Secularization is perhaps the only chance to save the remnants of the authentic Christian faith in Poland.
1. The Church in Poland was, is, and will be. Meanwhile, political parties exist, disappear, and new ones emerge. This is what it looks like in Poland, where politicians of all ideological backgrounds are much more afraid of their parish priest than of their voters. Today they are in one party, tomorrow in another, but the parish they belong to remains the same. To the bitter end.
This is why they always negotiated with the parish priest or a bishop, trying to reach an agreement, make informal alliances, and have each other’s back. Because the agitation of the parish priest from the pulpit, even during parish announcements, is priceless for a politician. Especially during a campaign.
This conviction about the strength of the Church was again reinforced by the common belief that the Church was made of Teflon. That whatever the curate, parish priest, or bishop did, the faithful believers will have to accept it. They will have to grit their teeth and keep quiet.
Sure, those in the corners complained about the Church, cursed, especially at the meager priests. But in public, everything was supposed to appear as if the believers stood behind the Church. That there is no opposition. One cannot simply not send their children to religion classes. Nor avoid forcing young people to receive Church teachings before Confirmation.
In any case, the Church has been in charge of the lives of the believers from the cradle (in other words, baptism), to death (or burial).
Therefore, it is not surprising that even people like Adam Michnik, Editor-in-Chief of prominent Gazeta Wyborcza daily and an agnostic, spoke and encouraged the left wing to believe that outside the Church there are no values that would be dear to the hearts of Poles. That it is the Church that holds the belief system that Polish women and Poles breathe and that they try to live by.
In this light, Michnik wanted a dialogue with the more open part of the Church. Conversations that would be constructive for both parties.
However, the Church – apart from several exceptions, like Józef Tischner or Stanisław Musiał, – was not interested in any debate. Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński recognized it and understood that it is not about dialogue, but about power. That the Church would stand behind those who would give it more privileges. And in this devotion it will be faithful, obliging, and effective.
Kaczyński soon returned the favor. In recent years, using the rhetoric of communist dignitaries, he repeated the phrase he uttered immediately after the elections won in 2015:
“This victory needed the truth and people who serve the truth. Who serve Poland. Who are patriots. This victory also confirms one truth. The foundation of Polishness is the Church and its teachings. And Poland cannot exist without the Church.
Knowing that there is no Poland without the Church (…) everyone, even though they do not have the grace of faith, must accept it (…). Each hand raised against the Church is a hand raised against Poland”.
Kaczyński and the bishops have joined the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the Church in recent years so tightly that this marriage is tied by a bond stronger than a sacramental one – a knot based on a politicized Church and religious politics.
2. When it seemed that this cynical marriage was doing great, and that everyone in this devilish relationship – both PiS and the Church – benefited from it, that we had a win-win situation, something broke, something ended. What was it?
3. First, Poles – including Catholics – saw that political religion and the politicized Church were a parody of Christianity. In such a relationship, it is not about faith, but influence and domination.
Since 2015, there has been no governmental hate campaign that was not supported to some extent by the Church or its “knights of truth in cassocks” – it began with an attack on independent courts, but was also manifested in campaigns against people with disabilities, teachers, environmentalists, LGBT+ community, young people, and women.
In each of these campaigns of contempt, which the PiS party fostered, the Church, through the mouths of a large group of bishops and priests, was on the side of the stigmatization of people in power. So people began to ask: why do we need a Church that has turned the discreet power of the gospel into the naked power of the “good change”?
Second, credibility, you fool! For many years we were kept – by bishops, but also by the so-called Catholic journalists and journalism – under the illusion that the problem of pedophilia in the Church is the affliction of the Western Churches. That in Poland, the homeland of St. John Paul II, a country where priests fought heroically against communists, they would never rape children, cover up and protect sexual crimes. The truth struggled for a long time to be heard. But in the end, it prevailed.
Now we know that there were many brutal sexual predators among the ranks of the Polish clergy. Today we know for certain that Polish bishops hid pedophile priests, and that our Church is not eager to compensate for the harm it caused to the victims.
But we would never have known it, had it not been for the fact that the media, the public, and I who write these words have been waging a battle for twenty years to make the Polish Church sprinkle ashes on its head. Because the only thing the Church has is Good News. And it will not preach it effectively if the Church itself – and this is how it is at the moment – appears as a hypocritical organization with lost credibility.
Third, the moral screw shall be tightened, that is, let us change the law while we hold power. Because the hierarchs know that what they have given and what they will win will be difficult to take away from them later on.
This is precisely why the bishops recently pressed the PiS government to introduce controversial provisions in the anti-abortion law. Of course, they wanted to do it by using the “Constitutional Tribunal” under Julia Przyłębska.
Hierarchs have already practiced such a modus operandi in the past. After all, this was the case with the introduction of religion into Polish schools, or even with the adoption of the anti-abortion law, quite commonly known as the “abortion compromise”.
After a possible change of government, which will want to reduce the number of religion lessons at school, introduce universal access to IVF, or introduce universal sex education, the Church and bishops will be able to shout that atheists, leftists, and Catholic-haters are fighting against the faith. Just like what the communists did in the past. And bishops who lock themselves in a besieged fortress to defend privileges they have once gained, feel like a fish in water.
However, this time the Church did not foresee that women, young and elderly, Catholics and atheists, would take to the streets. And they will keep shouting: “get the f**k out!”. It was the Women’s Strike that shed some light at all the grievances people had against the Church and bishops, and accumulated these as if through a lens – this is why for the first time in the recent history of Poland we have seen such huge mass protests in front of Catholic churches.
Something that probably did not appear to John Paul II even in the darkest visions. And it was the hierarchs who led to such a situation, causing Catholics to turn their back at them in large numbers – resulting not only in withdrawing children from religion lessons, but also publicly performing apostasy and proudly announcing it on social media.
3. Opponents of the Church, people who did not lose faith after reading Marx, but after listening to Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski, seeing the Church’s moral decline today, may even feel a kind of satisfaction. And they say: “It’s good that I have nothing to do with this unreformed organization”.
I fully understand this position. But there are also those, such as I who write these words, who believe that Catholicism is too valuable to be left in the hands of the bishops. Hence, is this not naivety on my part? How much more evidence of wrongdoing do I need – my friends often ask me – to turn my back on the Church?
Maybe it is naive of me, but I grew up, formed my worldview through the prism of the experience of faith – a faith that seeks understanding. Therefore, I will not give up Catholicism. But I pray for the fire of secularization, so that it absorbs and consumes everything that is the result of hypocrisy, pride, and stupidity in the Polish Church.
Yes – all those who care about the faith should pray for secularization in order to save those seeds of the Christian faith which, I hope, will be the beginning of the revival of authentic faith.
The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/niech-zstapi-sekularyzacja-i-odnowi-oblicze-tej-ziemi/
Translated by Olga Łabendowicz