Catholicism in Poland, c. 1978

Were Christians (specifically, Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II) allowed to practice freely, without fear of persecution, in communist Poland?

If not, did Cardinal Wojtyla practice his faith on the QT? Or was he tolerated by the communist government because he was popular?

The answer to the first question: no, not in 1978.

In general, Poland was one of the countries which proved most difficult to subjugate (along with Hungary). The attempt to enforce Soviet-style restrictions on the church in the years following WW2 failed. From 1956 onwards, the church had relative freedom (within the constrains of totalitarianism…). ‘Official toleration’ is probably inded a very good way to sum it up.

Ack…the answer to the first question is yes, in 1978!!!

FWIW a 2nd hand account:

My Co-worker left Poland as a little kid in 1976. The way she tells it (this was in a a fairly big town near Warsaw) the kids would go to the National School during the day and “everyone” but actual literal communist party members would then send their kids to after school “Catechism class” where pretty much the true history of Poland along with the non-Official version of current events was discussed (along with actual Catechism).

Once in a while the people most involved in this were harassed, once a teacher was arrested for a day or so, and all were certainly limited in their career and with schools their children would get into. OTOH: they didn’t disappear in the middle of the night never to be heard from again. She said that her understanding was that once Solidarity really started rocking and Martial Law imposed this situation changed some.

Although Poland was a one party state at that time the Catholic church acted almost like an opposition party , keeping in check the excesses of the Communist government.

Minor hijack.

You mean that the Catholic Churches version of history was the most accurate one? That would be a first.

galen. This is GQ. If you need to Pit the Catholic Church, take it to the Pit. If you want to start a debate about versions of history, we have Great Debates.

Yes, by the late 70’s, most of the Eastern Bloc countries except for East Germany had started to lose their rough edges; though it wasn’t aparent in the US yet, they were slowly falling apart from the inside and the elites in Moscow were apparently afraid to put the boot down again. They weren’t nice, but they weren’t exactly big fans of Stalin. Aside from that, it wasn’t clear anymore if people would tolerate it anymore.

The East Germans, despite some early resistance (the 17th of July fiasco) had largely retreated inside the home and family structure and ignored the government as much as possible, at least after the Wall went up. With a weird sort of Weirguild, the GDR was able to ship most of its disident intellectuals to West Germany. And they had the largest domestic spy agency pound-forpound in human history.

My wife is half Polish and in 1973 we attended a family wedding over there. Although the couple first had to attend a civil ceremony at the town hall , we all then attended a full nuptial mass in the local village church. Even the government official who conducted the civil ceremony was in church. So at that level there was no government interference in church affairs.

It was rather strange walking through the streets of Krakow to see not only nuns and priests, but also Soviet officers. As has been mentioned above , the ordinary people got on with their lives ,attended church, educated their children in the Catholic faith and just ignored the official Party line.

smiling bandit:

Didn’t Czechoslovakia have a Soviet “boot put down” in 1977?

I don’t think so. They did in 1968, but by '77, the government had cracked down on independent thought and were orthodox Communists.

Captain Amazing:

From the World Almanac entry on the Czech Republic (bolding mine):