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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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Some 74 per cent of Poles think that religion is not always the source of morality and people should follow their own conscience first. The results of a poll by the Warsaw-based CBOS polling agency reveal a significant decline of public trust towards religion in Poland.
Poland is still widely considered to be the most Catholic country in Europe. Some 95 per cent of country’s 38 million inhabitants are baptised Catholics, and at least a third of them say they attend Mass weekly.
The poll showed a significant increase in Poles who think there is no direct link between religion and morality – a jump from 33 per cent in 2009 to 41 cent now – and a decrease in the number of people who believe that religion is the only source of morality – from 24 per cent in 2009 to 16 per cent now.
The reason that people were trusting their own consciences above what the Church taught was because “the moral teaching of the Catholic Church seems to be paralysing the individual’s choices,” commented Tadeusz Bartos, profesor of philosophy at the Humanistic Academy in Pultusk.
Hard-fought public debates on in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), ending state subsidies for the Church and whether to legalise civil unions are challenging Catholicism's role at the heart of the Polish state. There also signs that the Church faces increasing alienation among young Poles.
During their recent ad limina visit to Vatican, Poland’s bishops complained to Pope Francis about media coverage of the Catholic Church in Poland. They said that some media reports characterised the Church in Poland as “backward and immobile” and said they had receiving negative press coverage because of incidents of clerical sexual abuse, and the Church’s opposition to gay marriage.