Only 7% of Polish youth “fully trust” the Catholic Church, a new survey has found.

Driving the news

Last February, the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) polled 2,000 young urban Poles between the ages of 16-34.

The results of the survey, published Thursday, paint a picture of a “EU-oriented, mobile, and less optimistic” youth, in the words of survey author Félix Krawatzek.

But they also reveal a new generation highly sceptical of the Church.

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The big picture

With regard to politics, the ZOiS survey concluded that 75% of Polish youth are planning to vote in elections on October 13.

One-third remain undecided on who to vote for.

But Krawatzek said support for the two main parties – the Civic Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS) – “is significantly lower among young people than in the broader population”.

As to where young Poles get their information, the ZOiS survey revealed they are turning more and more to Facebook and other social media.

“It is likely that the polarised structure and often antagonistic tone of Polish media outlets relate to the low trust scores the media receive from young people”, Krawatzek observed.

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Go deeper

With respect to young Poles’ trust in other public and private institutions, the Parliament and President received mixed scores, while NGOs, the army and the police received the highest ratings.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, achieved the lowest rankings.

41.1% of the 2,000 young people surveyed said they do not trust the Church “at all”, and 26.6% reported they “rather” distrusted the institution.

25.6% of youths said they “rather” trusted the Church, but only 7% said they “fully trust” Catholic leaders.

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For the record

“Trust in the Church is remarkably low”, Krawatzek wrote in the ZOiS report.

“The proportion of young people who self-identify as religious is below that of the general population, however, young people attend church with a similar frequency to the broader population”.

The researcher explained that Polish Catholic leaders’ failure to properly address the sex abuse crisis “has left a visible imprint on what young people make of the Church”.

“This issue is of particular political importance in Poland”, Krawatzek further explained.

“There is close proximity between representatives of the Church and local politicians from the governing PiS party and, more broadly, an alliance between the Catholic Church and those holding the country’s political power.

“Meanwhile, the Polish church is also a politicised actor that is actively involved in political and societal debates, for example through the radio station Radio Maryja”, the researcher affirmed.

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Why it matters

The Polish Church’s credibility has been decimated by two highly-watched and influential films that exposed its sex abuse crimes and cover-ups: Kler (“Clergy”, 2018) and Tylko nie mów nikomu (“Just Don’t Tell Anyone”, 2019).

A victims support group, Nie Lękajcie Się (“Do Not Be Afraid”), also presented a report to the Pope in February accusing 24 Church leaders of “concealing clerical crimes”.

In March the Polish Bishops’ Conference released a report revealing that between 1990 and mid-2018 some 625 children, mostly 15 and under, had been abused by 382 priests.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.