Poland's Identity Crisis


The defeat of Poland’s Law and Justice Party in parliamentary elections on October 21 meant the end of a government that had come to be seen as an aberration in Eastern Europe. Just two years ago, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczy’nski’s party won on the strength of a reform agenda, which seemed to promise greater protection to those most affected by Poland’s economic hardships. Since then, however, the party has backed itself into a corner with its confrontational style and anti-Western rhetoric. The victorious Civic Platform party, under Donald Tusk, has pledged to put Poland back on a course of economic and social liberalization. But reconciling the country’s strong national identity with the demands and temptations of European Union membership will not be easy for the new government.

In a pastoral letter read in churches a week before the election, Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference told citizens they had a moral duty to vote. No political party had a right to “speak in the church’s name or claim its support,” the bishops added, while the clergy and Catholic newspapers had to “respect the maturity of laypeople.” But the bishops also insisted that there are “non-negotiable values” at stake in debates about gay marriage, abortion, and euthanasia, and they acknowledged that the programs of some parties are clearly “closer to the Christian vision of the person and society” than those of other parties. The...

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About the Author

Jonathan Luxmoore writes from Oxford and Warsaw. His book, Rethinking Christendom: Europe’s Struggle for Christianity, is published by Gracewing.