Diocese of Warsaw-Praga
Diocesan synthesis (PDF version below)
OF THE SYNOD ON SYNODALITY IN THE
OF THE DIOCESE OF WARSAW-PRAGA
The Synodal Report on the Synodality of the Warsaw-Praga Diocese contains the most important conclusions of the synodal work done in the Warsaw-Praga Diocese. The DWP Synod Secretariat received: 468 questionnaires filled out communally, giving the name of the community, the number of members filling out the questionnaire and their ages; 634 questionnaires filled out by individuals giving their details (name, address, parish, age, gender) and 891 questionnaires which were filled out anonymously. A total of 1,993 questionnaires were received by the DWP Synod Secretariat and some 12,552 of our diocesans participated in completing them.
Characteristics of the entities that participated in the synodal surveys
I. Community surveys
The analysis of the community questionnaires showed that the community (movement, group in the parish) is the place where the faith of those completing the questionnaire is realized most fully. For believers, communities are very important in the life of the modern Church, and they appreciate their functioning and thriving activities in the diocese. Significantly, for some people the community is even more important than the parish, so the danger of leaders, communities and their members becoming too separated from the Church or parish as a whole is apparent. Sometimes religious life in the communities takes on a character separate from the parish, the communities become peculiar islands of faith, and for some respondents, activity in the community takes on more of a psychotherapeutic and less of a typically religious character.
In the surveys, it came out that the communities are “small churches” for their members, pursuing those goals that the parish and universal Church do not. Mainly it’s about the need to speak out, to show your faith, to sacrifice for others, and (very strongly) the need for acceptance in the group. Communities fulfill strictly religious needs – they are places for prayer, recollection, formation, discernment and making life decisions, pondering the Word of God, contemplation, seeking closeness with God and family and community members, a space for celebrating religious rituals.
In the studies of community surveys, a picture emerges of a decentralized Church, in which the community appears to its members as the most important. The lack of communities in many cases would result in parishioners having less faith and even leaving the Church, as many times many people do not realize themselves in the Church outside the community. In the community everyone knows each other, there is anonymity in the parish. Surveys have shown that in parishes there is also a phenomenon of competition between communities (especially for the priest, his interest and activity). The communities themselves tend to have a cooperative atmosphere, although there are conflicts and differences of opinion there as well.
II. Individual surveys
Those who filled out the questionnaire individually are mostly people who are not members of communities, but are deep believers. The questionnaires show that they have much lower expectations and needs for the parish, its activities and actions than people from the communities. They expect the parish to be well (properly) prepared to carry out pastoral tasks and religious rites. Lack of membership in communities is not caused by dislike of communities but rather by lack of time, which has to do with professional activity, raising children or health. In-depth formation and spirituality is not necessary for these people. They are generally satisfied with what they receive at the parish level, and do not have exorbitant expectations of priests and parishes. They realize their religiosity mainly based on attendance at Mass on Sundays and during important church celebrations.
III. Anonymous persons
This group of people did not disclose their data in the surveys. The surveys show that this anonymity was not due to dislike of the Catholic Church, attacks on the Church or priests, resentment or aggression directed at anyone. This type of questionnaire was filled out by people who do not find themselves in the current structures of the Catholic Church, and identify least with what the parishes of our diocese are doing, offering and living today. This distance is due, as they themselves note, on the one hand to their lack of religious awareness and desire to be involved in building up their parish, and on the other hand to their inability to find their way into church structures, which are often seen as closed and inaccessible.
RESULTS OF SURVEY ANALYSES IN THE KEY OF THE SYNOD’S MAIN THEMES
I. Parish communities
The vast majority of all those who filled out the surveys believe that a parish or community is a place to develop their faith. For members of communities such a place is, of course, the community much more than the parish while for most of those completing the survey individually it is the parish that is the place of faith development. To the least extent, this is what anonymous people think.
A parish is mainly Mass, celebrations and liturgical rites (sacraments), as well as a place for prayer, recollection, opportunities for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and a meeting place for religious groups. The community, for its members, is first and foremost a place for formation and spiritual development.
Among the elements that hinder parishes from being truly places of faith, respondents cited: closed church buildings on weekdays; lack of fixed opening hours for the chancellery (some parishes); low parish activity in the form of a small number of conferences, meetings and other activities; weak, boring and schematic sermons; poor relations with priests (especially the pastor); and taking up political topics in the Church. Individuals are bothered mainly by the priest’s attitude (most often autocratic or rude) and the lack of Mass celebrated in the Tridentine rite (many people in individual surveys pointed out the unfair treatment of the Tridentine liturgy after the introduction of Pope Francis’ Tradicionis Custodes guidelines in our diocese).
Somé people admitted that they go to masses and services at other parishes, where they feel̨ better (it’s mostly about the sermons), while some rarely go to the Church because of what they believe are mistakes made by the Church – bishops and priests don’t want to cleanse the Church of the sins of pedophiles.
In general, parishes and communities are places for faith development, hindrances are there, but it is not that they prevent faith formation and development. The surveys show that anyone who just wants to form and deepen their faith in a parish or community has the opportunity to do so in our diocese.
II. Priests and pastors
The key to understanding almost all the responses that were included in the surveys is the attitude toward the parish priest or priests and the nature of the relationship with them. If the priest is a disliked, antipathetic person then everything is judged in the key of this dislike. The church and the parish are judged badly from this perspective – pastoral activities, dialogue, conflict resolution, the quality of homilies, the attitude of priests. Similarly, in the other direction, if the priest is liked, very many things in the parish are evaluated positively. Surveys have found that the priest is the prism through which the faithful make assessments of their parishes. It also shows that if priests in a parish (and especially the parish priest), allow the faithful to have their say, listen to them, give them attention and time, ask for their opinion, allow them to co-determine the parish, exemplify the content of homilies and catechesis, do not treat parishioners in advance on the basis of “I know everything best,” they will be perceived positively, thus the Church’s evaluation changes. Such a relationship is found in the vast majority of community and individual surveys. The surveys describe situations in which the priest is not very open, has no time for the faithful, but is accepted because people know that the parish is large and there are few priests. They don’t blame the priest for not being physically able to devote time to every community and everyone who wants to. On the other hand, in the surveys it came out that the faithful do not demand democracy in parishes, they realize that it is the parish priest who has to make various decisions, is responsible for the parish, and in case of disputes has to settle and decide.
There are practically no surveys that rate a priest well and a parish’s activities poorly. The priest’s attitude projects an image of the parish and the Church in general. The priest in the statements of diocesans was considered good when:
- Has time for parishioners,
- Is kind, not abrasive,
- He speaks good, engaged and thoughtful sermons (he doesn’t read sermons off the page),
- does not get involved in politics, does not suggest who to vote for,
- does not think it knows everything best,
- cares not only about the external image of the parish (construction, cleanliness of buildings, practicality), but also about the spiritual matters of parishioners.
Criticism of priests mainly concerns:
- The priest does not want to talk to the faithful, and if he does talk, he knows everything better,
- is abrasive,
- does not speak interesting, good sermons, does not apply himself to preaching,
- He says moralizing sermons, out of time,
- doesn’t talk to the faithful because he doesn’t have time,
- cares more about the profane sphere (the external) than the sacrum (spirituality, formation, liturgy),
- places too much importance on hierarchy (considers himself superior, from another caste, from another format),
- His words, attitude, way of life, views are detached from the lives and affairs of ordinary people.
There are also voices in the surveys that the Church should account for pedophile scandals and be more open to homosexuals (mostly young people write about this), but there are also many opinions in the surveys that openly criticize the Church’s dialogue with the world, too open to new ideological currents.
The opinions presented in the surveys show that the faithful need priests who are committed and with authority, but which is built not on the priest’s sense of superiority or otherness, but on direct interaction with the faithful and good transmission of the content of the faith (catechesis, sermons, formation). Another issue that came up in the surveys is the evaluation of the pastor after the changes in the parish. Often those who had a good relationship with the previous pastor view the new one negatively, while thosé who did not have a good relationship with the previous one see the relationship with the new one as an opportunity to take a more prominent place in the parish. What can be seen here is a peculiar struggle among some of the faithful for position in the parish and relations with the pastor.
Responses in surveys that formulate definitions of the Church include a wide range of different content. Most often, the faithful emphasize that the Church is:
- Jesus Christ,
- Priests and hierarchs of the Church,
- all believers,
- community members,
- All sharing similar values,
- all baptized,
- me, us.
Such a broad understanding of the term Church applies to all the groups that took part in the survey.
III. Responsibility for the community
In this section, those filling out the questionnaire mainly mention bishops and priests, followed by communities and all parishioners. One gets the impression that priests have decisive tasks and important opinions in every matter concerning the parish, hence they also have the greatest responsibility. Pastoral and parish councils are also mentioned in surveys as co-responsible, but this is not the prevailing opinion. In general, the faithful considered the clergy to be responsible for the community of the Church – this was formulated in almost every survey.
IV. On the margins of the Church / Community
Most of those completing the survey believe that those who do not want to be in the Church, non-believers, enemies of the Church, dissenters, remain on the margins of the Church. There are also (though less frequent) responses that homeless people, alcoholics, couples living in unmarried, non-sacramental relationships, doubters remain on the margins of the Church. Young people often cited people from the LGBT community as marginalized, while older people described young people, emphasizing that up to the sacrament of Confirmation they are still somehow connected to the Church, while after Confirmation it is much worse, and they become the margin of the community.
VI. Listening and speaking up
Most of those completing the survey indicated that they felt listened to. In the surveys there were also opinions of people saying that they are not listened to, but it should be noted that often people from the same parish feel that they are listened to in this community. This is influenced by the individual approach to the priest. What problems do believers point out in the listening process? These are mainly: the priest’s lack of time and his closure to listening to parishioners, the attitude of “the priest knows everything best,” the lack of a place (premises) where people can meet with the priest or someone from the parish and be heard, the pride of priests and their unwillingness to contact the laity, the reluctance of priests to devote their private time to the faithful. Where do priests most often listen to parishioners? – During confessions, before and after Mass, individually at scheduled times, through parish and pastoral councils, at community meetings, during the preparation of children for First Holy Communion. and confirmation, during pastoral visitation and premarital courses. People belonging to the communities feel better listened to than the so-called “community members. “ordinary parishioners.” Young people complain a lot about the lack of interest and listening; they say they are often treated as those who don’t know life and are too young to have an opinion.
Those filling out the survey indicated that there is a real problem with speaking out in some parishes and communities. There were frequent responses, especially from people in the communities, that shyness, complexes, fear of being judged, intimidation, fear of being laughed at, criticized or publicly ridiculed cause many people not to speak out on parish or community issues. While the surveys do not elaborate on why such feelings and emotional states arise, it is quite often indicated that parishioners do not feel comfortable talking. In surveys, this is a fairly common phenomenon – fear and apprehension of speaking out – although it is not entirely clear from whom the speakers feel this fear. From the context, one can guess that, on the one hand, it is about those priests who do not tolerate the dissent of the faithful, and on the other hand, about members of communities. It turns out that within communities, too, structures of power and dependence are created, and thus a sense of alienation and not being listened to, and a fear of speaking out. There are also quite a few opinions saying that there is no reason to speak out, because the voice of parishioners is not taken into account. They also pointed out that there is no clear decision-making process in the parishes.
Paradoxically, those filling out community surveys need to be heard more than individuals. It would seem that it should be the other way around – members of the communities being closer to the priests and parishes are listened to more than the so-called “parishes”. “ordinary parishioners,” however, the latter feel less need to be heard, as they are not as involved in parish affairs. “Ordinary parishioners” may also be guided by stereotypes or their own experience and know that the priest won’t listen to them anyway, because priests are haughty and autocratic. Community members, on the other hand, for whom involvement in Church affairs is important, have initiatives and ideas, and feel that since they are involved they want to have more say in the parish. The implication is that if in parishes members of the community do not speak out, it is rather because they know that it will do nothing or they are afraid of humiliation, ridicule. There is no such concern among individuals, here it is more dominated by the lack of such a need or, they say, the lack of a platform and tools for good communication in parishes.
The totality of voices the diocese has received from individuals who do not feel they are being listened to can be divided into two groups. The first are those who explicitly report that there are currently no appropriate forms, tools or platforms in the Church where parishioners can be heard (this mainly refers to places where one can meet a priest and the time he could devote to talking with parishioners). Just talking only at confession (sometimes too short) is not enough, many parishioners want longer and in-depth meetings, but according to the surveys, their attitude is rather passive, they do not seek much to be heard, rather they expect initiative. The second group are those who simply don’t feel the need to be heard, they don’t seek it, the liturgy is enough for them. Of course, in analyzing the responses, it is important to remember that the phrase “being listened to” is very general, as we will find in the surveys the belief that being listened to is the same as implementing the proposals made. Hence, if even someone has the opportunity to fully express his or her opinion, but his or her ideas are not implemented, he or she feels that he or she is not being listened to.
Among the anonymous questionnaires, the largest number of people felt they were not being listened to, while among the community questionnaires, fear of speaking up, fear of being ridiculed or humiliated dominated. Communities and individual signatories reported a lack of tools with which tǫ contact and conversation with priests. A serious obstacle to listening is the fact that priests do not have time to meet (short conversations after Mass remain, aṡ the priest either rushes off for a service or lunch), sometimes there is̨ a longer conversatioń during confession or carols. Surveys show that many parishioners need to create tools and places for good communication and systematic contact. One of the proposals is to set up special duty periods, during which the priest would meet with the faithful.
A separate group of commentators on the topic of listening are those attached to tradition groups (supporters of the Mass celebrated in the Tridentine rite). Their surveys are dominated by the anti-dialogue discourse,. Many people have written that the Church is not for discussing, because only the hierarchical authority in the Church is responsible for the whole, while the Catholic is bound by humility and obedience, so he should always listen to the voice of the priest. The laity are not from the affairs of the Church, they are to carry out the recommendations of the priests. There is a clear negation of the concept of dialogue in more than a dozen surveys of this environment. The community of the Church is not a place to listen to each other, dialogue is rather destruction, it is bad and unnecessary. Such strong statements arise in this group from a peculiar ecclesiology – the Church cannot dialogue because it is not a democratic institution (it is a mega-military, hierarchical institution) – hence the denial of the dialogical nature of the Second Vatican Council, the so-called “dialogue”. The spirit of the Council or the dialogical attitude of the current Pope Francis. There is a clear reluctance in these responses to dialogue, conversation and community discernment. In the opinion of many in the tradition circles, obedience in the Church is the most important thing, there is no room for teamwork, dialogue, because sooner or later the introduction of lay voices into the Church will lead to the Protestantization of the Catholic Church, which will eventually cause its collapse as happened in Western Europe. At the same time, paradoxically, in the surveys of supporters of the tradition, there is a clear regret present that they themselves are not heard in the Church now, no one is talking to them. They want to be noticed, listened to, they really want to celebraté Mass. in the old rite, making it difficult and sometimes impossible for them to do so, Pope Francis’ motu prioprio Tradicionis Custodes. The responses show sadness and regret at the marginal and unfair treatment of their groups – the modern Church, they complain, is more open to communities of dissenters or LGBT people thaṅ to those of tradition.
In the survey responses, we find opinions that what hinders the mission are their own shortcomings, and among these are most often laziness, lack of time, discouragement and lack of ideas on how to carry out the mission. Some people point out that the proper living of the mission is hindered by sexual and moral scandals in the Church, pedophilia, clericalism, materialism of priests, strong hierarchization of the Church. A separate group of responses concerned the promotion of missions outside the Church. The faithful fear that they will be ridiculed and treated by others as old-fashioned and backward. They are also afraid of the reaction of non-believers, there is clearly a fear of evaluation and public speaking. In the surveys, we also find courageous people willing to show by their behavior their faith in God, devotion to the Church, public signs of faith (prayer, religious symbols). These people are not afraid to talk about God at work or in other environments. However, the majority of responses show that the process of spreading the Church’s mission beyond the circles of believers is strongly hindered by fear of attack. This causes the faithful to close themselves in their communities, and mission and evangelization takes place only at parishes, communities, families and among believing acquaintances. This is because those participating in the survey note that believers are discriminated against in society because of their faith – believers are treated as backward, their feelings and beliefs are insulted.
Other forms of mission accomplishment often mentioned in surveys include involvement in parish communities, parish activities, prayer, and raising children. Missionality is more developed to the inside of communities (parishioners, people that the community) than outside the Church. The mission area of people from the communities is more likely to include the so-called “community”. “Sunday Catholics” than non-practicing or even non-believers. What is also evident in the responses about missionality is that people experience faith more individually than communally. Many more people put the accent on the “I-God” relationship than on the “We-God” relationship, and this implies a weakness of missionality, which is why there is so little in the surveys about the contemporary need to engage in evangelism.
When asked a survey question about the goal, virtually all wrote that they understood their own salvation (going to heaven) as the goal. The concept of purpose here is not understood as parish or community activities, various initiatives, works or joint ventures. Rather, these are means to an end, which is why priests, parishes and communities (the Church) are supposed to bring about the proper goal of each believer – ultimately his own salvation, individual rather than communally understood. The individual definition of salvation as the goal also determines the attitude in which the faithful exist in the Church – it is individual in nature, community is only a means to that end.
This point was highlighted in our diocesan analysis because of its importance. This is because it is clear in the responses that the faithful do not want to link the Church with politics, at basically any stage. They believe this harms both the Church and politicians. However, the cooperation of the Church and priests with state institutions such as the Fire Department, Sanepid, and the Police is viewed positively. This type of cooperation is considered important and necessary. There have also been claims that state or local authorities or some institutions of power do not respond to signals and warnings from priests about reprehensible behavior – a priest reported a problem of drug abuse among young people, and municipal authorities ignored the warnings.
There have been many allegations in the surveys about the connection between the Church in Poland and the ruling party. This is viewed very critically. Post about. Rydzyk appears in several surveys in a negative context, while Radio Maryja is very often evaluated positively. As part of the response about cooperation with the media, this radio was mentioned frequently in the surveys.
X. Synodal Style
Responses to synodality varied in our surveys. In individual surveys, the faithful mostly don’t need synodality or synodal style, but they don’t cross it out, even see it as an opportunity, but they also see the risks associated with it. Some people wrote that they do not know or understand the term. A minority of those who spoke support the synodal process, while some show that it is being implemented in their parishes. The biggest objections to synodality were expressed by those associated with the tradition community. According to them, the very idea of synodality is a bad thing, the Church does not need synodality, because going to synodality will deprive priests of authority. Some people even indicated that they were strongly opposed to synodality, and that in the tradition of the Church there was neither dialogue (there was obedience) nor synodality (the hierarchy was listened to) until now. Hence, in some surveys there were very harsh assessments: “the synod is the work of liberals,” “synodal style is empty idle talk,” “synodality is a Masonic invention,” “synodality is Luther’s invention,” “legitimizing power in a synodal way is communism,” “the synod is only fit to be thrown out, and synodal style is contrary to God’s will.” Such extreme opinions of traditionalist circles, appeared in more than a dozen surveys, and they testify to the faithful’s ignorance of Church history, the synodality of the first 7 centuries of Christianity (especially Eastern) and the history of the Universal Councils. In the perspective of these statements, all power, as well as the process of discernment and decision-making should be in the hands of the hierarchy – priests, bishops, the Pope. The implementation of the synodal style in the Church, i.e. asking the faithful for their opinions, views and opinions, introduces unnecessary chaos, loosening, democratizing the Church and adapting it to modern trends, and will eventually lead to disaster – there will no longer be adherence by the faithful to the firm principles of the faith.
In most parish communities, on the other hand, members view synodality very positively, from their – community – perspective, as they write that it is their intra-community activities that are synodal. However, in the survey responses, there are no real ideas, proposals or any indication of what should be done to make mutual listening more effective, to make parishes more open to dialogue and understanding. The only one of the concrete proposals is for priests to be on duty in parishes and to change the behavior of priests so that they are more open and willing to talk.
The surveys therefore show that the very concept of synodality needs clarification and understanding. The faithful do not understand it and therefore fear the word. Hence, questions about synodality were most often not answered in our surveys. The main thing that needs to be clarified is the purpose of undertaking synodal activities, so that synodal style is not seen as a tool for changing the Church’s doctrinal and moral teaching. Some of the faithful (a minority) are very open to synodality and support this style of work in the communities and the Church, and see opportunities in dialogue and conversation. The younger faithful expect̨ more of the Church’s openness and dialogic nature, while the older faithful prefer to bé guided by priests – to talḱ less and to praý and listeń more.
Surveys show that in our diocese the phenomenon of ecumenism is practically non-existent. If there are contacts between parishioners and other denominations they are rather technical, or fail altogether. Many people don’t know what ecumenism is all about; rather, they are convinced that followers of other religions need to be converted, and when they fail to do so, they feel a failure that makes them shut down and not want to confront their faith again. Contacts with Greek Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses were most frequently described, while the best relations are between Catholics and the Orthodox Church. The surveys also show̨ Mariavites, and one parish maintains contact with Jews. There are several voices critical of ecumenism in the surveys, saying that dialogue with dissenters makes no sense, because the truth is one and it is in the Catholic Church. Ecumenism itself is not in the interest of respondents, they do not seek it out, they are not interested in it. They focus on their faith and their community.
A significant number of individual surveys (about 10%) were completed by the faithful of our diocese attached to the environment of tradition. In the vast majority of the questionnaires, these faithful expressed regret that they could not carry out the liturgy in the Tridentine rite as they wished, and thus properly live out their faith. They feel despised, marginalized, even pushed out of the Church. They don’t understand why they were very quickly deprived by Pope Francis and the diocesan bishops of the opportunity to freely follow the Tridentine liturgy, because they want to experience the Mass like the faithful many generations before them (Tridentine rite and Latin language) and now they are forced to attend Mass. and services after the liturgy reform. Many see these decisions by the Pope as an aversion to the environment of tradition, and some even write of a conspiracy or betrayal of the Church, which will lead Catholicism to crisis and the pursuit of leftist or communist ideals rather than evangelical ones. These surveys show very strong emotions – grief, anger, bitterness, sadness, aggression and pretentiousness. The comments present in these surveys concern, as noted above, liturgy, Church community, dialogue, synodality, forms of Holy Communion, ministries in the Church. The current crisis of the Catholic Church, customs and faith is, in the perspective of these statements, caused by the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, the reform of the liturgy, the move away from Latin towards national languages, the celebration of Mass. forward to the faithful, dialogue and ecumenicality – all of which have become an inappropriate way for the Church to fit in with the world at the expense of the truths of faith and tradition. Many in the tradition community filling out the survey consider this to be a mistake. A strong criticism of synodality is present in the responses (despite the fact that these faithful participated in the synodal process of our diocese in quite large numbers), for the shepherd does not ask the sheep where to go, he knows, he leads the sheep, and they listen to him.
Analysis of the surveys of this milieu shows a lot of negativity, paradoxically noticeable (despite assurances of obedience) is a strong criticism of Pope Francis and the hierarchy (“The Synod is a political narrative of the Holy See, and the Curia and the Vatican are pursuing an electoral agenda”, “The Curia considers itself omniscient”). There is a clear consolidation of this environment in our diocese, and thus alienation from parishes and affiliation with traditions. There is an apparent disturbed ecclesiality, ignorance of basic truths of Church history (synods, Councils, discernment in communities, the Benedictine principle quod omnes similiter tangit, ab omnibus comprobetur: what concerns all by all should be agreed upon), present is a negation of liturgical ministries and tasks in the Church, selective use of the authority of Pope Benedict XVI and Bl. Cardinal. St. Wyszynski. What shines through is the vision of a clerical Church, strongly hierarchical, closed, even a besieged fortress that must defend itself against the attacks of enemies, the role of the laity is passive, liturgical services belong only to priests, possibly to some men.
An important element of the surveys is the voice of young people. Unfortunately, individual questionnaires were completed by only 5% of young people between the ages of 20 and 29. The responses show that young people today need a different way of treating and teaching the faith than young people in past decades. Today’s youth are bored with classical teaching, their attention is focused on social media and they absorb the worldview messages present there. They find the virtual world more attractive and interesting than classic forms of content delivery. The responses also show that the young are looking for and need an ideological foundation, a background, a base through which they can interpret the situations that happen to them in life. However, the weakness of classical forms of teaching of faith and morals means that their worldview is not formed on the basis of the content of faith, but by virtue of competing messages that contradict Church teaching and are more attractive in form. What the young experience and absorb through the Internet, social media and the digital world is easy, fast, interesting in form and not prohibitive, hence faith, morality and Church doctrine appear as content that requires effort and toil. The young also live by media stereotypes (this can be seen in the content of surveys), which they uncritically accept – a believer is someone inferior, not fitting into the world, old-fashioned, unattractive. This kind of media opinion intimidates young people and alienates them from the faith, as they do not want to be apart from a group of attractive peers who are created to be modern and fun. Surveys show that young people need to be motivated to live their faith, to inspire in them the courage to bear witness to their faith.
In the surveys, mostly young people (under 23) emphasized that LGBTQ+ people and those who support abortion are excluded from the Church. They don’t understand the Church’s opposition to homosexual practices and women’s choices to terminate pregnancies. The survey opinions of young people clearly show the influence of mass culture on their perception of the world, they are disturbed by racism, they are imbued with the slogans of tolerance understood as the free acceptance of otherness, and the realization of the mission is hindered by a lack of tolerance for the views of others. They believe that there is gender racism in the Church – a male priest rules and does not allow others to speak (the rule is that if someone thinks differently from the priest then he is wrong).
In many places in all the surveys, the problem of young people, or more precisely, their absence from the Church, came up. Many point out that this is one of the main problems of the Church today: few young people give to the Church and few go to Church at all. Also, relatively few young people participated in the surveys. However, the problem of the young is not only a problem of this generation, but a problem of religious upbringing or lack thereof in the family. Ultimately, it is the family that should play the role of teaching and transmitting the faith, because it is there, in the first stages of his life, that a young person grows up to believe. However, modern parents are not up to the task. On the one hand, they are burdened by work, they feel tired, they do not have time for their children, on the other hand, it is difficult for them to compete with social media, cultural influence, worldview changes that are taking place in civilization. It is not insignificant that many parents have abandoned the practice of faith and in this sphere are no authorities for their children.
XIV. Discernment and decision-making
Data in the surveys indicate that decisions in the communities are made in two ways: either the priest, leader, group animator decides, or they are the result of prayerfully supported conversations among community members. The faithful point out that most often there are no clear rules or principles for decision-making, hence many surveys do not answer the question about decision-making, or are off-topic. Another important issue of discernment and decision-making is the transparency of community and parish accounts. Surveys show that communities have their own billing procedures, while parishes have only some. In this case, the priest shall submit accounts of expenses. Most parishes, however, do not do this, and there are questions among the faithful about what a particular priest does with the money, and sometimes even suspicions of embezzlement. It should come as no surprise, then, that many people have no idea if and how parishes and communities are held accountable; additionally, the lack of a Parish Council in a parish raises suspicion about honest accounting of finances.
Analyzing the views of the faithful by the age of those who took the survey, it can be said that older people, precisely because of their age, do not get too involved in the activities of communities and parishes, they leave this space to younger people – they devote themselves more to prayer than to action. The most active age bracket in completing the surveys is between 30 and 45 years old. This group is creative, wants to act and have an impact on the reality of the Church – communities and parishes. These people are the most concerned, but also the most critical, most often complaining about the lack of cooperation with the clergy, their laziness, lack of preparation and commitment. In the survey, the most active communities were those made up of young married couples – members of the House Church community – but the Scouts and Scouts of Europe communities were also noteworthy. Their statements were wise, mature, showing the care and commitment of young people sacrificing for the elderly and those in need. What emerges is a picture of valuable and active youth.
In the age analysis of the questionnaires, one could see a kind of generational conflict – the young cannot “get along” with the old. The young feel they are treated as inexperienced, ignorant of life, who should not speak up, while the elderly are treated as people to whom nothing can be said, nothing can be pointed out or their actions criticized. This type of conflict arouses aggression.
XVI. Religious orders and seminaries
Surveys show that the level of religious awareness of religious orders is much higher than that of other communities. Religious see the poor and sick as excluded from the church community, but it is not a matter of material issues, but of “spiritual exclusion,” which calls for accompaniment and spiritual assistance. People from congregations believe that church communities are the best place to express themselves. Also, religious orders, unlike other communities, are more likely to experience such ecclesiastical holidays as indulgences.
A separate topic in the surveys is the evaluation of nuns working in parishes. Wherever they are, they are highly praised for their dedication, devotion, commitment and the help they show. Surveys show high praise for their service in the Church, as well as regret and resentment toward pastors and priests for sometimes treating nuns like servants. There is much appreciation in the surveys for the activities of Caritas circles and communities, for their involvement and work for the needy.
On the other hand, seminarians filling out the questionnaire indicated that they do not have the opportunity to speak out, and any attempt to change anything at the Seminary is considered a disruption of unity. Seminarians do not feel heard and do not speak up for fear of being judged.
XVII. Media relations
The surveys indicated that the most frequent contacts were either with Catholic editors such as Radio Maryja, Trwam TV, Radio Warsaw, the weekly Idziemy or even Radio Wnet. They also marked their own activity in the form of Facebook or YouTube accounts. However, most surveys show that many parishes have no media coverage, and there are even comments that communities or parishes are not a place for media publicity. Of course, there is also the present realization that communities and parishes need media support (tools and ways of working) through which they could go beyond their environment and become more recognized and active – a local radio station, their own magazine, the development of social media or the broadcasting of Mass. Via the Internet. The faithful believe that broadcasting the Mass could make it raise the quality of parish homilies. Small parishes, on the other hand, have no contact with the media.
XVIII. Important concluding remarks and summary
It should be clearly noted that in the collected surveys there are no regrets at all about the infrastructure and preparation of churches for rituals, services and various liturgical activities. No one complained that the church was untidy, cold, the pews or sidewalks dirty, cobwebs in the corners. This means that most of the churches in the diocese are well-maintained and properly prepared for liturgy. Despite the criticism of the ministry of pastors and priests, it should be noted that in most surveys very positive evaluations of priests prevail, there are many such parishes where everything works properly and priests are evaluated very positively.
Making a brief summary of the most important issues, matters and threats that affect our diocese and the Catholic Church in Poland, the following should be pointed out:
Parishioners pay great attention to the quality of sermons. Sermons that are bad, boring and read from a page cause people to look for other parishes to attend. Due to the fact that people today treat faith very individually, the quality of the homily is of great importance, and thus with what message, thought, word people ultimately leave after Mass. From the church. The faithful expect emotion, excitement, inspiration, words they can reflect on and that change their lives.
- Church celebrities
If there are no good sermons and catechesis in the parish, the faithful, as came out very strongly in the surveys, educate themselves religiously by using religious online platforms – sermons, catechesis and lectures by priests who preach their content online. It seems that, on the one hand, it is a good thing that the Church is present with its content in the digital sphere and uses modern methods of communication, but on the other hand, it can breed alienation from real parishes, communities and relationships, leading to the formation of peculiar informal and ultimately non-ecclesial groups of “fans” centered around celebrity priests and their teaching. This situation – the abundant use and very positive evaluation by the faithful of online religious blogs and channels – calls for serious consideration so that, on the one hand, good formative content is not negated and the zeal of the faithful is not destroyed, and on the other hand, real, not virtual, ecclesiastical, communal, sacramental relationships are built.
- The nature of communities
One is undoubtedly puzzled by the clearly marked fear of speaking out in community surveys. The fear of ridicule, humiliation and negative evaluation is present.
- Personal relations with the faithful
Visible in the surveys is the desire to talk, meet, discuss with priests on various topics important to people, the need for personal contact, listening, empathy, closeness.
- Extreme Groups
Two extreme groups emerge from the analysis of the questionnaires: the young, who expect a Church that is open and very tolerant, non-exclusive and dialogical, and the faithful connected to the environment of tradition and the Mass celebrated in the Tridentine rite, who, as described above, expect a return to the pre-Vatican II rites, language and forms, see dialogue and synodality as a huge threat, want a Church led by the hierarchy with a strong hand, a Church of radical and consistent principles.
- Evangelization and Ecumenism
Stagnation prevails in ecumenical relations, with the faithful tending to be closed or indifferent to ecumenical issues or meetings. They are focused on the problems of the Catholic Church, turned inward – to parishes and communities. There is little awareness of external mission and the need for evangelization in the surveys.
The most common stereotypes emerging from the surveys relate to a negative assessment of the Church due to clergy pedophile scandals and their cover-up by the hierarchy, as well as a related lack of willingness in the Church to crack down on sexual problems. Synodality is also stereotyped as a kind of democratization and even Protestantization of the Catholic Church. There is little evidence in the surveys of stereotypes about the materialism of priests, their living beyond their means, their detachment from the normal lives of the people, the lack of clear rules for accounting for parish expenses, their reluctance to form Parish Councils and, as noted above, the inappropriate, autocratic, coarse behavior of priests toward the people.
However, the overall picture of the Catholic Church and its priests that emerges from the questionnaires completed by our diocesans is positive. The faithful recognize the commitment, work, sacrifice, hardship and dedication of priests to people and communities. The self-awareness of the faithful regarding the problems, challenges and tasks facing the Church in Poland at the beginning of the 21st century is encouraging. It was expressed in both the community and individual surveys, as one can see a great potential for involvement, a desire to help, and gratitude for the Church and priests, with a simultaneous awareness of shortcomings and risks. However, the negative opinions present in the statements are not a negation of Catholicism or an anti-clerical attack, but are an expression of genuine concern for church communities, the formation of the faithful, the quality of the ministry of priests, the future of young people in the Church and the future of the Church in Poland. Such formulated content fills us with hope, but at the same time is a great call for our diocese to hard pastoral work and zealous responsibility for Christ’s Church.
Diocesan synthesis (PDF version)
Summaries of the synodal process in other dioceses, parishes and the perspective of participants in synodal meetings
Kalendarium wydarzen synodalnych
– 29 wrzesnia 2021 roku Biskup Toruński Wiesław Śmigiel powołał diecezjalnego delegata ds. XVI Zwyczajnego Zgromadzenia Ogólnego Synodu Biskupów oraz Diecezjalny Zespól ds. Synodu: 9 osób
– 6 października 2021 roku Biskup Toruński Wiesław Śmigiel skierował do diecezjan specjalne słowo z okazji rozpoczynającego się Synodu Biskupów
– 17 października 2021 roku, Msza św., inaugurująca diecezjalny etap przygotowań do Synodu, Sanktuarium Miłosierdzia Bożego w Toruniu
– październik 2021 roku: przygotowanie materialów synodalnych, które rozeslano do parafii, grup, ruchów i wspólnot oraz zostały umieszczone w specjalnej zakładce na stronie internetowej Diecezji Toruńskiej: Słowo Biskupa Toruńskiego; informacje ogólne dotyczące Synodu- kalendarium; sklad Diecezjalnego Zespołu ds. Synodu; tekst Modlitwy o owoce Synodu; wskazania dotyczące drogi synodalnej w parafii; wskazania dotyczące drogi synodalnej we wspólnotach, ruchach i stowarzyszeniach oraz innych grupach synodalnych; wskazania dotyczące drogi synodalnej przezywanej indywidualnie; schemat Liturgii Słowa, będącej częścią, spotkania synodalnego
Zakończył się etap diecezjalny Synodu o Synodalności, w którym także i my wzięliśmy udział. Owocem spotkań synodalnych jest między innymi synteza, która trafiła do Sekretariatu Synodu naszej Archidiecezji. Zapraszamy do lektury.
Synod jest potrzebnym głosem w Kościele, ale jest to głos doradczy. Jego celem nie jest ustalanie większością głosów nowych zasad wiary czy zmiana zasad moralnych. Dla mnie spotkania synodalne były okazją do ciekawych rozmów o Kościele, do słuchania opinii innych osób. Dały mi możliwość lepszego zrozumienia omawianych tematów.
O synodzie pierwszy raz usłyszałem w październiku ubiegłego roku i już wtedy, nie do końca świadomy o co w nim jeszcze chodzi, wziąłem udział w spotkaniach synodalnych organizowanych w ramach spotkań liderów grup ruchu Mężczyźni św. Józefa. Niedługo potem, zostałem poproszony o organizację takich spotkań przez ks. Proboszcza własnej parafii. Organizacja spotkań wymusiła głębsze poznanie tematu i odkrycie tego, jak bardzo rozpoczęty synod jest potrzebny Kościołowi.