Is Poland a Secular Society?

RydzThe answer to the question may be obvious to many people, but things are not always as obvious as they might seem. Is the Pope Catholic? Is the average Pole religious? These questions do not always give us the same answer.

The Godfather
Radio Maryja Godfather Tadeusz Rydzyk is fighting an ongoing campaign with ruling Civic Platform (PO). He is well known for his racist, nationalist and anti-liberal sentiments and Donald Tusk seems to make for ideal target practice. Tusk recently mentioned that the College/University of Higher Education set up my Rydzyk will be treated like any other private educational institution and the preferential treatment afforded the school by Law and Justice (PiS) has come to an end. Rydzyk replied with some lacklustre comment.

Rydzyk on the Run
Rydzyk’s days could be numbered. If PO implements its pre-election promises, the racist exploits of Radio Maryja and insulting talks of Rydzyk during his lectures at the Toruń school could come to an end. That is, of course, if Donald Tusk has the balls to push his ideas through and realise them.

Feeble Platform
However, PO does not look up to the task – a party of um-ing and ah-ing, a party of indecision that appears to be more fractured than it first seemed. The recent in vitro scandal showed the public that Tusk & co are not prepared to grit their teeth to push through social (and cultural) reform but are scared witless of the church.

Church of Power
So, is Poland a secular society? A difficult question to answer. The Polish Catholic Church is an extremely powerful institution bloated by decades of far-reaching influence thanks to the Polish Pope JPII. The Polish Church was (and is) in effect untouchable, which explains the nature of the ‘Rydzyk problem’.

Church of Indifference
Even though millions confess to being ardent Catholics, Polish society cannot be described as the most forgiving and loving nation on the Earth. There is no direct correlation between ‘being a good person’ and ‘calling oneself religious’ (regardless of religion).

Polish Paradox
On the one hand, the Polish Church is an amazingly influential institution, but on the other hand, there is an increasingly large number of young Polish people walking away from the Catholic Church and organised religion. What we are witnessing is a splintering of society with the older (communist-filled, grey, dull) generation idealising the Church as their only saviour. We have to remember, the genuinely huge role the Church played in the destruction of communism. The young generation have never needed this kind of support and therefore, in pratical terms, the Church for them is redundant.

Polish Society
So is Poland a secular society? Which part of Poland? the cities? The villages? Western Poland? Eastern Poland? Today’s Poland is a divided society and it is difficult to make generalisations and adapt theories to a country which is still feeling the effects of the culturally crippling partitions which came to an end little over ninety years ago.

4 thoughts on “Is Poland a Secular Society?

  1. I have always thought (esp. from talking to young people from both town and country) that the religious future of this country lies in the following direction: the young, as you’ve stated, are abandoning the Catholic Church as a hide-bound, corrupt and reactionary force. However, unlike in the West, they are turning to other forms of Christianity, as opposed to heading straight down the path of atheism. I have met plenty of young ‘uns who have experimented with some of the less loony Protestant churches (although I’ve not met a single person tempted by Moonies, Scientologists etc., I have met a few Mormons/Seventh-Dayers), and a few who have organised themselves into private, unassociated Bible-study groups. Without the need to conform to a societally-imposed notion of ‘Polishness’ imposed by centuries of external oppression and threat to the national identity, young Poles find themselves able to take their own paths towards spirituality.

    But this is not to declare the imminent death of the Catholic church in Poland, oh nonono. I have met plenty of young, intelligent, educated Poles who regularly attend church and confession, maintain pre-marital virginity (or say they do), adhere to the main points of standard Catholic societal beliefs, and so on. I remember a couple of kids who skipped my Sunday extra-mural classes because ‘there was an important sermon in church that day’ which they couldn’t miss. Stuff like that, plus the proportion of young people who still thought voting for PiSs was a good idea, does send a shudder down the spine. I don’t doubt that in 100 years’ time the churches of Poland will still have their old ladies and blokes in black dresses telling them how to live and behave. Just not so many of them, I suspect. (And some of the blokes in black dresses will have black skins, too.)

    But in a society where those religious young Poles can (and, in the poorer areas, often have to) go to the cities or other countries for work, moving freely and coming into contact with other people with other ideas, many of them will change their opinions. Freedom of movement, freedom of choice, economic prosperity – these are the most dangerous enemies the Polish church has ever faced.

    And another thing; I was born a child of pretty religious parents, yet I am as atheist a chap as you might want to meet. The beliefs of the parents are not automatically transferred in a monolithic block to their children, something which I’ve always thought is one of the human race’s great chances for salvation.

  2. Interesting point you make there, Jim about the fact that many of your buddies/acquaintances are not so much shunning religion but specifically Catholicism to make way for other (perverted) forms of the true One Faith. You being the spawn of overzealous iconoclasts should made you all the more happy that the numbers of people devoted to the Schism-ites (i.e. Proddies) is increasing at the cost of those who follow the only true One Faith. Ho hum and ho hum again. Thrice ho hum.

  3. Um, keep taking the pills, mate. 😛 And anyway, in twenty or thirty years it’ll be the reverend Joseph Magumba from the Ugandan Catholic Church who’ll be baptising your grand-sprogs, wait and see. 🙂

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