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Konstanty Pilawa  16 marca 2021

The new Christian Democrats and the crisis of the Church in Poland

Konstanty Pilawa  16 marca 2021
przeczytanie zajmie 10 min
The new Christian Democrats and the crisis of the Church in Poland autorka ilustracji: Magdalena Karpińska

The crisis will deepen as long as within the Church itself we reproduce the tribal divisions that rule Polish politics. Lay Catholics, instead of bludgeoning each other with political truncheons, should take responsibility for the Church and thus supplement the often controversial voice of the hierarchy. The political theology of Saint Paul will be a guide for us on the way to start this process.

What is this about Christianity?

The new Christian Democrats is not an idea for a political party, but a project to improve the quality of the Catholic public debate in Poland. We must build a common space for a regular, serious and mature discussion between different, often radically divided Catholic circles.

When we think of the Church, we most often have before our eyes a purple branch of the bishops of the Polish Episcopal Conference or our own parish priest instead of a secular society desiring a real impact of the Gospel in public life. Even Catholics who write about the crisis of the Polish Church most often have in mind hierarchs who have to solve their own problems. That is why we reach for the now somewhat dusty Christian tradition.

Paradoxically, very many circles are able to agree on this story. Conservative Catholics may invoke the ideals of the pre-war Christian Democrats represented in Poland by, for example, Wojciech Korfanty; progressives, on the other hand, will choose the political triumvirate of Konrad Adenauer, Alcide Gasperi and Robert Schuman – the creators of the post-war European order and ideological patrons of the European Union.

The Christian Democratic identity combines Catholicism with the imperative to engage in political life. It is, source against the degenerate form of contemporary Western Christianity, an option for Catholics fighting for their interests in the public space. It is ultimately a worldview based on solidarity, combining criticism of capitalism and extreme varieties of socialism, while at the same time respecting the ideal of private property and sensitive to the so-called workers’ (today we would say precarious) question.

Above all, however, the Christian tradition should be the glue that binds Catholics who are concerned about the common good, since faith in Christ and the universal Church, as well as agreement on the duty to become involved in public life, are sufficient conditions for believing in the meaningfulness of a conclusive dialogue. These conditions constitute a universalistic matrix, the lack of which is felt in Poland today. Our aim is to create a strong voice of lay Catholics who are particularly concerned about the socio-political dimension of Christianity.

As I thought about the new Christian Democrats, two images kept coming back to me in an intrusive way. One was Saint Paul teaching in Athens by Raphael Santi from 1515, the motif of which we used on the cover, and the other was one of Józef Wilkoń’s illustrations for Cervantes’ Don Quixote, in which the errant knight and his squire face a bunch of imaginary monsters.

The Renaissance painter depicts a special moment of contact between the main founder of the Church institution and the world of ancient Greece. The scene in the Areopagus, which comes from the Acts of the Apostles, has for centuries been a symbol of dialogue with otherness, Christian courage and the power of reason. So why the association with Don Quixote?

I believe that the Catholic feels the same way today in the public space, in the modern Areopagus. Instead of converting, he fights often imaginary enemies, and instead of shaking off his sandals, when it is no longer possible to preach the kerygma, he sits next to the pagans, gradually taking over their way of looking at reality. Playing someone he is not, he thinks this is the only way out of the situation. In order to convince people of our views, we either create convenient charades or we disguise ourselves as the Other. Both strategies, of course, are not only ineffective, but also bring new enemies and scoffers to the Church.

These associations provoked me to rethink the ideas represented by Saul of Tarsus, his strategy of dialogue with otherness, as well as to look at this figure from a biographical perspective. In all these aspects, I find valuable inspiration for describing the reality in which we, as Catholics speaking in the public space, have been functioning for some time now.

We are in the same place as the Left was 13 years ago

Hegel, Comte, Nietzsche, Heidegger or, more recently, Jean-François Lyotard, Slavoj Žižek or Alan Badiou reinterpret, criticise and at times are inspired by the views of the Apostle to the Nations. Of course, Paul is not a key or at least slightly positive reference for all of them, but the very fact of his presence in the writings of the most famous thinkers of the last centuries deserves attention and comment.

It is worth taking a look at the views of Alain Badiou. This now 83-year-old leftist intellectual has declared war on postmodernism. The overriding aim of his philosophy is to reinterpret key concepts for Western civilisation, such as truth or subjectivity, in such a way as not to repeat the mistakes of modernity or get bogged down in, in his opinion, destructive postmodernism. In 1997 he published a book entitled Saint Paul. Establishing Universalism, which 10 years later saw its Polish version published by Krytyka Polityczna.

The introduction written by Kinga Dunin draws the Catholic reader’s attention: „The contemporary left is in a similar position [to St. Paul]. It must speak out in a world dominated by two obviousities: the logic of the market, which permeates our language and ways of thinking, and the cliche of liberal democracy, which create the illusion that there is room for all people and all views’ (Badiou 2007: 6).

In 2007. When, in anticipation of the economic crisis, the system of liberal democracy was still boasting (even before its collapse), the Polish left, through the voice of Dunin, wanted to create a new language and a new universality. Functioning at that time on the margins of public life in Poland, she was unable to speak convincingly about her demands. She bounced off the sensitivities of both the myth of Donald Tusk’s Green Island and the right-wing-insurrectionist imaginaries of Law and Justice. Its demands were not heard, and in the near future it was to turn out that left-wing sensibility would be ridiculed by such political celebrities as Janusz Palikot or Jan Hartman.

In a sense, Kinga Dunin’s words can describe the situation of Catholics in the year 2020. We have lost the ability to conduct dialogue with others, we feel that the alleged universalism of the public debate in Poland is illusory and no longer applies to us. We do not have adequate language to refer to papal encyclicals, and if we do, we expose ourselves to the opinion of God’s madmen and we notice with surprise that our non-Catholic interlocutors are embarrassed. By citing Scripture in the liberal media and calling homosexual acts evil, for example, we condemn ourselves to ostracism.

But let us return to Badiou. How does a philosopher who declares his sympathies with the Maoist left draw on the legacy of the Apostle of the Nations? Badiou states that „Paul’s unprecedented gesture consists in snatching the truth from the oppression of the community: be it a people, a city, an Empire, a territory or a social class. What is true (or right, for that matter) cannot be reduced to some objective collectivity. […] The abandonment of the fairy tale leaves the empty form of these very conditions, but above all it ends in the catastrophe of attributing the discourse of truth to some pre-set historical collectivity” (Badiou 2007: 18).

Leaving aside the fact that a Christian cannot fully embrace such an interpretation, it must be said that paying attention to the universalist moment we face in the teaching of Shawn of Tarsus is important. Culture, depriving itself of this universalism, must be aware of a fundamental lack. It must fill this abyss with something or try to forget its existence.

Therefore, just as for Kinga Dunin in 2007, so for a Catholic in 2020, Paul’s words from the Letter to the Galatians offer solace, remind us of the core of our faith and the urgent need of our time. For we read: „There is no longer Jew or Gentile, there is no longer slave or free man, there is no longer male or female!” (Galatians 3:28). This does not mean, of course, that Christianity abolishes the importance of national, class or gender identifications. The primary source of our subjectivity, the truth about ourselves and the world, and the universal platform for our understanding is faith in Christ, who has risen from the dead.

Badiou’s diagnosis of modernity is also surprisingly conservative: „The extreme forms of this relativism that are already at work seek even to put mathematics in a drawer marked 'Western’ and thus to equate the mathematical apparatus with any other, obscurantist or absurd” (Badiou 2007: 19). And further we read: „It is a culture that addresses itself only to itself and does not even potentially submit to universalization […] Hence disastrous sentences like: „’only a homosexual can understand what it means to be homosexual’, only an Arab can understand what it means to be an Arab'” (ibidem: 23).

Written at the end of the 20th century, these words may have been criticised for being too hasty. Almost a quarter of a century later, they seem obvious. The entire West, not just Poland, is suffering from the gradual disappearance of the remnants of universalism. The opinion that post-truth governs today’s politics is becoming a truism. This is neither the time nor the place to dwell on the condition of Western public debate, but let us give at least one example to illustrate this process.

The overriding dogma of modern democracy was freedom of speech. All views, even those that are demonstrably false, should be allowed to be debated – so goes this anachronistic law. John Stuart Mill, one of the fathers of liberalism, believed that the existence of public falsehood gave honest defenders of the truth a pretext and new arguments to defend their views. The truth will defend itself and only the truth is ultimately interesting. Now let us leave the 19th century for a moment and return to our own century.

We function in a world in which freedom of expression has become an instrumental value. Identity politics and emotion politics are increasingly reluctant to pursue a truth whose existence they no longer believe in. The one who is recognised as a victim is right. In culture, e.g. in films for major awards, it is no longer authenticity and the most adequate representation of reality that count, but minority parity. A story is true only if it can be presented in a dramatic triangle – victim, saviour and perpetrator. The politics of truth has thus been replaced by the politics of victimisation, and liberal democracy in the classical sense by the democracy of screaming.

Unfortunately, we can see that these tendencies have also penetrated the Polish Church. Different Catholic circles in Poland, and even the bishops themselves, perceive reality in a completely different way and, consequently, try to conduct dialogue with this reality in a completely different way. It is hard to believe that editorial staffs that identify with Catholicism and at the same time sympathize with LGBTQ+ people, as well as those that carry rainbow flags on demonstrations, belong to the same Church as the bishop who compares LGBTQ+ to the Bolshevik plague.

Where is universalism when both sides in this dispute have the teaching of the Church and the Gospel on their lips? Post-truth, even more than paedophile scandals, is killing Polish Catholicism. I have the impression that each side would love to anathematise the other. The question arises, however, in the name of which Church. Considering the disappearing universalism, is it justified to speak about one Catholic Church in Poland?

Is everything already lost?

It can probably be argued that this perspective ignores the real strength of the Polish Church as an institution. We still have relatively conservative laws in our country, the alliance between the current government and some of the hierarchy provides a lot of good for both sides, and compared to the West our society is still not radically secularised. Of course, this cannot be denied. However, at the level not of the real, but of the symbolic, we have already given ground to the marriage of the left and the liberals.

We lost at the level of culture and the language of public debate. Social change rarely starts with a political decree, but is rather the result of slow symbolic evolution. Popular culture and the communicative framework of democratic debate educate much more effectively than the legal system. On the other hand, a real consequence of the symbolic hegemony of the non-Christian option is the radical rate of secularisation among the representatives of the young generation.

Here, I must agree with Marcin Kędzierski and Tomasz Terlikowski, who, on behalf of JPII’s disappointed generation, expressed their fears in well-known texts published on our portal. Both essays, while accurately diagnosing the „end of the Catholic imaginary” in Poland, stop halfway. For they do not answer the question how, taking into account all these unfavourable circumstances, to talk to people with sometimes radically different views. They do not even answer hypothetically, considering that such considerations are unproductive today, because they cannot materialise. The same John Paul II, whose teachings they feel to be heirs, tried to convey to us a radically different sensibility.

John Paul II at the Areopagus, the strategy of subversion and the techne of the new Christianity

In May we celebrated the centenary of Karol Wojtyła’s birth. In 'Pressja’ we have repeatedly raised the problem of the untreated heritage of John Paul II. One of the Pope’s important works, almost ignored in the public debate, is the Sermon on the Areopagus.13 catechesis. Found and published by Wydawnictwo Literackie in 2018, the text was probably written between 1965 and 1966 and is imbued with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

In the post-conciliar Constitution – Gaudium et Spes – we read: „[…] the Church, sent to all peoples of all times and places, is not bound in an exclusive and inseparable way to any race or nation, to any particular set of customs, to any ancient or new custom. Faithful to its own tradition and at the same time aware of its universal mission, it is capable of establishing communion with different forms of culture, thus enriching both the Church herself and the various cultures” (CIC 2, 58). At first glance, this opinion seems paradoxical. How can one perpetuate and strengthen one’s tradition when at the same time one attaches so much importance to transcultural evangelisation?

The Council was not short-sighted and saw the dangers behind such a view. It called an antinomy the clash of one’s own tradition with the obligation to talk to the non-Christian world. It is the consequences of this fundamental incompatibility that are the source of the disappearance of the common communication platform within the Polish Church, because each party attached more importance either to a specifically understood tradition or to a specifically understood imperative of conversation with otherness. It is also not surprising that it was the symbol of Paul in the Areopagus that inspired Cardinal Wojtyla to reflect on the controversial subject of inculturation.

Paul began his speech to the Athenian philosophers by mentioning the statue of the „unknown God”: „I preach to you what you worship without knowing” (Acts 17:23). This rhetorical device tries to emphasise that turning to Christ can be done from within a foreign culture. It is only necessary to find in its symbols an element that can be used to proclaim the kerygma. The polytheism of the Athenians assumed exorbitant proportions in Paul’s time. The number of deities responsible for the care of various areas of reality was distressing to Shaw. However, with the statue erected by the pragmatic Greeks in honour of the yet unknown God, a starting point for evangelism could be found.

Let us note that Paul has made here an analogous move to that made by Alan Badiou. It is a strategy of subversion popular today on the left, for example in the writings of Judith Butler, understood as „quoting language against its original version”. However, the goal of Butler, Badiou and critical art is different from that of Wojtyla and St. Paul. The Pope and the Apostle to the Nations do not use subversion to initiate an ideological war. They do not play on the noses of either the ancient Greeks or the modern atheists. They do not wish to emancipate their own group identity from the bonds of pagan culture. Their weapon is the commandment of love, and their aim is evangelisation. One might ask Wojtyla why he bothered to find crumbs of truth in alienation. In the end, we end up alienating both Christians and those we were supposed to evangelise.

Saint Paul in Wojtyla’s interpretation seeks to neutralise this objection. Calling Paul a pioneer of inculturation, he states: „Admirable is the Apostle’s method of teaching, his ability to root the Gospel kerygma in the culture of the environment” (Wojtyla 2018: 32). Paul being a child of both Jewish, Greek and Roman culture simply has no other option. We too are in a similar situation today. Paul’s strategy is the techne of the new Christianity. And this is not due to our choice, but to an apt realisation of the situation we find ourselves in.

As Christians we believe that God „is not far from each of us. For in him we live and move and are”. (Acts 17:27-28). Everything that exists exists by the will of God. And if so, we cannot see in contemporary culture absolute evil (the bloodthirsty ideology of gender!) fighting with absolute good (we – holy Polish Catholics). Already in the first centuries of Christianity, St Augustine fought against Manichaeism, and although modernity gives us many pretexts for immersing ourselves in this form of spirituality, we must not give in to it.

The other side of the same coin is the temptation of Donatism. Donatus, Bishop of Carthage, rejected dialogue with the world in the name of the Church of the Saints. The Donatists accepted only people without blemish, had no mercy on sinners, and felt themselves to be the aristocracy of humanity, whose duty it is to ruin the corrupted world. Creating from the universal Church a Carmelite order closed to everything that comes from this world is the opposite strategy to that proposed by Wojtyla interpreting St. Paul’s evangelistic activity.

We are immersed in this world and only know it. Our language, habits and customs come largely from this very consumerist and globalist culture. Of course we can, like rebellious teenagers, build our Christianity in radical opposition to what surrounds us. However, this is a short-sighted strategy, doomed to constant frustration and, most importantly, forming people who lack the ability to proclaim the word of God.

Therefore, subversion, which I attribute to both Paul and Wojtyla, should also be our strategy. To speak to the world, to enter into dialogue with it at all, we must take on the language of non-Christians and shift its meanings. Dialogue is a rhetorical play of meanings. The effectiveness of this strategy, on the other hand, depends on the ability to know what is non-Christian. The evangelising fruits of St Paul, one of the founders of the Church, are the best proof of the necessity of preaching the Word through subversion.

Heretic alert and readiness to be rejected

It is easy to say: speak to the world in its language, but it is even easier to keep silent about the dangers of such thinking. We can present the first controversy by quoting the words of St. Augustine: „Our heart is restless until it rests in you [God]”. (Augustine 2009: 27). At the very beginning of the Confessions, Augustine seems to suggest that it is inherent in the nature of every human being to long for God. Everyone, even the most militant atheist (and perhaps especially he), is a religious person by nature, longing for an encounter with Christ.

Everyone, as Wojtyla writes, has a mind that is in readiness to hear the inner speech of God (Wojtyla 2018: 35). And that is why a Christian reading Alan Badiou will smile under his breath when he repeats every four sentences of his argument devoted to St Paul that it is only a philosophical interpretation and religious contexts are irrelevant, because the resurrection is a fairy tale. This compulsive almost scepticism about the truth of Revelation has something of a religious ritual about it. It is as if something incredibly irritated this poor French Maoist, stirred up his spirit, sowed his doubts.

It is precisely this kind of reasoning, although fully legitimate on the basis of our presuppositions, that can prove harmful in practice. There is a temptation to see in every human reaction the work of the Holy Spirit, as if by force. And for the sake of our own comfort, we will pay attention only to these post-Christian convulsions, forgetting that in the vast majority of matters, the man we are talking to presents views considered heretical by our Church.

This threat is followed by another. Reading many texts of circles identifying themselves with Catholicism, and which are often referred to quite contemptuously as representatives of open Catholicism, one can get the impression that the story of Paul on the Areopagus has stopped at the point where the Apostle of the Nations is listened to attentively by intellectual representatives of the pagan world. This, however, is not the end of the story. When Paul begins to preach the resurrection, he becomes the object of mockery, derision and anger. What happens next? „So Paul left them. Some, however, joined him and believed. Among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and with them others.” (Acts 17:33-34). At the very end of his sermon, St Paul speaks of a truth that cannot be accepted by the Stoics and Epicureans then present in the Areopagus. St Paul manifests the difference by making it clear that „it is we who are like this, follow us, but give up yourselves. There is no other way”.

The Resurrection shatters both these philosophies from within. The already strongly eclectic and intellectually degenerate schools of the time were able to accept much of what Christian said. The Epicureans and Stoics of the time could even accede to monotheism, understanding the one God as part of an overarching principle governing all reality. However, rising from the dead for philosophical schools based on materialism was unacceptable. Recognition of this truth, signifying in Christianity the reign of Love, was a borderline decision – either your culture or a new prophecy.

St. Paul, if we are to believe St. Luke (according to tradition, the author of the Acts of the Apostles), did not rouse the crowds; he only made a few people believe in him and follow him. And just as in 1965 in the wave of post-conciliar preaching, 55 years later the aim is not to reclaim the culture and convert the masses, but to dare to preach to the masses in the knowledge of how it will end – that we will be met with mockery, derision and anger by the majority of our audience.

The attraction of political gain should not be our motivation, for it is not about gain. Preaching the kerygma in the culture of a given environment is our duty as Catholics, and especially for those members of the Church who have been given the right to speak on her behalf. Today, however, it is difficult to believe that the voice of Catholics can be taken seriously outside, when the Church itself is radically divided. The conservative Episcopate is criticised by the more progressive Catholics, who in turn are shunned by the right-wing secular circles, for whom even one word of criticism against the Church means raising a white flag.

Each of these parties actually speaks to itself because it is easier to imagine a conversation between a moderate Catholic and a militant leftist than a joint discussion between a representative of the Episcopate and, for example, editors of 'Tygodnik Powszechny’ and the weekly 'Do Rzeczy’. It is naive to believe in unanimity. It is not really about it. But I would expect from the Church with the commandment of love on its lips that its members would be able to sit down at one table to debate about issues important to them.

Isn’t the current crisis of the Church, about which no one seems to have any doubts anymore, a sufficient pretext to inaugurate this kind of conversation? Before we can write something like a new version of the Church, of the Left, of Michnik’s dialogue to civilise the debate with contemporary Stoics and Epicureans, we must first propose a conciliatory story within the Catholic imaginarium.

Paul’s hammer against defeatists and historical determinism

The defeatism of many Catholics in Poland comes from nothing. Three great and unhealed wounds disfigure the Polish Church. The death of John Paul II in 2005 is a symbol of the first of them. In an interview published in this issue, Rod Dreher quotes the opinion of 'a respected priest’ who said that Polish bishops still think in terms of the insurrectionary Solidarity, when the whole nation yearning for freedom listened to the voice of the Church and the authority of John Paul II. In the 30 years since the fall of communism, Polish society has changed radically, while the Church believed in the continuing enthusiasm of a nation pinning its hopes on the mythology of the Polish Pope. His death 15 years ago was at the same time the symbolic end of the Church’s hegemonic position in Polish symbolic space.

The second wound was caused by Smoleńsk. The tragic death of the elite headed by the presidential couple, apart from the national solidarity immediately after the event, unleashed the destructive forces dormant in the whole society. From that moment, Catholicism began to be associated with the radical in its martyrdom part of the right wing, a symbol of which became the fight for the cross in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw and the mourning monthly commemorations organised in the spirit of political and religious emotions. In the collective imagination, the Church was unwittingly drawn into a symbolic war not only between the two main political parties, but also into a Manichean conflict of two identities: Poland A and B, liberal Poland and solidarity Poland, modern Poland and traditional Poland. These identities, parasitic on great historical symbols, have for at least 10 years been like festering ulcers on the body of the Church and the family, the two institutions ensuring the continuity of Polish Catholicism. In such a reality the universalism of the Gospel reverberates from the indifferent ears of the society busy with its ideological wars.

The third wound is the scale of paedophilia and other sexual abuse in the Church revealed by the Sekielski brothers. Loud: „I accuse! „’ aimed at the hierarchs by journalists, the scale of the panic and confusion caused by these films and the impression that it was only after the material was published on YouTube that anything began to be done in the Church about this shameful sin, causing public disgust and a radical loss of trust in this institution. And although many hierarchs loudly say that the sin of paedophilia must be burnt with a hot iron, almost every day we can hear about the next shocking facts.

These three problems do not exhaust the list, but they are enough to realise the position in which we find ourselves. How can we hope for change if the structural flaws of the Polish Church are juxtaposed with statistics showing that the young generation in Poland is secularising at an extremely rapid rate (see this year’s Pew Research Center report)?

And here again St Paul comes to our aid. Reading the monumental biography of Saul of Tarsus written by Father Eugene Dabrowski, one can probably come to only one conclusion – St. Paul was a radical and fundamentalist in both political and theological fields. Raised as an Orthodox Jew, a patriot and expert in law, a Roman citizen and an ardent supporter of national Jewish messianism, a member of one of the most prominent families in Tarsus, a city immersed in Hellenistic culture, a persecutor and murderer of Christians, he suddenly, as a result of the Enlightenment, becomes a preacher of a new faith. For him, this means the end of a dynamic career, expulsion from civilised society, and finally incurring the wrath of the Sanhedrin and the entire nation. The persecutor becomes the persecuted.

The Christians, then a doctrinally eclectic group of a few dozen people, do not trust him at first, his contacts with Peter and the apostles are limited. He is a loner without a clear political and cultural identity (Dabrowski 2013: 97-116). Rejected by the Jews, sceptical of the Greeks and Romans for several decades of his missionary journeys, he baptises thousands of people, establishes the foundations of theology, converts many nations, and eagerly uses inculturation. Eventually, thanks to his letters, he enters the canon of Scripture, is recognised as a saint and, after Peter, as the most important founder of the Church, an institution which, after two thousand years, is formed by more than a billion people in the world.

From this perspective, the pessimists’ claims that the Polish Church and its influence on the socio-political reality will only get worse sound really funny. Did Paul, who murdered the deviants from the true faith, know that he would become one of the most prominent followers of Christ in history? That he would found the most powerful religious institution in the history of the world? That after two thousand years he would still be a constant reference point for Christian and non-Christian philosophers alike? Leaving aside these great symbols, for me Paul is above all proof of the lie of determinism. Catholics must remember that their faith was born in opposition to such a view of the world.

Take responsibility for the Episcopal message

Bishops and priests are not the only group of people with access to knowledge today, so limiting the possibility of influencing the co-creation of messages addressed to the faithful only to the clergy is a mistake. Lay Catholic intellectuals should have a real influence on the quality of discussions within the Church itself. The weakening authority of this institution requires changes on the communication level. The clergy may feel lonely today. The parish priest of a local parish, who is innocent of guilt, is responsible to his faithful for media reports concerning the sins of a bishop. Can he not feel cornered by the reality that his church is emptying, all he hears from all sides is vulgar heckling or haughty criticism, and the functioning of his entire parish relies on the fragile strength of a few elderly women?

The hierarchy should even demand help from lay Catholics today. Is it really the reason why we have such institutions as the Catholic University of Lublin, the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University or the John Paul II University in Krakow that lay graduates of theology and bioethics write only scientific articles that are not read by anyone? Is this why we have many Catholic circles publishing their media, so that they stop at criticising the Church or crusading against the corruption of the contemporary world? Probably we can find mistakes and negligence on all sides – the clergy, Catholic science, Catholic media.

It is pointless to decide who was more at fault. From the perspective of a lay Catholic it is the media and scientific circles that are most to be blamed. Not because the mistakes are bigger but because, in Catholic terms, one should start with oneself. Is anyone really surprised by the lack of trust of the clergy towards laymen if the Catholics who participate in the public debate are so radically divided and freely impose on their co-religionists ideological calques taken from party messages? We will not rebuild this trust without a lack of dialogue – the laity with the clergy, the Catholic right with the Catholic left, the hierarchy with the people.


Saint Paul’s political theology consists of three elements: metaphysical, ethical and existential. The first is the foundation, that is, faith in the risen Christ providing a universal plane of understanding. A plane which does not neutralise differences, but gives hope for the conclusiveness of dialogue. The ethical element is a strategy for talking to otherness, which today can be applied to non-Christians as well as to divided co-religionists. As Karol Wojtyla stated, it is the ability to root the Gospel in the conditions of a given environment. The third element, on the other hand, means the falsification of determinism, appreciation of the value of suffering, as well as of the burden of sin in our lives, which, through repentance and the need to make amends, can become a motivation to do good.

A reworking of Saint Paul’s political theology is necessary today. Without it a new Christianity, understood as a strong voice of lay Catholics who are particularly concerned about the socio-political dimension of Christianity, will not be possible. And without a new Christianity the dialogue on the modern Areopagus has no right to succeed. No one in the market of ideas and political interests will respect, let alone listen to, the radically divided environment, which at this moment does not know what it is and what its role in dynamically changing Poland should be.

Polish version is available here.