New data from two Polish cities show further declines in the proportion of students attending Catholic catechism classes in schools, which are optional but which the majority of children in Poland attend.
In Łódż, Poland’s fourth largest city, 32,178 students out of 63,740 now attend classes, known as religion (religion) in Polish, according to data presented by Deputy Mayor Małgorzata Moskwa-Wodnicka.
That’s almost exactly 50%, marking a drop from 56% the previous school year. In post-primary schools for older students, only about 21% attend school.
“Already last year we noticed a drastic drop… mainly in high schools, but now the trend is also changing in primary schools,” Moskwa-Wodnicka said.
Meanwhile, in Częstochowa – a town famous for being home to Poland’s holiest Catholic shrine, the Black Madonna – this year only 54% of secondary school students (7,272 out of 14,475) attend religion. Those numbers are about 8% lower than last year and 15% lower than two years ago, according to the city’s education department.
Department head Rafał Piotrowski believes the decline may be partly a political statement by students. “The majority of them can’t vote yet, so it’s a way for them to express their view of the world and their opinion on what’s going on around them,” Piotrowski said. Gazeta Wyborcza.
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Częstochowa Archdiocese spokesman Mariusz Bakalarz says scheduling religion classes as the first or last lesson of the day can discourage students from attending. But he also admits that the secularization of Polish society as well as “scandals concerning Church people” are not “without influence” on attendance.
In Łódź, Moskwa-Wodnicka says they “can only speculate” about the cause, but think “it stems from the general vision of the church.”
A decline in the proportion of students taking religious classes has been visible for some time in Poland, especially in large cities.
The trend appears to have been accelerated by mass protests against a near-total and unpopular church-backed abortion ban, as well as a growing number of child abuse scandals by clerics.
Half of Polish city’s high school students withdraw from Catholic catechism classes
Polls show that Poles – especially young people – are becoming more liberal in their views and more critical of the Church, which the Catholic hierarchy itself has acknowledged.
A report released last year by CBOS, Poland’s state research agency, found that less than 25% of young Poles regularly practice a religion, compared to the early 1990s that figure was nearly 70%.
“A very strong reassessment is taking place in the younger generation,” said one of the highest church figures in the country, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, Primate of Poland, commenting on the findings of the study.
Under regulations introduced in the 1990s, Polish public schools are required to hold religious lessons at the request of parents of pupils or pupils over the age of 18. While classes are funded and organized by schools, curricula and teachers are decided by the Catholic Church.
‘Devastating’ decline in religious practice among young Poles, says Catholic primate
Main image: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Agnieszka Wądołowska is deputy editor of Notes from Poland. She previously worked for Gazeta.pl and Tokfm.pl and contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, Wysoki Obcasy, Format Duży, Midrasz and liberal culture