NEWS:  January 31, 2007

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

KICKING AN ANTHILL  – Scorching developments have followed the forced resignation of newly appointed Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus from the See of Warsaw. Let me remind my reader of the main facts, so that I can comment on the consequences.

  • In Autumn 2006 rumors spread that Card. Josef Glemp would shortly be replaced as Primate of Poland and Archbishop of Warsaw, and the name of Archbishop Wielgus as a possible successor surfaced.

  • A group of officials from the Institute of National Memory, which examines the compromise of Polish personages with the Nazi and Communist regimes, asked for an appointment with Card. Glemp to warn him that the archives contained damaging information about Wielgus.

  • On December 6, the Vatican announced that Stanislaw Wielgus would be the next Archbishop of Warsaw.

Archbishop Wielgus resigns

Archbishop Wielgus at St. John Cathedral on the occasion of his resignation - America, January 29, 2007
  • Even before this official announcement, rumors had begun to spread that Wielgus was a collaborator of the Communist regime. In mid-December the Polish newspaper Gazeta Polska published an article affirming that he had been the agent “Adam” of the secret police for more than 20 years, beginning in the late 1960s. He was allegedly in charge of providing information on the clergy as well as Polish dissidents (National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, January 19, 2007).

  • The Polish Bishops issued a statement “expressing our solidarity with Archbishop Wielgus; we entrust to God his person and the task he has been given.”

  • In face of those increasing rumors, Benedict XVI added his own vote of confidence on December 21. A Vatican statement said that the Pope had taken into account “all the circumstances” of Wielgus’ life in appointing him to Warsaw, “including those matters regarding his past” (ibid.).

  • On January 2, 2007, the Polish press published a document signed by Wielgus in 1978 promising to provide information to the secret police. Other documents claimed that he operated under the code-name “Grey” and underwent special training for secret agents.

  • On January 5, a commission established by the Episcopate admitted that “there exist numerous documents which show that Fr. Stanislaw Wielgus said he was ready to collaborate, in a conscious and secret manner, with the Communist security services, and that he initiated that collaboration.”

  • Notwithstanding, that same night Wielgus took his canonical vows and became the Archbishop of Warsaw.

  • On January 6, Wielgus released an open letter in which he said: “I confess to the mistake committed by me years ago, just as I have confessed to the Holy Father.” Specifically, he wrote that he had “presented my life history to the Holy Father and the appropriate dicasteries of the Holy See, including this part of my past that compromised being entangled in contacts with the secret services.” He also affirmed “I never informed on anyone and never tried to hurt anyone,” and he placed his fate in Benedict XVI’s hands.

  • That same day he submitted his resignation, and hours later the Pope accepted it.

  • On January 7, minutes before the Sunday morning Mass in Warsaw’s Cathedral of St. John that was planned to celebrate his installation, Wielgus informed the congregation that he was resigning, less than 36 hours after being made Archbishop of Warsaw (ibid.)
This spectacular sequence of events revolving around the highest ecclesiastical authority in Poland just after his appointment produced a series of consequences in the Vatican, as well as in Poland.

In the Vatican we have three persons directly responsible for this crisis:

Pope Benedict XVI

Benedict XVI gives the impression that he sacrificed his friends - Vatican Internet site
First, Benedict XVI seems directly responsible for the fiasco. Indeed, he was the one who chose Weilgus for the principal see of Poland, a country with 39 million inhabitants, 96% of whom are Catholics. It is probably the country with the highest percentage of Catholics in the world. To have chosen Weilgus for this post is equivalent to saying that he would soon be elevated to Cardinal and be the Primate of Poland. In other words, this particular assignment is normally a high priority and serious matter for any Pope. One would expect Benedict to have asked every single detail about this man, and to have set him aside for the post were there any uncleared doubt about his past.

But the Pope acted differently. As the rumors spread in Poland that Weilgus had been a Communist secret agent, Benedict issued a vote of confidence saying that he had taken into consideration “all the circumstances,” including “those matters regarding Weilgus’ past.” It is impossible to be more supportive than the Pope was. Again, it is also hard to believe that Benedict would have taken such official and public attitudes without having every available information about Weilgus at hand.

Therefore, one can conclude that Benedict knew everything about Weilgus.

If this is so, why did the Pope suddenly renege on his ostensive support and hand over Wielgus to the beasts? Possibly because the tide of indignation in Poland rose higher than expected, and the need to save the Pope’s prestige – in free fall – became an imperative. Since Wielgus’ head alone did not suffice, new “guilty” heads also had to fall.

If this is true, we are facing a tactical maneuver that completely disregards Catholic Morals. Machiavelli would have done the same. To say the least, it does not project an image of a Pope who is either a loyal friend or a man concerned about holiness.

Second, the Papal Nuntio of Warsaw, Archbishop Josef Kowalczyk, who has exercised this function for 18 years, is also directly involved. His mission is to provide information to the Pope, without intermediaries. His job is to be aware of all the data being circulated by the press or watch groups in Poland. Was he in fact aware of such incriminating data? Did he pass them on to the Vatican? Most probably he was aware and did pass the data. However, we will probably never have a precise answer to these questions.

Notwithstanding, he is the next “guilty” party to be blamed. Rumors are already out that soon he will be replaced as papal nuntio (The Tablet, Robert Mickens, January 20, 2007, p. 36).

Cardinal Re

Will Card. Re lose his position at the Vatican ? - Internet photo
Third, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation of the Bishops, is the next natural “guilty.” His obligation is to have folders with all information about the Bishops and Archbishops. Did he have a full dossier on Wielgus? Most probably he had, and most probably he passed it along to the top. But now he is denying it. Indeed, Re has bluntly affirmed that Wielgus lied: “When Monsignor Wielgus was nominated, we knew nothing about his collaboration with the secret police” (Orange County Catholic, CNS, John Thavis, January 2007). Is Re lying? Probably so, because he knew, as everybody knows, that most of the Polish Bishops collaborated with Communism.

Regarding Re, rumors also are circulating that he will leave his post. He would be “promoted” to be Cardinal of Florence for a nice end-of-career assignment. But first the present day Cardinal of Florence, Ennio Antonelli, has to be removed and installed in another place (The Tablet, ibid.). So goes the Vatican chess game to save Benedict’s prestige …

In Poland, the situation is also agitated.

The media already disclosed a memorandum of the Communist secret police dated 1978, affirming that 12 Polish Bishops were cooperating then in plans to infiltrate the Catholic Church (NCR, January 19, 2007).

Tomasz Pompowiski, editor of the newspaper Dziennik, affirmed that he is aware of 20 more Bishops involved in collaboration with Communism.

The Polish weekly Wrpost published documents claiming that one Bishop reported to the secret police the meetings of the Episcopate from 1963 to 1970, including the private discussions of Polish Bishops at Vatican II.

The same paper also disclosed that Bishop Jerzy Dabrowiski of Gniezno had received money from the secret police. Later he became a close advisor of Cardinal Glemp. He died in a car accident in 1991.

The rector of Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral, Fr. Janusz Bielanski, recently resigned after charges that he had collaborated with Communism. This was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla’s cathedral when he was Archbishop of Krakow (ibid.).

The Archbishop of Lublin, Josef Zycinski, who up to now was considered anti-Communist, felt the need to make a public statement in the weekly Tygodnik Powszechny to explain his contacts with secret police agents in the 1970s and 1980s (The Tablet, Jonathan Luxmoore, January 29, 2007, p. 31).

John Paul II and Casaroli meet communist

JPII and Casaroli with Communist Jaruzelski in Poland, 1984
30 Giorni, March 2000
Further disclosures are expected in a soon-to-be-published book by Fr. Tadeus Isakowicz, who will document Communist penetration in the Polish high and low clergy.

Cardinal Josepf Glemp was asked by the Vatican to remain as Archbishop of Warsaw for a while longer.

The Bishop’s Conference called an emergency meeting on January 12 to issue a communiqué encouraging the 44 dioceses of Poland to make an open investigation of the pasts of the Bishops and clergy. The Bishops of the conference also offered a five-member commission to review the past of all the Bishops who so desired. The results would not be made public, and the final decision on those “burdened by collaboration” would be left to the Pope or the due Vatican organ.

The document was read in all the churches nationwide Sunday, January 13. In it the Bishops also ordered a day of prayer and penance on Ash Wednesday for “mistakes and weakness in preaching the Gospel in Poland” (The Tablet, January 20, 2007, p. 31; America, January 29, 2007, p. 7). Trying to dilute their compromise with Communism, they said that the clergy did what everyone else also did: “The Church in Poland always felt with the nation and shared its fate, especially in the darkest periods of our history. This fact cannot be altered by exposures of weaknesses and infidelities among its members, including the clergy” (The Tablet, ibid.).

Clearly, the religious situation in Poland looks like an anthill that has been kicked.

Since so many important persons, including Benedict XVI, are being burned by these exposures of collaboration with Communism, the question necessarily arises: Who is kicking the anthill?

I found only one datum that, in passing, sheds some light on the matter without answering the question. It was a declaration of Tomasz Pompowiski, editor of Dziennik, an influential Polish newspaper. He affirms that the Church in Poland has long been aware that she is sitting on a ‘time bomb’ regarding past collaboration with Communism. But the Church avoided confronting these issues during the last years of John Paul II’s pontificate for fear of burdening the Polish Pope in his twilight (NCR, January 19, 2007).

Affirming this, Pompowiski implies that the Church had enough strength to avoid confronting the problem until recently. So, what has happened now? Did she lose her power? Or did she agree that her own members be exposed as Communism collaborators?

Many question remain in the air: Who decided that now is a good time to burn Benedict XVI, Card. Re, Archbishop Wielgus, and so many others? Is there someone else in the Polish hierarchy who agreed with the timing of this attack?

If so, who was this agreement made with? With the press? Why would the press struggle to clean the Church from Communist agents who infiltrated her? Are some behind-the-scene conservative forces involved? Who are they? I don't know.

Let us wait and see if the anthill will be rebuilt and if some data emerge that will clarify the picture.


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