Separation of Church and State for Poland.
As a New Yorker born and raised, let's just say that I have very liberal views about religion. And as a former civil rights activist, one of my primary concerns was to uphold the doctrine of church and state, a central principle of American governance.
Times change however, and these days I live in Poland, where I divide my time between the bustle of Warsaw, and the tranquility of Zamosc, where I break bread with my girlfriend's lovely parents on week-ends, partake in household activites, the most important being religious observance, and ultimately church attendance both of which I do out of respect for their wishes.
Despite this compromise, my personal views on religion remain unchanged, but I must admit to an acquired respect and deepened insight into the catholic culture here in Poland, how important it is to the nation's devout, and how unrealistic and undesirable it would be to strengthen the separation of church and state in this country, to the point of erasing all catholic symbols from public life. This has apparently been vigourously touted by SLD leader Grzegorz Napieralsk, and is one I would have never imagined myself opposing.
But whatever the personal beliefs one might have, it is ultimately to common-sense that one must subscribe. My brand of common-sense has led me to support the preservation of Poland's catholic heritage. Roman catholicism is an important feature of Polish history and culture, it is one of the things that defines Poland to a visitor such as I, eager to seek out any remains of a true Polish identity in between the modern big city buildings of Warsaw, and the widespread, capitalist commercialization making strides across Poland, be it in the capital, or down south where Zamosc stands. You can count this phenomenon among the known discontents of globalisation: it is making the world smaller, erasing all 'old-fashion' cultures (ones incompatible with the modern pursuit of materialism,) thus robbing disparate cultures of their individual identities.
Yet even as it continues its growth as a new capitalist power, Poland can still boast some important aspects of its national identity. The first and most striking has to be its homogeneity. Although Poland has been historically multi-cultural, various factors, good and bad, have made it a homogeneous nation where ethnic Poles abound. The scarcity of minority groups is unbelievable to someone used to cities like New York, Geneva, Paris, etc. While it cam be eerie at times, it is nevertheless a refreshing sight – something unique among developed capitalist powers.
Then of course, there is Roman Catholicism. It is often noted that its hold on Poles is eroding, yet the statistics record unpredictable drops and surges. The fact remains that 80% of the population is religious, and 95% of religious Poles are Roman Catholic. Atheists come in at a measly 2%.
While Poland officially protects all religious groups from persecution, the fact remains that religious minorities are too few to require a renewed attack on the dominant religion. Poland is overwhelmingly Catholic, its faith unified the people when the communists forced atheism, and that faith eventually saw them through this dark period. Admirably, Poles didn't take their disgust with communist atheism as an excuse to reinstate a state church, they in fact effected a legal separation of church and state that adequately provides for the freedom of religious minorities to this day. Who then, is the erasure of Roman Catholicism supposed to protect? In the United States, the strength of the doctrine was required in light of the number of minority groups. It will be quite some time in Poland's case however, before this becomes an issue.
The bigger picture points to the challenge of a nation's cultural identity. While an ambitious and forward looking class seeks to modernize Poland until it becomes just another major capitalist democracy, which cultural symbols will manage to be retained?
What about social issues like abortion?
Oh yeah...just duke it out and see who wins...
Separation of Church and State for Poland.
Please take a few min. to watch this.
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