Polish priest gets 180 hours community service for antisemitic speech

Father Michał Woźnicki is the first priest to be convicted of hate speech in Poland.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A Polish priest has been sentenced to 180 hours of community service for antisemitic speech in a case being hailed as a landmark decision made by the country’s courts, Polish media reported this month.

The Otwarta Rzeczpospolita (Open Republic) organization, which fights antisemitism and xenophobia in Poland, had filed a complaint against Father Michał Woźnicki after a particularly virulent sermon he gave online in October 2021.

The Polsatnews website quoted the Catholic priest as saying, among other offensive statements, that “Jews in the world have assumed the role of a leech, a tick, a body that lives on the host’s body, swells, leads the host’s body to death, and moves on to the next one.”

He also accused Jews of being in league with the devil in leading “small children” to watch pornography and homosexual acts, and said that Jews have suffered because they “have denied Christ the King.”

Woźnicki, the organization charged, was “publicly insulting Jews because of their nationality by uttering words commonly considered offensive to them and inciting hatred on the basis of national differences, addressing Jews with words aimed at arousing feelings of hostility and lack of acceptance towards them.”

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The organization was delighted with the verdict of the court in Poznan even though it included no actual jail time, as Woźnicki “is the first priest in Poland made responsible in court for hate speech against Jews.”

The judge, Łukasz Kalawski, called the priest’s words “incitement” that is “unacceptable and inadmissible in any way.” The judgment is not yet final, the report said.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, was also happy with the news.

“Woźnicki is well known for his antisemitic diatribes and anti-church tirades,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by email. “The Polish court has handed down a clear verdict that antisemitic hate speech is illegal in Poland. We are hopeful that the Polish courts will continue to find others guilty of this crime.”

Upon leaving the courtroom, Woźnicki defended his statements as merely “preaching.” He added that “Jews do not like me very much because I love the Lord Jesus” and repeated the historical lie that the Jews “tortured Jesus on the cross,” although it was the Roman governor who ordered that then-common punishment.

Woźnicki has stirred controversy for years for other statements that have nothing to do with Jews, such as when he called Pope Francis a heretic. He was expelled from his Poznan congregation in 2018.

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He has defied his suspension by holding mass in his apartment for his followers, which is “contrary to canon law,” according to his Silesian order, and the order ousted him last year. He started sermonizing over the internet – potentially reaching a far larger audience – after his suspension.