Justifying your faith

Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski

Four out of ten believing and practising Catholics cannot cope with arguments while discussing in-vitro fertilisation. They cannot find appropriate arguments. They cannot explain their stand. Every second Catholic cannot answer fully the questions about the return of the property, which the Church lost during the communist times. Polish Catholics are best prepared to discuss the issue of abortion. Only 28 people (4%) have admitted that taking part in such a discussion they cannot explain everything. These are the results of the latest survey conducted by the Institute of Statistics of the Catholic Church, directed by Rev. Professor Witold Zdaniewicz and ordered by ‘Niedziela.’

1. When someone criticises the stand of the Church concerning abortion – are you prepared to give your own answer?
64.9 % – yes, I always have proper arguments
28.4 % – yes, but I cannot explain everything
6.6 % – I avoid discussing these topics

2. When someone criticises the stand of the Church concerning in vitro fertilisation – are you prepared to give proper answer?
43.4 % – yes, but I cannot explain everything
42.5 % – yes, but I always have proper arguments
14.1 % – I avoid discussing these topics

3. Would you like to have a little chapel/holy statute near the place you live?
81.5 % – yes
15.8 % – no
2.7 % – no answer

The questionnaire included questions concerning courage in manifesting faith, readiness and proper preparation to defend the teaching and interests of the Church, which the respondents identify themselves with facing those who question them. The first question was to check how often Catholics find themselves in the situation when they must defend the undermined or criticised teaching of the Church. The results are somewhat astonishing. Only every third Catholic often faces such a situation. The number of those who answered that they heard someone undermine the teaching of the Church – but it happened very rarely – doubled. 7.5% admitted that they never faced such a situation. What conclusions can be drawn? Such topics have stopped evoking fervent discussions or Catholics have lived in homogeneous environments and have had rare contacts with those who express different opinions. Among professional groups such discussions occur more than on an average level (38% of answers) among pupils and students and most seldom – respectively 25.8 % and 26.4% - among farmers and businessmen. They occur rather in big cities than in towns or villages; among young people rather than the old, which is understandable considering that most of the views of the Church that are questioned in public debates concern morality in the sphere of man’s sexuality.

Hot topics

How do believing and practising Catholics behave if such discussions take place? Can they defend their convictions when they are confronted with those who think and judge differently? The Institute asked three concrete questions. The first one concerned killing of the unborn – this discussion has lasted several dozen years; there have been many arguments raised and people have had the chance to get to know the arguments of both parties. The Institute directed by Rev. Professor Zdaniewicz asked about the problem which has been discussed recently, namely the fertilisation outside the female’s body, which has been better known as in vitro fertilisation. The third question concerned the return of the Church property that was taken over by the governments of the Polish People’s Republic. Although this problem does not belong to the doctrine of the faith it has been publicised by some media and has become one of the important topics in the public debate.

They do not avoid

A small group of respondents claimed to avoid talking about these issues. 6.6% do not answer the questions concerning the life of the unborn. The interesting thing is that even more respondents – 14.1% – stop discussing or do not get involved in the topic of in vitro fertilisation. Why does the difference come from? One can see two reasons. The first one is the level of complication concerning both problems. In case of in vitro fertilisation the problem does not involve killing of the unborn but the moral aspect of such a fertilisation. Perhaps Catholics need time – the discussion has been conducted for a short time as compared with the discussion about abortion – to get to know better the teaching of the Church on this matter.

Strong and weak aspects

The answers to the remaining questions would seem to confirm the latter thesis. More Catholics can defend the stand of the Church concerning killing of the unborn. But they do not cope with the matters of in vitro fertilisation and the return of the Church property. As far as abortion is concerned Catholics are sure of their convictions. 64.9% claim that they avoid being, colloquially speaking, cornered in such discussions. Only 28.4% think that sometimes they lack arguments. As far as in vitro fertilisation is concerned the answers are: 42.5% can cope with this problem very well; 43.4% can cope rather badly. The respondents find it most difficult to explain the rights of the ecclesiastical community to claim their stolen properties. 53.5% of the respondents cannot find proper arguments. Yet there is another interesting observation. It is pupils and students that cannot cope with this issue. The reason can be that they are still learning things, including the stand of the Church concerning this issue but on the other hand, their knowledge, which has already been gained or is being gained during religious instruction or just after its completion, should be fresh.

I am not ashamed of my faith

Polish believing and practising Catholics have not accepted the argumentation that their faith should be a private matter and the public sphere should be devoid of religious content. A decisive majority of people, three out of four, make the sign of the cross when they begin a journey, before meals in restaurants or before sports events. Even more Catholics, four out of five, would like to have a little chapel near their home. A similar number is not afraid to say a Christian greeting to some religious person passing by.

The research has been conducted on a sample of 482 believing and practising Catholics by the Institute of Statistics of the Catholic Church SAC. The respondents have been randomly selected from the list of thousands of believing and practising Catholics, which the Institute has.

"Niedziela" 9/2009

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl