CESNUR - center for studies on new religions


organized by CESNUR, Center for Religious Studies and Research at Vilnius University, and New Religions Research and Information Center
Vilnius, Lithuania, April 9-12 2003  

The Image of Sects in the Polish Ultra-Catholic Press

by dr Monika Milewska, Assistant Professor, Departement of Religious Studies, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
A paper presented at the CESNUR 2003 Conference, Vilnius, Lithuania. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.

           “Omnis qui male agit odit lucem” says St. John. Evil hates light. According to this rule all the closed communities from the past were always subject to suspicions of the rest of the society. Their mysteries, rituals and rites of initiation along with sometimes obscure and complicated internal hierarchy were very exciting for imagination. No wonder that the cathalogue of crimes the closed societies were suspected of is very long: blasphemies, sacrileges, cult of a donkey head, ritual murders of new-borns, drinking of human blood, poisoning, forgeries, arsons, rapes, incests, orgies and other kinds of sexual vices and last but not least the hatred towards all the humankind. The target of these accusations were “sects”, the term being treated much largerly than nowadays. Thus such accusations were repeated all over the history against as different “sects” as the worshippers of Bacchus in the ancient Rome, first Christians, Jews, Albigenses, Templars, Jesuits, Freemasons, etc.

            However some of accusations had special, political character. Templars were regarded as mortal enemies of the monarchy. Jesuits in Poland were suspected of being spies of the king of Spain, who tried to make confusion and provoke revolts in order to bring Spanish troops into a weakened country. They were said to build fortified colleges in Lublin or Poznań in order to open them in a due moment for soldiers of Philippe the Second. They were also accused of attempts to take the power in all the states by inspiring quarrels among European monarchs. On the other hand Polish protestant “sect” of Arians was suspected of similar crimes. According to some writers, for example Jędrzej Giertych, Arians were responsible, together with Rosicrucians, for the “Deluge”, Swedish invasion of Poland in the year 1655. All these examples illustrate a very special vision of history seen as a place of a great infernal conspiracy. According to this conspiracy theory behind all the historical events and changes there are omnipotent societies, which work always to the detriment of the humanity. People, instruments in their hands, execute uncounsciensly their plans.

            As a classic work containing such a vision of the world may be considered a book written in the years 1797-1799 by abbé Augustin Barruel and entitled Mémoires pour servir a l’histoire du Jacobinisme. The book is dedicated to the most dangerous and sinister sect in the whole history which was undoubtedly the Freemasonry, responsible for the French Revolution and its atrocities. Barruel presents the Masonry as a continuater of the Templars and such sects as Manichaeans - followers of anarchy - and Albigenses - “the most terrible ennemies of altars and thrones”. In the eighteenth century the sect of the Freemasons controlled already almost the whole world: from America to China. They managed to demoralize the majority of people. Even simple peasants knew that the heaven and the hell were nothing but priests inventions. Freemasons as the descendants of Templars and Albigenses had two ennemies: the Christianity and the royal power. However some of European kings were members of Masonic lodges. It was so because even the very masons didn’t know the true aims of their organisation. Therefore kings were only tools in the hands of real leaders of the infernal sect. Barruel describes them as devils and the whole Masonry as “the woman seating on the Beast which has inscribed a word “Mystery” on her forehead”. This apocaliptic sect is the most dangerous and irreligious in the history, what means that it is just predestinated to the last oppression of the Church of Christ. The first sign of the coming End is the Frech Revolution, which was an effect of a great Masonic conspiracy.

            This suggestive vision of Barruel (afterwards often perceived as a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy) is quite popular even nowadays among ultra-right and nationalistic writers. In Poland it has its great believers among people connected with “Radio Maryja”, Ultra-Catholic radio of father Rydzyk and edited by him newspaper “Nasz Dziennik”. “Radio Maryja” is an important phenomenon of the Polish social life: father Rydzyk media empire together with organisation “the Family of Radio Maryja” finds millions of followers. Now it is just opening a tv channel “Trwam”. Despite their religious character medias of father Rydzyk are deeply engaged in politics. Above all they fight against the Polish accession to the European Union, which they call sometimes “New Babilon”. The Polish reality described in “Nasz Dziennik” is alarming: Polish land and Polish souls are in danger. The great threat comes from the West: from the Union, Masons and Jews. From an “ideologigal crusade, a Masonic messianism of the West, who wants to change not our economy, but our minds and souls”. “The rulers of this world” have a plan to deprave Polish people by propagating of homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia and genetic experiments.

            The most interesting discours in the spirit of Barruel we can find in the opinions pronounced on the Maryja Radio by dr. Stanisław Krajski, author of books Polish Freemasonry ‘1999, Pius IX and his triumph over the liberalism, Liberal Union - New Babilon. According to him Freemasonry is a satanic sect, impure sewer of all sects, described by the documents of the Catholic Church as the assistant of the Satan on the earth. The Satan together with the Masonry tends to subjugate the man, to destroy his hierarchy of values and attache him to the sin in order to make him his slave. This purpose is realized by the Freemasonry through the structures of the European Union, which is a classic state of the Satan, a kind of Babilon described in the Holy Scripture and the works of the Doctors of the Church as the state of the Prince of this World.

            As we can see the language in which ultra-right describes the “sect” of Masons hasn’t changed since the time of abbé Barruel. In my research I wanted to examine if also sects in the contemporary meaning of this term are described in the same way; to what extend this traditional model of accusations has influenced the image of sects (or - if you like - new religious mouvements) created by the media empire of father Rydzyk. I want to see what the language in which they present the problem is like; does it contain the petrified structures and stereotypes from the past or try to tell about sects in a new - more objective way?

            The answer is not easy. Not easy, because there is no homogeneous pattern of speaking about sects; let me say: there is no politics towards sects. What is more, sects are treated rather as a marginal problem. The newspaper “Nasz Dziennik” seems to have much more dangerous ennemies to conquer: the European Union, liberalism, Masons... It describes new dangers like the Potteromania or cloning of people. So it doesn’t pay a really big attention to sects. It’s quite visible when we regard the book offers in “Nasz Dziennik”: amidst tens of books recommended by the mail-order bookshop (many of them treating about actual threats) I found only one dedicated to sects - a brochure written by father Andrzej Zwoliński, entitled Sects...Why?. The advertisement appeared only twice or maybe three times while other books are recommended constantly. It means that sects are not regarded as one of the biggest threats. Also skiming through some programs of the Maryja Radio (but only at random, I didn’t study it systematically) I didn’t notice any broadcast dedicated to sects.

            The information about sects appear in “Nasz Dziennik” rather occasionally. In the beginning of this year there were (like in all other newspapers all over the world) some notes and articles on the affair of cloning people by the sect of Raelians. They quoted even Massimo Introvigne claiming that Claude Virilhon made everything for publicity. However in an article entitled “Clones Attack. Unreal Plans of Raelians”, which is a rather objective description of ufologic sects, his author Piotr Tomasz Nowakowski warns against experiments made by a cult with such an absurd doctrine.

            Some of notes are also a reaction to other medias publications. One of them concerns a tv program for children “Teleranek” and has a title “The Magic in Teleranek”. Its author writes with indignation about appearance of Polish buddists in this program. Their talk on mandala and the means of making it with aid of coloured sand and an empty ball pen is followed by a scene from a skating rink. “Is it possible to make a bigger confusion in the children heads?” asks the author. “What or rather whom does it serve for?”

            Another note is a short review of a book New Relious Movements and Sects written by Marek Gajewski. The review has a title: “To Defend Oneself Against Sects”. It makes a short classification of sects and reasons of joining them. The first reason is propanda activity of sects, another one lies in the very man, who seeks answers to his existential questions in an improper way. The author of the review considers that the best weapon against sects is our profound knowledge. “A limited knowledge means or exaggeration or underestimation of the problem”.

            Sometimes “Nasz Dziennik” delivers some knowledge about particular sects. For instance one of the articles, entitled Hidden Branches of the Sect Family, denounces the real aims of the charitable activity of an organization known in Poland as the Ray of Hope and being a part of the Family founded by David Berg. Another article is dedicated to Jehovah’s Witnesses and has a title The Witnesses of Destruction. The author begins from a history of a certain family from Cracow. The wife became a Jehovah’s Witness and brought to separation with his husband. Now, by false accusations, she tends to take him children off. The sect helps her in all the legal procedures. The second part of this article is a detailed description of the methods and working patterns of the sect. The author emphasizes that despite the fact that the Jehovah’s Witnesses operate in Poland legally, the measures which they use are quite similar to the methodes employed by illegal sects.

            In all the articles and notes which I mentioned above we meet a rather reasonable typical journalistic language. The authors, basing on facts, try to explain peculiar character of a particular sect, showing some threats which this organization may pose to its own members and the rest of the society. Of course, it is difficult to speak in this case about a sympathy for sects, but it is neither a typical language of hatred. There are either no traces of conspiracy theory: all the described sects, notwithstanding how dangerous they are, seem to operate in a complex social and political reality. The situation changes dramatically in the three articles I would like to present now.

            In an article aimed at the European Union we find a cathegory of European “souls engineers” which tend to destroy our Polish national identity. They want to liquidate Polish agriculture and the class of countrymen only for that reason that Polish peasants are the mainstay of the Catholicism in Poland. They would like to destroy Polish patriotic and religious traditions, the attachement to the God and fatherland. They want also to depravate the whole nation by propagating of pornography and sexual liberty. They try every mean to change Poland into Sodom and Gomorrah. In this aim they propagate knowlege about sex, anticonception, murdering of conceived children, euthanasia, homosexuality, making of genetic mutants and other degenerations. Acording to the author “They use different techniques stimulating the imagination and sexual desires, especially of young people. They proclaim the philosophy of liberalism - carpe diem, profit from your life, seek money for alcool, drugs, sects, superstitions, magic, horoscopes, fortune-telling and all this paganism. These mirages and temptations, which serve for destroying our faith, bombard us every day from tv and radio programs, illustrated magazines, books and opinions of irresponsible people.” As you can see, sects are treated here on the same level as alcool and horoscopes. They are only another kind of addiction, another step towards demoralisation and - in the same time - a part of the pagan and hedonistic propaganda of our medias. This dangerous propaganda is inspired by the very European Union, therefore we can guess that sects have very mighty protectors.

            Who are they? We find the answer in a text written by already mentioned Stanisław Krajski. In the text pronounced on Maryja Radio he describes the Masonic plans of destruction of the Catholic Church. He enumerates tasks which will enable realization of this plan. First of all the Freemasonry tends to diminish the number of catholics and weaken their faith by developing of protestantism, propagating of poganism, atheism and consumerism. It plans also to create a new form of christianism, close to the doctrine of Rosicrucians. They call it “Aquarian Christianity”. The Aquarian Christianity accepts many of the “liberal” postulates of the very Lucifer and joins many elements of the cult of Aryman, which consists in the sacralisation of material values and pleasures. The way which leads to this new reformation is simple: it means acceptation of the toleration doctrine, the equality of all religions and laying stress on the commandment of the love of one’s neighbour. The Freemasonry wants also to take power over the Catholic souls with the aid of the school, medias and parareligious organisations like for example the YMCA. For this purpose the Masonry creates also new religions and sects. Here we are in the middle of the Barruel’s discours.

            Another example of the conspiracy thinking is offered in an article The Provocators of the Apocalypse written by professor Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski. He reveals that seventy milion members of protestant sects, so called born-again Christians, want to provoke consciously Armagedon by helping Jews in their fights against Arabs. These Christians-Zionists, as them calls professor Pogonowski, led by pro-Izraelian pastors Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, believe, that the final victory of the state Israel over the whole Palestine is the condition of the second coming of Christ to the earth. They are not afraid of the Apocalypse, because they are convinced, that - as cleared of sins - they will be taken to Heaven before the End of the World and its disasters. The first sign of Armagedon will be the destruction of the Muslim temple al-Aksa, therefore Christian-Zionists together with fanatic Jews have been trying to blow it up in over one hundred terrorist attacks. Counting seventy millions believers sects of born-again Christians have an enormous impact on the American politics. Their delegation visited the White House two days before the attack on the World Trade Center and menaced the president Bush that his presidency would be destroyed like the presidency of his father in 1992 if he didn’t support Sharon. They also claimed to attack Iraq as quickly as possible.

            The article of professor Pogonowski is based on some facts: the great popularity of the movement of born-again Christians (Bush is in fact one of them) and tv pastors like Pat Robertson who warn against possible Apocalypse (for example in the end of 1999) or pro-Israelian impacts in the White House. But the total vision of seventy millions of Americans having only one desire: how to hasten the Armagedon is a part of this conspiracy thinking we know so well from the past.

            As we can see the conspiracy theory is very persistent and Barruel found his successors among journalists of Maryja Radio. However the image of sects presented by this concern is not at all coherent. The articles dedicated to sects are far removed from each other: from attempts to know better the problem to absurd histories about the Freemasonry creating sects. The articles agree only in one point: sects are a threat. But a threat may have social or diabolic character. I think that in spite of everything it is the first image of sects that prevails in the ultra-Catholic press in Poland.

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