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article imagePolish Church in crisis as confessed communist collaborator becomes archbishop

By Carolyn E. Price     Jan 6, 2007 in World
Self-admitted communist-era collaborator consecrated as Archbishop of Warsaw
"This is the deepest crisis ever faced by the Polish Church," the conservative Dziennik daily said. "This is a crisis for the archdiocese of Warsaw and beyond," said Wieslaw Chrzanowski, former speaker in the Polish parliament and a recognised Roman Catholic scholar. "The coming months and possibly years will be difficult not only for Cardinal Wielgus but also for the faithful," he added.
The Church in Poland, where 90 percent of its population claim to be Catholic, seems to be falling into an unprecedented crisis. Stanislaw Wielgus, 67, was consecrated in a closed-door religious ceremony on Friday. Cardinal Wielgus was a collaborator with the hated communist-era secret police. The outgoing archbishop, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, is known by all as being an long time critic of the communist regime.
Just after Cardinal Wielgus was consecrated, he "confessed" that he had made an error in judgment by working with the Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa (SB), the communist-era secret police. "I confess before you today the mistake that I made in the past, as I have already confessed to the Holy Father," Wielgus said in a statement which will be read from Warsaw's pulpits on Sunday, when he will be consecrated as archbishop in a public mass.
The Polish newspaper, Gazeta Polska, posted a 68-page file on its website from the National Remembrance Institute (IPN) on the new archbishop. The IPN was set up in 1998 to prosecute Nazi and communist crimes in Poland. The file showed that Wielgus was recruited by the secret police in 1967 when he was a 28-year-old philosophy student, and collaborated with the reviled SB for two decades. Yep, you got that right, he worked with them for 20 years.
A special commission concluded on Friday that Wielgus had indeed worked with the communist secret police, but it stopped short of saying his collaboration had "harmed anyone."
Since the fall of communism, holders of public office have had to come clean about their communist past. Collaborating with the communists does not mean automatic exclusion from public office, but failing to admit involvement with the former regime does.
The rules do not apply to clerics, but two-thirds of Poles believe that SB collaborators should not hold high Church office, a survey published Friday showed.
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