Sunday, 1 May 2011

“Blasphemies” on beatification day

The word in the post title to be taken with a pinch of salt, but this piece is an attempt to swim against the tide on a day when events in Rome make almost all headlines in Poland and only some abroad.

Brits had their day of celebrations on Friday, when the royal wedding took place, Poles are having their day today, when John Paul II, the Pope they love(d) is officially declared blessed. Both events spurred a sort of craze in both nations, although much different they were, due to different character of events, in both countries there are people who have not been afflicted with it.

The beatification gives rise to some discussions about self-censorship. In Poland it is not officially forbidden to criticise the late Pope, but journalists somehow tend to refrain from it. In the week preceding the beatification New York Times published an article in which it explored all pros and cons of the decision to beatify Karol Wojtyła very short after his death and called into question whether he deserved to be beatified at all.

Pope’s critics, usually from outside the Catholic Church, come up with two reasons why John Paul II does not deserve to be declared blessed.
Firstly, for not moving the Church with the times. I actually do not understand this argument. The Church is an independent organisation, membership to which is not obligatory, those who want to join it and stay in have to accept the rules it sets. The Church is an exclusive, religious organisation and hence its rules should be strict to allow it to maintain its authority. And after all, John Paul II changed many papal customs, Catholic Church has been moving with the times, but has always lagged behind it.
Secondly, for covering-up sexual child abuse scandals. And here opponents score a point. Some say the Pope actually did not know much about the abuse cases as flow of information was filtered by the bishops from his administration. Nonetheless, this problem properly. It is not fair, given that all people should be equal before law. Secular paedophiles appear before courts, are sentenced, then go to jail and their “atonement”, meted out by fellow prisoners is anything but pleasant. Priests guilty of child abuse have usually been protected within the Church…

Leaving aside the controversial topics, let’s move on to more down-to-earth issues. I, as an unreligious, have not been made ponder upon the very Karol Wojtyła, but upon his teachings, heritage Catholics all over the world had received from him, but not surely taken it in…

Now what do we have left in Poland? 40% of people regularly going to church on Sundays? Unreflective religiousness, meaning people practise because they have been taught to practise, not necessarily out of a deeper need? Drunk driving? Tax evasion (which is a form of theft)? Illegally made out sick leaves for healthy people that costs Polish state and employers millions of zlotys every months? Mistrust? Envy? Hostility? Malice? People who can’t see further than the end of their own nose? Aggression in public life and between common people? Claims of moral superiority made by the most ardent Catholics? Accusing fellow men of treason without any substantial evidence?

Overwhelming hypocrisy, the biggest cancer of Polish Catholicism? Once some old ladies cross the doorstep of their church they backbite their neighbours. Once some men step out of the same church they go to a nearby inn, knock back a few bottles of beer, sit behind the wheel and drive home. Youngsters declare they love John Paul II and then go for a party, put on condoms and shag one another? Am I exaggerating? No, I have seen each of the situations described above at least once in my life…

More and more it occurs to me that, to paraphrase a popular quotation from Polish film “Kiler”, Polacy zrobili sobie z dziesięciu przykazań spółkę z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością (Poles have made the Decalogue a limited partnership). OK, they may go by the rules set by the Church and the Pope who is in charge of it, but only to the extent to which it is convenient for them. They are Catholics, they have some rules to follow, but when it comes to pre-marital sex, or use of contraception techniques, the same rules are somehow waived. Isn’t it peculiar?

Religion, in Poland particularly bound with Polishness in the history, is now, owing to the past, treated instrumentally. A good Pole and a god patriot should, according to old beliefs, be a catholic. Last August, prompted by my colleague (a practising, yet very moderate Catholic) I mused about what John Paul II felt when he watched goings-on outside the presidential palace in August 2010? What did the late Pope feel when religious symbols when used for strictly political ends? What does the now Blessed Karol Wojtyła feel when he looks from above on politicians who cite his teachings to prove their moral superiority and then violently attack their political opponents, not without resorting to lies and manipulations?

My counter-point is that you don’t have to be religious to be a decent man. If we can draw any lesson from this day, do commemorate Pope in a different way than it has been done. Heritage of John Paul II should not consists in monuments, roundabouts named after him or carpets with his face weaved on them and sold during harvest festivals. Real heritage consists in following the most universal teachings in every day lives.

Pay taxes, don’t shirk work, have courage to admit you were wrong and make up for it, help your fellow men in need, be honest, reliable, dependable, keep your promises, have respect for other people, keep calm, take care of public goods, don’t sponge on the state (= on fellow taxpayers), be fair, always tell the truth, take responsibility for your deeds, don’t take credit for other people’s merits… The list could be much longer, but… I am asking too much??? If all people acted like this, life would be much, much better…

And now what is left? Quite often still anger and shame

1 comment:

PolishMeKnob said...

Someone needs a good nap.