My hometown in Poland has always been idyllic place for me. I spent beautiful childhood in that picturesque and tranquil little town. I still enjoy visiting my place. There is one thing that angers me though. I cannot stand the hypocrisy and arrogance of local Catholic Church. Do not get me wrong, I do not mean religion itself but the Church as an institution.
I remember attending Religious Education in school. Those times it was a mandatory course and dropping the course was not an option. Everyone attended it without exemption. Besides, imagine small town in Poland where the position of the Church is very strong and parents do not want their kids to take the course. This would have negative consequences for kids who would be ostracize by members of local community. Parish priest would not miss this chance to announce during Sunday mass that there are sinners, probably communists, in the community.
I would not mind Religious Education if the course objective was to teach children about Catholicism, as well as other religions and sects. However, the course focused mainly on Catholicism. Moreover, the biggest flaw of the course was that the priest did not teach anything. He used to share with us some general information about Catholicism that every child already knew. Moreover, we were taught only information comfortable for the Church. Any problematic and ambiguous facts from the Church’s history were avoided. I asked my priest to explain me Church’s view on evolution theory. He told me that it was complicated topic not suitable for school classes and that we could discuss it other time. I am 30 now and never heard from him…
12 years of Religious Education (primary school, middle school and high school) and I did not learn anything. How come that during all those years we read and discussed countless number of books for the Literature class, while for Religious Education we could not discuss even one book?! Isn’t this ridiculous that the Church does not want to discuss the Bible with students? Furthermore, the priest makes you understand that asking question is never good for decent Catholic. Decent Catholic follows but does not ask. In fact, I learned more about Christianity and Catholicism when at some moment I understood that religion was not my kind of thing. I had many questions and I had to find the answers myself. Clergymen do not answer questions because questions mean doubts, and doubts mean fractures on the Church’s fundaments.
After I graduated from high school I moved to big city to study in Law School. During first semester, I took Ethics course. Everything would be fine but the instructor was a bishop who taught in “Catholic spirit”. Now when I recall it I see how absurd that was! However, this is the way many things are done in Poland.
In Poland, when you become teenager you become also a sinner in the Church’s eyes. Every class we were called sinners and priest claimed to see in our eyes who was bigger sinner than others. Since the group consisted of 22 girls and only 2 boys, the priest always focused on us, girls, because women are those who seduce men. By default, we were bad creatures, end of discussion.
Soon after I graduated from high school I found out that our saint priest became a father! For those who do not know, Catholic clergymen live in celibacy (I mean they are supposed to). The irony is that mother of his child was his former high school student. He was relocated to another town 20 km away from our place to make the “whispers” disappear… as though 20 km make any difference!
So, let’s talk politics. The separation between the Church and state is pure theoretical principle. The Church is a part of the state and society in Poland and nobody can deny it. While clergymen in big cities do not feel confident enough to politicize the Sunday mass, in small towns and villages priests are local agents of the political party that they support. Most of people find it normal; a few that are against it do not dare to speak up because they will end up as enemies of the Church. The priests use masses as a ground to spread affiliated party’s ideology. Moreover, they tell people how true Catholic, Jesus follower, should vote. Sometimes the Church does not follow pre-election silence rules. Before voting, the priest reminds who is right and who is wrong in the country. Vote for real Poles, do not vote for Communists! Does anyone get intimidated because clergymen break the law? No, because they are above the law. Nevertheless, I do not claim all priests do those things, but there have been many in my place that did.
In town like mine it is very easy to become pariah or outliner. You think for yourself and state your opinion, and done! You are not one of them. You are against them- the Church and the local community. When you say you do not attend Sunday mass you get that look from people around you. To compare, people who drink whole Saturday night and then still being drunk attend Sunday morning mass would never get “that look”. In fact, I am the worst case for the Church because my husband is foreigner. Dear God, I went over the limits! “That look” transformed in pity look. Few years ago, local priest attacked my mother because of my unacceptable choices. My mother submitted official complain to the priest’s supervisors. They told her this was not the first complain coming from residents of our town. One year later, priest was removed due to his difficult personality that negatively affected parish life. In the eyes of devotees my family was fully responsible for what happened. They could not accept that “God’s emissary” did bad things to other families too. Remember that in Poland priest is never guilty, people are. I find whole situation comical but I feel sorry for my parents who are exposed to this insanity all the time. So what happened to the priest? This time the Church hierarchy did a right thing. They banned him from working in any church and sent him to his family home for one year to rethink his behavior. However, I strongly doubt it helped.
Everything is about money. The Church’s desire for money is as strong as their desire for power. Pope Francis is not necessarily clergymen’s favorite guy because he wants them to live simple and humble life. This is against Polish clergy’s life philosophy. Unfortunately, the head of entire Church does not have enough power to impact the clergy.
Traditionally, priests do not fix prices for services such as wedding, funeral or baptism. In fact, good priest would never demand particular amount of money. He would kindly accept whatever people could offer. The other type of priest offers high and fixed prices for his services. It does not matter that poor old lady wants to bury her dead husband. Money is what matters most and even God does not have a power over priest’s pocket. What I find particularly sickening is the education of priest candidates. After years under the wings of old sharks they become money oriented too. Some of my colleagues became priests and changed completely. Imagine young priest visiting his home town and coming over for dinner only if someone offers him gift in form of cash. Those who do not offer anything become invisible. When somebody asks him to say mass for somebody’s health he says “ I will do it after I receive bank transfer”. How Christian is that?! Does it have anything to do with Jesus teaching?
Finally, cases of child sexual abuse by clergymen are common in Poland. It has never happened in my place (as far as I know) but have happened many times in other small towns around Poland. It is never priest who is guilty. This is a child that did something wrong. In most of the cases, priests are never punished. For example, where the priest was raping young girl, women in the village took priest’s side by saying that the girl seduced the priest and she should be punished not him!!! In another case, where the priest raped little boy, this was the family that had to move out of town because people did not want them there. Nobody saw the tragedy of abused little boy, they saw the priest- flawless apostle of Jesus. In one small town in the region, clergymen know that one of them is a pedophile and that children are in danger. Yet, he is a teacher in local school! Why the Church does not ban that monster from working with kids? The good name of the Church is more important than kids’ safety. On the other hand, it is impossible to prove anything because nobody in local community would testify against the priest. This is the biggest problem, in people’s eyes the Church is above earthy law. Whatever happens, people are ashamed to stand against the clergy and the Church hierarchy roars when people dare to speak. I will never forget words of one of representatives of the Church giving a statement about priest who abused children during mission abroad. The representative announced that children seduce priests and priests cannot resist…
My aim was not to attack religion. I wanted to show what is wrong with the institution of Catholic Church. The Church has nothing to do with religion. They do not work in the name of God. They work to increase their earthy benefits. By using God, they made people submissive and silent. I wish the Church transform into something good one day but it won’t happen until people wake up and call for the change.