Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland

By Brian Porter-Szűcs | Go to book overview

3
Modernity

Stefan Świeżawski, a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University in Kraków and a mentor to the young Karol Wojtyła, once complained to his former student (who was by then Pope John Paul II) that most of their coreligionists in Poland were characterized by a “nationalistic, narrow, and hyper-conservative Catholicism.”1 The professor’s accusation is familiar; the Catholic Church in general, and the Polish Catholic Church in particular, has long been described as a bastion of tradition fundamentally at odds with the modern world. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it often seemed that modernity and religion, particularly Catholicism, were necessarily hostile. The Church lost its worldly power with the destruction of the Papal States; growing state bureaucracies seized authority over marriage, education, and charity; the rapidly expanding industrial cities seemed to be nearly devoid of religious life; and the European intelligentsia was growing increasingly anticlerical (and sometimes anti-Christian). When Max Weber wrote about the “disenchantment of the world” in 1905, many thought that the secularization he predicted was well under way. Subsequent scholars have challenged this story (as I noted in the introduction), but whether real or imagined, European Catholics definitely perceived a crisis at the time. By the start of the twentieth century it was widely accepted that modernity was antiCatholic and that Catholicism was anti-modern.

This was just as true in Poland as it was farther to the west. The industrial economy was fully entrenched in major cities such as Warsaw and Łódź even before World War I, and the accompanying demographic detonation had a profound impact on the effectiveness of pastoral care. In 1860 there were 1,527 Catholics per priest in the Kingdom of Poland (the Russian partition), but a half-century later this figure had increased to 2,857. The statistics were similar in Poznania (increasing from 1,576 to 2,505) and even worse in Galicia (2,837 to 4,362).2 The relative decline in the size of the clergy relative to the booming population was a problem for countryside and city alike, but the issues were made acute in the new urban agglomerations because of the Church’s failure to

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Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Church 16
  • 2 - Sin 54
  • 3 - Modernity 81
  • 4 - The Person and Society 118
  • 5 - Politics 158
  • 6 - The Nation Penitent 208
  • 7 - Ecclesia Militans 232
  • 8 - The Jew 272
  • 9 - Polak-Katolik 328
  • 10 - Mary, Militant and Maternal 360
  • Conclusion 391
  • Notes 397
  • Bibliography 449
  • Index 471
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