More Roman Catholics in Poland are turning their backs on the faith into which they were baptized as a newborn.
Some are doing so because they don’t believe in Christian tenets. But others are economic apostates ? those who are giving up their ties to the church because it demands a steep tithe for them to remain members in good standing.
In the Catholic church turning your back on your faith requires a written declaration that you are no longer a church member and an inscription to the same effect in your Baptism Book.
Those who renounce their faith give up the right to have a church marriage, to baptize their children, to take part in Communion and to have a Christian burial.
Priest Tadeusz Pawluk of Olsztyn noted that such a decision should be done with care and voluntarily.
“It is not important whether the apostate decides not to belong to any Christian religion or becomes an atheist or free thinker,” he added.
Poland is not alone in seeing an increase in Catholics renouncing their faith for economic rather than religious reasons. “In Germany, where each member of the Catholic Church must pay a tithe,” the reason for leaving the church is “often financial,” said Szymon Holownia, a journalist and publicist who is director of the Warsaw-based Religia TV Channel.
Irek Warmowski and his wife thought that the 500-euro tithe the Roman Catholic Church demanded was too much in a still-developing country.
One year of not having to pay the tithe would allow them to buy a long-dreamed-of camera or other item.
So they decided to leave the church.
“The church doesn’t have a monopoly on God,” Irek Warmowski told the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. “If I want to go to church and say a prayer or meet with other worshippers, I will do it ? as long as they do not introduce a paid entrance to the church.”
He added that the idea that a church thinks that a family’s money is more important than its faith “is immoral.”
And he does not want to hear that he has sold himself for a handful of silver ? as the Bible says Judas did with Jesus. “It is them who have crossed me out (of the Baptism Book) because of these pieces of silver which I do not want to give them,” he said.
Even though the number of economic apostates is increasing, the main reason that most Poles leave the church is because they have become skeptical of church doctrine.
“For nearly 15 years I have been an atheist,” and as time has gone by “my attitude has become more radicalized,” said Dariusz Zukowski, a translator from Krakow.
Not only does he no longer feel a member of the church community, but he is also fighting the community, he said.
He said he is eager to refute the myth that 95 percent of Poles are Catholics. “The number of real Catholics is much lower, but people are baptized at an age when they cannot say anything about it,” he said.
When many of them become grown, they remain church members in name but fail to attend church or otherwise practice their faith, he said.
Despite his strong feelings against religion, Zukowski has yet to take the steps necessary for him to leave the church formally.
The reason, he said, is that he rejects all church law. Thus he does not want to conform to any Catholic laws, including the one that governs how Catholics can leave the church.
“I want to be crossed out from the documents of the church on the basis of general Polish law, like the Personal Data Protection Act,” he said. He said he will conform to Catholic law on leaving the church only if he is unable to do so on the basis of civil law.
Although he is a de-facto apostate on anti-religious grounds, he has contempt for those who decide to become economic apostates. Turning your back on the church while still believing in its religious tenets “is an act of a person without any moral backbone,” he said.
Thousands of Poles are leaving the church for one reason or another these days.
Tygodnik Powszechny says a form to give up church membership is downloaded thousands of times a year from the web site apostazja.pl.
“Dogma and faith are quite abstract for me. and I decided that applying for apostasy is fair for me and for the Catholic church” said Jaroslaw Mielewczyk, who created the web site.
There are even instances of priests leaving the church in recent years.
Professor Tomasz Weclawski, president of the Poznan seminary, walked away on Dec. 21.
He had worked at the Vatican and was the only Pole on the exclusive International Theological Commission between 1997 and 2002.