NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

“…and she saw habits in hell.” Disobedient nuns and Catholicism in Poland

Marta Trzebiatowska

This paper explores the case of a “rebellious convent” in Poland. In the summer of 2005 a group of Catholic sisters barricaded themselves in their community’s home in a small Polish town of Kazimierz Dolny. The Catholic bishops declared the nuns lay women and ordered them to vacate the convent. Nevertheless, the sisters refused to leave, despite an intervention from the Vatican, and continued to function as a religious community until they were forcibly removed in October 2007. An emotionally-charged public debate accompanied the events during the two years of the rebellion.
The narratives present in this debate were produced in three types of spaces: the newspapers (textual space), the internet message boards (cyber space), and the local population (“real” community). These narratives did not simply report or reflect on the occurrence in Kazimierz Dolny but they actively constructed it. Some captured the public imagination for a short period of time. Others produced tangible consequences for the individuals involved. Through exploring the institutional, virtual and personal voices and commentaries on the case, this paper argues for a rhizomatic and multi-layered approach to the analysis of the nuns’ rebellion and its aftermath. It concludes by offering three different pictures of Polish Catholicism in the twenty-first century.