The Sunday Pole: B16 "Furious"; Walesa Blames SB Alums; Bishops "Not Afraid of Truth" -- So Long As Only Rome Knows It
In Rome, the Pope is said to be hopping mad over the debacle, feeling "furious" and "isolated" as he reportedly prepares to expedite Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re's long-expected departure from the top job at the Congregation for Bishops. (Re's customary Saturday afternoon audience with the Pope, at which the appointment dossiers are proffered for Benedict's final decision, went forward as usual yesterday.)
On-the-ground in Warsaw, Lech Walesa, the Solidarity leader and first democratically-elected president, entered the Wielgusgate fray in yesterday's Corriere della Sera, where he opined that it's "'no coincidence the scandal exploded at the last moment.
"'The men of the secret service acted in a calculated way, perfectly aware of the fuss this case would create in Poland, abroad and in the Vatican," Walesa said, calling the residual remainder of Communist-era agents "specialists in destabilisation" afraid at the potential "loss of their public sector jobs by the present administration."
The Nobel laureate also cast blame on "government 'populists and demagogues'" in facilitating the run-up to last week's resignation of Stanislaw Wielgus moments before his installation as archbishop of Warsaw.
At its emergency meeting on Friday, the Polish episcopate composed a letter that was read in the nation's churches at this weekend's Masses. In the same session, the hierarchy in attendance consented to a review of each of its members files in the archives of Poland's National Institute of Memory. The findings of the research, however, will not be made public at home, but forwarded to the Holy See.
Over this weekend, Radio Polonia reported that the pleasure of the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB, at the bishops' agreement. Bertone also said that "a just assessment" of a prelate's unacceptable involvement with Communist intelligence "can be made only on the basis of absolute certainty as to the authenticity of the archive documents serving their indictment."
Calling intense communication "essential" for episcopal appointments in an interview with an Italian wire service, the state broadcaster paraphrased Bertone's belief that "its deficit may prove detrimental in assessing the candidate's qualifications."
Fulltext of the episcopate's letter, and excerpts (emphases original):
On 5th January 2007, in an appeal directed to the community of Warsaw Church, Archbishop Wielgus confirmed the fact of the above mentioned entanglement and admitted having harmed Church through it, as well as – in the face of a media campaign – having done damage to the Church by denying the facts of collaboration with the secret service.(Via Amy Welborn.)
We accept with respect his decision about resignation from the ministry of Archbishop Metropolitan of Warsaw. It is not up to us to judge a man, a brother, who has served the Church in a faithful and zealous way, including his time as a professor and Rector [President] of the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) and then as the Bishop of Plock. We want to support the Archbishop with our prayer in the full clarification of the truth. At the same time regret to state that not taking into account the widely accepted rule of the presumption of innocence contributed to creating an atmosphere of pressure around the accused Archbishop, which did not make it easy for him to present the public opinion with an appropriate defence, to which he was entitled....
[W]e repeat once more: the Church is not afraid of the truth, even if this is a hard, shameful, truth and approaching this truth is sometimes very painful. We deeply believe that the truth liberates, because Jesus Christ himself is a liberating truth. The Church has been struggling with sin inside herself and in the world, to which it is sent, for two thousand years. Sin degrades man and distorts the image and similitude of God in him. The Church does not carry this through under her own power. It does it under the power of the One, who as the only one can make us free from evil. Therefore we begin every Eucharist with a confession of our sinfulness: “I confess to the almighty God…” This is not a void liturgical formula, but a deep confrontation with our weakness and faithlessness before the face of the merciful God. Similarly, we ask in every Eucharist: “Lord Jesus Christ … look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church.” We are not afraid to confess that the Church is a community of sinners, but at the same time she is holy and called to holiness, since Jesus Christ is her Head, living and working in her – a Saint above all saints. It is before Him that we stand, asking the Holy Ghost to deliver us from evil, fear and our small-mindedness.
Last Sunday, during the Lord’s Baptism feast, in Warsaw cathedral, we read the Gospel about Jesus who joined the sinners, standing on the bank of Jordan to receive the baptism of penance. We believe strongly that Jesus stands together with all of us on the banks of Polish Jordan. Once more the words of Jesus bring back our hope: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Lk 5:31-32, NRSV). Solidarity with sinful people led Jesus to the Cross. Thanks to this we have received His Baptism – the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire for the remission of sins....
Let us remind: “For two thousand years the Church has opposed the evil in the evangelical way, which does not destroy the dignity of another man. The truth about the sin should lead a Christian to a personal acknowledgment of guilt, to contrition, to a confession of the guilt – even a public confession, if need be, and then to repentance and satisfaction. We cannot abandon such an evangelical way of confronting the evil. (…) The Christ Church is a community of reconciliation, forgiveness and mercy. Inside her there is a place for every sinner, who wishes to reform, as Peter did, and despite their weaknesses wants to serve the cause of the Gospel” (Memorandum).
As the Servant of God John Paul II stated emphatically, “Man is the way of the Church” (Redemptor hominis, 14) – every man, including every priest and every bishop. Fulfilling the conditions of Christian conversion, everyone has the right to forgiveness and mercy, to join in the life of the Church community and society. We know that many of those, who once submitted to enslavement, deafened their conscience and compromised their dignity, have already repented for their weakness with years of faithful service. They are our brothers and sisters in faith!
We wish the Ash Wednesday, 21st February 2007, to be a day of prayer and repentance of the whole Polish clergy. In all the churches in our dioceses services to the Merciful God should be celebrated for a forgiveness of mistakes and weaknesses in proclaiming the whole Gospel. As clergy, we are “taken from the people”, we are a part of Polish society, which as a whole needs to turn away from evil and make a full conversion.
There is a great task of reconciliation for the Church in Poland, apart from standing in truth before the face of God. We will not change the past, both the glorious, and the one that we are ashamed of. We can include everything, with God’s help, in our present and future in such a way that the power of Christ on the face of the Church is revealed. We appeal to all the people of the Church, the clergy and the laity, to carry on the examination of their consciences concerning their conduct in the time of totalitarianism. We do not want to encroach on the sanctuary of any man’s conscience, but we encourage to do everything to confront the truth of possible facts and – if need be – to adequately admit and confess the guilt.
We appeal to the people in power and members of Parliament to ensure a usage of the materials found in the archives dating back to PRL which will not lead to encroaching on the rights of a human person and demeaning the dignity of man and which will make it possible to verify these materials in an independent court of justice. It should also not be forgotten that these documents incriminate their authors above all.
Being aware of the call of Christ: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” (Mt 7:1), we ask everybody to refrain from passing superficial and rash judgments, for they can be damaging. We mean especially those who work in the media. May Christian conscience and human sensibility suggest them what should be presented to the public opinion and how it should be done, always taking into account the dignity of a human person, the right to defence and good name, even after one’s death. We appeal to the young generation, lacking a direct experience of the era in which the older people happened to live, to make an effort to learn the hard and complex truth about the past times. Despite all the shadows, it is to the generations living in those times, including the generations of clergy and their uncompromising struggle with evil that we owe our regaining of freedom after years of Marxist ideology and soviet patterns of political and social life imposed on us.
PHOTO: AFP/Janek Skarzynski