Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Faith and Fatherland. Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Faith and Fatherland. Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland

Article excerpt

Faith and Fatherland. Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland. By Brian Porter-Szücs. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2011. Pp. ix, 484. $55.00. ISBN 978-019-539905-9.)

Perhaps no other modern national identity is so intertwined with Catholicism as the Polish. During the dark years of statelessness (1795-1918) and of postWorld War II communism, one touchstone for Poles was their Catholic faith and heritage. At least, so runs the traditional story. Brian Porter-Szücs aims to complicate this easy equivalency, in particular the facile assumption that Polish nationalists were also fervent Catholic believers. In the end, however, this book does not so much reject the link between Catholicism and the Polish nation as provide a more profound, historically informed, and sophisticated understanding of this complicated relationship. For anyone interested in the history of Catholicism in EastCentral Europe or in Polish history, this fine volume is essential reading.

Rather than proceed chronologically, Porter-Szücs chose to structure his arguments topically. Starting with chapters on the fundamental theological issues of "The Church and Sin," he proceeds to the relations between the Church/faithful and the modern world in chapters on "Modernity," "The Person and Society," and "Politics." Specifically addressing the interplay between Polish national consciousness and national movements among Poles are chapters titled "The Nation Peniclasses. tent" and "Ecclesia Militons" (the latter being an oft-used self-description by PolishCatholic enthusiasts). The final three chapters probe into Polish-Catholic relations with Jews, relations between nation and faith, and finally the very specific role of the Virgin Mary in Polish Catholicism. …

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