Catholic Intimacies: Negotiating Contraception in Late Communist Poland
Abstract: The majority of people in Poland self-identified as Catholic throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Despite the Polish Episcopate's unanimous rejection of contraception as immoral and sinful, a considerable proportion of Polish Catholics utilized family planning techniques and technologies explicitly banned by their institutional Church. This article uses personal narratives to show how Polish Catholics negotiated their use of Church-authorized and Church-banned family planning methods with their lived experiences of faith in a communist state where both abortion and contraception were legal. We explore the strategies of interpretation, relativisation, and (selective) rejection through which Catholics who self-identified as “practising” approached birth control as a social issue and an individual practice and show how communist secular approaches to birth control contributed to extending the scope of Catholics' agency in the realm of reproductive decision making.
The article is in open access
The authors would like to thank the reviewers and Joanna Baines. This article is a result of the research project “Catholicising Reproduction, Reproducing Catholicism: Activist Practices and Intimate Negotiations in Poland, 1930–Present” (principal investigator Agnieszka Kościańska), funded by the National Science Center, Poland (Opus 17 scheme, grant number 2019/33/B/HS3/01068). The authors are also grateful to the members of the Scientific Research Network (WOG) “Medicine and Catholicism since the late 19th Century” funded by Research Foundation – Flanders for their comments and support.