A dream of building a national monument in the United States to 1,000 years of Polish Catholicism deteriorated into a nightmare of financial and religious scandal. Its specter entangled even Pope John Paul II himself—or so claims a copyrighted series by Gannett News Service of Rochester, New York. The series ran in Gannett’s 78 American newspapers and was summarized in wire service accounts in hundreds of others last month.

The Gannett series, titled “The Vatican Coverup,” came at the same time as protest against use of public moneys or property for the papal tour, and clouded preparations for John Paul’s first papal trip to the United States earlier this month.

The Gannett series resulted from a year-long investigation by a three-man team (including a former Rome correspondent and a winner of national Catholic press awards), and cited confidential Vatican documents.

Object of the investigation was the 21-member American chapter of the Order of St. Paul the Hermit (better known as the Pauline Fathers) and its Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (CHEST-a-HO-va), which is located near Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

The American Paulines are part of the worldwide order, which has 226 members in eight countries. The Pauline order has headquarters in Jasna Gora (south central) Poland, where the revered Czestochowa shrine (which the American shrine was patterned after) is located. The shrine houses the ancient “black Madonna” icon of Mary, and is the nation’s spiritual capital. The American Czestochowa was founded in 1955 by Michael M. Zembrzuski, 70, the American branch’s first vicar-general. He planned the shrine as a religious and cultural rallying point for the 12 million Polish-Americans.

The Gannett reports alleged that:

• Vatican-appointed investigators, in the past five years, uncovered malfeasance involving millions of dollars, and affecting thousands of people. The order, in less than a decade (mid-1960s to early 1970s), “squandered a substantial portion of $20 million in charitable donations, loans, investments and bond proceeds through mismanagement, dubious business practices and what Vatican investigators described as ‘chaotic’ and ‘immoral’ lifestyles” of some monks.

• High church officials corrected the abuses and substantially reduced the American shrine’s $7.8 million debt, under authority from the Vatican, while seeking at the same time to “cover it up to avoid a public scandal and [criminal] prosecution of those involved.”

• John Paul II, a Pole, and his mentor, Poland’s flinty, anti-Communist primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, intervened in the Vatican investigation for what the articles imply were personal, political, and nationalistic motives.

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Gannett alleges that John Paul and Wyszynski first intervened on behalf of Zembrzuski, a fellow Pole and acquaintance, and persuaded the Vatican not to punish him severely, as investigators reportedly recommended. The Vatican investigators held Zembrzuski responsible for the scandal, said Gannett.

Gannett says that after his October 1978 installation as Pope, John Paul II formally approved Wyszynski’s earlier takeover of the Paulines, Poland’s only native order. Besides taking control of the order, the cardinal had fired those monks in Poland who had assisted the American probe, claiming the monks had collaborated with the Communists and were undermining the church, said Gannett. The actions “astonished” veteran Vatican officials because of the “blatant nationalism” involved and because the order is one of 3,000 exempt from control by local bishops or cardinals, according to church law.

Finally, Gannet alleged, the new Pope (who as cardinal had twice visited the American shrine) ordered investigators to bring their probe to a speedy conclusion. The investigators submitted their final, confidential report and recommendations in February. A May 21 Vatican decree, approved by John Paul, admonished the American Paulines to obey church laws regarding loans and investments and to cooperate more closely with local church authorities—thus formally closing the inquiry. The decree ignored the investigators’ recommendations that those reponsible for one of the worst scandals in recent church history be disciplined, Gannett claimed.

What actually did visitators (Vatican term for investigators) Bishop George H. Guilfoyle of Camden, New Jersey, and Paul M. Boyles, then of Chicago, now in Rome as superior of the Passionist Fathers, uncover? Aided by auditors and lawyers, they found:

• That the order was actually $7.8 million in debt, instead of the reported $4.3 million, and had only $100,000 in assets, with local merchants refusing to sell the chapter any more goods or services until paid.

• Business deals and tax-avoidance schemes in five states.

• Alleged “lavish living” by Zembrzuski and some other monks in New Britain, despite vows of poverty, including their use of credit cards, autos, and stereos.

• A breakdown in the order’s spiritual discipline.

• Investment in two hospitals, a trade school, and several businesses—all made to take advantage of the order’s tax exempt status, but in violation of church law.

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• Misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for such services as mass requests, placement of memorial plaques, or perpetual care of plots in the shrine’s own cemetery—all neglected until the investigators stepped in.

• Purchase of a Philadelphia-area cemetery, eventually driven to bankruptcy by Zembrzuski, with a $1.1 million debt.

• Use of a disbarred attorney who had been convicted of tax evasion as the shrine’s legal and financial adviser.

Gannett says the visitators informally told Cardinal John J. Krol of Philadelphia of their findings in 1975. Krol, the first Polish-American cardinal, immediately authorized a $722,000 loan from archdiocese funds to cover the shrine’s most immediate, pressing debts, mainly those of the cemetery. He agreed to chair a national fund drive to “save Czestochowa” and reduce its multi-million-dollar debt.

(Gannett later reported that two federal agencies had entered the investigation of the Pauline order: the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.)

In a statement to the press, Bishop Guilfoyle said the Gannett series was old news—raking up subjects reported years ago. “Every recommendation of the visitators relating to the administration of the shrine” he said, “was carried out.”

Cardinal Krol, who was instrumental in the election of his friend John Paul II, and the one who requested the Vatican “visitation” in 1974, also denied any cover-up.

The carefully worded statements issued by Krol and Guilfoyle, while seeming to refute many of the Gannett allegations, focused only on the scandal’s administrative and financial aspects. Left unanswered were the charges that the Pope intervened on Zembrzuski’s behalf, that he ordered the case closed, and that he ignored recommendations of severe discipline for the offending monks.

A member of Krol’s staff said privately that the cardinal would speak to the press only about the papal visit. “He doesn’t want to cloud the papal visit with this one issue,” said the staff member. “It has already been clouded. He doesn’t want to keep talking about it and keep the issue alive. We just want it to go away.”

Guerrilla Grants: The WCC Dishes Up a Second Serving

In apparent defiance of the furor caused in its member churches by a 1978 grant to the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front, the World Council of Churches has done it again.

Meeting in Bosse, Switzerland, last month, the WCC Executive Committee approved a gift of $35,000 from the Special Fund of the Program to Combat Racism to the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front.

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The only concession this time around—after more than a year of heated debate on the issue, which led a few church bodies to suspend their WCC membership—was a more careful targeting of funds. The grant was designated for supportive and administrative costs for the guerrilla grouping’s delegation at the constitutional conference in London. The all-parties conference was convened to bring a settlement to troubled Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia.

In a letter addressed to all WCC member churches, the executive committee explained that although the costs of the three official delegations were being met by the British government, costs for their support staffs were not. The Patriotic Front, it pointed out, was the only delegation without a government to pick up the resulting tab. Thus, it maintained, responding favorably to the Patriotic Front request was within the PCR Special Fund criteria, one of which provides for “strengthening the organizational capacity of racially oppressed people.”

Among the most criticized aspects of the earlier $85,000 grant was that specific uses were not designated. Critics contended that the funds could be spent for weapons, not just for humanitarian aid (and that in either case more funds could be diverted to arms). The WCC at the time replied that earmarking the funds would have implied a lack of trust.

While PCR officials’ faith in the Patriotic Front appears undiluted, the previous storm of criticism does seem to have induced them to specify the purpose for their gift this time around, and to present their rationale for the funding to member denominations carefully. Early indications are that at least some churches that choked on the first grant will find this one easier to swallow.

As U.S. Says ‘Hello, Dalal’
An Altered Tibet Emerges from Its Communist Cocoon

After two decades of invisibility, Tibet is making a shadowy reappearance. In July, the foreign press corps in Peking paid a visit to the region of Tibet at the express invitation of the Chinese government. Earlier this month, the Dalai Lama, 44-year-old Tibetan Buddhist leader, completed a six-month tour of the United States. And now the Chinese government has invited the exiled leader to return and play a “patriotic role” in the future of China and Tibet.

These events may indicate an easing of government controls in the mountainous region. Since 1959, when an abortive anti-Chinese uprising led to full-fledged Chinese occupation and the exile of the Dalai Lama (meaning “oceans of wisdom”) along with thousands of his countrymen, Tibet has remained under Chinese rule.

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Straddling the world’s most formidable topography (an average altitude of 14,000 feet), Tibet always has been next to inaccessible. Under the old Lamaist theocracy, the country had no roads. One-fifth of Tibet’s population were lamas (priests or monks), and they showed almost no interest in the outside world.

Tibet’s new visibility may indicate that China has consolidated its rule sufficiently to unlock the gates. It also reflects the shift in Chinese policies since the death of Mao Tse-tung. During the Cultural Revolution, China pressed for eradication of religion and suppression of minority groups. But now it is reverting to toleration of religions (with manipulation) and motivating of minorities to productive participation in the economic and political system. (The last 376 people held in Tibetan prisons for their role in the 1959 uprising were released last April.)

Observers stress that the invitation to the Dalai Lama does not mean that the Communists would ever allow him officially to regain his role as spiritual leader of Tibet nor that he would be allowed to set up residence in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. What the Communists want, observers say, is the Dalai Lama’s seal of approval on Chinese control of Tibet.

For his part, the Dalai Lama would like to win some tangible autonomy for the Tibet Autonomous Region. In recent months both sides have been putting out feelers for a reconciliation.

The Dalai Lama since 1971 has made repeated attempts to visit the United States. But until late last year, he was rebuffed: it was believed a Dalai Lama visit might jeopardize the delicate U.S. rapprochement with China. His recent visit was scheduled only after the U.S. State Department decided to grant him a visa as a religious leader, not as an exiled head of state.

How has Tibet’s distinctive form of Buddhism fared during the two decades Tibet has been sealed off from the outside world? (Originating in India, Buddhism reached Tibet in the eighth century A.D. and absorbed preexisting beliefs.)

According to figures supplied by Chinese officials in Tibet, 2,500 monasteries have been destroyed or closed, leaving only 10. More than 100,000 lamas have been persuaded by one means or another to give up their religious habits and homes, leaving only about 2,000.

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But earlier this year, for the first time since the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s, two major monasteries were reopened. The Jokka Kang in Lhasa is open to the public three mornings a week. The visiting journalists reported that hundreds of pilgrims, of whom the vast majority are under 40, stand in line for the chance to prostrate themselves before one of its images. Prayer wheels and beads abound, they report.

Most Buddhist sects would not look to the Dalai Lama as their spiritual authority; but the symbolic power of his office and the importance of Tibet as the repository of ancient texts are significant even to Buddhists whose traditions have undergone greater evolution. For nearly five million Buddhists in Tibet, China, and beyond, he is the fourteenth reincarnation of Avalokiteśvara, the patron saint of Tibet.

During his 20 years of exile in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama has begun each day at 4 A.M., with eight hours of prayer, meditation, and religious duties. He runs a de facto government in exile, organizing the affairs of 100,000 refugees—their settlements, schools, monasteries, and orphanages. In his few spare moments, he does gardening in his greenhouse or repairing of transistors in his small electronics lab.

Terry Clifford has noted in New York magazine that one of the ironies of the Chinese conquest of Tibet is that it spread Tibetan religious teachings at a time when the “spiritual quest” and Eastern thought were appealing to many Americans. Had it not been for the Chinese, it is unlikely any American would ever have seen a lama: Tibet maintained a policy of virtual isolation for centuries, and only a handful of foreigners ever penetrated its borders or the “Forbidden City” of Lhasa.

The Dalai Lama acknowledges that the Chinese have provided certain benefits along with their colonial-style rule. “They have built good roads and introduced small industries,” he says.

“But they also destroyed everything, the good and the bad. In one monastery near Lhasa before 1959 there were 17,000 monks. Now 200 remain. The rest were either killed through military action or sent to labor camps or to villages as farmers.”

The Dalai Lama says he has devoted much study to the question of linking secular materialist systems with traditional religious doctrines. Man’s yearning for happiness, he says, follows two distinct channels: the material search for goods and comforts and the spiritual quest for inner peace. Material development, he says, should be combined with development of the mind and spirit. He concedes error in that in the past spiritual growth in Tibet has been far more important than material growth. Currently, he adds, materialism excludes “the other side,” which is equally wrong.

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The Dalai Lama has hinted at the possibility of a form of union with China that would recognize the national character of the Tibetans while it maintains economic ties.

Whatever evolves, the Dalai Lama’s visit to the United States, along with his recent visits to the Soviet Union, Mongolia, Japan, and Europe, should be a boost to his long, patient struggle to regain a measure of freedom for Tibet—a cause that until recently seemed hopelessly lost.

Central African Republic
The Church Waxes as the Course of Empire Wanes

The Central African Empire reverted to a republic last month when self-proclaimed emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa, 58, was ousted in a bloodless coup. The leadership returned to David Dacko, Bokassa’s cousin. Dacko was president of CAR until Bokassa, then an army colonel, ousted him in a military coup d’etat on New Year’s Eve, 1965.

Unrest had been building in the Texas-sized empire since the first of the year, when all students in government schools were ordered to buy $25 uniforms emblazoned with the emperor’s portrait. Bokassa owned the store that was to sell them. The following protest by university students became a full-blown riot in the capital city of Bangui.

Then, in April, younger students launched their own protest. They insisted that their parents, who eke out a bare existence in this poor nation that exports cotton, coffee, and peanuts, could not afford uniforms. After some of the students threw stones at the imperial car, the emperor’s guards swept through some Bangui neighborhoods and arrested several hundred students, ages 8 to 16. On Bokassa’s orders, 50 to 100 of the school-children were killed by stoning, bayoneting clubbing, and suffocation. Witnesses told an African commission of inquiry that they saw the emperor himself shoot 39 persons.

Bokassa appears to have been capricious—less consistently ruthless than Idi Amin of Uganda and Macias Nquema Biyogo of Equatorial Guinea. The day after the massacre he announced he would free youths still in custody.

A similar inconsistency proved his undoing. After unseating his cousin Dacko and keeping him under house arrest for a decade, Bokassa three years ago restored Dacko’s full presidential salary and made him a close adviser. While Bokassa was visiting Libya last month, Dacko seized the opportunity to engineer his coup.

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Observers expected Dacko’s rule to have a calming effect on the country. At the request of the new regime, French troops were promptly dispatched to help assure an orderly transition. Dacko’s return did not necessarily signal the reintroduction of democracy, however. During his previous presidency, Dacko banned all political parties.

Surprisingly, during Bokassa’s 13 years of wasteful and increasingly idiosyncratic rule, the church and evangelistic endeavors prospered. Bokassa was raised a Roman Catholic; but at least twice he professed conversions from Christianity to Islam and then back again. In 1976, for instance, after Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi paid an official visit to Bangui and promised considerable aid, Bokassa announced his conversion to Islam and he assumed the name Salah Eddine. Two months later, however, he dropped the name and became a Roman Catholic again.

Although CAR is landlocked and isolated (midway between Nigeria and Ethiopia), mission groups established an evangelical witness in nearly every tribe and district. Baptist Mid Missions, the largest missionary agency in CAR, entered the then French colony of Oubangui-Shari in 1920. Today some 72 missionaries work with more than 300 churches in the central region of the country. To the west, the National Fellowship of Brethren Churches (Grace Brethren) works with some 400 churches. Swedish Baptists also serve in the western areas through the Orebro Mission. Africa Inland Mission is related to some 70 churches in the east.

New Life for All campaigns in the last decade have spurred vigorous church growth. Today nearly half of the nation’s 2.5 million population is Protestant, and nearly all of these are evangelical.

Geographical centrality and the strong evangelical base in CAR were factors that led the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar to settle on CAR as the site for the first evangelical-sponsored graduate school of theology with French-language instruction. Ironically, the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology was launched in 1977 after Bokassa, in one of his grand gestures, donated property for the project.

North American Scene

The United Presbyterian Missions Council (UPCUSA) last month voted against calling a special general assembly. The church’s property committee had suggested the assembly as the quickest way to amend the denomination’s constitution to make clear that local church property belongs to the entire church, not to the local congregation. The council will instead send study materials to the synods, presbyteries, and sessions—giving them time to consider the proposed change prior to the regular general assembly next spring. If adopted by the assembly, the measure would be voted upon by the 152 presbyteries.

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Voting irregularities did occur, but not on a widespread basis, during the annual meeting last summer of the Southern Baptist Convention, according to SBC registration secretary Lee Porter, who was mandated by a vote of convention delegates to conduct the voting investigation. He offered in his report to the SBC executive committee ten recommendations for preventing future flaws, ambiguities, and “sloppy procedures.” Baptist officials believed the irregularities weren’t widespread enough to have affected the election of president Adrian Rogers, who won a first-ballot triumph in an election marked by considerable politicking over the issue of biblical inerrancy.

Post-hurricane relief efforts for the Dominican Republic and Dominica continue. WMCU, radio station at Miami Christian College, suspended normal operations one day last month to make an appeal for funds. The hoped-for $20,000 would cover primarily the transportation costs involved in sending to the Caribbean the large quantity of donated goods that was dropped at the campus. The college also held a day of prayer.

World Scene

The World Council of Churches budget deficit has reached $2.2 million. The WCC Executive Committee, meeting in Switzerland last month, blamed soaring living costs and the decline of the dollar in relation to the Swiss franc. The committee studied reorganization and a cutback of activities in an effort to reduce the deficit.

The Baptist Church of Leningrad is constructing a new building that will seat 1,200. The Soviet church’s 3,000 members are financing the $500,000 project, and believers from various parts of the USSR have volunteered to help with the construction. In addition to its pastor, the church has 30 preachers and 8 ordained deacons.

An evangelical seminary was launched in Angola last month with government approval. Already uncertain conditions there were accentuated with the death of President Agostinho Neto and assumption of the post by José Edoardo Dos Santos. But formation of the Portuguese-language seminary, sponsored by the Association of Evangelicals in Angola and staffed by Africa Evangelical Fellowship, indicates quiet church growth.

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A Christian radio station opened last month in the narrow strip of land known as “Free Lebanon.” Major Saad Haddad, secessionist who controls the area, donated the land for the transmitter, and charismatic evangelist George Otis of High Adventure Ministries in Van Nuys, California, operates the station. The 30,000-watt AM station, “Voice of Hope,” broadcasts newscasts and Scripture readings in English, Arabic, and French, as well as gospel and country western music. Under the broadcasting arrangement, Haddad can use the station at will to speak to his predominantly Maronite Christian constituency of between 75,000 and 100,000.

A tribal grouping of 800 in Vietnam became Christians after listening to evangelistic radio broadcasts. A North Vietnamese church leader, cited in the Alliance Witness, said that the converts were all from the Nung ethnic people situated near the Chinese border. After responding to the Far East Broadcasting Company programs, the new believers asked the Christian and Missionary Alliance-related Evangelical Church in Hanoi to supply a pastor, Bibles, and hymnbooks. The hard-pressed church sent all it could spare: one Bible and one hymnbook.


Former Manson family member Charles (Tex) Watson recently got married in a prison waiting room at the California Men’s Colony near San Luis Obispo. His wife, Kristin Svege, 20, began corresponding with Watson after reading his autobiography, Will You Die for Me, in which he describes details and his part in the 1969 Tate-La Bianca murders and his subsequent conversion to Christianity. Watson has been an associate pastor and Bible class preacher at the prison, where he is serving life terms for his part in the Manson-inspired murders.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Haro E. Martin has stepped down after six months as head of the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission to accept a college teaching position. Martin took the commission post in February when commission trustees relieved Paul M. Stevens of his duties, primarily over questions of commission funding priorities. Martin subsequently reorganized the commission’s internal operations, and retired a debt of $700,000—making the commission debt-free.

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