Essay
Michał Gierycz
A Small Praise of Catholicism. Church and Politics in the Late Modern Age

The inhabitants of Europe support “European values,” yet they each understand this notion in their own way

It is reasonable, of course, to ask whether praising Catholicism is the appropriate thing to do. To be sure, the critics of the Catholic Church today form an exceptionally audible choir. Nevertheless, the libretto performed by this group, even when it does reference facts, too often resembles a caricature of reality. I therefore propose to set the record straight and restore at least some measure of proportion to the discussion by shedding light onto matters that are overlooked by the critics. In doing so, I have no intention of falling into the opposite extreme, namely, ignoring or negating certain weakness and problems. Even the most casual reader will observe that I do not shy away from problematic issues concerning the Church today, and in fact address them in this introduction. The choice I make is rather one of adopting a particular perspective. Put simply, each of us has a choice between the lens of Aristotle and that of Hobbes. Neither is likely perfect, but the former enables us to seek the truth, while the latter does not, because it distorts, from the very start, our view of humanity and reality. Let us give ourselves a chance, and make an effort to avoid running aground on the shoals of falsehood. One might respond with the question: If there is anything praiseworthy about Catholicism, then why the modesty? Why is this praise “small”? Well, I must preface this book with the disclaimer that it is rather modest in its ambitions. Anyone who has ever heard the words: ‘I absolve you from all your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ knows that Christianity is concerned with truly important matters: eternal happiness in God, anticipated by the faithful here on earth, and the transformation of our lives in the manner of Christ himself. I leave the matter of writing a large apology (in the appropriate sense) of the Catholic faith to more competent minds. Here, I concern myself only with the less important “small” issues that are connected to politics. In the end, they are of some relevance to our lives, as well.

In the first part of this book, I attempt to shed light on the fundamental importance of Christianity – and especially Catholicism and its attendant political theory – to those aspects of contemporary politics in which we often eagerly take pride today: rational public debate and civic agency; the democratic rule of law founded on the innate dignity of humans; European integration, which ensures peace and prosperity in Europe and guards our freedom of religion and conscience, etc. In the handful of essays that make up the opening chapters of this book, I wish to share with readers the discoveries I have made in the course of my political analyses. As I studied political phenomena and processes, I discovered – sometimes to my surprise – that fundamental aspects of politics, in the modern sense of the word, are bound to the problem of faith by a fine yet indispensable thread. It follows that they deteriorate in proportion to the degree in which they are deprived of their openness to God. There is significant evidence that, contrary to what the heralds of “total secularisation” would have us believe, contemporary politics would benefit from a “fashion for Catholicism.” As odd as it might sound, the Church would also stand to benefit from such a trend. Make no mistake: my thesis is not that the Church has abandoned Catholicism. But one can hardly ignore the fact that the problem of paedophilia is closely linked to the problem of denying one’s loyalty to Christ, and that the most attention-grabbing issues in Catholic debates verge – with disturbing frequency – on heresy. George Weigel once wrote, in the context of the 2005 conclave, that ‘the forty-year effort to compel the Catholic Church to bend its doctrine and moral teaching to the pressures of late modernity is over’. He added, with a hint of sarcasm, that some would keep trying, but that they would ‘increasingly be seen as the ecclesiastical equivalent of those soldiers on remote Pacific islands who never got the word that Emperor Hirohito had surrendered in 1945’. Though Weigel’s comment still elicits a smile today, it does so – at least for some people – for different reasons than it did fifteen years ago.

Excerpt translated by Arthur Barys

Essay
Michał Gierycz
A Small Praise of Catholicism. Church and Politics in the Late Modern Age

The inhabitants of Europe support “European values,” yet they each understand this notion in their own way

Publisher: Fundacja Świętego Mikołaja, Teologia Polityczna, Warszawa 2021
Translation rights: Teologia Polityczna, mikolaj.marczak@teologiapolityczna.pl

Monsieur Jourdain, the main character of a comedy by Moliere, is surprised to discover that, unbeknownst to himself, he speaks in prose. A similar surprise may be in store for readers of Mała pochwała katolicyzmu [A Small Praise of Catholicism] when they realise the sheer breadth of contemporary concepts, principles, and Western institutions that are the legacy of Christianity, and which would have never come into being beyond this religion’s sphere of influence. Readers may treat these things as self-evident, however, as comparisons to other cultures and civilizations demonstrate, they could not be less obvious. In fact, the Westerners of today inhabit a world that has be thoroughly shaped by the Scripture and tradition of the Church; their very existence is suffused with Christian elements, and they don’t even realise it.

The author of the book, Professor Michał Gierycz, a political philosopher at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, is interested in the implications that stem from this paradoxical situation. These are twofold: on the one hand, societies have lost the awareness of their spiritual roots; on the other, Christians find themselves living in a world that has suddenly ceased to be theirs, because what was the norm yesterday has today become bizarre or contemptible. As it turns out, although they all speak the same language, they nevertheless ascribe different meanings to the same words. The inhabitants of Europe, for example, support “European values,” yet they each understand this notion in their own way. This inevitably leads to tensions, ruptures, and conflicts, and necessitates the use of divergent strategies of action. It also raises a question about the future of our communities: are they capable of weathering the storm ahead without a shared axiological basis? The absence of such a bond amid a cacophony of languages resulted in the collapse of the Tower of Babel.

Michał Gierycz analyses the most important areas of this internal conflict within the Western world. These include our understanding of politics, democracy, secularism, morality, equality, and sexuality. The author unveils the hidden intricacies of ostensibly self-evident ideas with such clarity that the reader would be forgiven for feeling, at some point, a bit like Moliere’s Monsieur Jourdain.

Grzegorz Górny

Translated by Arthur Barys

Selected samples

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Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło

69

Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
HKD
Jakub Małecki
Malecki_Horyzont
Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Olanda
Wojciech Kudyba
Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Bienczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Majewski
Weronika Murek
Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Swietek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
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