Academic journal article Sarmatian Review

The Transformation of Tygodnik Powszechny

Academic journal article Sarmatian Review

The Transformation of Tygodnik Powszechny

Article excerpt

When in March 1945 Krakow Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha lay the groundwork for a new periodical titled Tygodnik Powszechny (Universal Weekly), the war front had not yet reached the Oder River. The war was still going on, but it was already possible to speak in full voice of the catastrophe that Adolf Hitler's experiment had brought to Central Europe--and, between the lines, how catastrophic was the ongoing experiment of Josef Stalin. The word "catastrophe" seems to accurately reflect the state of mind of the thinking people at that time: only those who did little thinking could have assumed that one could shake off dirt and dust and go on as if nothing unusual had happened. After Katyn, Auschwitz, and the razing of Warsaw the old world was thoroughly in ruin not only physically but also, and primarily, spiritually.

Tygodnik Powszechny's founding fathers were aware of this situation. They realized that the new Poland could not be a copy of the country that existed before September 1939--not only because the Soviet-supported communists were in power but also because the world needed a new and stronger foundation, one that would not crumble before adversity as the old one had done. The founding fathers believed that Catholicism was the proper foundation for this new Poland. In the first issue Rev. Jan Piwowarczyk wrote: "Our attitude toward what is happening can be expressed in two statements. First, the world, and Poland in it, not only have to be rebuilt, but also restructured. And second, the Catholic Church has to play a particularly important role in this restructuring... Our task consists in... creating a new type of culture that would accommodate such Western values as the primacy of spirit over the material world, liberation of the human person from the tyranny of conditions into which he/she was born, ethical meaning of life.... The archives of history will absorb what already happened and belongs to the past. The new epoch will reabsorb the values that are permanent; among them, Catholicism."

While Tygodnik's editor Jerzy Turowicz differed considerably from Father Piwowarczyk, he too subscribed to the program described above. He wrote: "As we scrutinize the roots of the contemporary European crisis, we discover that its deepest and most substantial cause was the abandonment of Christianity.... This abandonment also meant the abandonment of truth, and it was bound to lead to European disintegration and disunity. In the last decades before the war there were attempts to prevent the catastrophe by placing at the center of Europe's spiritual identity new and secular truths. But Truth cannot be replaced. It can grow and develop and its understanding can deepen, but it cannot be made subject to social engineering. New truths usually have little to do with Truth. The ruins of Europe now testify to the fact that the attempts to engineer new truths failed miserably." Both Turowicz and Piwowarczyk agreed that theirs was a Catholic vision of the world, man, nation, and history; and that without such vision the task that they had undertaken would be pointless. This is why Tygodnik's subtitle, prominently displayed in the first and subsequent issues read "A Catholic social and cultural periodical."

Until the first major confrontation with the communist authorities in 1948/49, the publication profile was mainly influenced by the Rev. Piwowarczyk and his close collaborator Jozef Maria Swiecicki. In early 1947 Swiecicki wrote that "the Church is the trustee of Truth... and it cannot agree to place Error on the same level as Truth. Thus the tolerance that the Church advocates and supports is different from the tolerance advanced by secularists. The Church has in mind the tolerance of persons and does not condone violating someone's conscience but at the same time, it does not condone unlimited freedom of utterance and speculation, or propaganda of destructive doctrines that poison human conscience. Its task is to defend its members from infiltration of evil; it therefore hopes and expects that the state will approve the Church's work in defending the souls of citizens from ignominous ideas. …

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