The resignation of the recently-appointed Archbishop of Warsaw has plunged the Catholic Church in Poland into an unprecedented crisis. Stanislas Wielgus quit after the Vatican said he had been compromised by revelations of collaboration with the communist secret police. The church took a lead role in the fight against communism particularly during the time of John Paul II, known as the Polish Pope. But historians now say up to 15 percent of clergy may have agreed to inform on their colleagues.
However, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi says this episode bears the hallmarks of a vendetta. “The case of Monsignor Wielgus is not the first, and probably won’t be the last, attack against a church official based on documentation from the (secret) services of the past regime,” he said.
Many who lived through the communist era in Poland are sympathetic to the Archbishop’s plight. “A great man, a patriot even, has been pilloried by journalists. I am sorry for that,” said one person. But research shows the majority of Poles thought Wielgus should resign. “I was relieved when he made the decision to go, I am glad he did it,” said another.
Hundreds gathered in the rain outside Warsaw Cathedral as news of Wielgus’ resignation spread. Again, opinion was deeply divided. Under banners bearing the words “Shame on you” there were scuffles between supporters and opponents. With attendance at mass declining in Poland’s urban areas, many are asking what effect this latest scandal may have.