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Resignation of Ex-Spy Pastor in Sweden Recalls Fourth-Century Donatist Controversy

Debate over whether former Communist informants can serve as ministers mirrors when Augustine took on the Donatists.

An Austrian pastor in the Church of Sweden has given up his license to preach after being exposed as a former spy for a once-feared Communist intelligence agency.

Aleksander Radler admitted that he was recruited to East Germany's Ministry of State Security, popularly known as Stasi, after studying theology in the Communist nation. When Radler moved to Sweden in 1968, he continued his work as a Stasi agent for 24 years, denouncing students planning to escape from East Germany among other tasks.

The Church of Sweden also found records that the 68-year-old pastor was an "elite spy," the highest ranking such informants working abroad could receive.

After giving up his preaching license, Radler wrote a responseto Swedish newspaper Dagen. "Through information that I passed on about students in what was then the DDR, these people were incarcerated and treated badly at the end of the 1960s," he wrote. "Nothing torments my conscience as much as that."

Radler went on to admit that "on the one hand there was my work for God, and then the dark memories, irreconcilable with the Christian message, on the other."

CT has examined whether past collaboration with Communist persecutors should bar pastors from ministerial positions, noting that this continues the debate started by Augustine and the Donatists in the 300s.

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