The largest Polish-American organization advocates a positive and substantive response to Poland's amnesty for political prisoners. Until recently the Polish-American Congress, a Chicago-based umbrella organization, had opposed the lifting of US economic sanctions against Poland.
The response being recommended by the Polish-American Congress would include discussion with Polish authorities of Poland's possible admission to the 66 -nation International Monetary Fund.
Entry into the IMF might make it possible for Poland to obtain an IMF loan of several billion dollars. This, in turn, would increase Poland's creditworthiness , making it easier for the heavily indebted Poles to gain credit elsewhere.
Aloysius A. Mazewski, president of the Polish-American Congress, made it clear that his organization was making its recommendation to the Reagan administration only after careful consultation with the Roman Catholic Church.
''Like all of us, the Polish church is cautious,'' Mr. Mazewski said in a telephone interview. ''But the church is inclined toward removing one of the substantive sanctions.''
After the Polish authorities imposed martial law in December 1981 and cracked down on the Solidarity trade union movement, the Reagan administration raised objections to Poland's entry into the IMF and withdrew that nation's most-favored-nation trading status. The administration called for an end to martial law, the freeing of all political prisoners, a restoration of the trade union movement, and a resumption of government dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and the Solidarity movement.
President Reagan was scheduled to meet yesterday with the Vatican envoy at his California ranch to discuss his forthcoming decision on easing some of the economic sanctions against Poland. The luncheon meeting with Archbishop Pio Laghi was to be held at Mr. Reagan's request. It coincided with the President's recently initiated reelection efforts to gain the support of Roman Catholic voters.
Cabinet-level officials - including the US secretaries of state, defense, and commerce - held a meeting on the sanctions-lifting issue late last week. An administration official said this group then made its recommendations to the President.
Until recently the Polish-American Congress, which has considerable influence in the administration - influence that is presumably enhanced in an election year - had staunchly opposed any lifting of sanctions against Poland.
''We were in the forefront against any concessions,'' Mazewski said of the Polish-American Congress, but he said failure to respond to the Polish amnesty for political prisoners might drive the Poles closer to the Soviets. He also said that discussing IMF entry with the Poles would give the West some control over how credits to Poland were structured and used. And finally, he said, it would provide a test of Poland's intentions.
''The IMF issue will really put to the test whether the amnesty is real or just a sham,'' Mazewski said. ''The burden will be on the Polish government. It won't be able to just go out and rearrest these people.''
Mazewski added that the ''consensus among many priests, including some in the Vatican, is that something has to be done'' to respond to the amnesty move announced July 21. Solidarity's underground arm has already denounced the amnesty as a sham, but Solidarity leader Lech Walesa has indicated it is a step in the right direction.
Mazewski said if the US fails to respond positively to the amnesty, it would push the Poles toward ''total dependence'' on the Soviet Union. He also argued that a failure to respond might jeopardize a proposed independent, Western-supported fund to assist private farmers in Poland. After two years of negotiation, the Polish government recently agreed to a proposal by the Roman Catholic Church that permits only the church and church-appointed officials to supervise the fund.
But before the Reagan administration goes all the way in dropping its objections to Poland's IMF admission, Mazewski said, the Polish authorities should extend the amnesty to several key Polish dissidents still being held under treason charges. He mentioned two prisoners, Bogdan Lis and the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, a priest who supports the outlawed Solidarity union. Government officials have said they do not know if the Fr.Popieluszko would be cleared of antistate charges under the amnesty.
For the time being, Mazewski said, the Reagan administration should agree merely to a ''discussion'' with the Polish authorities of possible IMF entry.
''We should lift the sanctions against cultural and scientific exchanges and, if they release all the prisoners, we should start a dialogue concerning admission to the IMF,'' Mazewski said.
The Polish-American leader said he opposed at this point giving the Poles US commodity and Export-Import Bank credits. The likelihood now is that President Reagan would not lift the sanctions against providing those credits.
Mazewski said 40 percent of Polish-Americans voted for Reagan in 1980 - a large number from a traditionally Democratic constituency - and that they're likely to vote for him in even larger numbers this year. Polish-Americans like what Reagan has done to keep inflation down and they like his ''strong stand'' against the Soviet Union, Mazewski said.