Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Judas Priests?

Priests working in the Vatican for Poland's secret services during the communist era spied extensively on Pope John Paul II, a Polish cardinal was quoted as saying Tuesday.

Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the primate of Poland, was quoted by Italian news agency ANSA as saying that John Paul was monitored by clergymen who collaborated with Poland's feared security forces keeping tabs on Poles' daily lives under the communists.

John Paul was "spied on, and how," on orders from authorities in the Soviet Union, Glemp said while attending an interfaith meeting in the central Italian town of Assisi. His comments were confirmed by the conference's organizers.

"In the Vatican, there were spies," he said. "Moscow had every interest in knowing what was going on in Rome with a Polish pope."

John Paul's staunch opposition to communism is credited with inspiring the rise in the 1980s of Poland's pro-democracy Solidarity movement, which helped end communist rule in 1989.

Glemp said the climate of fear under which Poles lived meant that some priests collaborated with authorities. Documents show that about 15 percent of Poland's clergy gave information to the secret services, Glemp said.

"But the majority of the clergy, 85 percent, resisted," he said.

Allegations have circulated for decades that the Kremlin, fearing the Polish pope threatened the stability of the Soviet bloc, placed spies on John Paul and even ordered the 1981 attempt on his life by a Turkish gunman.

Leon Kieres, head of the Institute of National Remembrance, a Polish state body that investigates communist-era crimes, said in an interview last year that the secret police reported on the future John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla, as early as 1946, when he was ordained.

Documents that have surfaced recently raised allegations against some prominent church figures, including the Rev. Stanislaw Hejmo, a friar who ministered to Polish pilgrims who traveled to the Vatican to meet John Paul, and Rev. Michal Czajkowski, a popular priest who recently co-chaired the Polish Council of Christians and Jews.

Hejmo has denied ever collaborating consciously, and apologized to anyone he might have hurt. Czajkowski acknowledged in July that he had spied on behalf of the communist-era secret police, and asked for forgiveness.

In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, one of the children, Edmund, betrays the others to the evil White Witch. As she demands his blood, she tells Aslan of the Deep Magic from the dawn of time, “Every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey.” I suspect the same holds true for these Iscariots and Quislings. It’s one thing to be a spy against a government for ideological reasons, or even for money – really bad, but understandable. But how could priests and religious live like this, year after year, knowing they have sold out not a nation-state, but God and His Church, to the Secret Police? The Judas metaphor is better than the Quisling one.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Even Judas could have found redemption had he come to the foot of the cross. I hope these guys truly know the One who offered Himself in the traitor’s place.