A museum of John Paul II and cardinal Wyszyński received 6 000 000 PLN from the polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (yep, that’s the official name).
It just so happens that the museum is placed in the half-built Church of Divine Providence (yep, that’s an official name too), which is being built in Warsaw by the Catholic Church for 15 years now. The other beneficiaries of the infrastructure of culture funding program received grants of anywhere between 30 and 800 thousand PLN, with only one scoring a million for 2014 – the Centre for contemporary Arts Ujazdowski Castle – and another one being set to receive a total of 1 million over the next 3 years. In other words, 6 million is huge in comparison to what is usually granted to an institution of culture.
The artistic and social merits of the temple have been questioned since its conception. The Wikipedia article, which has a palatable pro-choice bios, dates the idea back to 1971 and the first Polish constitution. It was resurrected in 1999, and since then the funding for the over 150 million-worth of a building has been a betting card for all sorts of governments, right and left-leaning alike. Church attendance dwindles – 40% of believers, or classified as such by the Church, attend Sunday Mass – but it’s still a very disciplined electorate.
It is considered to be a wider problem of the Polish political left (or whatever is left of it, pun not intended) that it fails to openly distance itself from the Church and some of the social policies in which the Church mingles. These include mostly reproductive rights (this seems to be an international phenomenon) and everything that follows: LGBTQ rights, gender equality, and abortion.
In the 2011 elections the ad hoc-founded Palikot’s Movement scored over 10% votes in parliamentary elections. The unprecedented result was largely attributed to Palikot’s categorical program of separation of Church and state, as well as liberal social policy including legalization of marijuana. It scored high (oh, the puns…) with disillusioned young voters, who would also like to have a joint in peace. Major parties looking for wins above 40% are yet to take a gamble.
The Ministry of Culture is an odd choice for backhanded church donations, but perhaps the only possible. The artistic and cultural community, at least of the outspoken sort, is by and large liberal in Poland and guaranteed to raise some questions.
Yet here we arrive at the second problem. Back in 2008 the project received 30 million PLN from the budget of the ministry (not to mention some 30 ton of cooper from the State-owned KGHM). At the time, there were talks of putting this decision up for testing in front of the Constitutional Tribunal, but the affair lost steam and money was handed over.
The culture of disregarding the electorate* (let them huff and puff for a while, it will blow over and we’ll do what we want anyway) is prevalent in Poland on all levels, especially locally. Our young democracy is yet to find an effective mechanism of executing real consequences for politicians who claim one thing and do another.
*The head for the Office for Public Space Aesthetics, whom we mentioned in the article about large format advertising in Warsaw, has since resigned. He also produced a rather compelling statement outlining his reason to take the job on – you ought to give the government a chance at cooperation – and his resignation – but you shouldn’t part take in political theatre. Let’s see what we’ll remember by the next local elections.