Poland – Church versus State

If you’ve ever spent a lot of time in Poland you could be forgiven for thinking there would be words in the constitution like “Poland is proud to be a Catholic country and to uphold the teachings and doctrine of the world’s one true faith”, or something along those lines. This assumption might be formed not only from what you see around you in everyday life, the traditions upheld at times like Easter, Christmas, All Saints and so on but these impressions would be further strengthened when you watch what goes on in political life of the country as well. Arguments about burials, locations of crosses, IVF treatment, Sunday working, etc etc etc etc. Surprising as it may seem, this assumption would be wrong.

The following text is copied directly from The Constitution of the Republic of Poland (1997), chapter 1, article 25:

1. Churches and other religious organizations shall have equal rights.

2. Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical, or in relation to outlooks on life, and shall ensure their freedom of expression within public life.

3. The relationship between the State and churches and other religious organizations shall be based on the principle of respect for their autonomy and the mutual independence of each in its own sphere, as well as on the principle of cooperation for the individual and the common good.

4. The relations between the Republic of Poland and the Roman Catholic Church shall be determined by international treaty concluded with the Holy See, and by statute.

5. The relations between the Republic of Poland and other churches and religious organizations shall be determined by statutes adopted pursuant to agreements concluded between their appropriate representatives and the Council of Ministers.

Point 4 is the only mention in the entire document of the word ‘Catholic’ but it is perhaps worth looking at what is meant by “international treaty concluded with the Holy See”. This may refer to the concordat signed between the Holy See and the Republic of Poland in 1993 although this is not specifically mentioned by name in the constitution. The concordat appears to be a way for the Catholic Church to take care of its income, people, property, legal rights and indeed influence as rightly noted by the text….:

● mindful of the fact that the Catholic religion is professed by the majority of citizens of the Polish Nation;

● cognisant of the mission of the Catholic Church, the role played by the Church in the history of the Polish State for over a thousand years, as well as the importance of the Pontificate of His Holiness Pope John Paul II in the contemporary history of Poland;

….but this is tempered by many other references such as:

● guided by the above-mentioned values and by the general principles of international law and also by the principles respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination on religious grounds;

● in the belief that the development of a free and democratic society is founded on a respect for the dignity of people and their rights;

Having taken into account the constitutional principles and laws of the Republic of Poland and the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Holy See with regard to religious freedom and relations between the Church and society, as well as the norms of Canon Law, [the Republic of Poland and the Holy See] have decided to enter into this present Concordat.

and indeed Article 1 itself, which fell short of using the word ‘separation’ but essentially means the same thing:

Article 1

The Republic of Poland and the Holy See reaffirm that the State and the Catholic Church are, each in its own domain, independent and autonomous, and that they are fully committed to respecting this principle in all their mutual relations and in co-operating for the promotion of the benefit of humanity and the good of the community.

The concordat is a typically worm-tongued document that attempts to leave as much room for interpretation as possible. It does this because of what it lacks, which is anything to suggest that it in any way overrules, supersedes or should be read as part of the constitution of The Republic of Poland. What it does, quite simply, is protect the Catholic Church’s current and future assets in Poland and allows the church the freedom to continue “doing its business” on Polish soil.

Back to the constitution – In chapter 2, under the heading of Personal Freedoms and Rights, article 53 talks about religion generally:

1. Freedom of conscience and religion shall be ensured to everyone.

2. Freedom of religion shall include the freedom to profess or to accept a religion by personal choice as well as to manifest such religion, either individually or collectively, publicly or privately, by worshipping, praying, participating in ceremonies, performing of rites or teaching. Freedom of religion shall also include possession of sanctuaries and other places of worship for the satisfaction of the needs of believers as well as the right of individuals, wherever they may be, to benefit from religious services.

3. Parents shall have the right to ensure their children a moral and religious upbringing and teaching in accordance with their convictions. The provisions of Article 48, para. 1 shall apply as appropriate [Parents shall have the right to rear their children in accordance with their own convictions. Such upbringing shall respect the degree of maturity of a child as well as his freedom of conscience and belief and also his convictions.]

4. The religion of a church or other legally recognized religious organization may be taught in schools, but other peoples’ freedom of religion and conscience shall not be infringed thereby.

5. The freedom to publicly express religion may be limited only by means of statute and only where this is necessary for the defence of State security, public order, health, morals or the freedoms and rights of others.

6. No one shall be compelled to participate or not participate in religious practices.

7. No one may be compelled by organs of public authority to disclose his philosophy of life, religious convictions or belief.

Finally in the Constitution, chapter 11, article 233 says:

Limitation of the freedoms and rights of persons and citizens only by reason of race, gender, language, faith or lack of it, social origin, ancestry or property shall be prohibited.

Worth noting additionally that Poland has not yet declared itself to have changed from a democracy to a theocracy nor has it joined with Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Monaco & Malta in recognising Roman Catholicism as the state or official religion. This is actually more liberal than England, which does recognise the Anglican Church as its state religion. Quite ironic when you have had the opportunity to compare life in both countries.

In my humble and uneducated opinion, in the ways of writing a constitution, the above all seems to be well constructed and protective enough of my rights as an individual, whether a citizen of Poland or a thoroughly embedded alien. What concerns me though is whether Poland is actually “walking the walk”? It may be just the impression I get but I can’t help feeling that a combination of political parties / individuals and the organisation that is the Catholic Church in Poland are actually trying hard to remove or restrict our rights as laid down in the constitution by behaving in ways that suggest that the Catholic Church actually has far more rights and power than any other system of belief or non-belief.

Try getting your child any religious education in school that isn’t Catholic. Try excusing them from religious education altogether. Try skipping the “komunia” thing. Whether it be peer pressure, state pressure or church pressure – it’s not easy to be anything other than Catholic in Poland.

This is surely not a good thing and one that should either lead to a change in the constitution giving everyone a chance to revisit their allegiance to this country when it finally clearly states its real intentions or to steps being taken to ensure Poland’s current official and clearly stated position is enforced.

The recent heated and prolonged debates in parliament about IVF (In vitro fertilisation) are just the latest episode where Church and State have clashed. The question of Poland’s position with regard to IVF has indeed been rumbling on every since I’ve been here and seems, finally, to be coming to a head. Reactions have been quite extreme with the church using blackmail by threatening to ‘excommunicate’ MPs who vote for public funding for IVF and alternative bills being put forward to either completely ban IVF or even make the use of IVF a criminal offense. It is said that 60% of the country would be in favour of IVF if that was the only way for people to have a child. I myself have spoken to many people who have successfully used IVF, some of them deeply Catholic and not helped in coming to terms with it by the state nor the church. Why should these people be made to feel so guilty? IVF, like so many other issues, is a matter of personal choice not a matter to take up the time of this country’s government. People are not stupid. They understand the church’s position and are able to make their own decision about which is more important to them, doctrine or a child. As for all the MPs & political parties, all they need to do is decide whether they wish to reserve IVF as a privilege of those who can afford the up to 15,000 PLN needed for treatment or whether they are going to make it more available to all citizens. I know what I’d do.

Here’s a whacky idea – if the sanctity of human life is so important, how about spending less time arguing about IVF embryos and more time trying to stop another 20-30 grown-up people with families and responsibilities dying on the roads when they perform their Catholic duties next All Saints? Like they did this weekend and the same last year……

Enormous amounts of parliament’s time and energy, not to mention the media, continue to be used up by these spurious clashes between religion and politics. Religion has no part to play in politics, the constitution seems to confirm this and whilst the concordat makes every effort to join the two with a sea of wishy-washy language it ultimately fails to do so. Even if religion were so important there is equally nothing to say in the constitution that the Catholic Church is the only one to be listened to, quite the opposite in fact.

The government does not need the interruptions. The people could live easier without the guilt complex. Please get it sorted one way or another so we all know what’s going on around here!

Not sure which is the greater hypocrisy – England with its state religion that almost nobody cares about or Poland with no state religion that many people are nuts about! :-)

The author would like to state for the record that he’s a big fan for freedom of speech.

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71 thoughts on “Poland – Church versus State

  1. bob says:

    Good thoughtful post scatts.

    You should send a copy to the politicos but I am not sure they will get it. They are totally cowed by the church and do not think in an independent manner.

    At least they voted down the one proposal to outlaw and fine those who use ivf. 5 more to go now – will be interesting to see how it shakes out. I hope that by the time we have the blog meet it will have come to a head as it will certainly be fodder for a bit of beer laced conversation.

  2. Bartek says:

    Scatts… finally

    Finally somebody has guts to say what should be said about politicians cringing before the Church.

    IVF – try practising your Polish and buy the latest issue of Polityka weekly. There you’ll find a nice explanation of why the Church is digging its heels in to forbid the IVF.

    The debate around IVF around basically around the question if an embryo is already a human being or is it just a bunch of cells that can develop into a human being. I opt for the latter and therefore do not go along with the reasoning of the Church.

    The discussion to be continued…

  3. The ex-communication of a few Polish politicians wouldn’t really be such a bad thing. It would be a line in the sand that had been crossed (hah) and, assuming at that point the world hasn’t ended, maybe everyone would see that the universe doesn’t actually revolve around the church.

    That all being said, it’s entirely up to the church to excommunicate people that violate church rules. That’s their right.

  4. @Bartek

    Interesting however can’t agree with your thinking. The discussion revolves around’ the protection of human life from the moment of it’s conception’. As I’m sure many are aware the will and drive to life of each and every human is there from the moment of conception and that human life does not start from the moment a child emerges from a mother’s womb. How it is protected is another matter and I for one am much more in agreement with the legislation here in Poland than of that in the UK.

  5. Bartek says:

    Still I could argue if an embryo is a human life. It can live on its own, from some moment during pregnancy period it may survive outside its mother’s body. A foetus with all visible traits of a man can make a life. But how about some cells that, in favourable conditions, can turn into a foetus?

    Maybe it could be best to distinguish between a foetus and an embryo.

    Does IVF involve ‘conception’? Surely not in a natural way the catholic doctrine would like to see it.

  6. Kukuł says:

    I’m a militiant atheist, but I think paying for highly ineffective and costly procedures, which are meant to satisfy psychological needs in a country, where lots of people die waiting for medical attention is a fucking outrage.

  7. guest says:

    People should adopt children if they can not make their own.

    And bartek, on the internet you will find abortion vids from Spain, Russia and co., with 11month old “embryos”. Watch them. It will really open your eyes.

  8. guest says:

    8month of course.

  9. tee says:

    The problem is they CAN. They only need some help from science. What’s wrong with that? Most people prefer having their own child and that’s normal. They have that chance, thanks to IVF. What’s more, IVF children are 100% wanted.

    And don’t give me that ’embryo is a human being’ argument, as it’s distorted and wrong on many levels and it probably shouldn’t be even mentioned – probably as long as we don’t hear about funerals for embryos, fetuses or stillborns (which, I’d like to remind you, many priests don’t consider as worthy of such service).

    What abortion of a 8 month old “embryo” has to IVF ad a few fertilized cells Bartek is talking about?

  10. dev says:

    I always wonder why some people care for an embryo without nervous system and they have no problem with killing animals. I am carnivore myself but I have much more empathy for chickens and cows than for human zygote.

  11. I don’t really want to meddle into this discussion, but well, it’s hard to avoid…

    1) The church should stop meddling in politics. At once! The politicians should start thinking more about what issues only seem important, and what issues are important for the development of the country.

    2) There is no way to definitly set a limit for when life arises. Therefore it is non of the govenrments business to try to regulate this more than really is neccessary. This is an ethical discussion that should mainly be discussed by scientist, and not be connected to religion. Nevertheless, the important thing is that people are given correct information, and are allowed to make up their own mind.

    3) Actually, adoption would be my first choice. I would be thrilled to adopt a child, and even better if it could be from Poland. The first problem is that I am not allowed to adopt from Poland, just because I am single. I honestly don’t see any reason for why I would not be a very good and caring parent. Sure it might be easier if you are two, but single parents are raising children successfully all the time. The second problem is that it is an expensive, slow, and bureaucratic process to adopt a child. If I started now, it would take years before I actually got a child, not to mention the intrution into my privacy during the process. Thirdly, and most importantly, there are not enough children up for adoption. There are more parents who want to adopt, than there are children available. Additionally, most coutries are getting better and better at supporting parents so that they don’t have to give their child away, and are also better at arraning foster parents within the country, which means that there are fewer and fewer international adoptions. The conclusion is that adoption is really difficult.

  12. basia says:

    A poster mentioned that the Church reserves the right to excommunicate whomever it chooses…it is their right, so the argument goes.
    Here, however, the church is not threatening to excommunicate individuals, but POLICY MAKERS!!
    Big difference.
    If the Church wishes to excommunicate members of their flock who have ever used IVF as a treatment for infertility, by all means go ahead. But don’t use the threat selectively against people who makes laws. That’s an obscene misuse of power.
    The Church should get its own house in order and punish (maybe excommunicate?) all those nasty priests who have preyed on defenseless children over the years. But that is just too ugly an issue to deal with, so let’s focus on the “misdeeds” of infertile couples instead.

    I have a child conceived by IVF…no embryos were destroyed nor were they frozen btw (for the misguided and righteous out there). I thank God every day for his existence, but it was medical research and science which allowed me to bring him home.

  13. island1 says:

    I think there is a confusion in this argument. You say “Religion has no part to play in politics” but, if I may respectfully suggest, what you really mean is that “religion has no part to play in government.” I can’t agree with the first statement, but I can with the second.

    Why can’t I agree with “religion has no part to play in politics”? Because it would be the same as saying comedians or coal miners have no part to play in politics. Everybody has a ‘part to play’ in politics: if a pop singer can make disparaging comments about a particular policy or politician, I don’t see why a bishop can’t. Sure, their words are going to have a disproportionately strong influence on public opinion, but so are the words of a celebrity—that’s just human nature.

    This is all provided for in the constitution:

    2. Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical, or in relation to outlooks on life, and shall ensure their freedom of expression within public life.

    In other words, if the majority, or even the totality, of Poles decide to be Catholics or Muslims or Jedis, that’s fine. It’s also fine that they express their beliefs in the political arena (‘shall ensure their freedom of expression within public life’). Bishops, Imans and Sith Knights are guaranteed the right to say what they believe as loudly and often as they like.

    2. Freedom of religion shall include the freedom to profess or to accept a religion by personal choice as well as to manifest such religion, either individually or collectively, publicly or privately,

    In other words, if you choose to belong to a prosthelytizing and prescriptive religion such as Catholicism or Islam, you have the right to ‘manifest’ that religion ‘publicly,’ which includes being prosthelytizing and prescriptive in the public arena.

    There is nothing in the Polish constitution that prevents religious leaders from attempting to influence public opinion—in fact, the right to do this is guaranteed. I don’t see how this could be otherwise. The only alternative would be to selectively limit the influence of the church in the public arena through the constitution, which is clearly never going to happen and probably shouldn’t happen.

    Plugging this into the IVF debate leads me to make the following points:

    1. Under the Polish constitution the Catholic church and individual Catholics have the same rights to express their opinions about government policy as any other organization or individual.

    2. The Catholic church believes IVF is wrong, for doctrinal reasons, and, according to its nature as a prescriptive faith, is compelled to do all it can to persuade everybody else that it is right.

    3. Some Catholics and many non-Catholics disagree with the church’s position.

    I think what the pro-IVF faction in this debate is really saying is that the Catholic church should keep quiet and not make people feel uncomfortable about extremely personal choices. This is not a view that can be supported by anything in the constitution though.

    Personally, I think that faiths such as Catholicism inevitably fall down in developed societies at peace because they have fixed and simplistic moral precepts (such as the sanctity of human life) that cannot sensibly cope with innovations that open up novel areas of human experience (such as conception outside the body). Catholics would probably say precisely the opposite.

  14. scatts says:

    For politics, read government, fair enough.

    On that point 2 – Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical….

    I’m not sure your following text is entirely related to this point, is it? Are public authorities in Poland impartial? Are political parties or the government “public authorities” and if so, how much of their time is spent dealing with Catholic issues as opposed to anyone else’s issues?

    It’s not so much people expressing their views, no issue with that, it’s just the extent to which the Catholic agenda impinges on the time and resources available for “running the country”. Of course in that statement I am expressing my own view that “running the country” should be an “impartial” activity not being swayed too much by anybody’s personal agendas, including the Catholic Church’s agenda.

    I don’t think the Catholic Church should keep quiet on IVF. It’s an issue they have strong opinions about.

  15. Kuba says:

    Your personal beliefs should drive how you perform your duties. You can believe one thing religous then perform opposite in your other duties. i.e. If your Catholic/christian and believe abortion is killing a human then vote for contraception that is incorrect thinking.

  16. basia says:

    “2. The Catholic church believes IVF is wrong, for doctrinal reasons, and, according to its nature as a prescriptive faith, is compelled to do all it can to persuade everybody else that it is right.”

    Jamie, I totally agree that the Church has a right to express its point of view and persuade people that it is right. By all means, let them preach from the pulpits, organize rallies, create placards for the righteous to carry, think up witty slogans and marching songs.

    Threatening people with excommunication is not “persuasion”. The Church has overstepped its authority in the worst way. It is morally offensive and perhaps even criminal (an ambitious/smart lawyer could likely make an legal argument against this and take the Church to court).

    I’m not an IVF zealot. I realize the treatment is expensive and very few state sponsored health care systems can “afford” it. But the issue should be considered, debated and a decision should be made by the people empowered to do so, without the use of duress.

  17. scatts says:

    Can I just say I’m delighted we got past 15 comments!

    Looking at recent history I thought we had accidentally pressed the “limit comments to max of 15” button.

    As you were..


  18. island1 says:

    But the church has not ‘overstepped its authority’ because it doesn’t have any authority. If the Catholic church was established (if it was the state religion) it would have some kind of authority over the running of the country, but it isn’t and doesn’t. Excommunicating somebody does not prevent them from holding any office of state.

  19. Siudol says:

    And now (with my response) the count is bumped up ever further, and we’ve passed the 20 posts mark!

    Forgive my ignorance, I have lived outside of Poland for a long time now, so my info may be outdated. However, my nephew a few years back had to attend some religious classes in a public school. Is that still the case? And how does that fit into the separation (or non-involvement) of the church and the state?

  20. True, there is a difference between politics and government. I agree with Scatts, however, that the problem is that the church is taking much more space in the debate than is really fair considering other groups in the society. I am against other kinds of powerful lobbying organisations for example connected to industry in the same way. In a democratic country everyone should have an opportunity to get their voice heard, and if organisations with a lot of resourses or “power” in a broad meaning, take advantage of this, the debate will not be about what’s best for everyone, but about who shouts loudest.

    If a company would threaten to fire an emplyee who voted in a certain way, we would object to that. So I can see a point if someone complains about the church talking about excommunication. Sure, it’s none of our business what the company or church does, but it is not good if their actions scare people away from using their right to vote or participate in politics freely.

  21. Siudol says:

    I disagree that the church “is taking much more space in the debate than is really fair”. Whether you like it or not, the church represents a much higher proportion of the population than any other organization, and is (unfortunately may I add) entitled to its share of the say in the matter. It is not surprising that whoever has more power shouts louder and drowns out the others.

    However, do I like the fact the clerics have so much power in the country? Of course not, and I hope their influence disappears altogether or at least is reduced to insignificance. In the meantime if they want to excommunicate me, I would be very proud of the fact.

  22. Bill Sudski says:

    @ Basia: Excommunication in no way denies a person his or her political rights. It is solely a religious matter. As such, it is within the Church’s authority. If the Church starts to torture those apostate, then that’s another matter.

  23. Bill Sudski says:

    @ Kuba: If life begins at conception, why is it wrong thinking to support the use of contraception?

  24. scatts says:

    Of course an underlying assumption made by many, politicians and commenters alike, is that all the people who claim to be Catholics also agree with everything the Catholic Church says and does. This is clearly not the case. In the same way that not all PiS supporters agree with everything they say and do and likewise with PO and everyone else.

    So, the proportion of the population “represented” by the Catholic Church will actually vary depending on the issue being debated at the time. It would be wrong to make sweeping assumptions that all Polish Catholics have a problem with IVF but might it appear that this assumption is being made on their behalf by those with a vested interest in so doing?

    I appreciate that according to the rules it is not possible to be part Catholic but life isn’t like that. I also appreciate that the church would not wish to recognise this reality but politicians should know better and are not bound by the same ‘club rules’ as the priests are – or perhaps some of them feel they are? I would expect a politician, at least those who are members of serious mainstream parties, to be able to separate the realities of life from the dogma and to act in the real interests of the people they represent or wish to represent.

    If people want dogma they can go to church. I don’t think they need the same from government whether it be in power or opposition. I’m not a Blair fan but “We don’t do God” was a wise statement made on his behalf.

  25. Bill Sudski says:

    Basia wrote:

    “Here, however, the church is not threatening to excommunicate individuals, but POLICY MAKERS!!”

    How are policy makers not individuals? The very essense of the idea of contemporary liberty is based on individual rights.

    Policy makers have every right to vote their conscience.

    Again, Church authorities cannot excommunicate anyone from the body politic (except priests, but that really be a matter of excommunication in the religious sense).

  26. Bill Sudski says:

    @ dev: No nervous system in an embryo?

    *Early in an embryo’s development*, a strip of specialized cells called the notochord induces the cells of the ectoderm directly above it to become the primitive nervous system (i.e., neuroepithelium). The neuroepithelium then wrinkles and folds over (B). As the tips of the folds fuse together, a hollow tube (i.e., the neural tube) forms (C)—the precursor of the brain and spinal cord.

  27. Kuba says:

    But the DNA is present which will make up a unique individual

  28. Kuba says:

    Bill, for me it wrong to inhibite the process of conceiving a child.

  29. Name says:

    Basia wrote: “I have a child conceived by IVF…no embryos were destroyed nor were they frozen btw (for the misguided and righteous out there).”

    So what happened to the additional embryos that were not implanted?

  30. Bill Sudski says:

    @ Kuba: But if twinning occurs, then you have two unique individuals. What happens given that rights are base on the individual?

  31. Phroid says:

    @ Kuba: I’ve fathered two kids who were conceived despite the use of contraception. I say that if God wants it to happen, it’s gonna happen.

    And if I willingly abstain from sex on some evening, I would similarly be “inhibiting” conception, or so it seems to me.e

  32. scatts says:

    Worth a read? – http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/books/review/Saletan-t.html

    It is a fascinating subject. An embryo is clearly the beginning of a potential life albeit only one step further on than separate eggs and sperm but having been through the agonising list of things that can go wrong twixt embryo and kicking, screaming baby I do not feel the line can be drawn that early in the process, nor that it is even remotely that simple.

    A life can’t arise (in most cases) without an embryo but then an embryo cannot exist without an egg and sperm and those raw materials are wasted all the time. If we’re going to celebrate life at the microscopic level then why stop at embryos, all they are is an accidental or deliberate joining of the two main players in this scene. An egg or sperm cannot by themselves become a human life but then neither can an embryo without a whole lot of good fortune, a mother, a womb, a placenta, a cocktail of the right chemicals, etc and so on.

  33. Name says:

    nosey, aren’t we?
    there simply weren’t any.
    oh yeah, and Sinatra was playing in the background.

  34. Kuba says:

    Phroid, I’m happy God helped you out. He knows what we need. But abstaining in my mind is not artificial contraception. More like the family planning method.

  35. Kuba says:

    Bill, not sure I see a conflict here each individual has rights even though they are twins. My daughter has twin boys who are 5 and are unique.

  36. Paddy says:

    Very interesting post. Same problem rampant in the US (see this video of Christine O’Donnell, who mercifully just lost her senate race, forgetting the separation of church and state is in the US constitution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdOpo-pNhWc).


  37. Name says:

    There weren’t any additional embryos?

    That’s a first, no?


    What medical journal was this written up in?

  38. phroid says:

    Kuba: I just don’t see anything “artificial” about birth control. Seems real enough to me. Just a mechanical or chemical device. To me, abstaining seems more artificial because it masks a need.

  39. adthelad says:


    Don’t be silly. Sometimes an excess of eggs is produced by a potential mother but not always. Afterwards these are inseminated in vitro and a maximum of 3 eggs are inserted into the womb (sometimes more although this is not normal practice). It all depends whether any of these embryos is successful in embeding itself and starts grow. As you will be aware often none continue to grow and whole the process has to be repeated. People sometimes try again and agin before being successful or giving up due to repeated failures.

  40. tee says:

    It is sliiiightly different while e.g. governing a country and if you can’t understand that, then please, PLEASE, don’t ever become a policy maker.

  41. tee says:

    So are embryos that are naturally aborted from woman’s system without outside interference.
    There is and EXTREME amount of factors and work done before embryo becomes even a shade of a future human beings.

  42. phroid says:


    Eggs aren’t inserted; they are harvested.


    Per an individual IVF process:

    How many eggs are typically harvested?

    How many embryos are created through fertilization of the eggs?

    How many embryos are frozen for future use?

    How many embryos are “discarded”?

    I realize the latter two questions are dependent upon the individual, but some averages have been estimated.

  43. adthelad says:


    sorry, meant embryos. obviously.

  44. basia says:

    @adthelad “Don’t be silly”
    Thanks for jumping in. You handled it much more diplomatically than I would have.
    I probably would have said: “Don’t be an idiot”
    OOoops, did I just say that??

    @name: do some research, gain some knowledge about the subject at hand before making stupid/sarcastic comments. Oh yeah, “de-cloaking” is also a good idea, unless you want to be treated as a troll.

  45. scatts says:

    I’m no expert but even without IVF, let’s call it “the way nature intended”, there are eggs that are fertilised and yet do not embed properly or for other reasons do not develop into babies, right?

    So it’s not just IVF where embryos are “wasted”, it happens in nature too – by the hand of God perhaps. No doubt for the faithful this suggests we are “playing God” persumably and it is still wrong?

  46. Iota says:


    Thanks for this post. When I read that the authorities were “impartial” in matters of religion I was rather amazed. It turns out the Polish version is even more amazing – the word used to describe the situation is “bezstronność” which would literally mean “not taking sides”.

    In my (not so humble) opinion that is just not doable if you treat this declaration literally. You cannot “not take sides” in matters of ethics when you create laws (in the end you have to assert that X is right/permissible or X is wrong/impermissible). Ethics are a major part of some religions, therefore it seems to follow that any ethical declaration a state makes (by legalizing/prohibiting things) always stands in relation to what different churches teach. If a state declares a man cannot have many wives, this is not “impartial” for Muslims, and if it declares Sunday it for all intents and purposes a normal workday, it is not an “impartial” declaration for various Christian denominations.

    IFV and the RCC is an extreme example: you can either ban IFV (which would be in accordance with Catholic ethics) or legalize it (which would be against Catholic ethics). What you decide to do will have an impact on how practising Catcholics view that state and various choices in their lives (e.g. career options). It will also have an impact on how people of other faiths or no faith view the state and their options. What you will NOT achieve no matter how hard you try is “not taking sides” – your decision will always be on someone’s side.

    I suspect what the drafters of the Constitution meant was that there was no inherently privileged religion within the legal system (i.e. that the Constitution does not, say, enshrine Catholicism). I don’t think the could have meant that in practice, the State is ethically on “nobody’s side” because that is not doable.

    Full disclosure: I believe Catholic teaching on IFV is right on a whole number of levels.

  47. basia says:

    Some answers:
    Per an individual IVF process:
    How many eggs are typically harvested?
    I suppose you could dig up some kind of “average” stat, but I don’t think it would be very useful.
    The short answer is: it depends on a lot of variables.
    Variables include: woman’s age, nature of infertility problem, response of woman to hormone stimulation (drug levels and type), degree of “monitoring” by infertility teatment clinic, and quality of clinic/physician.

    How many embryos are created through fertilization of the eggs?
    Dependent on number of good quality eggs produced.
    Not all eggs will be successfully fertilized.
    Not all resulting embryos go on to develop normally (cell division may cease).
    The number of good quality embryos that are available for transfer (at day 4 or 5) almost never equal the original number of eggs harvested.

    How many embryos are frozen for future use?
    Not all couples choose to freeze embryos.
    Number dependent on how many “extra” embryos exist.
    As adthelad outlined, embryo transfer protocols exist for most reputable clinics.
    Women 35 +: generally a maximum of 2-3 embryos

    How many embryos are “discarded”?

    no idea

  48. Iota says:


    Just as an add-on on IFV specifically: so far as I know even if NO embryo was EVER lost (which does not happen) it would still not be permissible – this has a lot to do with the whole of Catholic ethics – the purpose of marriage, the nature of procreation, the nature of suffering – if we agree that infertility is a kind of suffering).

    You might want to read this, sections 2373 – 2379:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm#III and stuff like the Theology of the Body.

  49. Kuba says:


    Exactly about IFV and the constitution no endorsing any particular religion.

  50. @Iota

    Of course it is possible for the state to be impartial. You simply igore weather decisions are for or against whatever religions are present or not present in your country. What you do instead is to look for decisions that are democratic. That is, for decisions that most of the population would agree to. Sure if a large amount of the population happens to be Catholic you might find that the general opinion in the country indeed is that Christmas Day should remain a holiday, but if the populations opinion changes then legislation should too.

    How does this work? Through elections. You vote for the party you think have good ideas about the future for the country.

    Note that when you enter non-political organisations it is not the same thing as voting. By joining choir, the supermarkets customer club, or the church, you do NOT agree to that they represent you towards the society from a political perspective. If the church wants to influence politics the proper way is to start a political party that is connected to the church, and then people can go and vote for them in the elections if they like.

    To summarize, laws are not made against or for any religion. They are made independently, and should reflect all peoples ethical values in an as fair way as possible. The church should avoid saying that “our members” have this or that opinion about an ethical matter, because this is genralisation, and each member has the right to go and vote for any political party they think is a good match for them. Maybe they will chose a party because of the party’s ideas in an ethical matter, but maybe they will have other evaluation methods for how they vote, and vote for a party because they like the logo or something else. It is their right to do so.

  51. phroid says:

    Yes, Basia you immediately resorted to name calling. I am not surprised. Your low level of tolerance for opinions not replicating your own is well established.

    Basia, your not having any idea of how many embryos are discarded gets to the crux of the matter. It seems you don’t care. I can understand that position if you believe that the embryo is just a bunch of cells, amounting to nothing along the lines of human life.

    But many you should do a little research. Here’s a start:


    In England: “The Department of Health data show that 2,137,924 embryos were created using IVF between 1991 and 2005, but about 1.2m were never used.”

  52. phroid says:

    And I think average stats are useful particularly counterposed to altogehter nebulous generalized anectodal stats.

    On the average, 8-15 eggs are retrieved per patient per procedure..Typically, 60-70% of these haversted eggs get fertilized, thus becoming embryos. So it’s pretty amazing if a woman gets impregnated as a result of the implanting of 3 embryos that were established through the fertilization of three harvested eggs.

  53. scatts says:

    Thanks. Interesting reading.

  54. scatts says:

    Personally, I buy my eggs in packs of 10 and they all get harvested – well, scrambled at least!

  55. Iota says:

    Basia –

    I think my answer might be rather lengthy.no matter how hard I edit (there are a few different things in your post I would like to address)

    So before I actually post it: does anyone feel like reading a VERY long rant? :-)

  56. basia says:

    “Your low level of tolerance for opinions not replicating your own is well established”

    um, I think I have commented here perhaps twice in the last year (scatts can verify). Perhaps you have mistaken me for someone else?

    “Basia, your not having any idea of how many embryos are discarded gets to the crux of the matter. It seems you don’t care.”
    how did you interpret “that I don’t care” from my reply of of not knowing the answer to a question? Interesting conclusion. Don’t you think you’re being a wee bit judgemental?

    As for my reaction to no-name’s sarcasm and incredulity to disclosures about my own personal situation (i.e. what medical journal was that published in?), I thought I showed an incredible amount of restraint to someone who was clearly ignorant about IVF, yet felt compelled to make disparaging remarks.

    Oh yeah, since you are now an expert on all things IVF, (particularly termininology) please pay attention:
    a predetermined maximum number of embryos are TRANSFERRED in the hope of one (or more) of the embryos successfully implanting in a woman’s uterus.
    “Implanting 3 embryos” is the wrong terminology. If 3 embryos successfully implanted, triplets could/would likely result.

    nebulously yours,

  57. phroid says:


    Well, do you care how many embryos are “discarded”?

    A wee bit?

  58. basia says:

    It appears to bother you that my successful IVF treatment did not involve the discarding/freezing of any embryos. I guess that makes me a more difficult target to villify huh?

    Sorry, that I don’t fit the “serial murderer” image that the Catholic Church in PL is currently promoting. I suppose it is hard to wrap your head around the fact that IVF treatments are undertaken by Christian couples who are concerned about ethical issues.

    Wanna play a little word game? How about we scramble the letters in IVF a little to make the word HIV.

    Let me ask you a question: do you care about the millions of African people (mostly young married woman) who contract HIV and eventually die of AIDs? Millions of unneccessary deaths/suffering could be prevented through the use of condoms which are proven to be very effective in preventing the spread of the disease.

    But wait, the Catholic Church has this silly little rule about condom use.

    “By maintaining its ban on condom use, the Catholic Church is contributing to the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Condoms have been demonstrated to prevent infection 90% of the time. If the Vatican cared more about people’s lives than a rigid doctrine that most Catholics reject, they’d make an exception to allow condom use to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Such a move would do more for “life” than would maintaining a position that allows millions to die as a result of unprotected sex.”

    interesting quote, but wait, there is more.

    “Death control is the issue, not birth control. The African bishops should speak this truth not to save the soul of Catholicism, nor to redeem a generation of lost Catholics—although they would—but simply to save the lives of the people with whom they have been entrusted by God.”

    The Vatican seems to subscribe to a “better dead than condomed” position. Religious dogma over human life.

    Do the HIV infected people in Africa bother you a wee bit? All that unnecessary death and suffering. How about those orphans? Do they trouble you at all?
    Nah, you’re too busy fighting the good fight against the evils of IVF. I hear it is gravely evil. Keep up the good work.

  59. bob says:


    Next time pick a controversial subject to post!

    I would comment more but this subject is best done face to face so one can see the dripping fangs and pressure popping blood vessels of each extreme side of the issue. However some very good comments and thoughts from all sides – I am all in favor of IVF but not govt. funding.

    Over hard, bacon, toast and hash browns for me – not scrambled.


  60. szopeno says:

    If I understand correctly, Polandian argues that there should be laws against social pressure for, say, child’s participating in first communion?

    Polandian, you came from different tradition. In Poland, Zamoyski once said that if you have religious freedom meaning you can worship anything you like in home, but you cannot manifest it in public, then you have no religious freedom.

  61. odrzut says:

    Church used to see sex as sin, and it’s only good use in marriage, to make a new child.

    So sex for pleasure is sin, sex to have a children is good.

    Then times changed, public opinion changed, church allowed “natural family planning” methods, and everything is weird, because condoms are bad, but making sex only in “safe” days is good (as long as you have “valid reasons” to not want another kid).

    For me it looks like church still thinks sex is sin, but can’t say this loud, so it loosens its policy a little.

    PS by church iI mean roman catcholic church, and I know some pepole in church say “sex is great”, but everybody with influences adds (as long as you are open to having kids – which to me means – as long as the method of contraception you are using is flawed).

  62. odrzut says:

    And family planning method is different from contraceptoin because?

    I see the difference like between terrorists and the partisants. Only depends on who tells you about it.

    Why exactly is using preservatives wrong? I’ve heard only about “it closes you to conceptioin, excludes God from the love act”, which is BS. Also: it allows you to have sex whenever you like, without consequences, so it makes your life to pleasurable, which is bad for your soul.

    This second argument is not stated that clearly, but I think this is what most priests really thinks about contraceptions.

  63. phroid says:

    Basia, you don’t even know my position on IVF

    And for that matter, neither do I.

    I am willing to let the exchange here and elsewher, take me whereever it goes.

    So don’t get your knickers so much all up in a twist.

    Yes, I am amazed (but not really bothered) from what I follow of your claim, that you had precisely and only three eggs harvested and exactly three eggs fertilized which were all *transplanted* (thank you for the correction albeit not the attitude) with one implanting successfully and developing successfully through term. At least that is what I make of what you wrote above; but I am very interested in being corrected in my understanding if it is somehow faulty. I am more than willing to be unamazed.

    At this point, I am not sure what to think about the matter of the two embryos that consequentially did not get implanted, but as someone else mentioned, that happens other than through the IVF process, too. On the other hand, as lota would probably argue, the loss of these two particular embryos would not have been sustained if the IVF process was not chosen.

    As far as bringing AIDs in Africa into this conversation….

    And since you seem to want to play Scrabble, I am also amazed how you scramble the letters in IVF to get HIV.

    But the subject you bring up is another in which I take interest.

    You will notice from my comments above that I have no problem whatsoever with using condoms.

    But the Church doesn’t only say. “Don’t use condoms;” it also teaches not to have sex outside of marriage and to make sure that even marital sex is potentially procreative and occassioned fomr mutual love, so on and so forth..

    Also I would be grateful if you could provide some substantiation of your claim that it is mostly young married women who die from AIDS in Africa. While I am aware that it is a major problem, I’m not convinced of the proportion of your claim.

    But it also seems that the AIDS problem is more so rooted in certain African cultures with males being very, very insistent upon… how shall we put it delicately? Very dry raw sex. It’s actually a very interesting cultural more and I encourage anyone interested in the matter to research it on their own.

    So the Church’s position on rubbers has very little impact on an African male choosing or not to wear one whether or not he’s Catholic (and it doesn’t seem like the woman has much choice in the matter, unfortunately).

    So I think it’s very faulty reasoning to blame the Church for the prevalence of AIDs in Africa.

    There has even been some research conducted that seems to have demonstrated that the problem is least advanced in African countries that are more Catholic in terms of their population. I think those studies have a number of flaws, but it’s something to consider nonetheless.

    But you never answered my question about your position on the matter of discarded embryos!

  64. tee says:

    Pressuring people to attend church or participating is first communion is a completely different thing from manifesting religious beliefs in public!

  65. scatts says:

    szopeno, you do not understand correctly.

  66. Dawid says:

    Bartek: “Finally somebody has guts to say what should be said about politicians cringing before the Church.”

    There seems to have been an unspoken compromise that the relationship between the state and the church is not to be debated. This changed 180 degrees after the infamous events when the cross was erected before the Presidential Palace. The issue is firmly back on the agenda, with the press and politicians openly discussing all the problems that had been kept swept under the carpet for too long. The fact that the Church is talking (or rather screaming) about the IVF treatment in such strong terms reveals one thing – that they feel the tide is turning, so they counterattack. But the politicians are no longer “cringing before the church” as used to be the case. And the people hold different views as well. However controversial and debatable the IVF treatment might be, it’s no longer the Church who will decide the outcome.

  67. Sylwia says:

    @ Scatts: “On that point 2 – Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical….”

    That only means that they will treat people equally, no matter the people’s conviction. It doesn’t mean that the law makers will have no convictions on their own. It’s impossible to empty one’s mind before making a law. Not to mention that in such a case our laws would be made by a bunch of ignorants.

    Not for the first time it appears that Jamie is the only person here who understands how our political system works, which is a tad worrying considering that those who actually vote do not.

    The Catholic Church doesn’t “represent” the Catholics in the Sejm. It only spreads its own teachings with the hope that Catholics will follow.

    The Sejm doesn’t vote according to the Church’s stand, only according to the opinion polls. If there’s anything approaching consensus, i.e. 80-90%, there’s no debate. If the opinions vary between 40-60% the debate goes on. Recently, the number of people supporting IVF rose to about 70%. So the Sejm returned to the issue, while the Church tries once again to convince people otherwise.

    We should remember that our friends aren’t representative. When Scatts say that the people he talked to are pro IVF it sounds as if the Sejm passed laws against the Polish people, but in line with the Church’s teachings. Such things don’t happen. It’s rather that Scatts doesn’t know those people who are against, which isn’t surprising because we all tend to befriend people with views similar to ours.

    Religion in schools is a matter of convenience. It’s easier for 90% parents to have their children stay in one building than to take them somewhere else. If you want your kids to belong to some other Church, you must take them to one of the over 100 Churches registered in Warsaw.

    But it’d be very difficult to convince 90% of people that they have to do that too.

    I’m not happy about the solution, but I’m a realist. As long as there’s no good alternative it’ll stay as it is.

  68. Sylwia says:

    Perhaps you could add an application that would allow to follow comment replies. Since you moved the blog from wordpress it’s rather difficult to follow.

  69. scatts says:

    Interesting point of view, Sylwia. I won’t respond as it will take me far too long and get absolutely nowhere.

  70. Sylwia says:

    I didn’t mean to discourage you!

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