The Quagmire Effect. On the Special Role of the Catholic Church in Poland

Poland is a Catholic country. Is that a truism or a statement of fact? If we really are dealing with fact—and I address certain doubts below—a variety of other, far more tangible facts then result from it, among them: an extremely restrictive antiabortion bill; the presence of Catholic religious instruction and the absence of sexual education in Polish public schools; the influence of the episcopate on laws regulating in vitro fertilization; the privileged status of the Committee on Church Property; the participation of Church officials in apparently secular ceremonies; finally, the inevitable voice of a priest as moral authority in public debates, particularly those related to sexual ethics and reproductive rights.

The sentence ¬Poland is a Catholic country is not a statement of fact but a sort of a spell, a self-fulfilling prophesy sanctioning existing power relations. The conviction that ¬Poland is a Catholic country is like a quagmire or swamp, sucking us all in, Catholic or not. The more we sink in it… the more we sink. We have become so accustomed to the quagmire that we don’t even ask any more why the ground is so spongy, why so slippery, why the air is so heavy. It is, after all, only our familiar swamp, exuding its slightly nauseating vapors. The very air that we breathe. Agnieszka Graff writes about the position of the Catholic Church in Poland, dominance of the Catholic discourse in public life and its impact on women’s rights.

The full article can be downloaded here (pdf, 9 pages, 142 KB).