When a Polish bishop was arrested in late October for drunkenly crashing his Toyota into a street lamp, it was the latest incident to scratch the church's once-pristine image in Europe's most Catholic country, reports NCR Online.
Twenty-three years after the collapse of communist rule, baptized Catholics still make up about 95 percent of the country's population of 38 million.
Yet some have detected a sense of drift since John Paul's death in 2005.
"Modern reforms have certainly been delayed here, while the church lags behind the West in its organizational structure," explained Fr. Henryk Zielinski, editor of Poland's top-selling Catholic weekly, Idziemy ("Let's Go").
"Meanwhile, much of the media has turned hostile to the church -- you could sometimes get the impression that Polish priests do nothing all day but plan wicked deeds."
For two decades, the church has faced criticisms over its largest broadcaster, the Redemptorist-run Radio Maryja, which has been warned by Poland's State Media Council against airing racist and nationalistic content.
The Polish church's image has also been tarnished by claims about its former infiltration by communist secret police, by charges that its religious orders made millions of zloties speculating on land awarded as compensation for communist-era seizures, and by allegations that it has covered up child abuse by Catholic clergy.
Critics have also accused the church of showing insufficient regard for social problems.
Although Poland's clergy have campaigned tirelessly against the evils of abortion, they've said little about economic hardships in the country, which has the European Union's highest rates of child poverty and lowest levels of family support.
While huge sums have been spent on new churches -- including Warsaw Cardinal Jozef Glemp's lavish state-funded $90 million Divine Mercy basilica in the Polish capital -- little has been said about poor housing, which is also the EU's worst.
"To survive such times, we need dynamic, energetic leaders who are up-to-date with technology and information. That's the challenge facing the church everywhere. But it's a particularly striking challenge here in Poland," says Zielinski.
FULL STORY Secularising pressures hit Polish Church (NCR)