Vol 27 No. 1 (2008) RST 27.1
The issue of the Church’s involvement in public life of the nation has always generated debate. Particularly under communism, when the Church had to resist the dominance of an atheistic doctrine, the Church was relied upon to articulate the value of religiosity without running afoul of the authorities. It was, in essence, valuable to ordinary Poles who respected its social and cultural importance for their lives. As the analysis here shows, the situation faced by the Church has changed dramatically; it faces the challenge of remaining relevant in a society switching to democratic and culturally secular assumptions. Just how this relationship will develop and what the role will be for the Church in the future is a central concern of this paper. Traduit par Marzena Adamska-Pytko
In this article, I address the stance taken by the Church viz-à-viz the social and political structures of Polish society. This arises because the new situation of a democratic state presupposes a secular, civil society environment. In my analysis, I show that the Church has moved away from political engagement with this new situation, and is now shaping itself as a key element, but only one of several, in a pluralistic culture. This will mean a quite different Church in the future.
Polish religiousness is a phenomenon composed of many both antagonistic and interdependent (even symbiotic) constituents. Different mental strata, political wings, degrees of engagement and social entities should be presented here to show the complexity of the phenomenon in question. I shall raise only a few of the most important problems. In order to do so, it is useful to draw four main lines of division.
This article sets out to explain why Poland has not been successful in establishing a Christian political party...this in the face of the overwheming evidence of religiosity in the Polish national ethos. Drawing on historical and cultural elements, it details a Polish reluctance to link together Church and State so thoroughly when religion already influences the State in other less-overt political ways.
Both sociological analyses and everyday observation point to the special role the Roman Catholic parish plays in everyday and ceremonial life of Polish society and also the multifunctional role of this institution in organizing social life at a local level. For the majority of Polish society the parish was and remains not only a church institution but a close and friendly place to which people feel emotionally related. It is an important part of local micro space, a small private motherland where varied levels of human existence converge. Socio-political, economic and cultural changes taking place after the Polish systemic breakthrough of June 1989 have created a new context in which all social institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church with its central microstructure—the parish—function. The systemic changes including the process of creating and crystallizing out new political, economic and socio-cultural rules enforces deinstitutionalization of many former rules of activity, re-institutionalization (change) of some rules for others and also making new rules (Morawski 1998, 12–17). Appearance of a new social order, which was both marked by exogenous features and stimulated by endogenous sources of changes, resulted in the necessity for all institutions in Poland, Roman Catholic parishes included, to adapt and modify the rules of their activity to the conditions of the system’s change.
Pope John Paul not only used his roots in Slavic culture for the political development of the Church, but gave a theological justification for the role he carved out for Poland. He saw Poland as “the chosen nation” for direct Church mission. In this article, I examine both Wojtyla’s theology of the Slavic “nations” and the specific role of the Polish people in his theory. I will survey the so-called “outstanding historic mission” of the Polish church in the re-Christianizing of Central and Eastern Europe…history for him was read in the light of the Gospel, which he believed provided a “hermeneutic key” to both world and human history. I argue that the Pope wished to extend this vision to all Slavic nations as a way of encouraging a Christian destiny “from the Atlantic to the Urals.” In my final assessment I note that this missionary vision of Pope John Paul II proved to be unsuccessful.