Belated investigations into who spied for the Polish communists has found priests among those with contacts with the dreaded SB security police. Now one of the priestly whistleblowers has been gagged.
Catholic online reports on one priest who, along with many others, has been accused of spying for the communists:
‘[A] May 17 report in the Zycie Warszawy daily said Warsaw-based Msgr. Michal Czajkowski informed to the communists for more than two decades about fellow clergy, including Solidarity movement hero Father Jerzy Popieluszko, who was later murdered by communist agents.
Msgr. Czajkowski denied the claims in a May 22 statement in Poland's Catholic information agency, KAI, but resigned from his posts as church supervisor of the Wiez monthly and co-chairman of Poland's Council of Christians and Jews.
Approximately 10 percent of Catholic clergy are believed to have acted as informers in communist Poland, although higher recruitment rates were recorded in some dioceses in the 1980s.’
As many as 6,000 of the Polish clergy were named in government files. As usual in these lustration cases, many turn out to be innocent. Some will not.
Now the church and the government seem to want to put a lid on anymore revelations emerging. Radio Polonia reports:
Father Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski, a popular former Solidarity chaplain, intended to present the results of his private investigation at a press conference in Krakow [Tuesday] but his superiors ordered him to abandon his plan, arguing that it would discredit the Catholic Church and harm innocent priests. The Church’s decision was welcomed by President Lech Kaczynski, who believes it was not accidental that media reports on priests who spied for the communist regime appeared shortly before and after the visit to Poland by Pope Benedict XVI.
On his visit to Poland, Pope Benedict made a remark that many now are thinking referred to the spying priests. He said:
“We must guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge earlier generations, who lived in different times and different circumstances,” Benedict said. “Humble sincerity is needed in order not to deny the sins of the past, and at the same time not to indulge in facile accusations in the absence of real evidence or without regard for the different preconceptions of the time.”
What’s a shame about all this, is that Poland didn’t get all this out of way right after the fall of communism here in 1989, unlike Hungary, Czech Republic or East Germany. Those first Polish governments had many ex-communists in top posts, so not digging into the past back then was seen as a pragmatic attempt to ease Poland into its democratic future.
But since the mid-1990’s 'lustration' has been constantly in the news. Many from the solidarity opposition have been caught up in its indiscriminating net. For instance, none other than Lech Walesa was accused in 2000 of being a spy but later cleared.
In South Africa they have the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, where all the dirty linen has been washed in public. In Poland we have the National Remembrance Institute. Unfortunately, this has uncovered some truths and half-truths, but little reconciliation.
Members of the present, pro-church government have been among the most keen on outing and banning communist collaberators from public office. So they seem to be hoisting themselves on their own petard now that priests have been named as being among the collaborators.
Maybe it's time to put the past to bed and get on with the future?