It would seem that the persecution of the clergy for inconsistent with the line of the sermons was the domain of the times of the so-called People's Poland. Meanwhile, pre-war Poland did not show greater respect for freedom of speech. Any priest who proclaimed wrong views from the pulpit could meet the sad fate of Father Władysław Bachota ...
The whole story began on June 18, 1933 in Rakszawa (Łańcut poviat), where, thanks to the efforts of local activists of the People's Party, a solemn meeting was organized on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the parliamentary activity of Wincenty Witos. One of the elements of the celebration was a field mass in the commune grounds, during which the local parish priest, canon Władysław Bachota, delivered a sermon.
As Wincenty Witos noted in his memoirs:
It revolved around relations in Poland, and it was spoken with great force, and somewhat with enthusiasm. The preacher focused on the fight between Christ and Satan, and he was saying that everyone could have guessed who this satan was although he did not mention his name even once [of course, it was about Józef Piłsudski and the Sanacja camp - ed. author of the article] .
Wincenty Witos speaking in Rakszawa during the ceremony in his honor.
Sermon delivered at the wrong time and place
Perhaps if Father Bachota had delivered his sermon a few months earlier or later, he would not have experienced any unpleasant repercussions. However, it coincided with strong peasant protests, which at that time shook southern and eastern Poland.
The situation was so tense that many times the police and the army had to use firearms to disperse the crowds, which in turn resulted in several deaths.
In such an atmosphere, the authorities, fearing further actions by the rebellious clergyman, decided to temper him. It was decided that politics would most effectively get the preacher out of an old, proven crime story.
As planned, so also done. Already four days after the unfortunate speech, Father Bachota was detained on charges of insulting the government and the state by broadcasting messages that may cause public concern. It is worth mentioning that in fear of possible opposition from the inhabitants of Rakszawa, an entire company of infantry and 150 policemen were sent there - at least that's what Wincenty Witos said in his memoirs.
Not only the so-called People's Republic of Poland was repressed by rebellious priests. In the Second Polish Republic, the clergy also had to take into account unpleasant consequences if they criticized the rulers (colorization of the RK).
After his arrest, the priest was transported under strong escort to a detention facility in Rzeszów, and from there he was sent to a Krakow prison. As now, in the Second Polish Republic, the courts were not too quick, and therefore Father Bachota waited behind bars for almost four months.
In the meantime, he was forced to relinquish the rectory. According to the memoirs of the three-time prime minister, this decision was made under the pressure of the church hierarchy, which, in the name of good relations with those in power, decided not to intervene in defense of the priest.
Criminal in a cassock in front of the court
Finally, on October 19, at nine o'clock, the trial began in the Łańcut municipal court. As you can imagine, the trial enjoyed enormous interest. The local peasants appeared in great numbers, but they were not admitted to the court. On the other hand, numerous correspondents of various newspapers appeared in the courtroom to report on the course of the proceedings.
Father Bachota was charged with an offense under articles 127 and 170 of the Criminal Code. What was under it? Rule 127 stated that:
Who in the place or time of official or public activities insults the authority , office, army, navy or their units are subject to arrest for up to 2 years or a fine.
In turn, article 170 stated:
Who is spreading fake news publicly , which may cause social anxiety, is punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years and a fine.
As we can see serious charges, and a potential severe penalty, after all, four years behind bars (the penalty added up) and financial sanctions are not pleasant.This article has more than one page. Please select another one below to continue reading.
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Makarewicz's Criminal Code of 1932 provided for the alleged offenses of Fr. Bachocie:four years in arrest.
Here we come to the key point. How did Father Bachota in his sermon insult the authorities and spread false news ? During the hearing, the prosecutor tried to prove that what the priest said was not a sermon at all, but simply a political speech that attacked the government and the person of Józef Piłsudski .
The unfortunate preacher, in turn, claimed that everything he said was based on one of Archbishop Teodorowicz's sermons, which was included in the "New Preacher's Library".
After interrogating the accused, it was time for the commander of the district police in Łańcut, Commissioner Nowakowski. As it is not difficult to understand, he felt against the detainee. The case with constable Dąbrowski was similar. In the further course of the hearing, a few more witnesses were questioned, but did not bring anything else to the case.
After hearing all the testimonies, the defendant's attorney filed a motion to call to trial one of the serious preachers to become an expert in order to interpret the words of Father Bachota. The court agreed to this, appointing priest canon Lech. The trial itself was adjourned until November 9.
7 months in jail and a fine of 1000 zlotys for insulting the authorities
However, the raids of defense were of no avail, as the court remained inexorable. At the second and last session, the priest was sentenced under article 127 to 5 months' imprisonment, and under article 170 to another 2 months and a fine of 1000 zlotys.
The scandal for the whole of Poland! On October 20, 1933, the Warsaw "Nowiny Codzienne" wrote about the case of Father Bachota on the front page.
Due to the fact that the penalties added up, Father Bachota had to serve 7 months behind bars, plus, of course, he had to pay quite a large fine. For comparison, at that time a second lieutenant in the Polish Army earned PLN 281 a month and it was a high salary. The only consolation was that the pre-trial detention had been included in the sentence.
Obviously, the defense brought an appeal, which, after all, brought nothing and the priest did his job, whether he wanted it or not. After his release from prison, he remained unemployed for two years, and it was not until August 16, 1935 that he was appointed administrator in Wietrzno.
However, after a dozen or so months - on October 9, 1936 - he was dismissed from office and went into an early retirement. He died on June 22, 1939, at the age of less than 50. It is possible that the stay in uncomfortable prison conditions contributed to premature death.
- Wincenty Witos, My memories , vol. 2, Ludowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza 1990.
- Daily News ”, 1933.
- Marian Skowyra, Fr. Władysław Bachota, a strict priest in Strzałkowice 1889-1939 .