Of Heritage and Hierarchy

Yeah, this is about the Pope. The Polish Pope being mourned by people of many religious persuasions, not just Catholic. We share the same heritage, he and I, with Polish blood running strong in our veins. Well, not his, any more, but you know what I mean — that tireless dedication to democracy and equality (except, on his part, where Catholicism was concerned), that hunger for Solidarność (except, on his part, where Catholicism was concerned).
For almost all Poles, Polish history began somewhere in the 9th century when Christianity did its thing with the “Polians”(dwellers of the field).
From here:
Polishness was traditionally identified with Roman Catholicism. Indeed, it was the “baptism of Poland” which put the country on the cultural map of Europe in 966. However, the Polish – Lithuanian Republic was a multi-ethnic and multi-denominational country (Catholicism, Orthodox, Judaism and even Islam). This tolerance attracted religious dissidents from all over Europe. The decline of the Polish Republic and the transformation of a multi-ethnic society into a modern ethnically homogenous nation, plus the struggles for independence with Orthodox Russia and Protestant Prussia, strengthened the stereotype of the Pole – the Catholic. Under the partitions the Catholic Church was a mainstay of the Polish identity.
An acceptance of hierachy is fundamental to Catholicism. There are people, then there are nuns, then there are priests — and then the clergy has its own hierachy, culminating in the Pope. As a red-blooded and full-blooded Pole, dedicated to democracy, equality, diversity — and, as importantly, the importance of dissidence — I could never understand how the Catholicism (as different from the more general concept of “Christianity”) practiced by the Polish Pope jibed with his Polish roots.
Now, I happen to know a lot about Catholicsm, having gone through 13 years of its schooling. I also know a lot about growing up Polish, having been part of a large extended family of first and second generation immigrants. In my early years, I was even bi-lingual.
Polish and Catholic. That’s how I grew up.
My family, of course, was ecstatic when the first non-Italian Pope in some 400 years wound up being Polish.
As a diplomat, as a performer for peace, as a negotiator, Karol Wojtyla … revolutionised the papacy with his formidable energy and intellectual abilities, but his most lasting memorial was achieved in politics – the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe…. He left one of his most momentous acts to the twilight of his papacy – an attempt to purify the soul of the Roman Catholic church with a sweeping apology for sins and errors committed during its 2000 years of existence, implicitly invoking the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust.
However, as the leader of a purportedly “Christ-ian” sect, Pope John Paul II set the causes of gender equality and personal rights back into the last century. Christ, as I learned about him wasn’t at all hierarchical. He left that behind with the Old Testament god.
Because of the Polish Pope’s personal charisma and his success in living up to the legacies of his national heritage, people all over the world stand ready to excuse him for his unfortunate success in further entrenching the reactionary and oppressive hierachy that Catholicsm has always been.
In his usual cut-through-the crap style, Andy Rooney, on tonight’s 60 Minutes pointed out how most people who say they are Catholic don’t really follow the leader of their religious hierarchy. They use birth control, have abortions, get divorced and remarried. They marry individuals of other religions. They do all of the things that Pope John Paul II said they’re not supposed to do.
As for me, the older I get, the more I enjoy being Polish (especially since now there are web sites that deal with Polish paganism — you know, all that Polish history that happened before the 9th century). And the older I get the more I can’t stand the hypocrisies of hierarchies.
May he rest in peace, even though, because of the influence of his narrow religious opinions, many of the rest of us won’t be able to.

2 thoughts on “Of Heritage and Hierarchy

  1. For me, the fact of popes living in the lap of luxury in a literal palace, surrounded by servants, financed by money pouring in from all over the world from local parishes, etc, was (and remains) the antithesis of what Christ had preached (if we accept the biblical accounts). Meanwhile, small community parishes must shut down cuz there’s no money to keep’em running, poor catholics, as always, remain poor but are expected and manage to drop cash into the collection baskets every week. Yeah, this pope was a nice guy, but he didn’t correct the problems inside his own house.

  2. They say he instigated the overthrow of the Communist dictators. Bullshit! It was the heroic Polish people.
    By the way, should you decide to found a branch of Polish Paganism and open it up to non-Poles, drop me a line.

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