Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Catholic influence remains strong in Poland

[It's very nice to see that the Polish nation refuses to forget its own rich heritage, which is strongly linked to the Catholic faith. May they be an inspiration for the rest of the European continent!]

Poland's leaders lean to the right
Catholic influence large, in contrast to rest of Europe

June 11, 2006

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland could be Europe's first red state.

The 25 members of the European Union do not think of themselves in terms of blue states and red states, at least not yet. If they did, the map of Europe would have a decidedly blue hue. Even countries with conservative governments, such as France and Germany, are blue when it comes to the values debate.

But Poland cuts against the grain. Lech Kaczynski, winner of last October's presidential election, opposes abortion and gay marriage. He has told his education chief to come up with guidelines for the "proper upbringing of children." And lately, he has been spending a lot of time cozying up to conservative Christian groups.

While Christianity appears to be in a steep decline across most of Europe, in Poland the faith still burns brightly. The question is whether Poland is a quirky throwback to another era, or whether it is a harbinger of Europe's coming culture war.

Catholic values

Poland's churches are packed. Its seminaries still are churning out healthy numbers of priests. According to census data, 96% of the population identify themselves as Catholic; 57% say they attend mass every Sunday. There now seem to be as many statues of Pope John Paul II as there once were of V.I. Lenin.

Two week ago, Pope Benedict XVI paid homage to his predecessor with a visit to Poland, and Poles responded by modestly covering up some of the racier lingerie ads along the processional route. The pope's stops included Warsaw, the Auschwitz death camp and Wadowice, John Paul's hometown.

It was the late pope's fervent hope that the intense spirituality of his native Poland would spark a "new evangelization" of Western Europe. During most of his papacy, there was scant sign of that happening. But more recently Poland has emerged at the fore of a fledgling movement to restore Christian values to Europe.

"What's new in Poland is that political parties want to express their Catholicism," said Pawel Spiewak, a Polish sociologist and expert on right-wing politics.

"A few years ago, a typical Pole was Catholic in his private life. Now he's expressing it openly and wants to express it as public policy. It's atypical for Europe."

Beginning in 2003, the Polish government led the push -- ultimately unsuccessful -- to include some reference to Christianity in the new EU constitution.

Aleksander Kwasniewski, the reformed communist who was Poland's president at the time, told a British newspaper that "there is no excuse for making references to ancient Greece and Rome, and to the Enlightenment, without making reference to the Christian values which are so important to the development of Europe."

An unusual argument coming from a self-professed atheist, but Kwasniewski always has grasped the importance of religion in Polish political life.

Last year, the Polish delegation to the European Parliament made waves by setting up a display against abortion in the corridors of the parliament's headquarters in Strasbourg, France. A scuffle ensued when guards attempted to remove it.

"We follow the teachings of the church and the advice of the bishops," said Piotr Slusarczyk, a spokesman for the League of Polish Families, a conservative Catholic party that was behind the display.

Slusarczyk said the league opposes gay rights and euthanasia. It also favors large families and takes a dim view of the EU in general.

"Our goal is to defend Catholic values and to defend Poland against Western tendencies that are being promoted by a vocal EU lobby," he said.

Read more here: Detroit Free Press

A related article: "The New Europes" by Richard John Neuhaus, First Things Magazine


Blogger Fidei Defensor said...

This made my day!

12:34 AM  
Blogger Protestant said...

Yeah ok, these Pious Polish Papist Patriots are so "conservative" and have such "Catholic values" that they would leave Poland in droves bound for Protestant nations like UK!

5:20 AM  
Blogger CS said...

Protestant, please, switch to decaf...

11:02 PM  
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