The Vatican has suddenly found itself in the middle of Poland’s tension over its Communist past. Their candidate for the open position of Archbishop of Warsaw apparently collaborated with the Communists before Poland’s liberation, naming priests in the Church who worked against the Soviet-puppet government, according to recently released files from the Polish secret police:
The Catholic church in Poland has been convulsed by claims that the priest who is due to be sworn in this weekend as Archbishop of Warsaw, one of the leading posts in the hierarchy, spied for the communist secret police.
Stanislaw Wielgus is under pressure to withdraw from Sunday’s ceremony or request its postponement after Polish newspapers accused him of collaborating for two decades with a communist regime that the Catholic church staunchly opposed. …
“The new archbishop of Warsaw was a secret and conscious collaborator with the SB [Security Service] for more than 20 years. Documents confirm this,” the well-respected Rzeczpospolita newspaper wrote yesterday of Mr Wielgus, who was chosen by Pope Benedict XVI last month to fill one of the most important roles in the Polish church.
Rzeczpospolita and other publications claim to have found Mr Wielgus’s file in the archives of the communist secret police, which have yielded evidence exposing several prominent priests as former collaborators and led investigators to conclude that about one-in-10 Polish clergymen passed information to the security services.
Mr Wielgus is accused of spying for the SB from 1967, when he was a philosophy student at Lublin University, until the collapse of communist rule in 1989, and of operating under at least three pseudonyms: “Adam”, “Grey” and “Adam Wysocki”.
This will be a major embarrassment for the Vatican, whose last Pope famously fought against the tyranny of Communism both as a priest and in his Papacy. The Poles are not in an understanding mood about overt Communists at the moment; they elected a decidedly anti-Communist government last year, and they certainly do not want a collaborator leading their Church.
Wielgus has denied all of the allegations. He claims that he only met with the secret police in order to get a passport, and that these meetings were a requirement. However, newspapers in Poland claim that they have discovered an agreement signed by Wielgus to work for the Communists, as well as reports he gathered on other people he knew, including other Catholic priests. They also found that Wielgus received special training for his mission and was given a trip to Germany as a reward for the work he had performed.
The Vatican will have to decide shortly whether to proceed with Wielgus’ installation as Archbishop. The outgoing Archbishop Josef Glemp insists that all of these issues came under consideration in the decision to give Wielgus the position. Others are not so certain. One Polish priest has insisted that Wielgus needs to answer for the new evidence, and even a Vatican newspaper predicts he will have to resign if the evidence proves legitimate.
The installation ceremony takes place on Sunday. The Church will have to ask itself if it wants to risk its well-earned credibility in Poland as a force against Communist tyranny by possibly putting the Church in the hands of a collaborator who informed on its own priests. The Vatican should postpone the transition until the new evidence can be thoroughly analyzed.