When an eminent Polish Dominican wrote a scathing attack on his country’s government and Church late last month, it brought to a head long-simmering frustrations.

The occasion for Fr Ludwik Wiśniewski’s onslaught, in the weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, was the publication of new data confirming a decline in Mass attendance in this staunchly Catholic country. But it gained a political edge by coinciding with criticisms of the Church’s ties with Poland’s centre-right government, which faces European Union sanctions over a controversial reform programme.

The critique by the 81-year-old priest, dramatically titled Oskarzam (I accuse), was significant because it appeared in a respected Catholic publication and was written by a much-decorated veteran of the Church’s communist-era struggle for human rights.

Last May the Dominican wrote an open letter urging Poland’s bishops to respond more effectively to current challenges. But in Tygodnik Powszechny he said that the situation had since worsened following the release of data showing that Mass attendance is at its lowest level in modern times.

Fr Wiśniewski singled out right-wing parliamentarians who claimed to be devout Catholics while inciting fear of refugees and migrants, as well as Poland’s controversial Redemptorist-run Radio Maryja, which had “for years pumped out hatred and division”.

He also attacked Jarosław Kaczyński, who leads the governing Law and Justice party (PiS), for “promoting enmity and resentment in religious packaging”, and unnamed priests who spent their time “tolerating and praising nationalism”.

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