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September, 2009
UNRISD & Heinrich Boell Stiftung

The prestige and the influence of the Polish Church is closely linked to the role it played
historically when Poland was occupied by foreign countries throughout the 19th century.
It then appeared as the only centre of stability and resistance against the invaders, giving force to the equation: ‘Polish = Catholic’. The family was another symbol of Polish
resistance to foreign occupation coupled with the powerful symbol of the ‘Polish Mother’ (mother of God and of the nation). Under the communist regime, far from succeeding, the attempts of the government to discredit the Church and to play down its authority, on the contrary, enhanced its popularity. This became evident in the mass following of the independent trade union Solidarnosc, which also had links with the Church in the 1970s and 1980s. Both held very traditional views of women’s roles (as mother and wife) and took strongly conservative positions on moral values and on reproductive rights more specifically.