The 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.