First Things on the Wielgus Scandal

By Rod Dreher
Beliefnet [Poland]
January 10, 2007

Powerful stuff on the First Things blog regarding the Wielgus scandal. I had not realized that Abp Wielgus, in his resignation, told the congregation that he had come clean to the Pope before -- before -- he accepted the promotion to archbishop. So the Vatican knew what they had on their hands at the time, and they went ahead with the appointment anyway. How astonishingly foolish, to take that risk! Even if the Pope forgave Wielgus, you simply do not entrust a man who formally collaborated with communist oppressors to a paramount position of spiritual headship of a people who were terribly oppressed by the communists. Not if you want to keep the trust and obedience of the people. And now Cardinal Re in the Vatican is saying that Rome actually didn't know about Wielgus. Which has got to be a lie. Thank God for a free press. Here's an excerpt from Robert Miller's post:

More important, in both the sex scandals in the United States in 2002 and in the spy scandals in Poland in 2007, the press—regardless of its motives—is doing what the bishops and the Holy See ought to have been doing—that is, ensuring that men unfit to be priests or bishops cease to function as such. By accepting his resignation, the Vatican has conceded that Wielgus' past activities make him unsuitable to be archbishop-metropolitan of Warsaw.

Now, either the Vatican knew about Wielgus' past when it appointed him, as Wielgus says and as the Vatican's statement in December strongly suggests, or else it did not, as Re now maintains. If the former, then the Vatican's investigation of Wielgus prior to the appointment was grossly negligent, failing to discover information that was readily available in Poland. If the latter, as seems much more likely, then the Holy See exercised very poor judgment in making the appointment in the first place and even worse judgment in attempting to ram it through even after the truth about Wielgus became public. It stood by Wielgus while it knew he was lying to the faithful by denying the allegations. Many faithful Catholics looking at this situation will think that our bishops, rather than their critics, are the ones doing the real harm to the Church here.

And here's part of what Father Neuhaus has to say about the matter (he sides with Miller on the whole):

For many years I have been involved each summer in the Tertio Millennio Seminar on Catholic social doctrine in Cracow, Poland. This summer there were long and agonizing conversations with various Poles about information regarding priests and prelates who may have crossed the line from innocent cooperation to culpable collaboration with the communists. Poland has set up an Institute of National Memory that is going through miles and miles of documentation from the communist years. This is not an anti-Church project. There are devout Catholics among the scholars involved who only want the truth to be known. They had warned that the Wielgus appointment to Warsaw would be a great mistake.

But they weren't listened to by the Holy See. Why not?

Let me tell you a similar story about this country. Some years back, it became clear that a man I will call Bishop Doe was to be advanced to a leading see in the United States. A group of prominent orthodox Catholic laymen, and at least one priest, journeyed at their own expense to Rome to warn the Vatican not to make this move. According to my personal interviews with two men who were on that trip, they warned a Vatican official in detail about private sexual behavior of Bishop Doe that badly compromised him, and could lead to grave scandal were this to come out in the press (not to mention how a bishop with those kinds of compulsions might administer his new diocese).

They weren't listened to. Bishop Doe got his appointment. I spoke to two men -- solid faithful Catholics -- who were on this trip, and to a third who in effect confirmed the trip. None would go on the record, so the story -- with names and places -- never got written. I assure you that when Bishop Doe first found out that sources were talking to me about this, he intervened by proxy in an unsuccessful attempt to get me taken off the story. He knew he was a fraud. Rome knew he was a fraud. But none of that mattered.

All that is water under the bridge, I guess, and Bishop Doe is no longer in a position to do any damage. But Father Neuhaus's remark brought the role of those faithful orthodox American Catholics back to mind. They did their part to protect the Church from a morally compromised bishop. And the Holy See did not listen to them. The Holy See had other priorities.


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