Wednesday, November 30, 2011

(49) 1 - The Church in Poland IV: Inroads of Secularism

        Being in Catholic Poland, I thought I could say a quick prayer at the beginning of every class without worrying that some administrator will tell me that I am supposedly violating the Constitution.  But there is always that one person who complains and to the shock of some of my students I had to stop, but the President and the Dean do allow me to pass out a handout of common prayers in English only to those interested and say a general prayer at the beginning of the course only if nobody objects.  Just as saying prayers and the rosary in Polish helps me to learn the language, I believe that the handouts would help their English.  I won my fight for a general prayer, only at the beginning of the course and acceptable to any faith at Rio Grande, when the University lawyer conceded that a voluntary silent prayer would be acceptable.
        So the great cultural-spiritual war with secularism rages here also.  There is some anti-clericalism because of the few priests who abuse their position.  The Polish Constitution already prohibits abortion except where the health of the Mother is in danger, but that's a huge loophole if one can find a liberal doctor to certify that.  One woman was turned down for an abortion, but won her appeal with the “European Court of Human Rights” in Strasbourg which ruled that “Poland had violated the “Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”.
There was a March for Life in Warsaw over an amendment to the Polish Constitution that would tighten the abortion law and guarantee the legal protection of life from conception to natural death.  The measure did not obtain the required 2/3 majority, but I’m sure they will try again.  In any event, Poland is one of the most advanced countries in the world regarding the legal protection of human life at all stages.  If that amendment to the Constitution ever passes, I can see a confrontation with theEuropean Union which could conceivably cause Poland to secede.  The President of Poland clearly said that Poland would not allow the European to infringe on its cultural values.
        The proposed European Union Constitution guarantees the so called right to choose and same sex marriage.  I'm disappointed that all of the countries, including the Polish Parliament, approved it, but the Irish people saved the day by vetoing it in a referendum.  The Polish President decided to wait for the Irish result before making his decision on signing.  Being the only person able to kill it would have placed a tremendous amount of pressure on him.  Now the Polish President stated that the Constitution is least for now.
        It was even proposed in the previous more conservative Polish Parliament that the Government officially but symbolically declare that Christ is "King of Poland" as Mary traditionally is considered to be the "Queen of Poland".  It seems most of the clergy oppose it because that is not within the jurisdiction of Government even though Congress represents the people.  It would have been a great profession of faith and message to secular Europe and the world.  Both symbols are analogous to the "one nation under God" wording in the "Pledge of Allegiance" which the Knights of Columbus promoted and the U.S. Congress approved in 1954.
         Christianity is dying in Western Europe as secularism dominates.  Britain has been called a "Post Christian Society".  Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands are especially secular and materialistic.  I understand that many of the elderly are afraid to go to the hospital in Holland because of the fear of euthanasia without the patient's consent.  The member states have refused to write into the Constitution of the European Union any recognition of their Christian heritage.
        Secularism at its worst is atheistic and does not believe in the Bible, but only reason and empiricism (what can be shown by observation).  It’s materialistic and promotes complete eliminationof God from the public square..… even rejecting any prayer, reference to God, or religious practice in the public arena.  It denies the relevance of God in regard to individual morality and the morality of laws and policies.  Abortion, the homosexual life style, euthanasia, divorce, homosexual marriage or no marriage at all, etc. become a personal choice.  It usually allows religious freedom, but it must be kept within the confines of the church and the home, while forbidden in the public schools, government, and public places.
        Because of birth control and abortion, the reproduction rate is well below the replacement rate of two per adult female.  In Poland it is 1.2 per adult woman.  Thus there has been a shortage of young people to support the aging populations, especially in the more menial jobs.  Thus guest workers have been allowed to immigrate, many of whom are Muslim.  Shocking is a forecast that Western Europe will be 50% Muslim by 2050.  In the worst scenario, Islam could eventually dominate Europe, something that militant Islam could not do in its many conquests in the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries.  Already, the minarets of mosques are starting to break the skylines of major European cities.  Of course, as citizens they deserve the same rights as any other group.
        One of the top goals of Pope Benedict's papacy is the rechristanization of Europe.  I tell people and my students that they should not imitate secular America and Europe.  On the contrary, Poland andits people are called to be the leaders for the rechristianization of secular Europe.  I heard recently from a couple of people that Pope John Paul preached that same vision and for that reason was in favor of Poland joining the European Union. His thinking was that Poland could do more for Europe from within the European Union than from without.  This process may already be starting.  There's an article in the Sunday Visitor of April 1, 2007 ( on extensive Polish immigration into Britain as a force for reinvigorating the Catholic Church there.
        Over its long 1044 year history, Poland has overcome the invasion of the Tartars, occupations by the German Teutonic knights, the Swedes, the Turks and militant Islam, three foreign powers under the Partition for 125 years, Nazism, and Communism, but perhaps the most formidable enemy of all is materialistic Secularism because it is like a cancer that eats at the soul of a nation, weakens it, and eventually destroys true freedom.  The Church would probably be taxed; its charitable works would be restricted; and religion would have no expression outside the confines of the home or parish church.  In a secular culture, religion becomes irrelevant to many and they drift in unbelief.   Because of that threat, Pope John Paul II visited Poland no less than seven times and Pope Benedict XVI made his first pilgrimage abroad to Poland.
        The question for the future is:  Will Poland remain faithful?  According to Jaga’s spiritual director, Polish history has had some of the same cycles of faithfulness and prosperity followed by unfaithfulness and ruin so frequent in the Old Testament.  I think that God usually does not punish a people; He simply leaves them on their own and the moral laxity causes the country to decay from within and become weak, easy prey for expansionist neighbors. Poland like Israel has had many struggles over the centuries and ultimately prevailed because God continued to be with it, but the greatest threat of all is Secularism. Will it prevail again?

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