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Archbishop of Warsaw possibly an ex-communist spy

January 5, 2007

In what could be Pope Benedict XVI’s first controversial episcopal appointment, CNN reports that the new Archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus, is rumored to have once been a spy for communist secret services over the course of a twenty-year period. Wielgus, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to the primatial see of Poland last month, denies the accusations, though a special Church commission in Poland reports that there is sufficient documential evidence that he was a willing informant for communist authorities from the late 1960’s through the 1980’s.

Wielgus admits that he did have conversations with communist secret service agents in order to secure safe travel outside of Poland: “I know I should not have had any contact with the communist services. I regret taking these foreign trips, which were the reason for these contacts. I never did any harm with my words or actions.” Despite Wielgus’ statements of innocense, many in the Polish hierarchy suspect he may resign before his installation this Sunday.

It is not my place to form a judgment on this matter. Rather, only the Pope in dialogue with Wielgus and the Catholic hierarchy of Poland can make an informed and prudent decision in light of these disturbing circumstances. I can speculate, however, that Pope Benedict will likely be far more careful in his episcopal appointments, regardless of the outcome of Wielgus’ situation. We can likely expect more thorough investigations of the historical and pastoral background of clerics who are to be considered for episcopal appointment by the Vatican. Of course, this once more opens the question of reform for the manner in which Latin Rite bishops are currently selected as proscribed by Canon Law and ecclesial norms.

Update: CWNews – “Poles Urge Delay in Accused Archbishop’s Installation”
Update 2: CNN – “Archbishop Quits, Admits Communist-Era Spying”

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