The Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) has a pervasive presence in the greater Scranton community as well as on campus at The University.
Fransiczek Hodur founded PNCC in Scranton in 1897 following the influx of Polish immigrants to the U.S. Catholic immigrants felt that they faced discrimination within the Roman Catholic tradition as well as a lack of resources. Virtually no priests spoke Polish, and the Church forbade Catholic schools from teaching Polish. Hodur was a pastor at St. Stanislaus Church in Scranton, and, after years of discontent, lead the PNCC’s breaking from the Catholic Church in 1897 with 20,000 members.
Sophomore Jackie Stash has experience in both the Roman Catholic Church and the PNCC. Her father practices the Roman Catholic tradition and her mother practices the Polish National Catholic tradition. As a result, Stash was baptized Polish Catholic and confirmed Roman Catholic.
There are several differences between the two traditions. The most glaring, according to Stash, is the marital state of the priests.
“They can marry and have families,” Stash said. “In fact, they’re encouraged to.”
Additionally, the ceremonies of confession and absolution differ in the PNCC. Stash had to attend private confession until the age of 16, but since then she has participated in group general absolutions in Polish Catholic Mass.
While the PNCC does seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, it does not recognize the pope. Rather, it recognizes a “prime bishop.” Scranton acts as “the PNCC’s Vatican,” Stash said. The first parish, St. Stanislaus, is on East Locust Street in the city.
In addition to these differences in ceremony and hierarchy as well as some differences in cultural and social beliefs (such as birth control, which is permitted in accordance with the discretion of a married couple), Stash said there is a big difference in the social environments between the Churches.
“[The PNCC] is a more close-knit community,” Stash said. “It’s smaller and centered here, so they do more together as a community. It makes them closer.”
The PNCC currently has around 25,000 members nationally, with a large percentage in the surrounding Scranton area. Anthony Mikovsky acts as the current prime bishop.
Regardless of the small inconsistencies between the traditions, Stash said her spiritual development has not been effected.
“The beliefs are the same,” Stash said. “It’s just a different setting. There are different aspects like at every church, but it hasn’t changed my faith life.”
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