Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus
Exclusive from Poland: Who Was Spying on Karol Wojtyla
By Gigi Riva,
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Names, reports, and documents from the network of informants who kept watch over the life of the great churchman, before and after his election as pope. From "L'espresso" no. 3, January 19-25, 2007
"Wojdyla" that's how it's written. In 1949, the future pope was a misspelled name in the reports sent to the secret police by a turncoat priest in the Krakow curia. But they would get to know him very well -- and how to spell his name -- over the next forty years, until the death of the regime, while his life was bugged, filmed, followed, and analyzed "24/7." Day and night. Everywhere. In Poland, and in Rome. In the airports, and on the trains. It was an extensive network that involved, in an unbroken relay, dozens and dozens of agents, moles, priests, journalists, intellectuals, blue and white-collar workers, secretaries, administrators. They included acquaintances, neighbors, and even some friends who came with him to Italy.
This was already known, because it couldn't have been otherwise. But now there is proof of the spider's web spun around the seminarian, then the priest, then the bishop, then the cardinal, and then the pope, thanks to documents found among the 90 kilometers of papers in the Polish Institute of National Memory. This is the same institute that produced the dossier that forced the resignation, last January 7, of the newly named archbishop of Warsaw, archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus. Wielgus, 67, was forced out under charges of collaborating with the communist authorities. The institute's documents have also led the Polish Church to dig into the past of all its prelates.
There is an inexplicable gap in the dossiers on Karol Wojtyla, and it concerns the assassination attempt by Ali Agca in 1981. Here there are only a few fragments of little interest. The historian Andrzej Friszke maintains it is likely that "the Polish [secret] services kept clear of it, because it would have been too risky for them." And if in that forest of documents there isn't even a detailed account of the event, he recommends that one "seek this out in Moscow."
His colleague, the historian Andrzej Paczkowski, who has had a seat on the board of the Institute of National Memory for six years, recalls that many documents concerning the Church were deliberately destroyed. But he adds a qualifier: "The archives were merged in 2000. It took us three years just to get everything organized. Scholars have now been working on them for another three. It will take a long time just to read everything."
There's no lack of surprises. Many would like to discover the identity of "Seneka" an agent active in both Krakow and Rome, someone very close to the pope. Was he a philosopher? It is clear that interest was concentrated from the very beginning upon the curious name "Wojtyla." Now the whole world, and not just Poland, knows how to say the name "Wojtyla." But back then, just after the war, it was a cipher that could lead to an error, that could be turned to "Wojdyla." And that's where our story begins.
Krakow, November 17, 1949. The mole, using the code name "Zagielowski" (but who also used the name "Torano" and in the future would give his real signature), sent the police a "top secret" report on a meeting in the curia during which this "Wojdyla" was pointed out as someone to keep an eye on.
"Zagielowski" was recruited in 1948 and would be active until his death in 1967. His age would remember him by his real name, Wladyslaw Kulczycki. Father Kulczycki. He had been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, and it was for this reason that he was viewed as more approachable: he had seen of what evil man was capable. Besides, he had a sin that compromised his priestly character -- a sexual weakness. In 1953 a note from Department IV of the interior ministry, the one charged with watching over the Church, gave this assessment of him: "His evaluation is good. He is the only one working in Krakow who can be approached." He was the pastor at Saint Nicholas, and was the friend -- and perhaps even the confessor - of the legendary cardinal Stefan Wyszynski (in the photo, with Wojtyla). He showed bitter enmity against young Karol from Wadowice. Kulczycki couldn't explain how he climbed the ecclesiastical ranks so easily. A document written in 1960 contains this outburst: "I don't understand why Wojtyla is chosen for all the important tasks. The man is well educated, he knows the communists, he has ties among the workers, and he frequently organizes pastoral visits to Nowa Huta."
The infiltrators didn't know each other. That's how things worked, whatever the location. And who knows how many times Fr. Kulczycki met at the chancery with another key pawn for the regime: Tadeusz Nowak, the treasurer for the curia, who was also the administrator of "Tygodnik Powszechny" the Catholic weekly dear to the future John Paul II.
Nowak was "active" from 1955 to 1982, with a nickname he had chosen himself: "Ares" the Greek god of war. Those who knew him can't hide their amazement. What? A spy was hiding behind that festive fellow with the wagging tongue that was prone to joking? Yes, precisely. And not a common spy in terms of his role and contacts. His confidences were collected directly by the official Jozef Schiller, a man whose professionalism would be admirable if it hadn't been put at the service of an ignoble cause. His recruiting methods were so refined, and the network he built was so effective, that he made for himself a brilliant career in the dark night of totalitarianism. After Krakow, he would become director of the fourth department.
Schiller was the link between Nowak and Ares. And the treasurer of "Tygodnik Powszechny" composing on typewriter, diligently recounted how much money the curia had, who complained about the taxes imposed by the central government -- and how indignantly. Then, in public, he appeared at Wojtyla's side with the absurd bauble he was authorized to wear after receiving the medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, given to him by Paul VI -- the highest honorary then bestowed in Poland by the Church of Rome after the second world war.
The ceremony for the conferral of the medal (April 17, 1965) was described in a meticulous note (that also related Nowak's great emotion) by the agent "Erski" or "Pantera." This was none other than the distributor of the Catholic newspaper, Waclaw Debski. He had been a radical opponent of communism and had been given a life sentence for this, but was freed after 1956 and the end of Stalinism. He was recruited, and for twenty years he regularly received payment that amounted, at the time, to a salary. This generosity was justified by the quality of the services he rendered: he not only watched the Catholics in the editorial offices, he also used his free access to bug the offices and gave the office keys to his superiors in his second job so that they could carry out secret nighttime searches.
Ares and Erski were the recipients of a "tajne" (secret) document drafted in Krakow on October 9, 1969, probably with the help of a psychologist. Karol Wojtyla had already become a cardinal, and a few months earlier he had challenged the regime by laying the first stone for a church to be built in Nowa Huta. It was very clear how dangerous he was, so everything about him had to be known. The document is made up of two questionnaires (see below) now kept at the Institute of National Memory and classified with the code Kr 08/141, t, l, k. 588-591 e Kr 08/141, t, l, k. 592-594. The spies had to reply to nine pages of questions about Wojtyla's habits, even the most apparently insignificant ones (Does he wear glasses? Sunglasses? What kind?), and about his personality: Is he analytic, synthetic, objective, subjective, creative? Is he an idealist? Does he love to take risks? For now, the replies to the questionnaires have not been found, but they would be valuable above all for understanding the obsessions of the police. Because of the intimate nature of the information sought, they certainly must have been delivered to close collaborators, even friends. To priests, even.
Michael Jagosz, a canon at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome and head of the historical commission for the cause of beatification for John Paul II, has already tried to dismiss the suspicions circulating around him: "They also tried to get me. I was contacted, but I never gave any information." This is disproved by the work of historian Marek Lasota, author of the book "Donos na Wojtyle" (The Denunciation of Wojtyla), a tireless researcher on the relationships between the secret services and Catholic circles in Krakow. Lasota affirms, kindly but firmly: "Jagosz was recruited in what I would call a dramatic situation during the 1970's. He began to collaborate, and then he broke off all ties at the beginning of the '80's, when he went to Rome." Lasota doesn't want to explain what the "dramatic situation" was. In general (though not necessarily in this case), the historian Paczkowski points out, there were three "weaknesses" through which priests could be blackmailed: "Sex, money, and alcohol."
Who knows what convinced Mieczyslaw Malinski, who went to the seminary with the pope and became his friend and first biographer, to become agent "Delta" and to meet frequently with Captain Podolski. Fr. Konrad Hejmo, who organizes trips from Poland to the Vatican, also defends his innocence and admits only that there were attempts to recruit him. But he's nailed by 20 receipts released by the fourth department of the interior ministry, in addition to a dossier that, according to historian Jan Zaryn, numbers "about 700 pages." Fr. Hejmo had at least three nicknames: "Hejnal" "Wolf" and "Dominican" (he belongs to that order). And he reported to at least as many others. In the middle of the 1970's, when he was working for the monthly "On the March" he met with police functionary Waclaw Glowacki. In Rome, he saw both a person nicknamed "Peter" a functionary at the Polish embassy, and "Lacar" an agent who worked for both Warsaw and the East Germans.
The scandal that exploded with archbishop Wielgus convinced another priest to resign: Janusz Bielanski, pastor of the cathedral of Wawel and a friend of Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was secretary to John Paul II and is now the cardinal archbishop of Krakow. It was also natural that Dziwisz's entourage would have been infiltrated. It is estimated that 2,600 priests were collaborating with the communist government by the end of the 1970's -- that's around 15 percent of the clergy in Poland. The curia of Krakow was truly a crossroads for spies, whether in clerical garb or not.
The deputy for the business manager of "Tygodnik Powszechny" Nowak, was named Antoni Ocheduszko, codenamed "Orski." He had been a secret agent in the 1920's, and was then persecuted during the Stalinist period. He was perfectly cut out for blackmail. He was elderly, suffered from heart problems, and was popular with the young. It seems that he was rather careful never to divulge anything that could harm anyone. He often pretended to be sick in order to avoid meeting with the person sent to interrogate him. When he simply couldn't avoid it, he talked about what the priests or journalists ate.
"Rumun" who was Stefan Papp, the technology editor for "Tygodnik Powszechny" had disgrace written into his name: his father was a German of Hungarian origin who lived in Romania. The cosmopolitan character of his family brought him into suspicion. Furthermore -- who knows how? -- his "guardian angels" had learned that he wasn't a believer. So he had two "faults" and the sense that these were sins to be expiated. But how? By revealing the reactions to certain public news items inside the newspaper offices.
And then there was "Blade" Jozef Wilga, who had come from the countryside with the desire to become part of the intelligentsia in Krakow. He had failed a minor examination at university, and so he wasn't able to embark upon the career as a judge that he had dreamed about so much. The shifty, smooth-talking Schiller dangled in front of him the possibility of an intervention with the tribunal so that he could obtain permission to continue his studies. And in exchange, Blade wrote reports on the members of the clubs of Catholic intellectuals, describing their meetings, detailing the personal conflicts, and relating what each one thought about Wladyslaw Gomulka, the party head at the time, and about the party itself.
One of Schiller's masterpieces was the recruitment of Sabina Kaczmarska, agent "Jesion" also called "Samotna" meaning "alone." She was unmarried and homely, and corrected drafts at the newspaper while dreaming of becoming the editor. Schiller flattered her: Write a report for us on the edition about to be published, a real review; we're so interested in your opinion, and you're so very capable. The hapless woman responded. "A report" became a collaboration lasting 12 years. And "Jesion" was used, as one document reveals, in part to influence the foreign reporters who came through Krakow. She is now almost 80, and the dream of being an editor is gone.
Roman Gracyk, author of the book "Tropem SB", or "On the Trail of the SB" (an acronym for Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, the secret service), and one of the supporters of the need for "lustracja" or shedding light on the dossiers, admits that he felt a certain "human pity" in studying certain cases. Here human pity does not mean absolution. Not even now that we know how the story ended, with Wojtyla at St. Peter's and communism defeated. Because even during those difficult times, it was possible to rebel. This is shown by the many documents in the archives about those who refused to collaborate.
Two questionnaires, 97 questions
Karol Wojtyla was a genuine obsession for the Polish secret services, beginning in the late 1960's. They wanted to know everything about him: about his opinions, habits, hobbies, state of health, and family. And two documents found in the archives of the Institute of National Memory are particularly chilling.
The first, which is more generic, bears the date of October 9, 1969, and is classified as "secret." It is signed by "Boguslawski, deputy head of Department IV at Krakow headquarters" and contains a list of questions that must be answered by the spies following Wojtyla. They include questions about his intellectual capacity, courage, and fidelity to the Church; about his attitude toward the Vatican and the "socialist reality" of Poland. Typical bureaucratic stuff.
But a second document, bearing no date but also concerning Wojtyla, is truly maniacal. It contains 97 questions for the spies shadowing the man who was by then a cardinal.
The first question: "What time does he get up on weekdays and on Sunday?" The second: "What does he do after he gets up, and in what order?" The third: "How often does he shave, and with what implements?" The fourth: "What are the toiletries that he uses?"
This continues in the section "Daily life" with police curiosities such as: "What does he do before starting work?", "What time does he eat lunch?", "Does he play bridge, cards, chess?" There's no lack of questions about alcohol: "What kind?", "How much?", "When?" The secret services also wanted to know where Wojtyla kept the keys to his house and office, and who did his laundry.
Another section asks about his "interests in audiovisual media." They wanted to know what kind of radio Wojtyla had, and whether he also owned a television set. They asked if he went to concerts, if he liked lyric opera. There are questions about the kind of music the future pope liked, what newspapers he read and which sections interested him. There was no lack of curiosity about his habit of listening to Western radio stations, and whether and with whom he "[talked] about politics."
The health of the future pope certainly did not escape the secret services: they wanted to know, apart from general matters, who was his dentist, whether he wore glasses, and what medicines he kept at home. They also wanted to know if he collected stamps, if he enjoyed taking photographs, and whether he knew how to type. It was important to know how many suitcases Wojtyla had and what kind, and how he dressed for winter and summer sports.
His family was also an object of inquiry: "conflicts, inheritances, material help." Finally, the police wanted to discover who his "most intimate" friends were, and who were the advisers to Cardinal Wojtyla.
Such a tremendous waste of money, energy, and human resources. Because, in the end, Wojtyla won, and communism lost.
On this website, on the archbishop of Warsaw who resigned last January 7 for having collaborated with the communist police:
> The Wielgus Case: The Reasons for His Resignation (11.1.2007)
The statement released by the Polish bishops' conference, to be read in all Polish parishes on Sunday, January 14:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In recent days we have experienced dramatic events, related to the archbishop metropolitan of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus, resigning from office, on the day designated for his solemn installation in the Warsaw Cathedral. We have painfully followed the accusations brought against him in the last weeks, concerning his entanglement in the collaboration with the secret service and the People's Republic of Poland intelligence. This has caused a wave of unrest and even distrust toward the new minister. Divisions in the community of believers became apparent. We are grateful to the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, for his fatherly help in the evangelical standing up to the difficult situation which we face. Thanks to his decision and attitude we are better prepared to live through this unusual time courageously and fruitfully. We also thank Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, the papal nuncio in Poland, for his brotherly and competent help.
On Jan. 5, 2007, in an appeal directed to the community of Warsaw Church, Archbishop Wielgus confirmed the fact of the above-mentioned entanglement and admitted having harmed Church through it, as well as -- in the face of a media campaign -- having done damage to the Church by denying the facts of collaboration with the secret service.
We accept with respect his decision about resignation from the ministry of archbishop metropolitan of Warsaw. It is not up to us to judge a man, a brother, who has served the Church in a faithful and zealous way, including his time as a professor and rector of the Catholic University of Lublin, and then as the Bishop of Plock. We want to support the archbishop with our prayer in the full clarification of the truth. At the same time regret to state that not taking into account the widely accepted rule of the presumption of innocence contributed to creating an atmosphere of pressure around the accused archbishop, which did not make it easy for him to present the public opinion with an appropriate defense, to which he was entitled.
2. We state once again that a gloomy past from the period of a totalitarian system dominating our country for decades continues to mark its presence. As we have written in the "Polish Episcopate Memorandum Concerning The Collaboration of Some Clergy with The Secret Service in Poland in The Years 1944-1989," "The records kept in the Institute of National Remembrance archives uncover a part of the vast areas of enslaving and neutralizing the Polish society by the security services of a totalitarian state. It is not, however, a complete and singular record of past times." Only a critical and solid analysis of all the available sources can allow us to approach the truth. One-sided reading of documents created by officers of the repression apparatus of a Communist state, hostile toward the Church, can seriously harm people, destroy the links of social trust and as a consequence prove to be a posthumous victory of an inhuman system, in which we were fated to live.
The memorandum also states that, "The Church is being accused of the intention of hiding a truth difficult for her, of an attempt at protecting the people responsible for collaboration with the secret service and forgetting the victims of this collaboration. As a consequence, the authority of the Church is being undermined, its credibility is being weakened. All too easily it is being forgotten that in the times of communist totalitarianism the whole Church in Poland constantly stood against the enslavement of the society and was an oasis of freedom and truth."
3. Therefore we repeat once more: The Church is not afraid of the truth, even if this is a hard, shameful, truth, and approaching this truth is sometimes very painful. We deeply believe that the truth liberates, because Jesus Christ himself is a liberating truth. The Church has been struggling with sin inside herself and in the world, to which it is sent, for 2,000 years. Sin degrades man and distorts the image and similitude of God in him. The Church does not carry this through under her own power. It does it under the power of the one, who as the only one can make us free from evil. Therefore we begin every Eucharist with a confession of our sinfulness: "I confess to the almighty God..." This is not a void liturgical formula, but a deep confrontation with our weakness and faithlessness before the face of the merciful God. Similarly, we ask in every Eucharist: "Lord Jesus Christ... look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church." We are not afraid to confess that the Church is a community of sinners, but at the same time she is holy and called to holiness, since Jesus Christ is her head, living and working in her -- a saint above all saints. It is before him that we stand, asking the Holy Ghost to deliver us from evil, fear and our small-mindedness.
Last Sunday, during the Lord's Baptism feast, in the Warsaw Cathedral, we read the Gospel about Jesus who joined the sinners, standing on the bank of Jordan to receive the baptism of penance. We believe strongly that Jesus stands together with all of us on the banks of Polish
Jordan. Once more the words of Jesus bring back our hope: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32). Solidarity with sinful people led Jesus to the cross. Thanks to this we have received his Baptism -- the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire for the remission of sins.
4. Let us remember: "For 2,000 years the Church has opposed the evil in the evangelical way, which does not destroy the dignity of another man. The truth about the sin should lead a Christian to a personal acknowledgment of guilt, to contrition, to a confession of the guilt -- even a public confession, if need be, and then to repentance and satisfaction. We cannot abandon such an evangelical way of confronting the evil. [...] The Christ Church is a community of reconciliation, forgiveness and mercy. Inside her there is a place for every sinner, who wishes to reform, as Peter did, and despite their weaknesses wants to serve the cause of the Gospel" (Memorandum).
As the Servant of God John Paul II stated emphatically, "Man is the way of the Church" ("Redemptor Hominis," 14) -- every man, including every priest and every bishop. Fulfilling the conditions of Christian conversion, everyone has the right to forgiveness and mercy, to join in the life of the Church community and society. We know that many of those, who once submitted to enslavement, deafened their conscience and compromised their dignity, have already repented for their weakness with years of faithful service. They are our brothers and sisters in faith!
We name Ash Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007, to be a day of prayer and repentance of the whole Polish clergy. In all the churches in our dioceses services to the merciful God should be celebrated for the forgiveness of mistakes and weaknesses in proclaiming the whole Gospel. As clergy, we are "taken from the people," we are a part of Polish society, which as a whole needs to turn away from evil and make a full conversion.
5. There is a great task of reconciliation for the Church in Poland, apart from standing in truth before the face of God. We will not change the past, both the glorious, and the one that we are ashamed of. We can include everything, with God's help, in our present and future in such a way that the power of Christ on the face of the Church is revealed. We appeal to all the people of the Church, the clergy and the laity, to carry on the examination of their consciences concerning their conduct in the time of totalitarianism. We do not want to encroach on the sanctuary of any man's conscience, but we encourage to do everything to confront the truth of possible facts and -- if need be -- to adequately admit and confess guilt.
We appeal to the people in power and members of Parliament to ensure that the use of the materials found in the archives dating back to the People's Republic of Poland will not lead to encroaching on the rights of a human person and demeaning the dignity of man, and will make it possible to verify these materials in an independent court of justice. It should also not be forgotten that these documents incriminate their authors above all.
Being aware of the call of Christ: "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged" (Matthew 7:1), we ask everybody to refrain from passing superficial and rash judgments, for they can be damaging. We mean especially those who work in the media. May Christian conscience and human sensibility suggest to them what should be presented to the public opinion and how it should be done, always taking into account the dignity of a human person, the right to defense and good name, even after one's death. We appeal to the young generation, lacking a direct experience of the era in which the older people happened to live, to make an effort to learn the hard and complex truth about past times. Despite all the shadows, it is to the generations living in those times, including the generations of clergy and their uncompromising struggle with evil that we owe our regaining of freedom after years of Marxist ideology and soviet patterns of political and social life imposed on us.
The Church in Poland has always empathized with its people and shared their fate, especially in the gloomiest periods of our history. This fact cannot be changed by bringing into light, after many years, the weaknesses and unfaithfulness of some of her members, including the clergy. May the present time be a good time for all of us to cleanse ourselves and reconcile with each other, restore the violated justice and regain mutual trust and hope. May it be, above all, a time of prayer and deepening in the faith, in the presence of the Lord of history, and the most complicated human issues.
Having trust in the power of the Gospel we want, as your pastors, to continue the work, already underway, on fully checking the contents of records stored in the Institute of National Remembrance, concerning ourselves and all the clergy.
6. "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me" (Psalm 23:4). May the word of the psalmist accompany us in these days. We thank you, brothers and sisters, especially for the spirit of prayer, which calmed down the emotions, brought about a peace of heart and order of love. We thank you for your concern for the Church and standing by her in the moments of trial. We believe that our current experience will contribute to a renewal of the Church, to a greater transparency and maturity of her members. We believe that it will help the Church to be faithful to the Gospel and look to it for solutions of our problems, to be reborn from it, in order to be a leaven of good and love in the world.
Having all these desires in our hearts, we call for God's blessing over everybody and for the intercession of Our Lady of Czestochowa, who always reminds us: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5).
Signed by the cardinals, archbishops and bishops assembled for the Permanent Council, and diocesan bishops of the Polish episcopal conference meeting.
Warsaw, January 12, 2007
[Translation issued by the Polish bishops' conference]
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
Sandro Magister's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org