I had a few thoughts as I read this provocative article from The Telegraph on a survey done among Catholic clergy in Poland. I pondered what seems to me to be a number of short articles like this in the British press-seemingly barely more than news blurbs.
And then I reflected on another side-effect of the malaise eating away at the mainstream media here and in the U.K. -- a lack of U.S. and British reporters based in places like Poland and other Eastern European countries who have the time to dig deep into stories like this -- and then be assured that they will be published.
That's unfortunate because not only does the United States have a fairly large number of Americans of Eastern European descent (and immigrants), but readers here don't often get an opportunity to understand the relationship between faith and culture in such countries-equally important as other stories that seem "sexier."
The writer doesn't waste any time going for the broad (or broads) generalization.
A survey of Poland's Catholic priests has shown that a majority favour an end to celibacy, with some admitting they are already in a relationship with a woman.
The research has dealt a blow to the country's reputation as a champion of traditional Roman Catholic values.
A survey of over 800 priests carried out by Professor Josef Baniak, a sociologist specialising in religious affairs, found that 53 per cent would like to have a wife, while 12 per cent admitted that they were involved in a relationship. A further 30 per cent said that they had had a sexual relationship with a woman.
Let's say that this research is accurate--and a slight majority of clergy would like to get married. Does that mean that Poles no longer uphold traditional Catholic values?
Here we are on a very slippery slope. The article doesn't tell us anything about who these clergy were or how the study was done, or what kind of "religious affairs" the sociologist specializes in.
I find the 12 percent (of clergy who admit to having a relationship with a woman) number fascinating--mostly because they were willing to admit to such a relationship. What does that say about the clergy, the Catholic hierarchy, and Polish culture? I don't know--but I wish the writer had given us a cultural context.
The story includes a few boilerplate rejoinders from the bishop who chairs the Catholic Church's Vocational Council. I have a feeling that Catholic leaders have a lot more to say about these results.
The terse nature of this story is especially frustrating because it tells us both so much and so little. If there's a crisis among Polish clergy, and declining vocations, what do Catholic leaders plan to do about it? What is the influence of the church now on people's day-to-day lives? Is Poland like other countries in Eastern Europe in having a clergy shortage?
More! Less purple prose, and more content, more context, and more quotes from Catholic sources inside and outside Poland. Then we might have a story.