Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fall out III

Within the Octave of the Epiphany, St. Hyginus

Though Archbishop Wielgus is gone from the scene, the commentary on what exactly happened continues along with a growing look at collaboration in general and how to reconcile the past with the future.

Magister outlines various forces in Poland and who is being accused of what. Also included are excerpts from Benedict XVI's speech while he was in Poland on the very subject of forgiveness and the like. Farther down, he describes the candidates vying for the archbishopric of Warsaw and then how Archbishop Wielgus came in:

Too many contenders, none a winner. The stalemate favored the emergence of a compromise candidate after the summer – this was Wielgus, who until 1999 was professor and rector at the Catholic University of Lublin, then bishop of the little diocese of Plock. He is a learned specialist in medieval philosophy, but is equally at home at the populist Radio Maryja.

* * *

In 1978, Wielgus spent several months at the University of Munich, the German city where Ratzinger was archbishop at the time. The two met there.

If he had obeyed the secret police, who had given him his passport for Germany, on returning to Poland the young professor would have had to have given the police a report on the future pope.

But in the profile the nuncio sent to Rome there was nothing about Wielgus’ past as a collaborator with the “Sluba Bezpieczenstwa.” Yet in Poland, news was already circulating of documents that could have nailed him to the wall.

The Vatican took a few weeks for consideration. But it neither requested nor received any further information.

On December 6 came the official announcement of the appointment. A month later, the prefect of the congregation for bishops, Cardinal Re, would confess: “When archbishop Wielgus was appointed, we knew nothing about his collaboration with the secret services.”

He might have said: “We didn’t want to know anything.” Because it was only on January 2 that the Vatican nunciature asked the Institute of National Memory for the documents on Wielgus.

Over at First Things, Robert Miller examines implications:

I mention all this because I am reminded of the clerical sex scandals in the United States back in 2002. Back then some of bishops were—I put it mildly—not entirely candid in speaking to the faithful. Here, we have Wielgus saying that he made full disclosure to the Holy Father and Re expressly contradicting him. There might be some misunderstanding that explains this, but, frankly, I doubt it. Someone isn’t quite telling us the truth.

Now, either the Vatican knew about Wielgus’ past when it appointed him, as Wielgus says and as the Vatican’s statement in December strongly suggests, or else it did not, as Re now maintains. If the former, then the Vatican’s investigation of Wielgus prior to the appointment was grossly negligent, failing to discover information that was readily available in Poland. If the latter, as seems much more likely, then the Holy See exercised very poor judgment in making the appointment in the first place and even worse judgment in attempting to ram it through even after the truth about Wielgus became public. It stood by Wielgus while it knew he was lying to the faithful by denying the allegations. Many faithful Catholics looking at this situation will think that our bishops, rather than their critics, are the ones doing the real harm to the Church here.

Finally, there is an AP story in the North County Times that examines collaboration as a widespread phenomenon not only in Poland, but throughout eastern Europe in the countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain.

Records released in recent years allege involvement by dozens of priests -- including two bishops in the Czech Republic and even the retired primate of Hungary, who voted in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Nor was the Roman Catholic Church alone. Orthodox and Protestant clergy have also been suspected of collaborating.

So where does the truth lie? The funny thing is that in this instance, it doesn't matter. If the Vatican simply didn't know, then that's just shoddy background work. If it did know everything and it went forward anyway, its follow-through left much to be desired as far as public relations.

That truth and reconciliation commission idea is looking pretty good, not only for Poland.

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