In Poland, pope decries abortion, threat of 'godless' state


WARSAW, Poland -- Pope John Paul II thundered against abortion and the "destruction of the Polish family" yesterday and warned Poles that ideological neutrality did not require a "godless" state.

The pope spoke on church-state relations during a Mass in the southeastern provincial town of Lubaczow on the third day of his fourth pilgrimage to Poland.

Many Roman Catholics, he said, "would feel uneasy in a state from . . . which God would be eliminated under the guise of ideological neutrality."

He touched a sensitive nerve in post-communist Poland. Parliamentarians have so far failed to comply with the Catholic episcopate's demand that the postwar separation of church and state be eliminated from a redrafted constitution.

The bishops' stand has fostered unprecedented anti-clerical sentiment here and toppled the church from its once unchallenged position as Poland's most trusted institution.

"The postulate of ideological neutrality is just . . . in that the state should protect the freedom of conscience and religion of all its citizens," said John Paul, who later in the day denounced as "tragic" and "criminal" the 1946 pogrom against Jews in Kielce. "But the postulate that the dimension of holiness should in no way enter social and state life is the postulate of making the state and social life godless and has little in common with ideological neutrality."

John Paul expressed secular concerns not only over the church's role in the state but also over abortion.

In Rome recently he endorsed a proposed Polish law which would punish abortions, including those following incest or rape, with two-year jail sentences.

Yesterday, the pope made no reference to the law, but, voice shaking, spoke of "the evil which has engulfed the life of the Polish family."

In an emotional departure from his prepared text, he asked, "Is it permissible lightheartedly to condemn the Polish family to destruction? The Polish Republic needs to examine its conscience." He glared. "You understand? You who lightheartedly do these things? They pain me! They should pain you!"

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