of publications while only a few Catholic Weeklies, in very small numbers and no daily papers are printed, and even those are chopped up by the censorship.

One of the causes of today’s sad situation, including our economic situation and moral decay, is this stubborn denial of space, especially at school, at work and in the up-bringing of children, to Christ.

There was a time in not too far past, that the organizers of summer camps, apparently in the name of freedom of conscience, were prohibited to take the children to Sunday Mass. It had been suggested that, attractive activities at the time when Masses were being celebrated, would be introduced. Eventually it was prohibited that children be released to attend Mass. In cases where these rules were adhered to, staff was exposed to threats and penal sanctions. That was a brutal stamping out of human rights. School headmasters were required to make reports as to how they are trying to make it difficult for children to attend catechism, and whether they are successful in convincing the parents about the damaging effects of religious education. Those teachers who enabled the children to attend catechism were threatened with penal sanctions.

The youth was given to understand that attending catechism instructions would deprive them of graduating and university studies. The bishops had written about this in their pastoral letters. I am reminding us of all this to emphasize the great importance of family in the upbringing of children. Because the fact that young people are believers, that during “Solidarity” the generation which grew up in those difficult times was looking for sup- port to God and the Church is, first of all, the merit of families, the merit of parents who had to get everything, which had been confused in their children’s minds, in proper perspective. So, when the country does not stand up to the challenge, the responsibility of families, teachers and also the young people themselves, is all the greater. Young people have to see a friend in their teacher, one who, first of all, always tells the truth, who tries to give the young generation the entire wealth of national culture and religion. Teachers must remember that they are bringing up the young people for the Nation whose roots reach deep into the past, and not for these or those organizations which come and go. They cannot consider only that which serves them “today”, but that which will serve them far into the future.

The danger that young people may lose their ties with their country’s past and culture, frequently ridiculed and misrepresented, was interrupted by “Solidarity” which corrected many of the deliberately made secret, historical facts. We are not a Nation just for today. We are the Nation which has to hand down, far into the future, the strength evolved for an entire millennium.

Only a common and harmonious cooperation of parents and teachers, Church and the young people themselves can confront everything whose goal is living the greatness of man and not ruining that which grew out of the generosity of those who paid the heavy price to maintain the spirit of the nation. And here, all of us must take to heart the call of the Primate of the Millenium to have the courage of admitting in public, our allegiance to Christ and the Church, to everything that is the pride of our Nation. Courage to admit that in school, at a university, at work, in the office. To do this without a thought of consequences which might arise for us from it. If we trust the four walls of our house, we shall never lack the courage to publicly admit Christ, just like we had the courage to do it during “Solidarity”, even if we have to pay for it, and accept the sacrifice. Faith and ideals must not be sold like “a bowl of porridge” for a position, for better pay, for ability to continue education, for social status. Because he who sells his ideals freely, is but a step away from selling himself.

The Church will always help parents and educators believing that if somebody is allowed to preach atheism to the youth against their will, or against the will of their catholic parents, then Catholics can, all the more, defend themselves against that injustice.

There is so much said today about human rights. But we forget about the fundamental right, the right of freedom of religion and freedom of education. This is forgotten by the State which sometimes changes into an apostle of faith into “its own god” called atheism or secularism, and demands that the nation bows to this god created by made up possibilities. The State forgets that every man has the right to retaining his faith and his beliefs.

Only the combined effort of Church, parents and educators can protect the young so they do not take this path and wander away from the healthy stream of God, from healthy patriotism which flows through our Nation for more than ten centuries. We have to do everything in our power not to allow the childrens’ mouths to be shut, or the youths, or the Nation’s and to make sure that nobody loses hope.

In a castle close by a Csar once exclaimed: “Poles, give up hope, keep your mouth shut”. They did not. They paid hard for it, but they did not close their mouth, and we are grateful to them today because they handed to us the Spirit of our Nation. We are the heirs of those who did not close their mouth when it was important. And therefore we cannot be quiet when it deals with the upbringing of our younger generation. It is they who, in the near future, will carry the fortunes of our Motherland.

And you, my dear friends must have something of an eagle in yourselves. “An eagle’s heart and an eagle’s eye”– as the late Primate had said. You have to temper your spirit and raise it high, so you can fly like the eagles above all other birds into the future of our Country. Only flying like the eagles will you be able to get through all the turning points, and all the storms, and you will know no bondage. Remember eagles are free birds because they fly fast. They do not crawl along the earth.

However to be able to be like the eagles depends on whom you allow to carve your soul and your mind, remembering that true citizens are not created in factories but under their mothers’ hearts and are overseen by true educators who pattern themselves on Jesus Christ.

Amen.

[closing remarks]

I sincerely thank everyone who, last month, joined me with their prayers during the weekly hearings. I also ask for your prayers on March 6th at 9.30, this will be on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. I do not think that I need to remind anyone that we shall leave in complete peace and silence not to forsake this atmosphere of prayer which we had here in the church.

1 Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, Speech on the Feast of of the Assumption of the Mother of God, Czestochowa 8/15/1977, see: Primate of the Millenneum, p. 195.
2 In 1968 the bishops wrote much about the gradual secularization, but references were not found.