Diocese apologizes, says had no prior knowledge…

Shocking Scenes at Polish ‘Youth Retreat’: Stage Play shows half-naked Woman on Leash, Mistreated, Put in Cage — in Church!

On Mar. 27, 2023, as part of a three-day “Catholic youth retreat” at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Toruń, Poland, a group of people put on a staged performance that was so disturbing and scandalous that it has received national media attention. It is sure to receive coverage also in the English-speaking world once the details become more widely known.

One struggles for words trying to describe what one sees in the videos which members of the audience have shared with the press and/or posted on social media.

St. Maximilian Kolbe Church is part of the Novus Ordo diocese of Toruń. What took place there yesterday is part of an ongoing Toruń Youth Meeting sponsored by the diocese, normally a kind of spiritual event with activities, sermons, devotions, etc.

The diocese had advertised the three-day retreat, which runs through March 29, on Facebook. Under the title “Wake Up”, prospective attendants were told: “Every day will be about the preaching of God’s word, kerygma, testimonies and the sacrament of confession. Holy Mass will be held on the last day as thanksgiving for the time of grace and gathering together.”

This, then, is the context in which yesterday’s scandalous play was held inside St. Maximilian Kolbe parish. No doubt it was a wake-up call for many indeed.

We must warn our viewers before proceeding. What you are about to read, see, or hear may include immodesty and profanity, shrieks and lewd comments, and it may be disturbing and indecent in other ways as well.

Alas, the staged performance appears to have been well attended, mostly by children of high school age. (One Polish article says that this particular parish was chosen because it could accommodate up to 2000 children.) When it became clear that this was no ordinary play but a highly disturbing performance, the adults present failed to intervene.

“Teachers passively watched shocking retreat in Torun”, the headline of a local Polish news site reads. “Controversial church retreat – woman pushed and scorned in front of the altar”, reads another.

First, let us provide you with Polish news sources covering the incident. Obviously, these sources are not in English. Be careful when clicking — these are secular news pages and we do not know what kind of images you might encounter. Many of the linked pages include embedded photos and/or video of the scandalous performance:

Next, some video clips showing footage of the abominable spectacle. Of course it took place in the church’s “worship space”, right in front of the altar, which was hidden behind a black screen they had set up.

What you will see in the embedded videos below is scenes from the play which show a young woman being humiliated and mistreated by a man. It is “only” a play, but it is still disturbing. She is jerked, pushed to the ground, her face slammed into a bowl, even put on a leash and put inside a cage. She is abused verbally as well. Scandalously, even her pants are taken off so that only her minimal underwear remains as she sits on the floor and crawls around. You may hear shrieks, lewd words, and blasphemy.

Let’s be frank here: Obviously the disturbing scenes reflect practices that come from the homosexual underworld, something we don’t care to elaborate on here. The uneasiness of the startled audience is palpable.

There is absolutely no justification for this — although of course that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to provide some. On Twitter one can see one of the performers explain that this disgusting spectacle was basically meant to demonstrate that when we sin, we degrade ourselves, we lose our dignity, etc., and we’re all like that loose woman in the cage.

Sure, that’s a great way to teach morals to teenagers. Lead them into sin and then tell them, “See, that’s what you’re not supposed to do!” Maybe next time they’ll explain the reality of hell by shoving one of their own into a fire? …Didn’t think so.

But anyway, just who is this group of actors who performed this abominable spectacle — in a church, no less?

They are called ELO Kecharitomene. At this point, neither their Facebook page nor their Instagram page are publicly accessible, presumably on account of the public outrage, the negative media attention, and the prospect of lawsuits. For the time being, however, their main web site is still up.

But who is ultimately responsible for this wicked performance? In other words, who hired these people to conduct this “educational” play? It is the Catechetical Department of the Diocese of Toruń, the director of which is the Rev. Mariusz Piotr Wojnowski. In an initial response to the incident, he apologized. Subsequently, the diocese issued the following press release today:

Dear faithful,

with regard to the events that took place at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Toruń, during a retreat for young people, we wanted to express our deep regret. We apologize to their participants, parents and all those who were affected by the enactment presented by those leading the meeting.

We realize that the scenes that occurred during the event should never have happened. Young people encountered images that are unacceptable at a religious event with their participation. The staging, combined with numerous insults and vulgarities, provoked legitimate questions about what we teach young people and children in this way.

We are aware that the trust of schools and teachers who joined in promoting the event was abused. We also understand the indignation of many of the faithful, affected by the fact that the performance took place inside a church.

As organizers of the Toruń Youth Meeting, we were not informed in advance by the people conducting the performance that they had plans to put on such an objectionable show. Inviting a team of lay evangelizers with experience in leading retreats, we did not expect this type of performance.

After the incident, we made an immediate decision to change the people in charge. We want to complete the retreat, and we have entrusted the preparation of the content for the next days to the priests and catechists of the Diocese of Torun.

Rev. Pawel Borowski
Spokesman for the Diocesan Curia of Toruń

Rev. Mariusz Wojnowski
Director of the Catechetical Department of the Diocesan Curia of Toruń

(Source; translation with the help of DeepL and Google Translate)

The Novus Ordo bishop in Torun is Mr. Wiesław Śmigiel, by the way. It is not clear yet whether he will take any additional action, and apparently he has not weighed in on the matter yet. Meanwhile, there was a protest/demonstration in front of St. Maximilian’s today.

No doubt this is going to get interesting in the coming days.

Image source: composite with elements from Facebook.com and tylkotorun.pl
License: fair use

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