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Young Poles abandoning ‘frozen’ Catholic Church – Health and Lifestyle News – Report by AFR

It is still one of Europe’s most Catholic countries but Poland is seeing a rapid secularisation — particularly among younger generations.

“The children on my courses barely know who Adam and Eve were,” said Dawid Gospodarek, a journalist from the Catholic press agency who teaches ethics and religious culture at a school in Warsaw.

According to the latest polls by the CBOS institute, 84 percent of Poles say they are Catholic and 42 percent say they are practising.

Among 18-24-year-olds, only 23 percent say they are practising — compared to 69 percent in 1992.

Theologian and anthropologist Stanislaw Obirek says the Church has lost relevance for young people because of a refusal to move with the times.

“The Polish Church played a crucial role in the liberation from the Communist regime in the 1980s,” said Obirek from the University of Warsaw.

“It retains a superior attitude and a frozen hierarchy that rejects modernisation,” he said.

“Poles who have grown up in an open society no longer recognise themselves in it.”

– ‘Spiritually empty’ –

Young people are increasingly turning away from an institution often perceived as being in crisis, damaged by revelations of sexual abuse and accusations of interlinkage with political authorities.

A symptom of this trend is mockery of the late pope John Paul II, an emblematic figure of Polish Catholicism whose statues dot the country.

The number 2137 — the exact time of his death in 2005 at the age of 84 — has become an ironic code on social media for making fun of the Polish pontiff.

For young people who do go to church, talking about faith is no longer seen as normal.

“It is impossible for me to talk about religion with my friends because they make fun of me,” said Weronika Grabowska, a 25-year-old economy student.

Grabowska remembers “spiritually empty” masses from her childhood with old-fashioned sermons.

“If a priest reproached me for living with my partners without being married, I would be sad. Then I would go look elsewhere,” she said.

Sexuality and reproductive rights are one of the points of tension between the Church and society.

“In the 1990s, homosexuality was seen as an invention of the decadent West,” said Robert Samborski, a former seminarian who lost his faith.

Like many, Samborski was sent to a seminary “like other young men not interested in women”.

“LGBTQ+ people have been more visible in recent years which makes the homophobic discourse of the Church unacceptable” said Samborski.

– Reform or tradition? –

While Samborski and others predict a collapse for the Polish Catholic Church, some believers hope for reform of the institution.

The Catholic organisation Congress advocates a more liberal approach to religion and contests the clerical hegemony in Poland.

Its members align themselves more with the more open approach of Pope Francis and progressive German Catholics, who have for example allowed blessings for homosexual couples in church.

“I would like to be adopted by the German Catholic Church,” said Uschi Pawlik, a bisexual Catholic who works in the foundation Faith and Rainbow.

She is “not very optimistic” about the future of Polish Catholicism and its capacity to reform itself.

Other groups of believers hold to more traditional views and see Poland as a last bastion for Catholicism.

Piotr Ulrich, a 22-year-old organist, attends the Latin mass practised in some Warsaw parishes.

In his circles, condemnation of sex before marriage, homosexuality, abortion and in vitro fertilisation are not subject to debate.

Ulrich said Poland has a “messianic role” for Christianity and says the Church’s power is “in the propagation of a clear message not the dilution of its identity”.

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