Wednesday, January 10, 2007

From the Polish Desk

The fallout continues....

As many of you know by now, following Sunday's installation-day resignation of Warsaw Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, on Monday the rector of Krakow's Wawel Cathedral fell to similar accusations of collaboration with the Communist regime. Poles are said to be feeling "heartsick" and "betrayed" over the ensuing episode, which has encited still-raw emotions from the era of the Iron Curtain, and in an interview with state radio last night, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski deemed the cascade of revelations a "national crisis."

The most comprehensive briefs can be found in the English section of Radio Polonia. Here's a snip from Saturday's report, after Wielgus' activities with the intelligence services were initially confirmed:
The Polish church and the Vatican stand by Archbishop Wielgus, but the Polish churchgoers begin to have doubts. The accusations evoke unease among the faithful for whom the Church was a model of morality and the pillar of opposition to the communists. Tomasz Sakiewicz says that this situation, unless cleared up will undermine the credibility of the Church.

.”Polish people stand by the church and believe their priests, but now everybody knows he is lying - it is even worse that his cooperation with the communists.

Archbishop Stanisalw Wielgus is not the first high-ranking cleric to be accused of working with the communist era secret services. The Polish Church however was loath to open an internal probe, but research had been started by Father Tadeusz Issakowicz Zaleski.

He devoted a year studying the National remembrance Institute files which showed that only some 10% of the Polish clergy agreed to cooperate with the communists. Father Zaleski underlines that the like the former metropolitan of Krakow cardinal Franciszek Macharski or Archbishop Zieba knew how to refuse the offers

”I think their examples show that the Polish priests could stand for their Church. They did not mind their church career but had other values to defend.”
Zaleski and his work were profiled in a piece in today's NYTimes.
“The church didn’t want to hurt the pope, but actually, more harm was done by keeping silent,” Father Zaleski, 50, said in an interview at the hilltop compound of a charity he runs outside Krakow....

The disclosures have gripped this deeply religious nation — the largest bloc of devout Roman Catholics left in Europe — and sparked anger toward the church for letting the frenzied news media disclose them, rather than researching the archives and reporting the findings on its own.

“The church is guilty because it had the possibility to cleanse itself by publishing honest data about the clergy’s activities during the Communist time,” Father Zaleski said. The church argues that coming to terms with the past is a matter of personal sin that should be handled within the church in a spirit of forgiveness. It also argues that the public disclosure of secret service files on clergy members could do the church harm because many of the documents are false or misleading.

But many people say the church has been overly cautious for fear of tarnishing its Communist-era image as a champion of freedom.

But the church is caught in the dilemma of risking a loss of trust whether it explores the collaboration or continues to treat it as an internal matter. The results could be as bad for the Vatican as they are for the Polish church, because Rome had hoped the church could keep this bastion of the faithful in an otherwise fast secularizing Europe.

On Sunday, Radio Polonia reported that, following that day's installation-that-wasn't, "a reporter for Gazeta Polska, the weekly which first wrote on the scandal, was physically attacked by a crowd of the archbishop's supporters."

And in a wrap-up analysis piece on Monday, Jonathan Luxmoore, The Tablet's Warsaw-based correspondent for Eastern Europe, said that "There may have to be personal [sic] changes at the top and shake-up in the way power is exercised. I don’t think that Polish society is going to desert the church or desert the faith, absolutely not. Poles have always made a very sensible distinction between the Catholic faith, which the average Pole is very much committed to, and respect for and a willingness to follow the lead of the Catholic hierarchy. There is a healthy distinction between the two things."

(Does that sound familiar to anyone?)

Lot of moving parts -- parts spinning ever more furiously. As always, stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: In today's L'Espresso, Sandro Magister has written an in-depth account of the situation from the Roman perspective. A snip:
The external enemy is playing a role in the current “wave of attacks against the Catholic Church in Poland,” as Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi lamented on January 7: that enemy that works as a “a strange alliance between those who once persecuted the Church there and its other adversaries.”

But there are also enmities within the Church that are contributing to the carnage.

There are the fiery campaigns of Poland’s Radio Maryja (unconnected to the broadcaster of the same name in Italy), which has engaged in mudslinging to the point of accusing Lech Walesa, the icon of the peaceful overthrow of the communist regime, of collaborating with that regime, but then defended to the end archbishop Wielgus, a great protector of the radio network, against the same accusations.

There are the wars among Catholic factions, intransigents and liberals, using the documents of the “Sluba Bezpieczenstwa,” the secret police of the defunct regime: there are kilometers of these documents in the no-longer-secret archives of the Institute of National Memory, some of them perhaps “copies of copies of copies” that are easily turned against innocent persons as well, as the outgoing archbishop of Warsaw, Józef Glemp, thundered in the farewell homily on January 7 for himself and for Wielgus, his would-be successor.

There are expert accusers like Fr. Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski, himself under suspicion of collaboration several months ago, who has become the tireless hunter of the guilty, with the approval – according to him – of the archbishop of Krakow and former secretary of John Paul II, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.

Paradoxically, it is Dziwisz himself and his entourage who are now at the center of the latest wave of accusations. One of these is already gone: Janusz Bielanski, pastor of the [Wawel] cathedral of Krakow, who resigned on the evening of January 8....

In effect, the final curtain of this drama – the resignation of Wielgus just 40 hours after he had formally taken his post as archbishop of Warsaw – can be explained only by an authoritative decision by Benedict XVI himself.

If by ordering his resignation the pope finally decided to reverse his position of constant support for Wielgus as head of the most important diocese in Poland, it must be because he was convinced by very serious facts.

[The day prior to his scheduled installation] Wielgus asked the faithful of Warsaw to “welcome him” as their new archbishop: “I will be among you as a brother who wants to unite, not to divide.” He added only that he would “submit [himself] to whatever decision the pope makes.”

The order arrived that same day, before the evening: he was to resign.

There had finally arrived at the Vatican, translated into German, the documents of the secret police. The majority of the Polish bishops, each of whom was asked individually, were against Wielgus.

SVILUPPO 2: Friday morning update here.