A new phase of the life of the Church in Poland
Cardinal Stanisław Nagy SCJ
The Second Vatican Council has left the category ‘the signs of time’ as a synonym of the will of God’s Providence appearing in the history of the world and which is an indication of behaving in a particular moment of history. It is a challenge for contemplation and certain conclusions. A lot points that such a situation which happened to the Church in Poland at present, in connection with series of events which have taken place in the nation recently and simply appeals for consideration and making suitable conclusions.
A starting point
A lot indicates that new times came for the Church in Poland. Because what let us know about itself for some time, what predicted a storm, now becomes a meaningful, dangerous reality.
And what happened?
First of all, although the media were appealing, the government insisted and the Church was strongly requesting the Nation to vote, what was the result? Half of the nation did not go to vote and people stayed at home instead, surrounded by their completely private matters. Whereas, according to the voting verdict, so much can happen in the social, worldview and economic dimensions.
Secondly, a political force whose main thesis is anticlericalism and anarchy in the sphere of manners emerged from this impaired election. The anticlericalism is so dangerous that it does not respect any form of ethical behaviour and wants to fight against the Church in an open helmet. And its only merit is the fact that it has not got any criminal burden of the past, whose personification is the representative case of Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko. Instead, it can refer to a political slogan formulated by a serious authority some time ago; the slogan said about ‘not kneeling in front of a priest’, which is not demanded from anybody, as in a well-understood Christianity we kneel only in front of God.
And thirdly, the unquestioned victory of the faction of the society astigmatic ideologically, although it emerged from the right-wing party and with the Christian worldview, but it is the part of the society which allows for crimes of killing the unborn and questions the teaching of the Church concerning the artificial fertilization. I call the faction of the society astigmatic ideologically, not to say that it is called an amateur ‘whim’ and not having anything in common with the healthy ethics, especially the Christian one. But it is a hint for this official and right-wing political party. Because, why are still these divisions? And a postulate simply seems to be a request of the nation so that these two Polish worlds would shake hands for the healthy national interest and so that evangelic agreement would take place of the hopeless fight. The Nation and the Polish Church are fervently waiting for that. The Cross inscribed in the history of Poland for years: it is demanded from its children.
There is still one more element of the contemporary atmosphere: painful for the Nation and the Church - the guard of God’s matter on the Earth – the tragedy taking place from the national day of the tragic event which was a day of the Smolensk catastrophe on 10 April 2010. The Nation spontaneously burst out in tears, at the funerals of the victims of the catastrophe, and the leading funeral of the heroic President and his spouse. The monumental tribute was paid in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw by a large crowd of Poles from the whole country, and who were standing in contemplation and prayer for many hours, and mourning over the loss of the man who had lived, worked and devoted his life to Poland…
The Nation was waiting, demanded an objective but not imported truth about its historical tragedy and… till now, after many months of manipulating its various elements it did not learn the truth. Only unsuccessful operations remained, in order to bring the national tragedy to the range of a historical episode whose experience can be covered by a rag of the official mourning and sentenced to forgetting. And in this context the matter of the Cross in front of the Presidential Palace appears. And, as a result, the matter of removing the cross and placing it in the St. Anna church, raises the orgy of blasphemy not of Cossacks profaning the Holy Place but some people from here but not belonging to our country and in the eyes of the guards of public order. And the bells were not ringing in Warsaw. Not at all! But this was only a prelude to the concert whose name is playing with God. And an artist hangs disgusting symbols on the cross and thinks it to be a piece of art and the court in free Poland admits that she is right. And a vocalist during a concert tears the Holy Scripture to shreds, giving a disgusting name to Christianity. That is not all because the public television employs him as a juror in an entertainment program.
A meaningful context
The Church in Poland is still impressed by the date of 1 May 2011 – canonization of Pope John Paul II. His cult spreads in the world more and more. His name is inflected in all cases. We care so that his inspired voice would be heard. And he calls: ‘Defend this cross’. Do we defend it well enough? We are a country where a priest was murdered brutally not long time ago, we could say: a priest was murdered bestially in the series of other murders in Poland and criminal environments, which were patrons of perpetrators of these horrible crimes, begin to wave their red flags again, humming hackneyed songs about enormous wealth of the Church. This danger weakens under the burden of the uncomfortable past and because of a small program for the future. However, too many Poles were deceived by it. Shouldn’t they be helped more effectively so that they would be able to return to their full families?
The doleful picture of the Polish situation for today and tomorrow is completed by the situation of the family. It is obvious that its process is dramatic in Western and Eastern countries. And it is obvious that it opens terrible national and ethnic perspectives. The contemporary crisis of the family is something exceptional in the history. There have been falls of families, dying out of families, falls of family life but it has been the first time when the fight against the family has been taken up. On the basis of the giddy development of genetics, and, on the other hand, the monstrous sexual hedonism, staring at oneself and new possibilities, a crazy thought came to the human mind about self-creation on a different road than the one which is inscribed in the deepest layer of the human existence. In addition, there appeared a hydra of sexual disorder in the form of wild homosexuality. And there is a new form of atheism ready: correct what the Eternal Creator has done wonderfully in the institution of the family. Taking away the title from Him - against the spiritual harmony of micro – and macro-universe – now the miracle of family life is taken away from Him – without being careful of the whole range of absurd and mortal dangers resulting from it. This sketchy outline of the messages influencing on the crisis of the family in its whole form, do not generally reach to the consciousness of the society yet, but in its fatal fragments it wanders through Polish minds, and, unfortunately, it gives tragic fruits. And mainly these heads bring the crisis to the Polish family. Because today’s divorce in the marriage life in Poland, in the overwhelming majority, originates from incorrectly formed or not formed concept of the life, and the forgetfulness of this Christian formula. Of course, the so-called normal families, which do not care properly about their children and neglect to prepare them for a real family life, do not remain without any blame. But it is a separate issue.
And there is also another dimension of the Polish family crisis – emigration. But also this section of the family problems is partly solved by the pastoral work among the emigration at least. So, there remains reliable consideration of the family problems in the pastoral work in the country. There is a question whether in seminaries enough emphasis is laid on thorough and versatile teaching about the family problems and talking about it in the pastoral work. As a result, there is a question whether Polish universities put an emphasis on working out a great doctrinal heritage of the Polish pope in the field of the family, women and the youth. And, finally, isn’t there any way to intensify catechization in order to have influence on preventing moral degradation in the growing up young generation? Other doubts, anxieties and issues which are worth considering, come to our mind. And it is not about full discussing the topic but only signaling the historical moment of the present time. There remains only a place for some conclusions which seem to result from this short description of the present situation of the Church in Poland.
A conclusion which seems to result from what has happened within the recent years is a suspicion that someone cared about hurting the Church painfully, especially at the moment of its non-precedential achievement of the triumph which was the day of 1 May 2011 – the day of beatification of John Paul II, the Pole whose name entered the golden book of the turn of the milleniums in a creative and blessed way. The Pole who is not lonely because the stigma of the fulfilled humanity under the sign of the Polish Church shines on the forehead of bishops, priests, monks, nuns and laymen. So, the Church in Poland is not bank accounts, luxurious cars, rich mansions but churches rebuilt from ruins, a lot of money spent on charities, a large group of clergy and laity missionaries. And this all must be shown in reply to those who have made a fortune on alcohols, drugs, etc. But trump cards of the Church in Poland should be shown, not hiding the present crazy attack on the cross. The attack on the Church in Poland is needed and directed by somebody. The Church in Poland had to be humbled quickly - and who cared and still cares about it – is not difficult to guess. Another postulate often formulated by the faithful in the Church is the postulate of speaking in one voice by the Church, a strict harmony among individual and group statements. Each voice of disharmony among bishops raises fear and is a real scandal for the ordinary people.
Another issue which requires immediate and deep consideration is an intellectual state of theological knowledge of the faithful in the Catholic Church in Poland. Today when a serious part of people use internet and are abroad, the religious knowledge mustn’t remain on the low level. It cannot be that an average journalist will know more about the Church and Christianity than a vicar priest from a suburban parish or a lecture of distorted faith would be delivered by people of wasted priesthood or monastic life.
So in the preaching we must rebuilt the catechismal-dogmatic-moral and fundamentalist issues.
Every sensible Polish Catholic must clearly know what and why he believes and he behaves in a Christian way. Religious ignorance and absolute hopelessness in the motivation of his Christian behavior is a simple road to the erosion of faith and separation from the Church. The only purpose of this opinion was to provoke us to reflect on the historical moment which the Church in Poland has been experiencing for a dozen of months. The reflections and suggestions presented here may seem too strong or not complete in some elements. If they were formulated, they were done with a thought that they would provoke us to further reflections and conclusions coming from the present time.