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Post "Just Don't Tell Anyone": Is a Film Shaking Poland's Catholic Identity?
Created by John Eipper on 05/29/19 11:55 AM

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"Just Don't Tell Anyone": Is a Film Shaking Poland's Catholic Identity? (Edward Jajko, USA, 05/29/19 11:55 am)

In AD 966, Mieszko I, duke of Gniezno, already 30, sought and accepted baptism from the missionaries of the pope and at some point, before or after, placed his lands under papal protection. By this he accomplished several things, among them: he avoided having Poland fall within the sphere of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the political powers that supported it; he placed the emerging Polish state firmly within the world of Western Latin civilization; he ensured that Polish learning and society would be solidly European, not Asiatic or whatever the Muscovites were tending towards; and he began the more than thousand-year history of Polish Roman Catholicism.

During the Reformation, there were flirtations and more with various forms of Protestantism that had some interesting varieties and minor lasting effects. But the vast majority of Poles have remained strongly Roman Catholic. There has been great pride in the fact that Karol Wojtyła was pope. There is a small minority of Polish Tatars, who are fully integrated into Polish society. The former significant Jewish minority, the largest number of Jews as a percentage of total population, was almost totally destroyed by the Germans and Soviets.

For some time now, I have been reading, trying to read, or dipping into Polish newspapers available via my iPhone. In recent months I became a subscriber to one of the country's major papers, Gazeta Wyborcza ("electoral gazette"). I had wanted to subscribe also to Rzeczpospolita ("republic"), but that paper charges an arm and a leg, while GW is eminently reasonable. So Gazeta Wyborcza it has been.

I have to admit that I am not overly sensitive to the political leanings of newspapers (with the possible exceptions of l'Osservatore Romano, the various Saudi papers, and the New York Times and Washington Post). Gazeta Wyborcza seems to have an anti-PiS stance, i.e., against the ruling Law and Justice party. It is pro-Europe and has published numerous articles on Brexit, in part because of and about the high number of Poles living and working in the UK, among them a first cousin once removed of mine who went to England to study the language and wound up marrying and having a son there. GW has published disheartening "Polak go home" stories from an England that seems again to have forgotten that, without the contribution of the mostly Polish exile flyers, the Battle of Britain would likely have been lost.

Then again, there are young Polish idiots who seem not to understand the history of their own country and dress up in Nazi uniforms, use the Nazi salute, and argue with local authorities about denial of parade permits to celebrate Hitler's birthday. One despairs.

An even more disheartening series of stories I have been following (and the reason for the history lesson given above) is what is happening in Poland vis-à-vis the Catholic Church. The faithfulness of Catholics is being shaken by very blunt revelations of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy and accusations of cover-ups by the bishops.

These match other, earlier stories of similar abuse that have rocked the Church in the US, Ireland, Germany, and elsewhere.

The Vatican itself was hit by controversy earlier by the publication of what purported to be a tell-all book about nasty goings-on in the Curia, by Frederic Martel. This was published simultaneously in several languages. The English version is In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy.

The grave situation in Poland has been set off by a series of revelations of pedophile predations and cover-ups by bishops. Some bishops have taken sides with the victims, while others have adhered to clericalism. The Polish bishops' conference decided that a pastoral letter of apology should be read in all churches last Sunday, but some local priests refused to read it and congregants walked out.

There is something of a call for separation of Church and state. Around Easter time there was a three-week strike of public secondary school teachers. The schools, unlike ours in the US, are run by the national government. One of the issues--the strike is over but I think that the issues behind it are not yet settled--was the amount of time in the school day devoted to Roman Catholic religious education.

Adding fuel to the fire is a film that has captured the attention of Poles. Two film-maker brothers named Sekielski produced a documentary entitled Tylko nie mów nikomu, a title that translates as "Just don't tell anyone." This is said to have been a phrase commonly used by the pedophiles to the young victims on completion of their acts.

The documentary is freely available on YouTube, in Polish with English subtitles.

I emailed my first cousin once removed, a high school teacher who lives in a suburb of Kraków and elder sister of the one who now lives in England, to ask if any in the family had seen the movie of the Sekielskich. Her simple response was that the movie is frightening.

This is, as I said, disheartening. With the exception of serious flirtation with Protestantism several hundred years ago, since 966 Poland has been firmly Roman Catholic. During the age of the Partitions, this religious identity substituted for the lack of political identity and there developed the concept of Poland as the Christ of Europe, the suffering nation through which Europe itself would be redeemed.

Since 966 Poland has been firmly European, Latin, not Cyrillic, and now like the rest of Europe seems to be increasingly secularized. Lord protect a secularizing Poland. So much of that is the Church's own damn fault.

JE comments:  My sister-in-law Justyna briefly mentioned the film today at lunch, and it has the nation talking.  Yet Poland, unlike most of the rest of Europe, is certainly not secularizing--quite the opposite, although society is also becoming increasingly polarized.  Just this week the PiS (pro-Catholic nationalist) candidates scored big in the European Parliamentary elections.  PiS has embraced a new stance vis-à-vis the EU, however.  From an earlier Euroscepticism, it's now promoting Poland as the "Heart of Europe."

Ever the numismatist, Ed, I'm looking now at a 10-zloty banknote.  Proudly portrayed thereupon:  Mieszko I.

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  • "Just Don't Tell Anyone," and the WAIS Effect (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 05/30/19 12:45 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    Thanks to Ed Jajko for his useful media survey of current Poland.
    And serendipitously, our moderator's jet-lagged touchdown there gives
    valuable enfilading fire. Where but WAIS can you learn in depth of a
    foreign controversy and hear to boot:  "Yes, this is what they said about it
    at lunch"?

    JE comments:  And a splendid lunch it was.  Warsaw's Lotos restaurant has been around since Socialist times, and the decor hasn't changed one bit.  Timeless Polish comfort food.  I go there every time I'm in the capital.


    Last night I was trying to work up some interest in watching Tylko nie mów nikomu, but sis-in-law Justyna said it was "too much."  I sense this is the same reaction Ed Jajko received from his cousins.  I'll have to watch it by myself--and not tell anyone...

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    • Dining Chez Jajko, Warsaw (Edward Jajko, USA 05/31/19 12:43 AM)

      Maybe while in Warsaw (or other location) John E can eat at the Jajko restaurant. Smacznego!

      JE comments:  Alas, Pan Jajko, I'm presently far from the capital, in the wilds of Chruslanki.  The dining options here are few.  Fortunately, Mom-in-Law's cuisine is the best anywhere!

      For those still hungry, Jajko Bistro on Krakowskie Boulevard looks quite good, although the reviews are mixed:  "perfect brunch place" on the one hand, "terrible soggy watered-down eggs" on the other:


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      • Dining in Poland: Jajko Bistro and Bar Mleczny (Tom Hashimoto, UK 06/04/19 12:48 AM)
        If I am correct, Jajko Bistro (see Edward Jajko, May 31st) is a spin-off of the canteen at the Warsaw School of Economics.

        Also, there are many "bar mleczny" in Poland which serve simple dishes with reasonable prices. Now, I am hungry!

        JE comments:  We are in Lublin now, and one of our favorite eateries is a "Stolówka" (cafeteria) near my father-in-law's apartment.  Part of the charm is exchanging pleasantries with the adorable "lunch ladies" who serve you comfort-food staples from the steam trays.

        Looking forward to catching up with Tom Hashimoto next week in Warsaw!

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