‘Glossa’ to an article about the situation of the Church in Poland
Card. Stanisław Nagy SCJ
I reach for the article in the catholic weekly ‘Sunday’ of 30 October 2011, no 44, p. 12-13, in which a bashful attempt was made to outline the situation of the Church in Poland after the recent elections.
Besides the whole ambiguity of the recent elections, they are a kind of a boundary point and prism for the Church in Poland which is seen through them in a different way than a few months ago. However, this picture is not complete and in some moments not completely adequate. But as long as the possible corrections of the other dimension are not caused by the author, the first dimension requires a complement by him. For, this dimension is the so-called white stains of the previous opinion, which are simply insinuations in the previous article. Undoubtedly, the white stain in this picture of the Church in Poland after the elections is –
The issue of media
It is beyond dispute that anti-Catholic media brought an unpleasant surprise to the Church. It is mainly due to them that a new tendency hostile to the Church was created, which is a political party led by Janusz Palikot. Although the creation of this weird formation was influenced by other factors – which needed to be recognized and also properly penetrated in action – the reluctant media had a special contribution in it because these media in Poland are a real power – first of all in number. These are: Polish Radio in its various forms, State Polish Television, private televisions (TVN and Polsat), a lot of printing offices, a lot of everyday and periodical newspapers.
And what is the state of the Catholic media beside such media invasion not favouring the Catholicism? Is the comparison between an elephant and an ant is an exaggeration here? Whereas the Nation in its basic mass thinks itself to be Catholic! Are Catholic media so radically reduced in number able to oppose the invading media which are hostile to the Church? There are two answers: multiply the number of Catholic media or take care of a better usage of the existing ones. Both in the first and the latter case people and money are needed. It seems that the problem of money would be possible to solve as far as the current needs are concerned. It is worse with people. The paradox is that theoretically the Church has got a big number of well educated priests and even lay theologians who do not write though or they write in a way which is not a counterbalance to the growing refined fight against the Church. Because if the Catholic remittance of faith was to be effective, first of all, it should be written in a substantively good way but also written well an in a clear way. Good writing has got one significant requirement: it is its reading. In the case of the Polish Catholicism it is an ordinary lack of reading. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that Polish Catholics do not read religious literature or Catholic newspapers which – although low in number- still exists. This reading and being familiar with Catholic newspapers must be learnt. Who is supposed to teach that? - a pulpit and a catechesis. We must return to discussion about a catechesis on another occasion but now we need to comment on the Polish pulpit. The Polish pulpit is a powerful media instrument of the Church – provided that it is used in a proper way. Whereas the contemporary Polish preaching in the Church is suffering from at least three disorders: thematic, stylistic and compositional. The first one is the most distinctive because specific and is de-theological preaching sermons through the lack of catechismal sermons (God, Christ, Church, grace, sacraments) and canons of Christian morality (Decalogue). There is also the lack of insistence from pulpits on using Catholic media, reliable Catholic newspapers and a real Catholic television. Today it is seen, which is beyond dispute that both Radio Maryja and the Television ‘Trwam’ are unquestionable good of the Church in Poland and only their obstinate enemies think differently. Therefore the whole Church with its most prominent authorities should stand in close group against dangers connected with laic reorganization of the Radio. It does not mean any atrophy of diocese radio stations but we need to take care of their proper technical and substantive level, that is, their effective quality.
However, there is a necessity of close coordinating these modest media means by the great authority – the representative of Polish Episcopate. We cannot let this insufficient state of ownership appear in public at the moment of such urgent needs existing in this dimension in Poland today. There is still a necessity to appeal for apologetic and apologia topics which are a reliable counter-argument against primitive attacks on fundamental assumptions of Christianity. The examples of the present Pope in this respect but also Blessed John Paul II, among the others, in his book ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’ – are an examples and challenges for the Church today.
Pastoral ministry among the youth
The care about the souls of the young generation in the Church is generally known. In his famous letter to the youth, Pope John Paul II noticed and showed the youth value for the whole life and the magnificence of a chosen life direction among the youth. The final form of the whole life will depend on how youth is used. John Paul II had referred to the Polish Church of the Republic of Poland before it was hurt by a roller of hostility and hatred of the Nazi and later communist occupation. The Church of that time was the Church of active youth organizations, starting from Catholic Associations of Male and Female Youth and Sodality Marian, till the authentic scouting of the Association ‘Sokół’ and energetic academic pastoral ministry. A fatal blow was struck to the organizations of male and female youth by the communist regime through the decree of February 1953. After those valuable associations, which effectively helped in proper civic and religious formation, only ruins and unclear memories have remained as a result of the hurricane of violence and extermination, not saying about miserable attempts of gaining the youth by the organizations of the Scouting Association of Polish Youth or manipulated scouting. There has been a motto of restoration of that good order for some time but the results are not impressive yet. The youth is drowning in the whirl of primitive fun at disco or a disastrous flood of alcohol drinking and drug-addiction. But we must make a kind of differentiation. It would be, however, a mistake to condemn and depreciate generally the contemporary young Polish generation. It would be harmful and simplified to blame the youth for the electoral pathology which is the so-called ‘palikotism’. Despite all that, not only the Polish youth was won over by the cruel program of abortion, sexual distortions or drug illusions. These are rather inheritors of recent central committees, the first secretaries of different social grades and functionaries of the known department made it known that they exist and have not changed the credo of their destructive program. Generally, the positive opinion of the Polish youth requires, however, some differentiation. The youth must be divided into two groups. The first one is the youth in general and secondary schools. The urgent problems of this group are a catechesis and the issue of attending the church. The task and purpose of the catechesis at the level of the general school is to lead the youth to the state of Christian maturity whose sacramental goal is the Sacrament of Confirmation. And here situations of crisis happen. The youth do not often pay attention to the postulate program of preparation and even avoid accepting this sacrament. And the first and another case require a patient consideration, contacts with parents and a look into the child’s environment.
We must often ask a question as well, whether a catechist can face a challenge. It is especially relevant when referring to the catechesis in the secondary school. The ordinary seminary education is not enough now or the youthful eagerness of neo-presbyteries. In this place, however, we reach to the second group of the youth which is academic youth. Its counterpart is academic pastoral ministry. But is it according to concept of Fr. Wojtyła, Fr. Pietraszko, Fr. Zienkiewicz, Fr. Fedorowicz? These were the Fathers of the Polish Catholic Intelligentsia. Do such candidates for altars exist or act in populated centres at present? And how not to mention two significant people of the youth apostolate in the recent communist century, who were Fr. Blachnicki with his activity of oasis or Fr. Wojtyła with his tourist pastoral ministry....Both the first (oasis movement) and the latter (tourist pastoral ministry) gave valuable fruits in the form of environments which played their significant roles in the life of the Church in Poland. But did not they lose their original dynamics? Undoubtedly, it is worth noting the activities among the Polish youth like: the youth movement of F. Jan Góra from Lednica, the World Youth’s Days, and finally the massive youth’s participation in pilgrimages to Jasna Góra. However, besides the vast groups of academic youth in such university metropolis like: Warszawa, Kraków, Poznań, Gdańsk, Szczecin, Toruń or Białystok, we can doubt whether this section of the Church in Poland is properly utilized. There is still another group which should be considered from the point of view of the Polish Catholic Intelligentsia. These are the graduates of lay theology. Although there were doubts and concerns in the beginning, whether the lay can be allowed to study theology, today the God’s Providence is seen in this courageous undertaking. The first group of graduates strengthened the Polish Church in the school catechisation. Whereas the latter one decided on the full studies of theology in its academic form and enlarged the group of theological specialists. As a result, there appeared doctor’s degrees among the lay and convent people - not priests, and also professor degrees with significant academic achievements. The significant example is S. Prof. Józefa Zdybicka, who was a dean for years at the Faculty of Philosophy at CUL. Today a big group of Polish academic philosophers and theologians is a valuable capital about which we must remember and use reasonably. We should not express unfair prejudice or complexes towards them but we should give them the atmosphere of orthodoxy and harmony with the teaching of the Church. Are still any white stains or understatements in this outline of the situation of the Church in Poland? Maybe there are or even, surely, they are. But everything points to the fact that the time for diagnosis is passing slowly and the time for proper therapy is coming. But this is a domain of other authorities than a faded authority of an old theologian and it is seen through worse seeing eyes.