Very good, important read. He lays out a timeline, the major players and his understanding of who knew what, when. (including the tidbit that Wielgus was not even on the original short list for the post.)
In 1978, Wielgus spent several months at the University of Munich, the German city where Ratzinger was archbishop at the time. The two met there.
If he had obeyed the secret police, who had given him his passport for Germany, on returning to Poland the young professor would have had to have given the police a report on the future pope.
But in the profile the nuncio sent to Rome there was nothing about Wielgus’ past as a collaborator with the “Sluba Bezpieczenstwa.” Yet in Poland, news was already circulating of documents that could have nailed him to the wall.
The Vatican took a few weeks for consideration. But it neither requested nor received any further information.
On December 6 came the official announcement of the appointment. A month later, the prefect of the congregation for bishops, Cardinal Re, would confess: “When archbishop Wielgus was appointed, we knew nothing about his collaboration with the secret services.”
He might have said: “We didn’t want to know anything.” Because it was only on January 2 that the Vatican nunciature asked the Institute of National Memory for the documents on Wielgus.
But meanwhile, on December 21, the pope again personally defended the designated new archbishop of Warsaw, reconfirming his “complete trust” in him after having examined “all the circumstances of his life,” and also, as became known later, after having spoken with him again.
In public, Wielgus continued to deny the charges. But on January 3 and 4, the Polish newspapers printed the copies of the documents he had signed for the secret police.
On January 5, Wielgus nevertheless took up his post as archbishop of Warsaw, and said he had informed the pope about his past before his appointment.
On the 6th, the feast of the Epiphany, he had read in all the churches in Poland a message in which he finally admitted that he had “harmed the Church” both by collaborating with the police and by publicly denying his collaboration. But he repeated that he had confessed all of this to the pope beforehand.
The message on Epiphany was in no way a prelude to his resignation. Wielgus asked the faithful of Warsaw to “welcome him” as their new archbishop: “I will be among you as a brother who wants to unite, not to divide.” He added only that he would “submit [himself] to whatever decision the pope makes.”
The order arrived that same day, before the evening: he was to resign.
There had finally arrived at the Vatican, translated into German, the documents of the secret police. The majority of the Polish bishops, each of whom was asked individually, were against Wielgus.
But the greatest disappointment for the pope was the message Wielgus had had read in the churches that morning.
Benedict XVI had never heard these things before from the man in whom he had placed such trust for the Catholic Poland of the great Wyszynski and Wojtyla.
In addition, at PRF, Teresa Benedetta translates a piece by Joaquin Navarro-Valls from La Repubblica on his views on how Karol Wojtyla maneuvered the environment of repression, spying and deception. (post #5662)
Update: John Allen analyzes
With Wielgus, many Poles believed that moral flabbiness had reached a new low, with a former collaborator now poised to sit on the throne once occupied by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, known as the “Primate of the Millenium” for his unyielding resistance to the Communists. The Catholic church, it seemed, was in effect canonizing the country’s historical amnesia.
That’s why the Wielgus resignation was such a jolt. It’s not just, or even primarily, that this lone figure was held to account; frankly, Wielgus by all accounts is a gracious man with few real enemies, and many regard his collaboration as a matter of opportunism rather than genuine villainy.
Instead, the outcome has been taken to mark a symbolic willingness to confront the ghosts of the past.
“There is now a feeling of a new beginning,” said Tomasz Pompowski, an editor with Dziennik, an influential Polish newspaper. “I know it’s difficult for the foreign press to understand, but this is important.”
In this regard it’s worth recalling Benedict’s comments during his May 2006 trip to Poland, made in a meeting with priests in Warsaw, on this very subject: