Sunday, January 07, 2007

The archbishop resigns

This is a really sad story.

A certain number of Polish priests betrayed the Church and their country by collaborating with the Communists back in the Cold War days (other Eastern European countries had similar problems, as the Reds made everything from student visas to ordinary passports subject to "agreements" to spy for the state). John Paul II himself was informed on by clergy in the Vatican - his status as one of the world's most celebrated anti-communists made him an obvious target. It's estimated that between 85-90 percent of Polish Roman Catholic priests resisted collaboration. That leaves, unfortunately, 10-15 percent who succumbed to the threats and demands of the oppressors.

There has been some reluctance to deal with that baggage.It's hard to imagine one's bishop or pastor as an informer or a spy, and most people would prefer to treat the past as a bad dream from which Poland and its people have thankfully awakened.

The generations that lived before the fall of the Iron Curtain are still with us, however, and so we ocassionally endure sad episodes like these:

WARSAW, Poland -- Warsaw's new archbishop resigned Sunday amid a scandal over his involvement with the communist-era secret police that has shaken the deeply Roman Catholic homeland of the late Pope John Paul II.

Stanislaw Wielgus announced his decision at the capital's St. John's Cathedral, which was packed with worshippers gathered for a Mass that was to have marked his formal installation. The congregation included President Lech Kaczynski.

A forlorn-looking Wielgus read from a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in which he offered his resignation "after reflecting deeply and assessing my personal situation."

Though Kaczynski and some others applauded, many in the church and a large crowd packed outside in the rain shouted, "We welcome you," "Stay with us," and "No, No!"

Dressed in a resplendent golden miter and robes, Wielgus, 67, made his brief announcement less than an hour after Poland's church said in a statement that he had resigned. Full article.

It remains to be seen whether the Archbishop Wielgus was entirely truthful with the Holy Father about the extent of his collaboration when his appointment to Warsaw was being vetted. He additionally "stepped in it" by lying repeatedly to the press about his involvement with the secret police, only to have a Church commission blow his cover.

Archbishop Wielgus does seem sincerely contrite, and I doubt that his collaboration was malicious. More likely his transgressions were clumsy and ill-considered attempts to overcome the onerous obstacles that were routinely placed in the way of clergy and citizens alike. Although a high position in the hierarchy is probably not appropriate for someone with his record, I hope that the Polish people are able to forgive the archbishop for his weaknesses, which we all suffer from in one way or another.

UPDATE: Apparently, Papa (and the rest of the Vatican, for that matter) didn't know, according to Cardinal Re, who runs the "bishop appointment" side of things.

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