Gądecki’s intervention is significant as Poland and Germany are neighbors, sharing an almost 300-mile border.
But there are striking differences between the Catholic Church in Poland and Germany.
More than 90% of Poland’s almost 38 million population describe themselves as members of the Church, with 36.9% of Catholics regularly attending Mass.
Around 27% of Germany’s 83 million population identify as Catholics, with only 5.9% of Catholics attending Mass in 2020. More than 220,000 people formally left the Catholic Church that year.
In his letter, Gądecki highlighted the shared history of Polish and German Catholics, including the process of reconciliation after the Second World War supported by the future Polish pope John Paul II and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.
“Bearing in mind this communion of faith and history between Poland and Germany, I would like to express my deep concern and anxiety regarding the information that has been recently received from some spheres of the Catholic Church in Germany,” wrote Gądecki, the archbishop of Poznań, western Poland.
“In a spirit of Christian charity, therefore, I take the liberty of addressing to you — as President of the German Bishops’ Conference — this letter, full of fraternal care and in a spirit of shared responsibility for the deposit of the holy apostolic faith entrusted to us by Christ.”
The archbishop said that throughout history leading figures had attempted to reinvent Christianity for their age through a process of subtraction.
He cited Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, who produced a version of the Bible that eliminated passages he believed were not from Jesus, but “uneducated apostles.”
“Convinced that he had the criteria to distinguish one sentence from another, he decided to do it with scissors. In this way, a modern apocrypha was composed which, according to its author, is better than the original,” he wrote.
“It cannot be excluded that the proprium christianum — what is characteristic for Christianity — is expressed precisely in these most difficult fragments of the Bible that fall under ‘Jefferson’s scissors.’”
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Gądecki said that another temptation facing the Church today was to seek to update Jesus’ teaching in the light of the latest findings of psychology and the social sciences.
“If something in the Gospel does not agree with the current state of knowledge in these sciences, the disciples, wanting to save the Master from being compromised in the eyes of his contemporaries, try to ‘update’ the Gospel,” he said.
“The temptation to ‘modernize’ concerns in a particular way the sphere of sexual identity. It is forgotten, however, that the state of scientific knowledge changes frequently and sometimes dramatically.”
He cited the National Origins Act, which restricted immigration to the United States, passed by Congress in 1924.
“The main reason was the belief that peoples such as Italians and Poles, for example, were racially inferior,” Gądecki noted.
“On the other hand, based on knowledge of eugenics, an estimated 70,000 women belonging to ethnic minorities were forcibly sterilized in the United States in the 20th century.”