How does religion matter today? – An Example of Sub-Secularization in Europe: The exceptional case of Poland
My current postdoc research (during Visiting Fellowshop at the Jagiellonian University and Goethe Institut in Kraków in March and April 2011) is dedicated to the critical reconsideration of the process of secularization in Europe, with special regard to the religious changes and developments in Poland.
Abstract: Secularization in Europe has become on the one hand an undeniable socio-cultural, historical and societal matter of fact. On the other hand, it is dangerous to talk of a universal development, although studies can show empirical evidence and validity for some regions and countries in Europe. In various theories of secularization it is assumed that irreligious social developments can be attributed to processes of modernization, transformation and functional differentiation as well as to rationalization and individualization of cultural life worlds (Davie, 2000). This (often ideologically disguised) hypothesis is associated with the critical wing of the European Enlightenment. As José Casanova (2003: 60) emphasized, however, the hypothesis of a secularized Europe needs to be confronted with various special cases of ‘over secularization’ (e.g. East Germany, Czech Republic and Scandinavian countries) and ‘sub-secularization’ (such as Ireland and Poland). Nevertheless, the ‘causa Polonia semper fidelis’ is exposed as an exception amongst the so-called Eastern European transition countries. In Casanova’s opinion, the secularization in Europe could be regarded as a ‘self-fulfilling prophec’ (2003: 61) that serves both as cause and consequence of the process of (religious) profanation. This means that religion becomes redundant not in itself or by losing its explicatory power, but by the conversion to the new belief of a decline of religion in human daily life and the whole of society. Since the normative theory of secularization cannot ultimately provide a general or a viable explanation for the special historical and religious developments in Poland other approaches may be imperative. Therefore, this paper aims at focusing on the question of how and what cultural, historical, socio-cultural and religious changes have resulted in today’s high percentage of committed Roman Catholic believers. It will also be necessary to undertake a re-reading (discussed in Casanova, 2003: 58) of the argument adduced by Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek (former secretary-general of the Polish bishops’ conference and rector of the Pontifical Academy in Krakow) – namely that the European integration of the ‘Catholic Poland’ is an essential ‘great apostolic assignment for the Church’ (Stadtmüller, 2000: 36).
Casanova, J. (2003). Das katholische Polen im nachchristliche Europa. Transit: Europäische Revue, 25, 50-65.
Davie, G. (2000). Religion in Modern Europe. A Memory Mutates. Oxford: OUP.
Stadtmüller, E. (2000). Polish Perceptions of the European Union in the 1990s. In K. Cordell (Ed.), Poland and the European Union (pp. 24-45). London: Routledge.
This is an abstract of my current research work during Visiting Fellowship at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland): “How does religion matter today? – Annotations to the process of secularization in Europe and the “causa Polonia semper fidelis” (March 2011)