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Communist-era haunts Poland's Roman Catholic Church

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday October 18, 2006

By Mary Sibierski, Warsaw/Krakow- Controversy erupted Wednesday after Poland's Roman Catholic Church silenced a priest investigating clergy who allegedly spied for the communist-era secret service. Catholic priest Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski was ordered by decree to keep quiet about information he has gathered regarding Roman Catholic clergy who are alleged to have acted as agents for communist-era intelligence services prior to 1989.

"This is very painful," Isakowicz-Zaleski told Poland's commercial Tok Radio Wednesday. "I want to know what happened that things have changed so suddenly over the last few days - even every criminal has a right to know why they have been punished," he said.

The decree issued late Tuesday by the Krakow diocese alleged Isakowicz-Zaleski "distorts the image of a priest by becoming an inquisitor and a merciless and ruthless accuser."

The Krakow diocese is headed by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the former personal aid of the late Polish-born Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Dziwisz told reporters in Warsaw Wednesday the church would not tolerate "wild" or uncontrolled vetting which could irreparably damage the reputation of innocent priests mistakenly identified as collaborators.

"We are for the truth and also for respect for human rights," Dziwisz said.

Isakowicz-Zaleski had been granted permission to investigate cases of alleged collaboration in the Krakow diocese, but naming-names of alleged collaborators working in other diocese was beyond his jurisdiction, Cardinal Dziwisz said Wednesday.

Himself a victim of persecution by Poland's communist-era secret police, Isakowicz-Zaleski took up the task of sifting through communist-era secret police archives to find the names of clergy in the Krakow diocese who had been secret informers.

He recently completed a book detailing his findings regarding the alleged communist-era collaboration of Catholic clergymen. It was due to be published by the end of the year, but its fate is now uncertain.

Unconfirmed reports Wednesday said Isakowicz-Zaleski named three bishops working outside the Krakow dioceses who are alleged to have collaborated as with secret agents.

The Polish Episcopate Wednesday in Warsaw opened debate on the creation of a special committee to address the issue of Polish communist-era priest-spies.

Several prominent Polish priests have recently been de-masked as communist secret collaborators. The development has surprised Poles who knew the church as the only independent institution in communist Poland. By its very nature, it was also staunchly opposed to the atheistic communist system.

Vetting public officials for possible communist-era collaboration with secret police has always provoked controversy in Poland.

Investigators must rely on secret police records, often making it impossible to determine the truth of a case. Communist-era agents are known to have fabricated reports - sometimes alleging persons co- operated when they in fact did not.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency