Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: Revival of Religious Fundamentalism in East and West

By Bronislaw Misztal; Anson Shupe | Go to book overview

12
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN "DENOMINATIONAL STATE" AND "STATE OF LAW"

Bronislaw Misztal

State autonomy cannot be taken for granted; it must first be created and then, since it can be lost, maintained.

John A. Hall, States in History

With the dismantling of the political construction of state socialism, one of its previously unshaken foundations--the officially marginal role of the church in the secular political environment--became a passé matter. Religious beliefs of the people resurfaced, the churches either reopened, as in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany, or came to the fore of social, political, and intellectual life, as in Poland. The role of the clergy, their social position, importance, and influence were rapidly enhanced since they filled the gap in the previously lay public space. The matters of faith, religion, and consistency of individual moral views with the doctrine of the church, as well as those of the consistency of the state policies with the church's current policies, gained new significance. Previously repressed and frequently ignored, the bureaucratic structure of the church, along with the pool of intellectual potential of its cadre, started playing the role of a determinant of political and social policies.

Nowhere was this role to be better seen than in Poland, where traditionally the Roman Catholic Church conceived of its position as crucial for the nation's existence. It was best summarized by Cardinal Wyszynski: "In Poland the hierarchy has always had the nation's interest close at heart. . . . No one is more of the people and for the people than we priests,

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