>Which of the priests gave in to the pressure and collaborated with the communist intelligence? This question about the past has a very real impact on Poland’s present. Today we are facing this issue: can a person who collaborated with the regime be the moral and theological authority for a whole diocese? From what we learned about archbishop Wielgus, his collaboration might have meant as many as 20 years of informing the communist regime about what was happening in the Church. And the main aim of the Communists was the destruction of the Church.
— Tomasz Terlikowski, Newsweek Polska
Men are fallible. They sin, they commit errors of judgment. The Apostle Paul (formerly the Pharisee known as Saul of Tarsus) affirms: “As it is written, There is none righteous. No, not one” (Romans 3:10).
The Archbishop of Warsaw’s resignation illuminates and hopefully will exorcise the specter of communism haunting the Catholic Church in Poland, in addition to supporting the anti-communist lustration currently taking place in that country under the guidance of Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the identical twin brothers occupying the offices of president and prime minister, respectively. Both politicians, who are putatively rightist, jumpstarted their political careers in Solidarity, one of the first communist fronts that Moscow–according to KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn in New Lies for Old (1984)–utilized to advance the perestroika deception in Eastern Europe. Lech Kaczynski, moreover, was a close advisor of Lech Walesa, alleged agent “Bolek” and secret police collaborator.
Resigning Archbishop Wielgus and Cardinal Glemp are depicted above.
Polish archbishop quits over police ties
By RYAN LUCAS, Associated Press Writer
Sun Jan 7, 6:25 PM ET
Warsaw’s new archbishop abruptly resigned Sunday over revelations that he cooperated with Poland’s communist-era secret police, stunning worshippers by sadly yielding the archbishop’s throne just minutes before he was to be formally installed.
To cries of “No, no!” and “Stay with us!” in and outside St. John’s Cathedral, a despondent Stanislaw Wielgus read from a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in which he offered his resignation “after reflecting deeply and assessing my personal situation.”
The Vatican said Wielgus’ past actions had “gravely compromised his authority” as one of the top church officials in the late Pope John Paul II’s deeply Roman Catholic homeland, adding that the 67-year-old priest was right to go “despite his humble and moving request for forgiveness.”
But his withdrawal sparked an uproar among those gathered in the red-brick cathedral and crowded outside under umbrellas, most of whom had not heard the Polish church’s announcement of the resignation a half hour earlier. “They stoned the bishop!” an elderly woman outside shouted.
In a sign of how the painful revelations have divided believers, Wielgus’ words also drew applause from the congregation — including President Lech Kaczynski, whose conservative party has sought both to purge Poland of the vestiges of communist influence and to strengthen traditional Catholic values.
John Paul’s staunch opposition to communism is credited with inspiring the rise in the 1980s of Poland’s pro-democracy Solidarity movement, which helped end communist rule in 1989.
But the country has grappled since his death with a string of revelations about respected Catholic figures cooperating with the secret services. None has rattled Poles like the case of Wielgus, the highest-ranking church official found to have ties with the secret police.
The disclosure is particularly troubling to many because it shakes a widely held belief that the church acted as a courageous opponent of communism. Secret police agents not only spied on the church, but also brutally murdered a charismatic Warsaw priest tied to Solidarity, the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, in 1984.
While the Mass was to have marked Wielgus’ official installation, he had been archbishop since taking his canonical vows for the post Friday. He previously was bishop of Plock, but it was not immediately clear what future role Wielgus might have with the church.
Resignations of bishops or archbishops so early in their tenures are virtually unheard of in the Catholic Church. Most bishops forced to quit because of scandal have been in their seat for years.
After announcing his resignation, Wielgus removed his glasses and sat down on a chair next to the throne that would have been his as archbishop. Cardinal Jozef Glemp took the top seat instead.
Glemp, Poland’s top church leader, then delivered a homily defending Wielgus. He called him “God’s servant” and warned of the dangers of passing judgment based on incomplete and flawed documents left behind by the communist authorities.
“Today a judgment was passed on Bishop Wielgus,” said Glemp. “But what kind of judgment was it, based on some documents and shreds of paper photocopied three times over? We do not want such judgments.”
Last fall, Glemp said documents that have come to light since the communist era showed the climate of fear gripping Poles during those days resulted in about 15 percent of the country’s clergymen being coerced into giving information to the secret services.
Throughout the homily, Wielgus looked down, his mouth twitching and eyes batting shut repeatedly.
“What he did was stupid, it was a mistake, but it was less harmful than what others did,” said Barbara Matusiak, a 60-year-old doctor standing outside the church. “We don’t know how we would have acted in his shoes, and so we have to forgive.”
Others expressed relief.
“If he was a spy, then he made the right decision to resign,” said Teresa Sikorska, 58, who was selling souvenirs at the nearby Royal Castle Square. “How can you go to church and believe a man that spied on people? You can’t.”
Wielgus was named archbishop by the Vatican on Dec. 6 to replace Glemp, who gave up the post after more than 25 years that included Poland’s dark days of martial law during a communist crackdown and its transformation to a free-market democracy.
Allegations that Wielgus was involved with the secret police were first raised by a Polish weekly Dec. 20. But the case flared into a crisis Friday when a church historical commission said it had found evidence that Wielgus had cooperated with the communist authorities.
Wielgus initially denied that, but then acknowledged he did sign an agreement in 1978 promising to cooperate with the security force in exchange for permission to leave Poland to study in West Germany.
He insisted he did not inform on anyone or try to hurt anyone, and he expressed remorse for both his contacts with the secret police and his failure to be forthcoming from the start.
The church said the pope asked Glemp to administer the archdiocese until another replacement is found.
Marek Zajac, a commentator for the respected Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, commended Wielgus for stepping aside, but said the move took too long.
“All of the recent perturbations and painful moments for the church — very dramatic and maybe dangerous for the future of the church in Poland — could have been avoided,” Zajac said on TVN24.
Associated Press writers Monika Scislowska in Warsaw and Maria Sanminiatelli in Rome contributed to this report.
In addition to the church historical commission that exposed Wielgus’ collaboration with the communist secret police, the Polish media has also unearthed documents from the archives of the Polish United Workers’ Party that reveal the archbishop’s two-decade collaboration with Warsaw’s red regime.
Gazeta Polska: Archbishop Wielgus a former communist spy
According to the weekly Gazeta Polska, Archbishop Stanisław Wielgus, who is to succeed Cardinal Józef Glemp as the metropolitan of Warsaw, has in the past been a secret collaborator of the communist intelligence.
Joanna Najfeld reports.
Investigative journalists from the Gazeta Polska weekly have found documents from the communist archives, according to which the newly appointed archbishop metropolitan of Warsaw, Stanisław Wielgus, collaborated with the communist secret services for over 20 years, informing them about the activities of the Catholic Church in Communist Poland.
Tomasz Sakiewicz, editor in chief of Gazeta Polska:
‘Our authors have found materials from the archives of Communist secret police which show us that Bishop Wielgus was a secret collaborator of secret communist intelligence. We are very sure that these materials are true. His cooperation lasted for 22 years. He was one of the most important collaborators of the communist intelligence in the Church.’
Lately archbishop Stanisław Wielgus has been known as a vocal opponent of revealing former communist spies in the present Polish public life. Now he denies the accusations against himself. He says he kept in contact with communist era secret service but never actively collaborated against the Church. He also claims that the documents produced are fake.
According to Gazeta Polska Archbishop Wielgus was one of the most important communist spies in the Catholic Church. He is supposed to have started collaboration back in the 1960s and worked initially for the department dedicated to destroying the Catholic Church. Allegedly, he agreed to cooperation with the communist services in exchange for an opportunity to pursue his scientific career abroad.
Gazeta Polska writes that the archbishop’s cooperation went uninterrupted until the beginning of the 1990s when the communist services ceased to exist. He never changed his mind about what he was doing, even after a series of brutal murders by the communist regime on priests, says Gazeta Polska.
Independent investigative journalist Leszek Szymowski has written on communist crimes, also those dealing with the Catholic Church:
‘Communism used priests as very important sources of information. They informed about everything that happened in the Catholic organizations and in the Catholic Church. The communist government used them to fight against the Catholic Church. Information gained from the priests was used to enforce the actions of intimidation of the Catholic hierarchy and to discourage Poles from being Catholic. What is also important is that the historians discovered that Polish priests were also used as spies in a very serious plot of KGB against John Paul II.’
The activity of communist spies among the clergy helped the communist services perpetrate most horrendous crimes, such as the brutal murder of Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, continues Szymowski:
‘Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko of Warsaw’s Żoliborz district, a priest of ‘Solidarity’, was murdered in 1984. Before that he was being spied on. One of the most important spies was Fr. Michał Czajkowski who was later one of the most popular Polish priests and one of the big authorities in Poland.’
It is of grave importance for Poles to find out the truth about the country’s Communist past, as these questions heavily influence Poland’s present, says philosopher Tomasz Terlikowski of Newsweek Polska:
‘Which of the priests gave in to the pressure and collaborated with the communist intelligence? This question about the past has a very real impact on Poland’s present. Today we are facing this issue: can a person who collaborated with the regime be the moral and theological authority for a whole diocese? From what we learned about archbishop Wielgus, his collaboration might have meant as many as 20 years of informing the communist regime about what was happening in the Church. And the main aim of the Communists was the destruction of the Church. ‘
If the vetting process had been done just after the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, we wouldn’t have a major public opinion scandal every several weeks now, argues Terlikowski:
‘The consequences of neglecting the vetting process are very serious. Church hierarchy loses credibility in the eyes of some believers. You can have the impression that most priests collaborated with the Communists when in fact only a small number of them did.’
It is not the first time that Gazeta Polska has written on Communist agents present in Polish present public life. Recently, they have published information on Milan Subotic, a former communist collaborator, who has been an influential figure in one of Poland’s biggest commercial television stations, TVN.
Gazeta Polska’s editor in chief, Tomasz Sakiewicz, again:
‘It’s our mission. Journalists should show people the truth. The truth about Poland is that we were occupied by the Soviets and their communist cooperators. Most dangerous collaborators were the secret collaborators, because now they are still active in our public life, some of them cooperate with Russian intelligence. They are still dangerous for our country. I am very sure that people should know the truth. Just like after the second world war, Germans should know the Nazi cooperators, we should know who were the communist cooperators.’
The Institute of National Remembrance has not commented on the findings of Gazeta Polska.