Mel Gibson Denies Link to Anti-Semitic Polish Priest

From the JTA:

Mel Gibson denied he is making a film about a prominent Polish cleric with a history of anti-Semitism.

Several days ago Father Henryk Jankowski said in an interview with Poland’s Dziennik daily that he was in talks with Gibson about a possible film. But when Gibson representative Alan Nierob was asked by the Forward newspaper whether the report was true, Nierob offered an emphatic no.

The report comes as the notorious Jankowski is in the news over his announcement that he was establishing a chain of cafes:

Father Henryk Jankowski, a priest who played a prominent role in the Solidarity movement, said: “Ugly women need not apply to become waitresses in my cafes.”

He is to open a chain of 16 cafe-bars across Poland and will only employ good looking girls. He dismissed critics saying it was all for charity.

This is just the latest business venture from Jankowski, who was a prominent figure in Solidarity in the 1980s, but who subsequently fell from grace over his views on Jews. Here he is in 1984, stirring the Catholic faithful against communism in the wake of the murder of Fr Jerzy Popieluszko at the hands of the security services:

…Four years. One thousand, four hundred and sixty-one days. Days of struggle, exultation, despair, and hope. Their course is an illustration of the words Karol Wojtyla (in his Ethical Reader) when he wrote that, while taking care that the fight should not become an aim in itself, a Christian cannot avoid it if doing so would mean abandoning the defense of justice. Yes, my beloved, this is a bloodless fight, a noble fight, a fight under the sign of the cross…

However, by 1995 his focus had changed, and we can see why he would now feel an affinity for Mel “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” Gibson:

[Jankowski said]in June 1995, with Polish President Lech Walesa in attendance, that members of the Polish government have secret allegiances to Israel or Russia, and that the Jewish Star of David was part of the Nazi swastika and the communist hammer and sickle. In December 1995, during a meeting at his Church, Father Jankowski said, “I have nothing to apologize for my [anti-Jewish] words…Why shouldn’t we talk about such things as the murder of Germans by Jews? Why may we not talk about the Jewish-communist administration that governs Poland today? The reason is that they have banks, and everything else in their hands.”

The following year, he was complaining about a government apology for past antisemitism:

In January, the Polish foreign minister, Dariusz Rosati, wrote to the World Jewish Congress acknowledging that the 1946 Kielce pogrom was “an act of Polish antisemitism”…Henryk Jankowski, a Catholic priest from Gdansk known for his antisemitic views, said that Rosati had no right to apologize on behalf of all Poles and that “apologizing to the Jews is an insult to the Polish nation”.

In 1997, Jankowski faced charges of slandering Jews:

Jankowski in turn said the charges violated his rights of freedom of speech.

“It is a return to a communist totalitarianism,” he told reporters in Gdansk. “As a Polish citizen, I feel persecuted by the Jewish minority.”

He also complained about Jews in the government:

In October 1997, former Solidarity activist Father Henryk Jankowski denounced the expected appointment of Bronis³aw Geremek to the post of foreign minister because Geremek’s Jewish heritage. Jankowski stated that there was no place for Jews in the Polish government.

Jankowski was suspended for a year:

His archbishop said Father Jankowski had ignored earlier warnings about anti-semitism. Though the government spokesman said the ban was expected, it has been warmly welcomed by Poland’s small Jewish community. One rabbi said it was a bold move towards tolerance and reconciliation. “All we can do is applaud”, he said. But another leading figure noted that after Father Jankowski’s sermon, skinheads in Gdansk had attacked a young Jewish boy shouting anti-semitic insults. He said “they had to do something after that”.

However, the priest was soon back in action:

…After resuming his post Jankowski said he did not regret any of his statements. Referring to the conflict over the crosses at Auschwitz, he said that the demands of Jewish intellectuals that tried to turn Auschwitz into an extra-territorial entity reminded him of Nazi policy.

In January 1999 Fr Jankowski was once again in the news. In his parish church in Gdansk he was reported to be selling books claiming that the Jews ruled Poland and that the Polish government and church officials were in thrall to the Jews. After a number of bishops criticized him and he was instructed by the Gdansk Metropolitan Curia to remove the bookstall from the church, Fr Jankowski continued to sell the material from his home, located next to the church. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency, he expressed disagreement with the church officials and disputed that the books in question were antisemitic. He maintained that there was freedom of expression in Poland and that banning books was a return to totalitarianism.

This was followed by a further provocation:

In April 2001, controversial Gdansk priest Henryk Jankowski created in his church a replica of the barn in Jedwabne in which members of that town’s Jewish community were burned to death in 1941. A sign near the display accused Jews of having killed Christ and of persecuting Poles. The local archbishop ordered the tableau removed, and religious and political leaders strongly criticized its construction in the church.

Finally, in 2004, Jankowski was handed his cards:

A prominent Polish Roman Catholic priest who was once barred from the pulpit for anti-Semitic remarks was dismissed by the church from his parish Wednesday following new anti-Jewish comments and amid a pedophilia investigation.

The Rev. Stanislaw Zieba, who is chancellor of the Gdansk Metropolitan Curia, said in a statement he had decided to remove Rev. Henryk Jankowski as parish priest of the St. Brygida Church. Zieba did not give a reason for his decision.

…During the summer, Jankowski lashed out in a sermon against authorities who were conducting an investigation into allegations he had sexually abused a minor, saying it was a slander campaign orchestrated by “Jews and Judeo-Communists.”

The paedophilia accusation appears to have fizzled out quite quickly:

…Maria R. claims that Jankowski regularly abused her son, Slawek R., when he served as an altar boy, but according to most reports the boy himself denies the charges and says his mother is trying to get money out of Jankowski.

Jankowski says the boy sent a letter to church authorities denying the charges when his mother first raised them, although the tabloid Super Express reported on Thursday that the literary style of the letter looked more like that of a middle-aged priest than a teenage boy, and suggested Slawek had simply copied down what Jankowski had dictated to him.

On Thursday, the Rzeczpospolita daily reported that prosecutors had searched Jankowski’s residence, confiscating video recordings and a computer hard disk – but returning them when no evidence of a crime was found.

With recent revelations about priests spying for the communist regime, Jankowski saw a chance to seize the moral high-ground:

A prominent Polish cleric yesterday named about 40 priests who he said had spied on him for the secret services during the communist era.

Father Henryk Jankowski, who took part in pro-democracy strikes that led to the end of communism in 1989, read out the names, which included those of well-known church members in Poland, after studying secret service files.

…As an official “victim of the communist regime”, Jankowski has the legal right to study secret service files on him and also to publish the names of agents who spied on him.

…Jankowski’s superior, the Archbishop of Gdansk, criticised his decision to reveal the names, saying Jankowski had failed to justify the move.

And now, the priest has founded the “Father Henryk Jankowski Institute”, a charity which runs a range of businesses:

A prominent Polish cleric known for preaching against communism and for his anti-Semitic remarks said on Tuesday he planned to launch perfumes, clothing and cafes branded with his image.

…Aside from the recent launch, Father Jankowski already has launched a wine under his name and image know as “Monsignore.” He and his winery claim that not only is his wine affordable, but it also tastes great, reported Reuters.

…Whether or not his new line will be a success is unknown. However, Father Jankowski has many admirers and supporters throughout Poland and in the Catholic community, said Reuters.

That last sentence is really rather chilling…