Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland

By Brian Porter-Szűcs | Go to book overview

4
The Person and Society

In the 1905 Catechism there is a passage that some Catholics today would find awkward: “The Tenth Commandment instructs us to be satisfied with the state in which God has placed us, and to bear poverty patiently should God have placed us in that condition.”1 The dark tone of otherworldliness that I explored in chapter 2 was reflected in the teaching that the poor should quietly endure their lot, looking to heaven for an end to their suffering. Long after Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891), which outlined a distinctively Catholic critique of industrial capitalism, homilies in Poland (and elsewhere) continued to urge passivity and prayer in the face of poverty, avoiding the theme of social reform. But this situation would change with surprising rapidity, and by the midtwentieth century Polish Catholic politicians, social activists, and priests were almost unanimous in their hostility to the socioeconomic status quo. Terms like social injustice and exploitation became commonplace in Catholic rhetoric even before World War II, eventually congealing into a comprehensive social vision that challenged both the market economies of the West and the state planning of the Soviet Union. The intellectual foundation for what is sometimes called “social Catholicism” was in fact well established in Poland very early in the twentieth century, and no later than elsewhere in Europe. Just as Catholics found a way to talk about progress, they began to imagine ways of endowing the future with improved social and economic forms. Translating all this into a meaningful social movement was another matter, but even in this regard Catholicism equipped many Poles with a vocabulary of social criticism that helped them make sense of—and propose solutions for—a wide variety of grievances and injustices.

Whether discussing sharecropping peasants or sweatshop laborers, the nineteenth- century Polish clergy and the early Catholic press tended to place a much higher value on social stability than on social justice. Bishop Jan Paweł Woronicz, for example, chastised the peasants of the Warsaw diocese in 1828, “Do not look to others who have better plots of land, but remain willingly on the

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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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