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  • Polish National Catholic Church of America: Minutes of the Supreme Council 1904-1969
  • William J. Galush
Polish National Catholic Church of America: Minutes of the Supreme Council 1904-1969. Compiler and General Editor Casimir J. Grotnik. Translated by Theodore L. Zawistowski. [East European Monographs, No. DCLXIII.] (Boulder: East European Monographs. Distributed by Columbia University Press, New York. 2004. Pp. 392. $60.00.)

This is a valuable source for the investigation of the understudied Polish National Catholic Church. The denomination arose in 1897 under the leadership of a dissident Polish Roman Catholic priest, Father Francis Hodur, and is the leading [End Page 354] American example of an ethnic church which stoutly maintained its Catholic identity. The compilation provides translated records of the Supreme Council of the PNCC and is a necessary companion to the earlier compilations Synods of the Polish National Catholic Church 1904-1958 and The Polish National Catholic Church:Minutes of the First Eleven General Synods 1904-1963.

The Supreme Council Minutes begin in 1904 and proceed with numerous lacunae through the leadership tenures of Bishops Francis Hodur (1904-1953) and his successor, Leon Grochowski (1953-1969). Certain issues appear repeatedly, most notably the persistent and eventually successful effort to establish the church in the homeland. A presence in Poland was vital to a church claiming to represent more fully Polish ethnicity, but World Wars I and II, interwar hostility from a government linked by concordat with Rome, and later persecution by the Communist government presented numerous obstacles and gave the effort an overtone of tragedy. Another ongoing concern, addressed usually by implication, was the reconciliation of the need for administrative order with a polity avowedly more democratic than Roman Catholicism. Other topics include a persistent paucity of seminarians and ongoing rivalry with Roman Catholic Poles, who remained numerically dominant despite PNCC evangelism.

Although minutes are usually only a few pages per session and do not include quotations, there are some apparent paraphrases, usually from Bishop Hodur. Despite Roman Catholic Poles' efforts to marginalize the PNCC within American Polonia, the records suggest a growing desire for Polish National Catholic participation in common ethnic concerns such as relief in World War II and the Polish American Congress (founded in 1944), an ethnic umbrella organization. Ecumenicism appeared in the 1960's, notably in the presence of Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican bishops at an episcopal consecration. The effects of acculturation received acknowledgement with the proposal for an English missal in this decade.

The translation is readable and the organization chronological. The indices are limited to names and places, so topics must be sought by reading the entire work. Since the original Polish accompanies the translation, the work is shorter than the apparent size of the volume. But the availability of an English version of this important source increases the accessibility of information on this interesting if small denomination.

William J. Galush
Loyola University Chicago


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pp. 354-355
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