Conversations between the Catholic Church and the Polish Government
Poland was unique among Warsaw Pact countries in the degree of influence retained by the Catholic Church. But the church was also viewed as a powerful competitor to the state, and its leaders were among the first to be monitored and harassed during periods of social unrest. It is for this reason that the meeting transcribed in this document is so remarkable: Church officials proposed church participation in a "Social Consultative Council" which would assist the Council of State in the formation of policy related to social and economic progress. The Council of State members present expressed skepticism, given the Church's history of resistance, particularly in matters of schools and education. Much of the discussion revolved around the overall value of pluralism as a long-term political goal for Poland, and the Church's relationship with the Solidarity movement, the government's other important competitor for influence in Poland in the 1980s.
Andrzej Wielowieyski, Memorandum of Conversation, 18 October 1986, trans. Jan Chowaniec, Stanislaw Stomma Papers, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
Memorandum of Conversation 18 October 1986. Promemoria... about a conversation in the Belvedere held on 18 October 1986 by A. Swiecicki, J. Turowicz, and A. Wielowieyski with Vice Chairman of the Council of State, K. Barcikowski, member of the Council of State K. Secomski, and Secretary of the CC PUWP, St. Ciosek, concerning a Social Consultative Council.
The proposal [for the Council] is new and startling. It would be the only means to get involved in difficult decisions. Participation in [the proposed Council] is a matter of citizenship, a duty. Its composition [is] well balanced: 30-40 people [would be involved] for certain (but there are proposals to expand that list and to invite other people on an ad hoc basis). Of the Catholics from the circles close to the Episcopate, 8-10 people [would be active]. Besides representatives of the [ruling] party and other parties, non-party people, including those not connected with the authorities (but not extremists, who are re-activating the "S[olidarity]" structures) [would also actively participate]. The proposed Consultative Council is meant to increase trust and develop recommendations, which the Chairman of the Council of State (Gen. Jaruzelski) would pass on to the proper state organs as important proposals....
A possible range of activities of the Council [is] building: 1) social understanding, 2) functioning of the State, 3) conditions for economic progress, 4) scientific-technical progress, 5) development of socialist democracy, 6) current and prospective social policy, 7) environmental protection, 8) improvement of the moral condition of society; as well as other important matters. The creation of approximately ten similar "citizens' convents" for larger agglomerations or several voivodships [districts] and also the appointment of a Citizens' Rights Ombudsman is expected.