Why this story matters:
Tadeusz Rydzyk is the perfect product of his country. A Roman Catholic priest and Redemptorist, he founded a conservative television, radio station, and media university, as well as numerous foundations and private companies, one of which is now working on his idee fixe -- a geothermal heat plant.
It is doubtful that he could have achieved so much had he lived in Western Europe, but in Poland, a predominantly conservative and Catholic country, many politicians have a respect for him that borders on fear.
This is especially true of the right-wing politicians that depend heavily on the church-going part of the electorate. With his influental media outlets, Rydzyk can easily sway their voters.
Since the conservative PiS party won the 2015 election, the foundations and companies of the ”Rydzyk empire” have received payments and donations of 80,921,021 złotych (18.5 million euros). His media and education programs, especially, fit perfectly into the government's agenda: they promote family values, the Church and the politics of memory.
All of this is legal but the question remains whether this money could have been spent in better ways. For example, on benefits for disabled grown-ups that have been occupying the Polish parliament for 40 days, demanding the resources neccessary for a dignified life. The money spent on Father Rydzyk's initiatives would be enough to finance the benefits of 13,500 disabled people for a year.
Details from the story:
- Father Rydzyk set up the conservative Radio Maryja station, TV Trwam television, as well as the University of Social and Media Culture in Toruń.
- He also presides over the influential Lux Veritatis foundation, among others.
- Despite the close ties between the ruling PiS party and Father Rydzyk, he has often expressed his discontent with the amount of ”support” he receives from the current government. So the journalists of OKO Press news service decided to run the numbers and fact check his claims.