Wednesday, May 11, 2011

JPII's Lasting Gift To Poland Will Be Democracy, Not JPII Catholicism

A great deal has happened in Poland since this photo was taken back in 1979.  The JPII revolution has not had much staying power in Poland----not the religious one that is.

I find the statistics from Poland very interesting, since one would think that if JPII was going to leave a last Catholic legacy it would be in Poland.  Unfortunately the statistics just don't favor that hypothesis.  The following in an extract from an article in the Ottawa Citizen.  The link is at the bottom of the extract.

.......But Poland's younger generation, which did not live through communism and is becoming less religious, likely viewed the ceremony through a less emotional lens.

"The pope is a human, flesh and blood person. I, as a young person, don't know why people will now pray to him,'' said Agnieszka Golabek, a 34-year-old woman who lives in Warsaw and is not a practising Catholic.

"From my point of view, maybe we don't have the right to call somebody holy. We should view good people as an example, but we shouldn't put them on a pedestal,'' said Golabek of the fact that, after the beatification, Catholics are able to pray for John Paul to intercede on their behalf.

While young Poles study Wojtyla at school and regard him as a generally good person, people like 34-year-old Dariusz Mazurkiewicz believe young people were "only mildly interested'' in the beatification ceremony, either because they cannot relate with the late pontiff or because they are "not looking for an authority in him.''

Such views are not isolated.

In a 2009 survey, some 48 per cent of respondents said Poles had become less religious over the past two decades. The local church is also finding it increasingly hard to enrol young priests. The number of candidates for seminaries has fallen from 1,145 in 2005 to 675 in 2010. (This is a forty percent decline since Benedict became Pope.)

Bishop Budzik, however, is hopeful that John Paul's teachings will continue to resonate with the young generation and that the beatification will inspire more Poles towards a deeper faith.

"It seems to me that our increasingly complicated reality and the uncertainty of the future ... will lead to a deeper reflection,'' he said. "And that for many -as well as for the young -the teachings of John Paul II will become a sign and road marker.'' (This is wishful thinking.)

Others note that the country's march towards modernism has made young people more secular and critical of the church's role in politics. While up to 95 per cent of Poles identify themselves as Roman Catholic, attendance at Mass has been steadily declining. These days, about half of Poles say they regularly attend services.

"They look at the pope with more distance and less emotion and less deep religious conviction than elderly people,'' said Zdzislaw Slowik, deputy head of the Secular Culture Society, a national council that studies the role of the church and secularism.


The line that intrigued me in this post was the one from Zdzislaw Slowik, when he says younger generations hold less deep religious convictions.  I think the operative words are religious convictions, and that is a problem for all mainstream religions, not just Catholicism.  Pope Benedict has chosen to blame secularism and moral relativism as if the two are cultural replacements for religious conviction.  I'm not totally convinced this is correct. The data seems to suggest that mainstream religions are not meeting the spiritual needs of today's laity.  This is not about secularism per se, but about the failure of religions to do what exactly what they exist to do--meet the spiritual needs of their people.

Catholicism has chosen to hold to the traditional status quo and blame lapsed Catholics and secular culture for the Church's own failures.  Catholic leadership is not alone in this scenario and given another twenty years, Catholic leaders will be joined by Islamic leaders.  Cultural shifts that used to take hundreds of years are now happening in less than twenty.  Poland, and other former Eastern bloc countries, demonstrate that fact.  Some bishops and some theologians are beginning to ask for the dialogue that should have continued after Vatican II.

Maybe the bigger question is can religions in their current form survive at all when humanity itself is passing beyond the historical religious conceptualization of humanity.  It's hard to sell a concept of humanity as sinful decadent worms when science is describing a different being.  This being is not just about brute animal survival, but seems to seek transcendent experience and is programmed to do so.  Transcendent experiences, those that take one beyond one's own lonely ego identity, are not limited to religious experiences.  Sometimes they can be had at such secular activities as sporting events.  Maybe part of that ability for sporting events to generate transcendent feelings happens because a person doesn't know what the outcome will be until the game is finished.  The time during which the game is played is an intense process leading to an unknown outcome.  Our lives should be lived exactly the same way--as a process leading to an unknown outcome, where giving the maximum effort  is the best one can do.

The trouble with our current Catholic leadership is instead of acting like the captains of a team and playing for all they are worth, they have chosen to declare themselves the referees in a game they have already determined most of us will lose.  It's not surprising younger generations don't want any part of that kind of game, and instead are looking for leaders who are player/coaches--and for a game which is continuously evolving towards an unknown future, not wallowing in it's traditional past.

As I'm writing this, I'm reflecting on the world of women's athletics.  Back in my day when I played on the first women's basketball team my alma mater ever put on a court I would look up in the stands and see a couple dozen people, mostly all family members and friends of players.  There weren't any fans of the team so to speak.  I never ever imagined, looking at those few people, I would ever see the women's NCAA bracket rival the men's in attendance and fanaticism.  That is cultural evolution on a grand scale, and it only took about twenty five years. Dads are just as wrapped up in their daughter's athletic events as they are their sons.  That is a vision which was way beyond my own father who did everything he could to discourage my participation in the fledgling world of women's athletics because he was convinced it was an utter waste of my time. Shortly before he died he told me that not encouraging me was the one thing he truly regretted in an otherwise fulfilling life.

I think about what the Vatican is doing now over the place of women in the Church and I think about my dad and his idea of my place in the world of athletics.  The world is going to move forward, and women will take their place in the spiritual sun and we can't imagine what that is going to generate.  I'd really hate to see Catholicism completely fade away because the Vatican wouldn't let go and wouldn't change.  That would be a real travesty, but if things don't change, it will happen.  Jesus's teachings and life will stand the test of time, I'm not so sure about what currently passes for Catholicism.  If Poland is any indication, it won't.



  1. We are in an era that Traditionalists don't do not even understand the vocabulary of Science and medicine (particularly embryology). Traditionalists continue to say that science backs them but will not respond in the same terms and definitions as the scientist that make the observations. These conservative Men (and women) insist that they have THE TRUTH but ignore factual evidence otherwise. They are destined to be left behind in their own non evolving world where to examine what the Spirit is telling scientific observation to them is modernism, secularism or evil relativity. In the case of the Catholic Bishops, they have become an academic emperor without clothes, to be sure in real life ceremonies they wear plenty of expensive meaningless garments.

    Plain and simple in the case of the Bishops, this is an empty mitre syndrome that is manifesting itself as either ignorance or borderline psychosis and in many cases both as so many borderline people show a naivety that manifests itself in concrete unyielding explanations of The Truth that don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is known.

    The real challenge for truth seekers is to understand that the more man knows, the more he sees he has yet to understand. Concrete minds can not focus with more than simple deductive reasoning. They refuse to look at the inductive reasoning beginning with observation.

    For an institution to take this mind set, they find themselves in a loose loose situation.

  2. First it was there, then it wasn't. Glad to see Google/Blogger were able to restore your story.

    It isn't just Poland. Look what's happened in Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, all the most faithful of nations.

    I regret that JP2 was not able to comprehend the dangers of fascism, and neo-fascism, especially as they related to the Spanish diaspora. They are every bit as dangerous as the threat of communism. In some senses they are more dangerous to the church because of their insidious nature. The church's embrace of Opus Dei and the Legionaires of Christ is being returned as though by an anaconda. It is powerful, subtle, slow, treacherous, crafty and will eventually squeeze the life out of the church.


  3. I don't know what happened with Blogger, but it effected everybody. They say they will eventually restore the comments, but I don't think they've gotten that far yet.

    You're right because it's not just Poland, but to me Poland stands out since it was JPII's big personal mission and I thought there might be some long term good for his vision of Catholicism. Doesn't look like it at all.

    I could say the same thing about Benedict and Germany. Things are not good for the JPII/Benedict vision of Catholicism in Germany.

    At the rate cultures and societies are changing, it won't be promising for this version of Catholicism in any part of the world by 2021. That's the message I'm taking from the upheaval in the Middle East--and for that matter from the fall communism. Now a days when change happens, it happens quick, no matter how entrenched things might look. It's the only reason I see any hope for Catholicism. Real serious change can come real quick--and from the ground up.