After being in power for a very long time in Poland, the Catholic Church is under heavy pressure this year. There have been a series of sexual harassment scandals and allegations that they are associated with the country’s right-wing government.
As citing from France24 on Tuesday, December 29, negative media reports and documentaries have damaged the image of the Catholic Church in Poland. The Vatican has even criticized it.
Some Poles began to question the legacy of the late Pope John Paul II. A poll published earlier this month found only 41 percent of Poles have a positive view of the church. That figure has fallen 16 percent since March.
The poll also found nearly half of Poles – around 47 percent – had a negative view of the church. The changes were “quite substantial in such a short time,” said Katarzyna Zalewska, a sociologist at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. The secularization growth trend seen in Poland in recent years “looks to be accelerating,” he said.
A Constitutional Court ruling in October aimed at imposing a ban on abortion further damaged the church’s image. This sparked unprecedented public protests and demonstrations across the country.
Some criticism was leveled at the religious hierarchy and the reaction was so strong that the government delayed the enactment of the decision. A report also shows Poles expelling their children from religion classes at schools. Some have even officially renounced their Catholic faith.
Two in three Poles now want religious education to be the responsibility of parishes, not schools, according to a poll published last week. A website for people who volunteered to give up their faith, collected more than a thousand renunciation applications in just two weeks.
Another website, apostazja.eu, said more than 30,000 people had filled out apostasy forms and were ready to be printed and submitted to their parishes. Although this number is low in a country still predominantly Catholic, there are signs the church is taking notice.
After a ten year hiatus, the church’s statistical office decided to once again track the number of apostasy claims it received. Marcin Kaczmarek, a sociologist at Poznan University said the main reason for the decline in the church’s influence in Poland was not from the sexual harassment scandal, but the reaction to the cases.
“It seems torn between interests and respect for its own teachings,” he said. Zalewska said the Church appeared to be “hearing no signal” and acting “as if it were operating in a different system” where it felt no need to react and was convinced of its unshakable position.
Zalewska said abuse scandals could accelerate secularization. But he said it was also possible that the difficult times caused by the coronavirus pandemic could help restore Polish faith in the Catholic Church.