Printer Friendly

Catholic social thought and socio-economic and political transformation in Poland.


As its title suggests, this paper will look at a perpetual problem in the social teaching of the Catholic Church: tension between the Church and competing political systems. This tension came to a head in Poland in the pivotal year of 1989 -- the key date in the transition from Socialism to Capitalism. It is worth remembering that two years earlier, Pope John Paul II placed his signature under the text of the Encyclical, "Sollicitudo rei Socialis," with the division of Europe still in two "blocs" of different thinking and acting. The source of inspiration for the "eastern" model was the Socialist traditions, in particular Marxism, while the "western" model was derived from the liberal and Capitalist traditions. (1)

While this period of "constitutional transformation" brought many political changes, the economy showed few signs of improvement. This critical situation intensified in many cases, causing a conflict between traditional attitudes and customs, and the tendencies and alms of the new ideology.

Naturally, the role of the Church was complicated in this period of two "clashing" worlds--when Socialism had not completely faded away and Capitalism had not yet sprung its roots. Even today, many Catholics accept the model of Capitalism, yet still apply "Socialist" solutions to Christian concepts.

To fully understand the position of the Church in this situation, this paper will first briefly review the complex socio-economic and political situation in Poland. Then, it will present the major principles in the social teaching of the Church and its evolution. Finally, it will comment on the position of the Church in Poland with regard to transformation.

Historical Background of the Polish Constitutional Transformation

After World War II, Poland found itself under the domain of the USSR. This caused two essential changes in the Polish institutional system. First, an authoritarian political system was set up, combining party and government's rules, with the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR) as the centerpiece. Second, private ownership and markets were replaced with central planning and state ownership. The only known exception was farming, which remained predominantly private after forced collectivization was abandoned in the first half of 1950s.

The Polish centralized economy, like economies of the other Socialist countries, initially showed high rates of growth as a result of the

enthusiastic post-war recovery and high rate of investment Over time, however, the efficiency of these investments and the whole economy started systematically to decline. And it became increasingly apparent that the centralized economic system was not able to resolve more complex economic problems. The falling efficiency of investments was accompanied by attempts to compensate for these losses by raising the rate of investments even higher -- creating a vicious cycle. One result was another drop in the rate of growth of the national income, as well as a slow-down in the growth of consumption. The riots of the 1950s did not bring any improvement. By the end of that decade, in fact, consumption had come to a near standstill.

With the economy eroding, and a new series of riots brutally suppressed in Gdansk, 1970 saw the start of yet a new political leadership. The new party leader, Edward Gierek, promised higher living standards. As it turned out, the key to this higher standard of living was huge foreign loans that financed both higher consumption and new investments in foreign technology. Foreign loans proved to be excessive and the related investments ineffective, mainly because they were undertaken in a generally unchanged, centralized economic system. After a period of substantially increased national income and consumption from 1971 until 1978, Poland entered into an economic crisis with the constantly aggravating burden of a huge foreign debt.

In the course of this lingering crisis, the Polish social and economic system basically changed. After a tidal wave of strikes in August 1980, the authorities allowed an independent trade union to be established: "Solidarity." For the first time ever, the authorities allowed an organization independent of the party-government system to speak freely. Solidarity was a trade union only in name. In fact, it was a mass political movement acting on behalf of internal changes which, at the peak of its development, numbered no less than one-third of the country's total population.

The cumbersome cohabitation of Solidarity and the party-government authorities ended with the introduction of martial law by Army General Wojciech Jaruzelski in December 1981, First, Solidarity was suspended and then outlawed, continuing its activity underground. In 1982, the authorities initiated an economic reform that--despite some increased autonomy of the state-owned enterprises--did not manage to improve the economic crisis.

Social tensions reappeared. As a result, the year 1988 unleashed an accelerated rate of change in what was to be the final period of Socialist governments in Poland. The last such government, headed by Prime Minister Mieczyslaw Rakowski, was formed in October 1988. Due to overwhelming pressure from the opposition forces, this government introduced considerable liberalization of the private sector and international trade. This was accompanied by a very soft and submissive macro-economic policy which, in turn, led to increased pressure on wages, a rapid growth in inflation and accompanying shortages caused by an attempt to control prices.

In February and March 1989, the so-called Round Table talks were conducted between Solidarity, chaired by Lech Walesa, and the government-party authorities. The result was an accord that provided for afar-reaching political liberalization, the legalization of Solidarity and other independent trade unions and, last but certainly not least, free elections.

New elections for the Sejm (Lower Chamber of the Parliament) and Senate were announced soon after. However, the outcome of the June elections surprised both parties. The Communist party--until then declared to be the so-called leading force of the nation-suffered a total defeat. On the other hand, Solidarity enjoyed an unexpected victory. Driven by a political compromise, the new National Assembly elected Wojciech Jaruzelski president of Poland, a function restored after a long break. The government was formed by Solidarity in coalition with two other parties--both former allies of PZPR. That government, constituted at the turn of August and September 1989, was headed by Tadeusz Mazowiecki. He started the process of significant constitutional transformation--the passage from the Socialist system that dominated Poland for almost 45 years to a Capitalist system. Here's a brief summary of the transformation-related events that followed...

At the turn of 1991 and 1992, notable political changes occurred. As a result of the parliamentary elections in October 1991, Jan Olszewski's coalition government was formed with its goal being a radical separation from the past. Prime Minister's Olszewski's government fell in June of the next year and Hanna Suchocka was appointed Prime Minister of the next coalition government. This government was disbanded due to a vote of no-confidence passed by the Sejm that was itself dissolved by the President. A new crisis surfaced in September 1993, when a new coalition government formed from two post-Communist parties came to power. After General Jaruzelski and Lech Walesa, social dissatisfaction with the poor results of economic transformation opened the door of the presidential office to Aleksander Kwalniewski, the representative of the former ruling elite.

As you can see from the above, the Polish economic transformation took place in a complex political environment, especially from the second half of 1991 on.

Circumstances of the Transformation

The specific nature of pulling down so-called Communism in Poland and in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe becomes very clear when we compare it with transformation processes occurring in other countries.

Post-Communist changes in Central and Eastern Europe are characterised by several features. First, there was an extremely broad spectrum of changes covering both the political and economic system, along with, and connected to, significant changes occurring in the social structure. Second, changes in the political and economic system were out f sync with each other. As it turned out, the introduction of political pluralism (a certain extent of legally admissible political competition) greatly outpaced the arrival of "real" Capitalism. Third, economic reforms in European countries followed earlier transformations of the political system; that is, the introduction of democracy. Let us remember that the radical reforms in Chile, or in China, were introduced under repressive regimes.

Another characteristic of the economic and political changes in Central and Eastern Europe was their decidedly peaceful course. A kind of mutual consent existed -- and still does -- between the stepping-down Communist elite and incoming opponents of the old regime. The peaceful character of transformations in this part of Europe certainly distinguish them from blood-shedding revolutions in a very positive way -- which is another argument for them to be accepted by the Church.

However, this peaceful course of transformation may also have had certain negative effects. First, the old regime elite remained in tact, just waiting for a convenient opportunity to take advantage of the population's dissatisfaction in successive election campaigns to return to power again. Second, the emerging class of Capitalist entrepreneurs and managers quite often contained a considerable number of the previous elite -- which again adds to declining social support for Capitalist transformations. Of course, such conflicts worked to the benefit of the old regime people, but no one else.

There are other difficulties connected with the transformations taking place. Namely, a radical economic reform makes unemployment an overt (no longer covert) problem as well as amplifying dissatisfaction with the very fast restructuring of the population's earnings. There are also shifts of prestige among occupations and occupational groups. (2) Moreover, as open markets replace the planned Socialist economy, dissatisfaction builds up because of increased economic freedom itself, which the social teaching of the Church cannot always accept easily.

Economic freedom usually gives rise to the dilemma of opportunity versus safety. Job security -- handed over by the public administration to private entrepreneurship -- may create (or be perceived to create) more uncertainties than opportunities.

Members of the old, Socialist elite, being more politically experienced, frequently turn out to be stronger candidates in political competitions than those only trying to adjust themselves to the new reality. This again produces feelings of discouragement The so-called "transparency effect" of the new Capitalist system that seems to work well -- but with too much of a lag -- increases people's tendency to blame every government in power for all the problems with which they struggle. These problems build up because of the growing pains of the economy and the huge financial debt of the country resulting from loans drawn too willingly by the old regime.

It is a fact that the Polish economy has been affected by two problems that make transformation difficult 1) the deformed economic structure, where excessive investment in industry combines with the still underdeveloped agriculture; and 2) huge foreign debt, particularly in the 1970s. These drawbacks, however, bear one positive feature: a relatively high level of education possessed by a large percentage of the population. (However, there is a negative side even to this; namely, the negligence of the social and economic position of "intelligentsia" -- a class taken lightly in the recent past and somehow unnoticed even today.)

The Church on Socialism, Capitalism and Transformation

The question arises: how has the Catholic Church adjusted its attitudes about the political, social and economic changes occurring in Poland? Obviously, the Church takes an almost invariable stance toward the basic system assumptions of Socialism or Capitalism. But it is equally obvious that with the essentially unchanged official position of the Church, there has been a subtle, not always easy-to-observe, evolution in its teaching. An evolution that has been taking place at least since the end of the 19th Century.

Pope's Leo XIII Encyclical, "Rerum Novarum" of 1891, notes mistakes in both Socialism and liberal Capitalism. Although it separated itself from both systems, the Church, through this encyclical, sustained certain pro-liberal sympathies, with a very strong defense of private ownership. Then, in 1931, Pope Pius XI advocated in "Quadragesimo Anno" a corporate state presented as a 'third way" between Capitalism and Socialism. And as early as 1948, Pope Pius XII's Reminder of the Holy Office stood so far away from Socialism -- occupying the neo-liberal position -- that it threatened to curse believers who collaborated with the Socialist party. This attitude was much softened by the 2nd Vatican Council in 1965 in the Constitution, "Gaudium et Spes," which pointed to the variations in the world of social systems. There we can already find the need to reconcile Catholicism with both the Capitalist and Socialist worlds.

Popes Paul VI and then John Paul II took this cohabitation of the Church with the world of Socialism a step further. And Cardinal Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, was often attributed as having Socialist sympathies and an inclination to collaborate with Socialism. In reality, his true intention was to work out a program of cooperation between Catholics and people of various ideologies and directions -- not only those with a bias toward Socialism.

Pope Leo XIII considered an alliance with Capitalism to be something more obvious than with materialist Socialism. But bear in mind that in 1937 the author of Catholic personalism still asked himself the question: "What would some things look like today, if there had been some disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas several dozen of years ago who would have written a book about Capitalism as decisive as that by Marx, but based on Catholic principles." (3) In the first years after World War II, a French theologian, Jesuit H. de Lube, posed the problem: If "in the Marxist's revolutionism the concept of heroic rebellion in the name of the good of man is, in fact, the concept of beauty, why not try to reconcile it with Catholicism?" (4)

Similar questions were being asked in Poland, as a number of Catholic publicists (PAX-related?) voiced their belief that Socialism, with its drive to resurrect the concept of joint ownership, was allegedly the right messenger of the future. After all, Socialism was supposed to defend humans being exploited by the anarchistic and liberalistic forces of Capitalism. This view was supported by the prewar concept of labor by Teilhard de Chardin (who passed away in 1955) that introduced a theme of "human labor nobilization." Undoubtedly, the later attitudes of Karol Wojtyla were formed under the influence of Teilhard's concept -- which somehow coincided with Marx's central category of work, or working people. (5)

Under the influence of the Jesuit and naturalist de Chardin, Catholicism turned its attentions from ownership to labor as a key topic of discussion and deliberation. In this way, both the title and content of John Paul II's Encyclical of 1981, entitled "Laborem Exercens," were meaningful. And it should not be surprising, therefore, that the next Encycli cal, "Centesimus Annus," issued by the Polish pope about 10 years ago, expressed the Vati can's support for an open market economy. But that did surprise some Catholic circles, resulting in a certain confusion among those who believed that the existing Papal teaching, favoring Socialism, had undergone a major modification. Some even complained about the apparent lack of continuity between "Centesimus Annus" and the previous Papal teachings. (6)

Neither Socialist nor Capitalist. Of course, this reaction is an exaggeration, formed by a onesided perception of the Church's teachings. It is true that the post-Council Catholicism puts labor, and not ownership, as the fundamental issue. But contrary to Socialism, it exposed not the collectivist, but rather the individualistic, aspect of labor and human development. Unlike Socialism, where a human being is treated as a product of social relations, Catholicism treats individuals as creatures with physical as well as spiritual structure. Catholicism could never identify itself with collectivism, or its materialism and absolute subordination of a human being to the state.

By the same token, the Church would not -- and does not -- totally accept Capitalistic individualism. Giving humans a definite primacy over the material world [5:12] and subjecting the ideal of technological progress to moral progress [5:12], the Church separates itself from the regular way of development of Capitalist societies. Despite many occasions when the Pope supported the Socialist criticism of Capitalistic abuses, he has never been enthusiastic about Capitalist economic freedom immediately transforming into anarchy. On the other hand, he has never been able to endorse soulless state totalitarianism.

The Pope has stated that, in all cases, the government should be in the service of its people and help them self-organize. In this way, Pope John Paul II has always been faithful to the old principle of state's assistance, formed long ago by Pius XI in 1931. "Society of a higher rank," he said, "should not interfere with internal problems of a lower rank society disabling it, but it should rather offer support to it when in need and help coordinate its activities with actions of other groups of society of the common good" [7:48].

The 20th Century was witness to the pro longed "agony" of the real Socialism we know so well. It is also beyond question that the problem of reconciling Socialism and Capital ism is still valid. The human race that keeps searching for more and more perfect forms of social existence according to Catholic principles still has to choose between what is public and what is individualistic. Real Socialism is certain to remain a real power rooted in human minds, awareness and customs for many years to come.

'Totalitarianism and autocracy," John Paul II writes, "have not been totally overcome yet, and even there is a threat, that they may be revived .." [7:29]. And it is also beyond any doubt that in everyday life, the choice between individualism and collectivism, liberalism and state's interventionism, remains valid. John Paul II, defending "an individual's right" and a "common good," addresses words of severe criticism to both Socialism and Capitalism. Both these models are... "imperfect and need an in-depth correction" [6:21]. In his Encydicals, we can generally find many complaints against the too-caring "welfare state" and against "wild Capitalism."

The social teaching of the Church, the Pope says, "is critical about Capitalism and Marxist collectivism" [6:22]. At the same time, the Church does not reject both these models, as the Pope does not exclude the possibility for their "transformation and renewal" [6:21]. Rather, there is a "ray of hope" that both these solutions will get closer and closer to each other by sharing the concern about "the true and integrated development of a human being and peoples in the modem world" [6:21].

In short, the Church does not intend to forcefully impose one socio-economic model or system over another. Nor can it directly solve the complexities of socio-economic life. What it can do is follow its religious and moral mission by putting forth the various philosophies and suggesting ways to bring them closer to each other in the name of Christian principles.

Teachings of the Church in Poland and Transformations of the 1990s We know in Poland that the symbolic act of taking away the PZPR banner from the conference room of Mr. Rakowsld's government has not nullified a longstanding problem that remains valid today: How to choose between the well-rooted propensities toward a repressive government and the fast-emerging "wild" Capitalism.

The Polish Church's attitude toward this dilemma is still an open issue. But one thing is clear: The Church's thought has always been practical in nature, aiming to stimulate action.

Two years before the real transformation of the system, the Polish Church claimed that, given all the difficulties of socio-economic political life, "Nobody is free from social responsibility. The belief that social life is poorly organized, that its structures are bad and hard to fix, that under the circumstances nothing can be done cannot be an excuse for passiveness and idleness. Transformation of the world, the material reality according to the spirit of the Evangel, is an assignment that cannot be refused." (7)

In close connection with this remains the principle consistently maintained in the Church's teaching: Although "the Church itself does not compose political programs and the social teaching of the Church refers to the principles [by which] societies should be guided rather than political systems," Poland's Primate, Cardinal Glemp says, "the Vatican Council II and teachings of the Popes continuously remind lay Catholics about their duty to participate in the political life." (8)

This postulate of social and political activity of Catholics (stressed in the last period of Polish People's Republic life) -- as well as calling Polish Catholics to be active in all spheres available for them -- began the Catholic Church's support for the trade unionist and political movement, Solidarity. This support was, in fact, clearly revealed from the very beginning.

It should be stressed, however, that this call for participating in the political life of the country by no means identifies the Church with a single party. In the transformations talking place in Poland the role of the Church focuses, at its best, on a smaller or bigger support for this or that party. It does not become excessively involved in the particular processes and activities of any of the individual parties. The Church's support for Solidarity is in this same vein.

This having been said, it was the slogan of "solidarity" between society and the Church that was to crown all transformations. The Polish society revolved around Solidarity and the Church to resist the totalitarian concept of unity based on doctrinal appearances and an artificial blurring of the society's unity with the Church. For a time, this society hoped that it had experienced a great and real breakthrough, and that a new social awareness had, in fact, emerged.

These hopes were soon dashed, however: "A uniform front created around the Solidarity trade union and around the Church turned out to be necessary to abolish the old regime, but when the Communist regime collapsed, the temporary coalition of the anti-Communist forces started to fall into pieces. This became visible quite early in the field of politics, but it was also quite severe in the social and religious fields., (9)

From the confrontation of these seeming unities there emerges -- with great pains, it might be added -- a pluralist society, still struggling, but gradually acquiring the features of a civic society. The Church has, in fact, had to adjust to that pluralistic, civic society and to living in a country heading for democracy. By adjusting itself and accepting a dialogue in a variety of areas, the Church should not avoid politics; meaning working for the common good.

The Church "in that period played the role of a consciousness calling for the basic human rights." And the same Church that welcomed and supported the first free elections to the Parliament in 1989, continues to express its concern that the process fit with Catholic social teaching.

'Transformations are taking place in Poland," said the Polish Bishops,' (10) "Levels of political and social activities go up ... Everything that happens in our country should be in line with respect for moral order and social harmony.

Still, it cannot be doubted that "after many years of negligence, lack of skill and helplessness, immediate improvement should not be expected in the situation. Apart from the necessary time, prudent laws and sensible management, we also need the sacrificial commitment and consistent effort of all citizens, because the common good requires sacrifices and resignations considering the difficult social, economic and political circumstances. (11) Unquestionably, immediate outcomes of actions undertaken cannot be awaited, but this does not change the fact that appropriate actions need to be taken immediately."

Defining the Church's Role in Society. For purposes of this paper, we are most interested in the Church's thought and practice -- its concern for keeping reforms within the boundaries of ethics. The key issue here has turned out to be the sphere of human freedom; the belief that if it makes all attempts to exercise its influence, the Church would be interfering with civic rights.

In particular, three issues have attracted severe disputes that remain controversial to this very day: 1) reinstatement of religious lessons in public schools; 2) the position of the Church concerning the defense of human life; and, 3) respect for Christian values in mass media.

Religious lessons, removed from schools in 1960, were reinstated by a government decision on August 3, 1990. (12) The Family Planning Act, passed by the Parliament in 1993, does not yet satisfy the position of the Catholic Church, nevertheless it imposes some limitations on abortions of a human fetus. Until today, the Radio and Television Broadcasting Bill that provides for a law requiring respect for Christian values in media broadcasts, has been stirring many emotions. Respect for Christian values has ignited a number of never-ending disputes." (13) An extensive "de-monopolization" process of the public media is connected with this, as well as an overall pluralism of information.

In these ways, the Catholic Church in Poland has been deliberately joining the very process of constitutional transformation, providing its own inputs to it. Never-ending disputes (and even attacks launched against the Church itself) surrounding the issues just mentioned are the best proof that this input is not so small, indeed.

The Church's participation in societal reforms raises issues surrounding the basic principles and role of the social -- as well as non-social -- teaching of the Church in Polish society. It is the problem of wishing to preach the essential morality, without enhancing it with theoretical arguments. Looking for a deeper knowledge of the teaching of the Church in society gives rise to rather sad reflections.

The fact is, we lack such knowledge because we are often too willing to accept solutions either rooted in the Socialist past, governmental autocracy, or on an extremely liberal level -- disregarding the social costs of any of these paths. Erroneous, negative notions of people's freedom (being "free from") delivers people from all norms and relations with the community. On the other hand, the despotism of liberal governments that completely ignore opinions of broad groups of ordinary people is viewed as completely natural. The Church that supports all liberal governments is charged with the ultimate responsibility for government's inadequacies, yet liberalism is required from the Church in the sphere of law and customs, justice and even everyday morality.

The common ignorance of the teaching of the Polish Church aside, the Church's most important challenges fall in the realm of fundamentally restructuring human morality. It is not enough to bring Catholic social thought closer to people; morality has to be formed [10:107]. This concerns both employers and employees, as well as law-makers, from whom a fair legal system needs to be demanded.

If the Church confines itself to moralizing and demanding ethically correct solutions, it cannot hope for any results in this area--due to the state's economic inefficiency and the possibility of people breaching free market rules at any given moment. The Church's task, therefore, is to focus on the priestly efforts. Also on beliefs Catholics gradually form and become involved with when they take part in economic initiatives, and running businesses, companies and banks.

According to the basic principles of the modern teaching of the Church, an important task today is to overcome prejudices against the liberal concept of economy. But liberalism "has many a face. If there existed in the past some unremovable differences between the liberal understanding of the economy and the social teaching of the Church, now, after the John Paul II Encyclical, 'Centesimus Annus,' and considering changes that have taken in the modern market economy, it becomes acceptable. Liberalism may prove to enhance both better functioning of the market and add to more fruitful execution of the Church's mission in the world" [10:108].

So, it is still important to get rid of the reluctance to liberalism, mentioned for example by Pope Pius XI. But this is not the same as abandoning a natural criticism of liberal anarchy. The bias toward liberalism does not assume, either, that the old principle of a moderate state intervention has become ineffective. The stronger emphasis placed today on the Capitalist system--exposing individualistic, "myself' attitudes--cannot, for example, eliminate the advantages of more social, "ourselves" attitudes. As always, the Church has to balance individualistic and socialist concerns, highlighting both the individual and social aspects of the human being--the physical and spiritual duality of each individual.

Defining the Church's Role in Economic Life. The role of the Church in economic life is similar to that played in other autonomous fields of human activity. The Church does not create laws, but observes them carefully to make sure they serve the good of the people and that they are used to accomplish people's ultimate goals, for which the minimum level of material needs must be secured. (14)

Because of that, the Church feels compelled to pronounce its opinions on the free market. The Church's teaching always indicates when mechanisms of this market ignore the person and the economy becomes a goal in itself--or when they are harmful because they degrade human dignity by building on injustice in manufacturing or distributing consumer goods. Hence it is necessary to refer to ethical standards to restore the human aspect to the economic mechanisms. It is right that the Church's teaching invariably recognizes the role of the market mechanisms and acknowledges profits. Yet it also warns against "worshipping the market" and against forms of Capitalism that "leave the man's alienation problem and spreading poverty to a free play of the market forces." (15)

It has been mentioned above that the Church "does not propose any new systems, economic or political, or prefers one over others, as long as the dignity of the man is adequately respected and sustained, and the Church left with enough room to carry out its mission in the world." (16) But Bishop T. Pieronek, the former Secretary of the Episcopacy's Conference in Poland, was right to stress that just as the Church is not allowed to develop economic or political principles, politicians-economists should not be allowed to create ethical principles. For instance, they should not impose human behaviors in the course of a totally uncontrolled play of market forces.

"If," the Bishop continues, "we want to cherish the integral good of man, that is, one combining its physical existence and the spiritual aspect, the politicians, economists and ethicists, the Church and the state--being institutions responsible for mankind in respective areas--should involve themselves in an ongoing dialogue that will enable cooperation aimed at a service to man" [10:101].

A postulate frequently raised by the Church (but also in government declarations) of a permanent dialogue between the Church and society results from the Church's belief in its right to a permanent influence on the whole human life--an influence that should be realized in all its aspects, according to the Evangelic principles. This obviously gives grounds for the simple assumption: The Church needs to popularize principles of its social teaching in our society as broadly as possible, as a kind of a "Bible of social life."

It is also obvious that relevant principles taught by the Church have to be stable--although their absolute and consistent application under a general liberalization of life is not easy and not always possible. The Church is not able to clearly and sufficiently highlight the need to preserve ethical principles during turbulent periods of transformation, for example. It is very difficult to keep warning the poor against getting rich only because the ways of acquiring wealth are frequently criminal. It is even more difficult to warn against wealth in a society that generally has to become richer. Silence is the safest course-yet this is a serious negligence.

Another difficult problem has been popularizing the Church's teaching in the governmental spheres when immediate reforms are required. For example, it isn't always easy to teach when there is not enough time to learn. This made it more difficult for the Polish Church to criticize reforms launched by the very government that enjoyed its vivid support not long before. The problems or even mistakes the Church committed while spreading its teaching--above all, the educational and rearing needs of the young generation--make future tasks all the more challenging.

First, the most urgent task is to abandon the Communist system of education--to overcome its impacts in the sphere of curricula (modus operandi) regarding exclusively materialistic content and language. Hand-in-hand with this is the Church's obligation to ensure that the young generation is able to consciously and independently make selections of new attitudes and values-the guiding star of which should be Solidarity and not class war, standards of Christian morality, etc. In addition, we have to meet a basic need and restore the fundamental role of the family in rearing children.

Second, it is very important to prepare the young generation for participating in a truly democratic transformation of Poland--to develop the country's new shape, both constitutional and political In relation to this, we need to create essential models of patriotism, but also the right kind of democracy respecting all social classes, strata and professions. A counteraction should be launched against the atrophy of social sensitiveness and cultural needs, and we should also work to overcome shallow pragmatism.

Third, it is critical to update and reconstruct the teaching and rearing programs according to objectives assumed to form true democracy, but also a real Christian philosophy of life.


It's easy to see from the comments above that the social thought of the Catholic Church in Poland has been exclusively confined to its official social teaching, since all statements of the Church officials make up the thought of the Church. But many of the principles mentioned apply equally well to its attitude and overall policy. The social thought of the Church has been presented not so much in terms of general theoretical assumptions, but rather how that thought has been implemented in the last decade of the past century.

The limited framework of one paper makes it impossible to discuss, step-by-step, the overall evolution of the social teaching of the Church--or the whole complex constitutional transformation and the Church's attitudes toward this transformation. This paper has, rather, stressed that the Church's social thought in Poland cannot simply follow the development paths of a Capitalist society, while it still preserves vivid past ways of thinking, customs and institutions of the Socialist world.

The thought of the Church mainly consists of--at least as is officially claimed by our Episcopacy--reforming the Capitalist constitutional model. But this is not the last thing to do. This thought--according to the traditional principles of Papal Encycicals-has always promoted combining a reformed Capitalist system with a reformed Socialist system. It certainly does not tend to overcome, but rather to mutually reconcile, the basic principles underlying these two--until now polarized. Undoubtedly today, this synthesis has to have stronger pro-Capitalist accents.

Another aspect clearly exposed here is that the thought of the Church is a practical one--having the form of opinion but, more importantly, recommending appropriate action concordant with the Evangel. Because of that, it seems practical to discuss not only the teaching of the Church (theoretical), but all its attitudes to the surrounding world. The fact that this world--at least in the case of Poland--is building Capitalism that derives from Socialism has hopefully come into clear view on each and every page of this paper. Furthermore, the teaching of the Church which, according to the Pope's declaration, does not aspire to be a "third way" between Socialism and Capitalism is, in fact, a kind of "a third way," synthesizing reforms of both systems.


(1.) Sollicitudo rei socialis. 1987, Polish edition by PAX, Warsaw, 1991, article 20.

(2.) L. Balcerowicz, Socjalizm-Kapitalism-Transformacja Warsaw 1997, p. 184 and on.

(3.) J. Maritain, Religia i kultura, Poznan 1937, p. 37.

(4.) "H. de Lubac, Les rechercher d'un homme novueau, "Etude," 1947.

(5.) See, for instance, D. Tanalski's, Filozofia katolicka, Warsaw, 1981, p. 87.

(6.) See R. J. Neuhaus, Biznes i ewangelia. Wyzwanie dla chrzececijanina-kapitalisty, Poznan 1993, pp. 95-96.

(7.) Documents of the Primate's Social Council. 1987-1990 (published by the Franciscans), Niepokalanow 1990-Appeal of Primate's Social Council, Warsaw, July 1987, p. 22.

(8.) Cardinal J. Glemp, Boskie i cesarskie. Passion sermon in the St. Cross Church in Warsaw, 1995.

(9.) Statement made by the Secretary General of the Episcopacy of Poland, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek on May, 9, 1996. Archive of the Catholic Information Agency.

(10.) Communique of the 235 Conference of Poland's Episcopacy, June 16-17, 1989.

(11.) Communique of 236 Conference of Poland's Episcopacy, October 6-7, 1989.

(12.) See instruction of the Ministry of National Education of August 3, 1990. Cf. B. Gorowska, G. Rydlewski, Regulacja prawna stosunkow wyznaniowych w Polsce, Warsaw 1992, p. 13.

(13.) Communique of the 258 Conference of Poland's Episcopacy, October 16,1992.

(14.) Bishop T. Pieronek, Koceciol i gospodarka, statement of September 21, 1994, Archive of the Catholic Information Agency.

(15.) Quote. Rev. J. Majka, Komentarz do encyk-liki "Centesimus Annus" Jana Pawla II (in:) Centesimus Annus. I. c. pp. 131-132.

(16.) Quote. Paul VI encyclical, Populorum progressio, John Paul II (in:) Solicitudo rei socialis, 1.c. 41.


(1.) Balcerowicz, L. Socjalizm-Kapitalizm-Transformacja, Warsaw, 1997.

(2.) de Lubac, H. Les rechercher d'un homme novueau, 1947.

(3.) Glemp, Cardinal J. Boskie i cesaskie. Passion sermon in the St. Cross Church in Warsaw, 1995.

(4.) Gorowska, B. and G. Rydlewski. Regulacja prawna stosunkow wyznaniowych w Polsce, Warsaw, 1992.

(5.) John Paul II. Laborem Exercens, Poznal, 1987.

(6.) -----. Sollicitudo rei socialis. Polish edition by PAX, Warsaw, [1987], 1991.

(7.) -----. Centesimus Annus. Wroclaw, 1991.

(8.) Maritain, J. Religia i kultura, Poznal, 1937.

(9.) Neuhaus, R. J. Biznes i ewangelia. Wyzwanie dla chrzececijanina-kapitalisty, Poznan, 1993.

(10.) Pieronek, Bishop T. Kolciol nie boi sil wolnoci Crocow, 1998.

(11.) Primate's Social Council. Documents of the Primate's Social Council. 1987-1990 (published by the Franciscans), Niepokalanow, 1990.

(12) Tanalski, D. Filozofia katolicka, Warsaw, 1981.

This paper was presented at the Transition in Historical Perspective: What Can Be Learned from the History of Economics conference, September 17-20, 1998, Krakow, Poland.
COPYRIGHT 2001 St. John's University, College of Business Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Spychalski, Gedymin
Publication:Review of Business
Geographic Code:4EXPO
Date:Sep 22, 2001
Previous Article:Ethical foundations of the economy in light of the Encyclicals of Pope John Paul II.
Next Article:From the Editor.

Related Articles
A Comparison of small and medium-size enterprise development in Central and Eastern Europe.
The "woman question" in Russian Poland, 1900-1914.
Everyday Milieux and culture of displacement: a comparative investigation into space, place and (non)attachment within the German-Polish twin city...
From the editor.
Ethical foundations of the economy in light of the Encyclicals of Pope John Paul II.
Elected Affinities: Democracy and Party Competition in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters