The role of religion in society and politics has been one of the most ticklish political problems in post-Communist Poland. This concerns the appropriate role of the Roman Catholic Church and religious beliefs in relation to the democratic state. A series of rows developed over controversial issues such as abortion, the introduction of religion classes into state schools, the mass media law, the new constitution and the Concordat between Poland and the Vatican. Since 1989 the clergy have exerted a powerful influence on public life at large, with the emergent Christian democratic parties and pro-Church elites as their natural allies in politics. Though the Church still commands considerable public support, its teachings are increasingly regarded as outmoded and inappropriate in the new social and political epoch. In addition, a growing number of people are uncomfortable with a highly politicised Church, notwithstanding its previous involvement in the opposition movement. Meanwhile, anticlerical tendencies have gathered strength. It is a novel situation in which the Church is no longer an unquestionable moral and political authority. For the clergy all this amounts to a serious identity crisis that threatens the very foundation of Polish Catholicism. In fact, a clerical-anticlerical dimension has eventually opened up, cross-cutting other dimensions of political competition.
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|Published - May 1998