For at least the last 70 years or so (...) the strongest expressions of catholicism happen in a political not spiritual context...
Politics is an expression of collective will of a given society through their political representatives - that's why in Poland things like illegality of abortion or euthanasia are decided politically, according to the will of overwhelmingly Catholic society. The whole phenomenon of Lech Wałęsa - a union leader with a picture of Saint Virgin Mary in his jacket's lapel - is another example of this. I mentioned wars with muslims, orthodox christians and protestants as something that shaped Polish identity, but let's not forget the more recent events (Solidarity, the fall of communism) in which Catholic Church in Poland played a vital role.
Poles, unlike Americans ime, almost never talk about or think much about religion...
Perhaps not with foreigners. Polish society is similar to Japanese in this regard, I suppose; you can live here for 20-30 years and still feel like an outsider, and people won't be entirely open in their conversations with you (even if you speak perfect Polish, which is extremely rare).
How would you propose to make the distinction in Polish?
I wouldn't. There's no need. We can talk about different degrees of polishness (as Koneczny and Krajski did in their books), without coining new terms or trying to make the division more definite linguistically. Just to make things clear - polishness is more of a philosophical, or maybe rather spiritual, concept, and I would condemn any attempts at creating concrete divisions in the legal or political sphere based on anybody's perception of the term. That was certainly not the point that I was making.
Could someone (in your taxonomy) be a Pole but not Polish?
No, as in a Pole (so, also a Catholic in my understanding of the term) polishness finds its ultimate fulfillment.
many/most certainly don't follow church doctrine in their everyday lives very closely.
Well, hypocrisy is certainly a widespread phenomenon, not only in Poland. Catholics in full meaning of the word are a minority, just as catholic priest who are fully devoted to their faith and epitomes of Christian virtues are a minority among the clergy. Again, we are talking about degrees.
A little bit like a feel good distinction 'i'm the better
It's not about being better or worse. It's about being different. We are not all the same (luckily!). As for being a real
Pole, well - as I mentioned here on numerous occasions, for historical/political/cultural reasons - polishness would seem to find its fullest realisation in Polish citizens who are also Catholic faithful. Which doesn't mean they are better
than muslim, orthodox or protestant Poles - merely different, with higher degree/measure of polishness in them. That's all. Others that I mentioned may have more Turkish/Tatar, Russian or German traits in them - that we, true Poles, are lacking (so in this regard they have more than we do). People are different - let's celebrate this variety
without necessarily pretending that we are all the same regardless of our religion or ethnicity.
Right, I believe I've explained my position abundantly - people may of course agree or disagree with it, but, as I don't like to repeat myself too much, I shall end my commenting on the topic with this post. Those with a bit of good will are going to understand this, others who just want to nickpick will have to find someone else to discuss the matter with. :)
muslim, orthodox or protestant Poles
This, of course, should read "muslim, orthodox or protestant Polish citizens" (according to the distinction I was making in the English language).