Giant Jesus fails to turn a rising tide of secularism in Poland

A GHASTLY, 118ft-tall statue of Jesus in the Polish town of Swiebodzin was erected to rekindle interest in Catholicism, which, like in many other Western countries, is fast losing its appeal.

According to this report, the plaque at the base of the monstrous erection declares that Jesus Christ is the true king of Poland and will rule for eternity.

Christ on a bike: In reality, the statue seems to be of interest only to Photoshop artists.

But, much to the annoyance of Father Sylwester Zawadzki, the deranged priest responsible for the socialist-realist portrayal of Christ, the thing hasn’t triggered the interest he hoped for, and Swiebodzin has not become a pilgrimage site.

Waldemar Roszczuk, editor-in-chief of the city’s newspaper and publisher of a regional Internet publication, said:

The statue has not triggered a tourism boom yet. The majority of the population is against this monument, but no one says so openly.

Most locals, he suggests, are concerned about the baptism or first communion of their children and:

Would rather not spoil things with Father Zawadzki.

Some 95 percent of all Poles still say that they are Catholic. Yet loyalty to the church is on the wane. Even the conservative Catholic publicist Tomasz Terlikowski estimates the true number of devout Catholics at little more than 20 percent. “We Poles like to proclaim our Catholicism,” he says, but the reality looks quite different.

Oh, and here’s another. The possibilities are endless.

Only slightly more than 44 percent of young people say that they go to church on Sundays, compared with 62 percent in 1992. Forty-two percent admit that they do not observe all religious commandments. Hardly anyone pays attention to rules about things like sexual abstinence before marriage anymore. The number of illegal abortions runs into the hundreds of thousands every year. In addition, four-fifths of Poles are bothered by the fact that the church regularly intervenes in politics.

Said ex-monk Tadeusz Barto, who holds a doctorate in philosophy:

With a bombastic monument like the one in Swiebodzin, local church leaders are merely trying to conceal the fact that their influence is in fact declining. The church could be completely marginalized within 10 years.

Despite efforts over the years to hold Poles in thrall of the Church, Poland has enthusiastically embraced Western lifestyles. In booming cities like Warsaw and Poznan, gays and lesbians live their lives as openly as in Berlin or Madrid.

Barto added:

More and more taboos are falling by the wayside. But the church reacts by hardening its positions even further.

He believes that the Church must break open its hierarchies and soften its dogmatic positions. The Poles made great sacrifices when they shook off communism and introduced the market economy but not so that they could now allow quixotic clerics to tell them what to do, said Barto.

In many instances, mandatory celibacy for priests has become a sham.

Nowadays, even truly religious Poles think it’s ridiculous that priests are still disguising their concubines as housekeepers. Poles are becoming more courageous and are no longer holding back with their criticism of the clergy.

A series of suicides among priests has also dealt a disastrous blow to the image of the Church. In the last six years, eight priests have taken poison, hanged themselves or jumped out a window in the deeply religious Tarnow Diocese in the country’s far south. The last suicide occurred at the end of April, in Stary Sacz. The church hierarchy, it would seem, is no longer capable of addressing the spiritual needs of its own priests, the report says.

Barto concluded:

In reality most clergymen are preoccupied with internal power struggles. If there is anyone who is especially ill-suited to teaching people ethical behavior, it’s a scheming church leader.

Hat tip: Glen