The dramatic resignation last month of Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus at his investiture Mass as archbishop of Warsaw has raised the most serious questions about the integrity of both the Polish church and the Vatican. I have considerable personal sympathy for those Polish priests and bishops like Wielgus whose cooperation, or even outright collaboration, with the secret police during the Communist era is now being revealed and universally condemned. I served with at least one of the now-accused priests on an international board for Christian-Jewish dialogue and still consider him a friend.
The pressure to cooperate with the secret police during Poland’s long subjugation under Soviet-imposed communism was pervasive. On one of my lecture tours of Poland during the Communist era, the vice rector of a seminary told me of the pressure exerted on him to act as an informer on other priests in exchange for permission to study in Rome. During the same era, I myself had to undergo demeaning interviews at the Polish Consulate in Chicago to obtain a visa so I could participate in several theological conferences in Poland. It was not an easy period for any priest in Poland who wished to study abroad or to maintain international connections, and no one expected the end of the Communist era in their lifetime. It is perhaps too easy for those of us lucky enough not to have lived under a totalitarian regime to judge decisions made...
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About the Author
Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, is professor of social ethics and director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.