‘Devastating’ decline in religious practice among young Poles, says Catholic primate


There has been a “devastating” decline in religious practice among young people in Poland, says one of the country’s top church officials, Wojciech Polak, Archbishop of Gniezno and Primate of Poland.

He admits that the Catholic hierarchy’s failure to address clergy sex abuse was a main cause, and called on the church to continue the process of “purification” itself.

However, Marek Jędraszewski, the Archbishop of Krakow, questioned his colleague’s interpretation, arguing that in fact the church has been a “victim” of the pandemic and the growing use of technology by people. youth.

Religious practice drops dramatically in Poland, especially among young people, study finds

Polak pointed to recently released data showing that less than 25% of young Poles now practice religion regularly. In the early 1990s, this figure was almost 70%.

“These are simply devastating numbers,” Polak said in an interview with the Polish News Agency (PAP). “A very strong revaluation is taking place in the younger generation.”

When asked if the inability of the church hierarchy to deal with cases of child abuse played a role in this regard, Polak confirmed that “without a doubt the negligence of [church] superiors, who did not stand on the side of the aggrieved, undermines our credibility as an ecclesial community”.

In recent years, a large number of cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Poland have come to light, and the Vatican has sanctioned top Polish bishops for their negligence in handling the issue.

Vatican punishes Polish bishops for ‘negligent’ response to child sex abuse

Polak says such revelations have “caused a deep crisis of faith” for many Catholics, leading some of them to abandon the church altogether. The Statistical Institute of the Catholic Church in Poland has observed that in addition to declining church attendance, an increasing number of people are officially leaving the faith.

The only way to “rebuild the credibility of the church” is to show that “we are in the truth and we take responsibility for solving all these crimes,” Polak told PAP. “It’s not an easy purification process, but it’s necessary for us to always become more credible.”

The Archbishop noted that this process is already underway. “Since June 2019, more than a dozen cases have been brought against Polish bishops,” he pointed out, adding that a special website had also been set up to advise people on how to report abuse. and ask for help.

“We also try to develop this sensitivity through the prayers we undertake…and penance for the sins of child sexual abuse,” Polak said.

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Polak’s diagnosis was however questioned by Jędraszewski. Speaking to Radio Kraków, the Archbishop said the pandemic and modern technology are largely to blame.

Jędraszewski, known as an arch-conservative voice in the church, said the closure of schools and the shift to distance learning for most of the past two years has hampered “the ability to communicate and the development normal” for young people.

He also noted that children are now much more likely to learn things from their smartphones than from listening to their parents or grandparents, making it more difficult for the latter to “pass on the values ​​in which they have grown up”.

“The church has become a victim of everything that is happening,” Jędraszewski said. “The answers are not straightforward as the raw data might indicate.”

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The church has faced a number of challenges in recent years in Poland, a country where around 90% of the population is still officially classified as Catholic.

A poll released in early 2020 showed that the Catholic Church had suffered a bigger drop in trust than any other major institution in Poland. Later the same year, another survey showed that only 9% of young people had a positive opinion of the church.

At the time, the Catholic episcopate noted that there was a “systematic decline” in the number of children attending Catholic catechism classes in schools, which are optional but attended by most pupils. Since then, amid mass protests against a near total ban on abortion, the number of participants in these classes has declined further.

Meanwhile, polls have shown Poles – especially young people – hold increasingly liberal views on issues such as abortion and LGBT rights that are at odds with the church’s position.

Only 9% of young people in Poland have a positive opinion of the Catholic Church, according to a poll

Main image credit: EpiskopatNews/Flickr (below CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


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