Long laughed at by liberals as just a bunch of anti-Semitic nutters, the group of ultra-catholic nationalists at Radio Maryja have now angered the Vatican. Shame then that the Polish government seems to regard Maryja as its own private news agency.
A committee of Polish journalists has condemned a broadcast by an ultra-Roman Catholic radio station for making "very nasty, anti-Semitic" remarks accusing Jews of making a business of Holocaust reparation payments.
The Media Ethics Council, a non-governmental watchdog, on April 4 lambasted remarks made by Stanislaw Michalkiewicz, a commentator for the Catholic station Radio Maryja, who on March 27 condemned international Jewish groups.
Michalkiewicz accused Jews of "trying to force our government to pay extortion money disguised as 'compensation payments"' for property lost during and after World War II, according to a report in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza.
He referred to such restitution attempts by Jewish groups as the "Holocaust business," the newspaper reported.
Of course, there is nothing new in anti-Semites claiming that there is a Holocaust ‘industry’ cooked up by Jews to continue their quest for world domination (snigger!).
But last week, a letter was sent from the Vatican through its nuncio in Poland asking Polish Church authorities to intervene in the activity of Radio Maryja. The Vatican was blunt: stop getting involved in politics.
Radio Maryja was set up in 1991 by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk. It immediately attracted a large following among the extremely alienated part of the Polish population, which fears secular capitalism as much as it hated atheist communism.
The station – listened to by maybe 1.2 million - has grown into a small media empire, which now boasts its own television station, TV Trwam and a daily newspaper, Nasz Dziennik.
The station sees a conspiracy (but of course) between ex-communists and Jews. It also has a problem with gays, foreigners in general and secularism in particular.
The Polish Catholic Church and the Vatican seemed to tolerate this sort of stuff for over a decade. What has changed recently is that the present Polish government, the social conservative Law and Justice, has been giving the station unique and exclusive coverage of news conferences, and the radio’s studios in Torun, northern Poland, are regularly ‘blessed’ by none other than Prime Minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, who gives lengthy interviews to the ‘faithful’.
This has meant that Radio Maryja and the government are now seen to be joined at the hip.
Mainstream media here, which has long complained that Radio Maryja has been given preferential treatment when applying for broadcasting licenses, etc, are now hostile to the government's programme. This in turn makes the government rely more and more on positive coverage from Radio Maryja. and so the self-fulfilling prophecy goes on.
Can we expect the government to act on the Vatican's behalf and crack down on its only friend in the media?
Is the Pope a Buddhist?
Update - 13 April: Radio Maryja apologies for offense over antiSemitic remarks but doesn't sound very convincing.