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Church-state social contract emerges in Poland - with Soviets' blessing

By Elizabeth PondStaff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / July 20, 1983


''The beginning of the beginning of stabilization,'' predicted a well-connected European visitor just back from Poland. ''It's closer (than before) to normalization,'' declared a Soviet official in Moscow in evaluating the situation in the wake of Pope John Paul II's June visit to Poland.

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Both men were describing what seems to be an emerging church-state social contract in Poland that enjoys Soviet approval.

For now this compact excludes the Polish workers, as personified by Lech Walesa, leader of the banned union Solidarity. And it will exclude the alienated younger generation of Poles for a long time to come. Yet it is a modus vivendi that the government hopes will eventually win worker acquiescence.

The compact is a second-best for everyone.

For the Polish United Workers (communist) Party it amounts to official acknowledgment that the party and government lack all moral authority. They are relying for social order on the moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church - and on the rawthreat of police power.

Furthermore, even for sheer political initiative the government is leaning heavily on Poland's Roman Catholic Church and the Polish Pope in Rome.

The Pope's personal oversight of Polish politics is shortly expected to be strengthened, according to information reaching Bonn, by the appointment of Polish primate Jozef Glemp to the Vatican Curia and the naming in his stead of Krakow Archbishop Franciszek Macharski.

The Pope initially wanted to make his old Krakow confidant primate, it is understood, but he acceded to the testament of the venerated primate Stefan Wyszynski in appointing Glemp in 1981.

Even for the church the emerging social contract is a second-best solution, however. For the church - a distinctly political as well as spiritual institution in Poland, but one that has preferred to play its politics discreetly - the compact means a high political and economic profile. Such direct political responsibility runs the risk of transferring the Poles' chronic political disgruntlement to the church.

Nonetheless, the church is about to take on a highly visible political role in guiding the prospective several-billion-dollar fund to aid private agriculture. Much of the capital for this fund is supposed to come from West German and other foreign episcopates.

For the third party to the Polish compact - the Soviet Union - the political and ideological bankruptcy of the Polish United Workers Party (PUWP) is especially humiliating. According to Leninist precepts, the party is the vanguard of society and the determining political force.

Yet the Kremlin - as it signaled in awarding the Order of Lenin to Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski after the Pope's visit to Poland - is now approving an arrangement in which the PUWP clearly shares power with the church.

The PUWP's dependence on the Polish church was most obvious in the second meeting between the Pope and General Jaruzelski during the Pope's trip. That meeting - according to information reaching Bonn that contradicts the official version - came about at the request of Jaruzelski rather than the Pope.