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What Role for the Catholic Church in Poland?

On the 11th of March 2012 Polish feminists organised the annual demonstration and evoked a public debate on the Church's influence on public issues in Poland. Is a total separation of the Church and State desirable in general by Polish citizens? Or should the traditional position of the Church be maintained?
Source: flickr

A will to reduce the Church's influence

Zuzanna Jablonska | 2013. January 14. 23:06

Although the Concordat signed in 1993 (and ratified only in 1998) regulates relations between the Vatican and Poland, the Roman Catholic Church still keeps a number of privileges in the country. It seems that at least a part of Polish society is today more willing to put an end to the Church's favored position.

Cut the umbilical cord between Polish politics and the Church! On the 11th of March Polish feminists have called to cut the umbilical cord that still exists between Polish political area and the Catholic Church. As a matter of fact, some political issues are widely influenced by the official point of view of the Church. The restrictive abortion law illustrates that. In Poland, abortion is illegal with three exceptions: rape, danger for maternal life or health, and serious fetal defects.

*The place of God is in church, not in school

Another sign of the important role that the Catholic Church has in the public sphere is the presence of religion classes in Polish public schools. In fact, in all schools in Poland, children can attend religion classes two times a week. Of course, these classes, often assured by catholic priests, are not compulsory and parents can chose ethics classes over religion. However, not every school provides ethics classes and, if it is so, children who do not attend religion classes have a gap between two other classes - the fact which pushes parents to send their children - especially in primary school - to religion classes, regardless of their beliefs.

*A call for a liquidation of the Church's privileges

Recently, Polish citizens have more and more frequently called for a review of the privileges of the Catholic Church in Poland. It concerns mainly a strong willingness to shift away from funding pensions for priests and financing of the Church's properties by the State. But also, Poles want to reduce the weigh of the Roman Catholic Church in national politics in general.

This tendancy has been reflected in the results of the last Polish parliamentary election which were held in October 2011. Unexpectedly, a brand new left wing and anti-clerical Palikot's party came third with a 10 % support. The Palikot's party was the first to strongly highlight its anti-clerical programme with the proposals to legalise abortion on demand, same-sex civil unions, and soft drugs. This proves the growing need in Polish society of a profound change of the Roman Catholic Church's position.

*Polish society ready more than ever to reduce the impact of the Catholic Church on Polish politics

Until recently, Polish political parties have always tried to win the Roman Catholic Church's support, or at least tried not to make direct anti-Church statements in order not to lose a large catholic electorate. But today - with the exception of the nationalist-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party which uses the Catholic altar as a field of political campaign -, the currently governing centre-right Civic Platform (PO), together with left wing parties are no longer afraid to oppose the Church's position. It seems then that large part of Polish society, just like Polish feminists, wants to definitely limit the role of the Church in public area.


A Catholic Church supported by a catholic society

Maria Dziumak | 2013. January 14. 23:06

On the 11th of March, the feminist demonstration, Manifa was organized in the biggest Polish cities. The annual manifestation gathered thousands of participants in whole Poland, especially in Warsaw, Cracow and Gdansk. The main petition of the activists concerned the role of the Catholic Church in Poland.

Feminists versus Catholic Church. Many journalists are astonished by the fact that the feminists, instead of concentrating their manifestation agenda on more current issues, like the national subvention for kindergartesn, higher premiums for women at maternal leave and the increase of the allowance for the families, evoke the Catholic Church’s role as their main issue. Thus, even if the question of the Catholic Church and its role in the State seems to be a secondary one, especially for the feminists, it seems to be an interesting topic regarding the current moods of the Polish society.

*The formal split between the Church and the State

Astonishingly, the main problem evoked by the activists, namely the division of the State and the Catholic Church, which, according to some declarations, would allow in turn the further emancipation of women, is not a valid argument. The problem is that such a formal division exists under the form of the 25th article of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, which covers its conditions. Thus, the equality between the different Churches is assured as well as the autonomy and mutual independence of the State and the Churches. The petition of the feminists is not invalid itself, however it can be easily discredited by the formal issues which exist in the Polish law.

*Polish particularity: no chance for the State à la France

On the other hand, it is true that Poland is not a laic State à la France, and the Constitution has rather adopted the formal division with a limited influence of the Church on the public sphere. Thus, in Poland there exist many examples of the influence of the Church in the public life. One of them, the existence of religion classes at public schools, has been harshly criticized during the demonstrations as a one having a bad impact on children. In fact even if there are the religion classes at school throughout the whole period of education, it is anoptional course that can be chosen by parents according to their own preferences.

*The homogenous structure of the Polish society: the core of the Church’s influence

There is a social reason which explains such situation in the Polish public sphere. The vast majority of Polish people, namely 95% of the whole population declare themselves Catholics (according to the statistics from 2010). The very harmonious structure of the Polish society can legitimate the active participation of the Catholic Church in some fields of the public life like the educational curriculum. The impact of religion on the Polish social culture is known to be a very significant one and still seems to play an important role in the daily life of the majority of Polish people. Therefore, the split of the Church and the State is not supported by society itself, thus the feminist’ manifesto from 11th of March is not likely to gather the support of the greater number of Polish citizens.


This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

The state of votes


A will to reduce the Church's influence

Zuzanna Jablonska

A Catholic Church supported by a catholic society

Maria Dziumak


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