A series of official press commentaries admonishing Roman Catholic clergymen for pro-Solidarity sympathies and, in one case, attacking the public practice of hanging crosses in schools and work places, has aggravated relations this week between Poland's church and martial-law authorities.
A source close to the Polish primate, Archbishop Jozef Glemp, indicated today that church officials were still uncertain what to make of the press comments that have appeared in major Warsaw dailies and on the radio. He said it was not clear whether the remarks pointed to the beginning of a full-fledged campaign against the church or simply were the "jumps and hops of irresponsible individuals."
The source said he tended to regard the attacks as reflecting differences within the government--in particular, an attempt by hard-line factions to incite a church-state conflict--rather than as the enunciation of a new policy.
Government spokesman Jerzy Urban said a priest has been arrested and put on trial for a sermon slandering Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski and his rule, The Associated Press reported. The priest was identified only as being from Koszalin Province.
A senior church official, saying he could not keep silent over a Radio Warsaw commentary last Friday against the hanging of crucifixes, strongly endorsed the practice and warned that opposition to it would cause additional trouble in Poland.
The practice of hanging crosses in public places became especially popular in this largely Catholic country during the period of freer self-expression that accompanied the rise of the independent trade union movement Solidarity.
Since the military crackdown Dec. 13, several attempts by authorities to remove the crosses have been reported. One such, at an aircraft factory in the eastern town of Swidnik, is said by a traveler from the region to have sparked a worker protest.
"It ought not to be forgotten that hanging of the crosses in the past year was spontaneous and not ordered by the church authorities," Bishop Bronislaw Dabrowski, secretary of the Polish episcopate, told United Press International in an interview today. He said removing the crosses would harm Polish society by "creating tensions that should be avoided now."
The senior clergyman said the church did not intend to "wage a crusade or deliver sermons" against the removal of crosses, but he cautioned that such actions could occur only "at the expense of calm that is so much wanted."
Dabrowski said he had received personal assurances from a top government official, authorized by Gen. Jaruzelski, that no order had been given by the national leadership to take down crosses and that any attempts to do so were purely local initiatives.
Glemp himself is said by an informed source to have been assured of the same thing in a meeting with Jaruzelski Jan. 9. To confirm an understanding that there would be no moves against the crosses in the future, this source said the primate included a passage in his Jan. 24 sermon affirming the practice of hanging crucifixes.
Glemp's sermon was carried by Polish radio and television and the passage about the crosses was never questioned until last Friday.
Under martial law, the Catholic Church has enjoyed a privileged status in deference to its attempts to mediate between interned Solidarity leaders and party and government authorities. Most church activities have been exempted from martial-law regulations, and clergymen have been allowed to visit internment camps to check on individual union members, recite mass and deliver food parcels.
A commentary in the main Communist Party daily Trybuna Ludu this week took note of the allowances that had been made for the church, but criticized some church officials for taking advantage of them to spread reports of alleged mistreatment of detainees.
A day before, the party paper had carried a commentary voicing concern about the development of underground activity in Poland in opposition to martial-law rule. The piece included a paragraph charging "certain representatives of the clergy" with making "provocative statements and inciting political gestures"--a reference to sermons critical of the crackdown and of the lack of relief in sight.
Even Glemp has appeared to sour in his assessment of the future in Poland, hardening his public statements recently in what sources close to the church have said is intended as a warning to the authorities about the negative public regard for current policies.
In a sermon today outside St. Anthony of Padua Church in Warsaw, the primate, speaking of worsened economic hardships for Poles, said: "There is still dark in this tunnel. We cannot spot the exit from this tunnel in which we are going. But we have to be patient; we have to survive."
In comparison to the role of religious institutions in other communist countries, Poland's Catholic Church has an unusually strong position. It claims a following among more than 85 percent of the population.
Its relations with state authorities often have been strained. The election of Pope John Paul II, formerly the archbishop of Krakow, reinforced its position, however. With the formation of Solidarity, the church assumed an instrumental role in union-government talks, advising both sides while counseling calm.