Monday, November 21, 2005

Catholic Poland


A survey conducted by the Polish church shows that the majority of Poles are not ‘religiously active’.

Working as a journalist in Poland forces you to write sentences that include phrases such as ‘in staunchly Catholic Poland…’, or, ‘the devoutly Catholic Polish…’, or, ‘In a country where 95% are Catholic…’, etc. And every time I write these words (editors like it when you do, for some reason) I know that I am misleading the reader. Yes, 95% of people identify themselves as Roman Catholics. But that does not mean Poland is overflowing with the god-fearing.

A survey just released confirms this. Only 43% of Poles claim to be ‘actively religious’, or practicing Catholics. The majority of Poles only go to church on religious holidays, or for births, weddings and deaths. Some never go near the place at all.

This tallies with opinion polls that say that 50% of Poles want their very strict abortion laws liberalized. Seventy-five percent do not believe in the Catholic explanation of what happens after death. And, remarkably for a country where ‘natural methods of contraception’ (otherwise know a ‘cross your fingers and hope for the best’) are taught by the priests, Poland has one of the lowest birthrates in the world.

So the next time you see an article with ‘In a country where 95% are Catholic’ in it, make sure you put inverted commas over the catholic bit.

6 comments:

Michael Farris said...

As many people claim to be catholic in polls in Poland because if you say you're catholic you don't need to say anything else. Giving any other answer requires explanation ... for many people saying they're catholic is a way of saying "leave me alone".

Becca said...

Also I think the definition of Catholic is very broad if you speak to a lot of Poles. It's this 'pick and choose' idea of religion that the Pope is banging on against.

Kinuk said...

Michael and Becca both hit it on the head, I think. We're Catholic when it suits us and not-so Catholic when it doesn't.

I also want to know why, if we're so "pick and choose", do so many Poles listen and believe (and then vote) to that sorry excuse of a radio station: Radio Maryja. Why do so many people listen to oj. Rydzyk and believe in what he says? Who do so many of them vote accordingly with what he says?

I guess I'm still expressing my frustration and disbelief with the election results.

Michael Farris said...

People listen to RM because the church is inherently political in Poland and functions best as an opponent of state power (by 'best' I mean 'most effectively'). Actually having a sympathetic government might cut into it's support pretty heavily ....

The initial parliamentary election results didn't bother me until a couple of days later when it was clear that PiS wanted no part of a coalition with PO (I thought it was very clear that the coalition wouldn't happen after that first open negotiation meeting) and then their hard turn toward social demagoguery embracing Lepper and Giertych in the second round of presidential elections. (My fondest hope now is a for a monumental clash of egos between the Ducks, Lepper and Giertych that decimates all three parties).

beatroot said...

I think what PiS`are hoping for is that they can steel some of the members of parliament from both samoobrona and LPR. They hope to seduce Andrzej Lepper with a but of power and hope that tames him. I wouldn't bet on it. Radio Matyja gets nearly 20% audience share...that makes them the third most popular radio station in Poland! But hasn't Rydzyk been disowned by the mainstream church?

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