The Seeds of Triumph: Church and State in Gomulka's Poland

By Mlynarz, Michal | Canadian Slavonic Papers, September-December 2008 | Go to article overview

The Seeds of Triumph: Church and State in Gomulka's Poland


Mlynarz, Michal, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Hanna Diskin. The Seeds of Triumph: Church and State in Gomulka's Poland. Budapest and New York: Central European University Press, 2001 . 3 1 7 pp. Bibliography. Interviews (1977-1997). Index. Cloth.

In The Seeds of Triumph, Hanna Diskin has conducted an impressive amount of research into the turbulent, dynamic, and inter-personal relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Communist government in the People's Republic of Poland, tracing this conflict from its origins in the immediate post-War period to the beginning of the twentyfirst century. Although she discusses both the Stalinist repressions under Bolestaw Bierut and the transformative changes of the 1980s and 1990s, she focuses much of her attention on the two periods of rule under Wladyslaw Gomutka (1945-1948 and 1956-1970).

Diskin utilizes what she terms a "scientific," "policy environment" approach. She examines both internal political, economic and cultural factors, including the attitudes and actions of ruling elites, leaders and policy makers, balances of power, "environmental influences" (including popular politics, interactions with the Vatican, the USSR, and the West), and "external factors," such as the impact of international developments. Diskin draws upon an impressive array of sources, including émigré journals and archives, pastoral letters, radio broadcasts, surveys, press reports, speeches, and interviews. She examines the progression of the interplay between the different "systems" of compromise, demand, regression, reward, and concession, which were largely based upon a sense of pragmatism, compromise, and co-existence. Despite the irreconcilable ideological differences between them, both church and state shared the goal of a strong, revitalized Poland, maintaining an uneasy relationship in attempting to achieve it.

The state rarely attempted a physical destruction of the church, instead targeting it psychologically. This included the "implantation" of government-trained priests into the hierarchy, attempts to isolate it from the Vatican, the banning of charities, and numerous propaganda, slander, and censorship campaigns against particular priests and their supporters. Attempts were made to secularize many aspects of social life, including marriage and the restriction of religious instruction and symbolism in schools. The system of rewards, however, was one without parallel in the Bloc. For example, Communist figures attended religious ceremonies and received Catholic funerals (p. 52), government funds were regularly allocated towards church building (pp. 102, 109-110, 174) and pilgrimages (p. 1 02), and ongoing permission was extended to seminaries and the Catholic University of Lublin to operate (p. 105). Sermons and pastoral letters regularly criticized me regime. Communist leaders from Bierut to Wojciech Jaruzelski were forced to acknowledge the important social, cultural, and historic role played by the Church, being regularly criticized and embarrassed by the leaders of other Bloc nations for their extensive concessions (p. …

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