Sunday, January 7, 2007

Warsaw bishop resigns

On the very day he was supposed to be installed as the new Archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus announced that he was resigning. Turns out he was a collaborator with the Communist-era secret police of Poland. In a country where many people see the Roman Catholic Church is seen as being the moral force that brought down iron rule (although it's more fair to say decades of economic stagnation proved to be too much for the Poles), Wielgus' admission last week was seen as a betrayal.

Only thing is, this is the latest in the very long aftermath of the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Just months after the Berlin Wall collapsed, the outgoing East German administration tried to stop the unsealing of the files of the Stazi, but the pressures to do so were overwhelming. It came as no surprise that a handful of couples spied on each other. Not to mention officials from the Catholic and Lutheran churches were also in cahoots with Erich Honecker.

In such a repressive regime it's hard to know who to trust. Being born in Canada, I never experienced the kind of repression my parents did in Croatia (then part of Yugoslavia) -- a free market brand of Communism under Josip Tito but Communism nevertheless. In fact, my father defected in 1964 after a not too pleasant stint of compulsory military service in part because of his religious beliefs.

It makes me wonder whether on his escape route the very people in the underground who were facilitating his exit may have been in fact ratting on him to the authorities to try to stop him. Wouldn't have been too surprising -- so in a way, it's a miracle he did make it out, and I'm here and not six feet under from bullet wounds from the war of liberation.

Given today's news I doubt that the rate of people who nominally claim Catholicism is going to drop in Poland any time soon (about 90%). But Karol Wojtyla must be spinning in his crypt at the Vatican knowing one of his trusted friends and allies was one of the enemies. He would have excommunicated Wielgus on the spot. But Joe Ratzinger's running the show now, so probably he'll just send him into a life of "contemplation and repentance." Nevertheless, it's still a huge letdown. In a part of the EU that is still very religious when most of the rest has officially eschewed religion (except the UK and the official state religions of Anglicanism and Presbyterianism), the RC Church is seen as a positive force. At the very least, I suspect church attendance among practicing Catholics will decline. If Wielgus was one of "them," who else wearing the Roman collar is?

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1 comment:

bigcitylib said...

I remember that there was a new law being unveiled in Poland that would allow people to look in the Secret Police archives. Was this how this guy got found out?