BenOp Nation?

BenOp Nation? June 21, 2018

At First Things, Jozef Andrew Kosc describes the continuation of Catholic Christendom in Poland.

Poland is “an unabashedly Catholic society is fully integrated into a modern European polity and economy. This society represents an integral and democratic Catholicism, one that has resisted the anti-culture of postmodernism and neoliberal cosmopolitanism. Americans might describe it as a national Benedict Option—though the Poles would reject Rod Dreher’s term, since most have little conception of the aggressive secular liberalism that exists across the rest of the West. For them, cultural Catholicism is a normal way of life.”

On the streets of Wroclaw he sees nuns and priests, and observes: “How different this felt from the cathedral towns of France and Germany, where once-great abbeys now stand empty, waiting to be dismantled for lack of vocations. How distinct from the streets of London, where clergy have for years been advised against wearing habits for fear of assault and harassment.”

It’s a standing rejection of the neoliberal project “to construct what Robert Cardinal Sarah has referred to as a ‘post-national and one-dimensional world where the only things that matter are consumption and production.’” Kocs thinks that this is the reason the Western media is so bent on attacking Poland.

Poland proves that post-liberalism is possible: “What post-Trump Americans and post-Brexit Brits long for already exists in Poland: social cohesion and civic virtue, rooted in a Christian meta-narrative. In other words, a post-liberal politics of virtue.” It is “a modern state firmly grounded in the principles of liberal democracy, but one that has begun to move beyond the policy limitations of classical liberalism.”

With Ireland’s referendum to permit abortion, Poland is now the primary location of social conservatism in Europe, especially in its “unceasing majoritarian affirmation of the sanctity of life from natural conception to natural death, and the constitutional primacy it affords religious freedom.”

One of the main charges against Poland from the Western media is that its illiberalism leaves it a hotbed for bigotry. Jewish watchdog groups, however, report that incidents of anti-Semitism dropped between 2016-17 in both Poland and Hungary. According to Cnaan Liphshiz, “Jews in Hungary generally do not fear physical attacks on the street like their coreligionists in France, Belgium, Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe.”

In part, this is due to the lower rate of Muslim immigration into Eastern Europe. Many anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe are perpetrated by Muslims.

Not everyone is convinced about the significance of this trend, of course. Rafal Pankowski argues that the decline “results largely from the changes in registering them by institutions in the recent period.” While “there are not many physical attacks on Jews in Poland — and there are not many Jews in Poland anyway — but the level of anti-Semitic hate speech has increased radically in the first months of this year.”

In sum: Poland is an experiment in post-liberal polity, a Catholic nation where minority Jews are safer than in Western Europe. My Polish friends won’t be surprised: If Poland provides a model for a post-liberal, modern Christendom, it will not be the first time Poland has saved Western civilization.

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