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The Mass intended to celebrate Stanislaw Wielgus' appointment as archbishop of Warsaw couldn't have been more awkward. Outside the cathedral, supporters and detractors grappled in the rain. Wielgus, instead of celebrating his appointment, resigned from the front of the church. The congregation began shouting. Polish President Lech Kazynski stood to applaud the announcement, but faltered when he realized that most within the cathedral were against it.

As a priest, Wielgus had collaborated with the Communist Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa secret police. His role in the secret police came to light recently as his promotion approached. After Gazeta Polska published its exposé, dug out of old KGB records, he issued a series of denials, each denying less than the one before it, and finally a last-minute resignation.

Tomasz Terlikowski of Newsweek Polska told Polskie Radio, "This question about the past has a very real impact on Poland's present. Today we are facing this issue: Can a person who collaborated with the regime be the moral and theological authority for a whole diocese? From what we learned about Archbishop Wielgus, his collaboration might have meant as many as 20 years of informing the Communist regime about what was happening in the church. And the main aim of the Communists was the destruction of the church."

Some estimates say that 15 percent of the church leaders in Poland — seen as a cornerstone of resistance against communism — cooperated with the secret police. One memo from 1978, for example, counted 12 Polish bishops among the security service's collaborators.

The scandal, which has caused another Polish prelate to step down, is not the first of its kind to pop up in Eastern Bloc nations. But it gives new ...

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January 2007

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