A special report on Poland in The Economist (June 28) finds a robust economy but a more divided and less vital religious sector.
The magazine reports that the Catholic Church’s unifying role while promoting dialogue on issues such as Jewish-Christian relations and democracy in the past has been eclipsed by a fear of dissent from within and liberalization in the wider society. The recent closure of a parish by the archbishop of Warsaw-Praga, where popular suspended priest, Wojchiech Lemanski had criticized the church’s position on in-vitro fertilization (IVF), as well as berating church officials for mishandling sexual abuse cases and tolerating anti-Semitism among Catholics.
Church officials say that the suspension was due only to Lemanski’s dissent on IVF. The article reports that the church in Poland has made something of a comeback after the 1990s, when it was accused of being too political and overly concerned with gaining returned properties lost during the communist era. Today people are drawn to the church for prayer and meditation rather than for practical help.
Although the number of seminarians has dropped (from 4,800 in the early 2000s to around 3,000 today), the country still produces a quarter of Europe’s vocations. The Polish church sees challenges outside the church as well as inside. The fear of “liberalization” harming the church was recently on display in a conflict about “gender studies, which to “some hardline Catholics has become a catch-all term for radical feminism, liberal abortion politics and other social trends they dislike.”
The alarm was started last summer when Tadeusz Pieronek, a bishop, pronounced that the “ideology of gender presents a threat worse than Nazism and communism combined. Conservative politicians joined the effort, convening a parliamentary group, ‘Stop Gender Ideology.’”