Saturday, January 06, 2007


CALLS for the dismissal of Monsignor Stanislaw Wielgus, the new Archbishop of Warsaw, mounted yesterday after he was challenged to say whether he had supplied intelligence to the secret police about the late Pope John Paul II.

Wielgus, 67, has confessed to spying for the Polish security service, Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, during the cold war until the communist regime collapsed in 1989. He met police agents more than 50 times in one five-year period during the 1970s.

Most of the church hierarchy plan to attend but there are notable exceptions. Tadeusz Goclowski, the progressive Archbishop of Gdansk, is not coming. He pleaded “other obligations”. Yesterday he told the press that Wielgus ought to ask the Vatican to relieve him from office.

On a visit to Poland in May, Benedict tackled the issue of “priest-spies” in remarks which appear to explain his attitude towards Wielgus. “The errors of the past,” he said then, must be recognised but without “falling prey to easy accusations . . . or ignoring the different preconceptions of the time”.

Privately, leading Vatican officials expressed dismay at the embarrassment which Wielgus’s mea culpa had created for the pontiff, while playing down the scandal. “In that period everyone had contacts and were collaborators with the authorities,” one Vatican official claimed.

Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka, whose parents were Polish, said he was sure the Vatican had made the right choice: “The Holy See made its choice after carrying out adequate investigations.”

On the most basic level, I agree with the Holy Father that the past is the past. But if the Poles don't have confidence in Wielgus given their own situation in reconciling the past with the present, then there's not much point in forcing the issue. There are valid points in either direction.

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