by Hilary White

KRAKOW, May 29, 2006 ( – An open letter signed by 100 over Polish Catholics on the occasion of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, calls on Catholic clergy who collaborated with the communist regime to come forward. The letter follows revelations in Zycie Warszawy daily earlier this month that Msgr. Michal Czajkowski of Warsaw was an informant on the activities of fellow clergy including Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko, a hero of the Solidarity movement murdered by communist agents.

The letter from the laity urged priests to admit their guilt in collaborating with the communist regime, saying, “priests and others linked with the church who collaborated with the security services of the communist state – they cast a shadow on the Catholic Church’s heroic history under communist rule.”

In February, the Polish Catholic bishops launched an investigation into possible priest-collaborators with the communists using the secret police’s own files. The investigation followed allegations by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (INR) in April 2005, shortly after Pope John Paul’s death, that another Polish priest, Father Konrad Hejmo, had been informing on the activities of the late pope throughout the 1980’s. The INR is in charge of the files of the former communist secret police which forms a crucial archive of communist activities in relation to the Church. Hejmo and the Dominican order to which he belongs have denied the charge.

In mid-March the Polish Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an official apology to the Polish faithful after the INR revealed that at least 10% of Catholic priests acted as communist informers, although larger numbers have been reported in some dioceses. The investigation did not reveal the extent of the collaboration of the Polish bishops themselves, but their involvement is an open secret in the Polish press.

Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, longtime secretary of Pope John Paul and now cardinal Archbishop of Krakow, has pledged to draw up a list of those clerics of all ranks who contributed to the work of the communists against the Church and Polish national independence.

Historian, Marek Lasota, an official with the INR has written a study, “Spying on Wojtyla,” and said that priests were targeted by the communists “from their seminary days onwards” including such “personal weaknesses” as sexual liaisons, alcoholism or “love of good living” for blackmail purposes. Lasota confirmed that the KGB planned and led all efforts to “eliminate” the Polish Pope – including the assassination attempt in 1981 – from 1978 up to 1989, the year communism collapsed in Poland.

Other former Soviet Bloc countries have reported similar revelations about Catholic clergy collaborators. In 2005, Hungary’s Catholic Church admitted that “at least dozens” of clerics spied for the dreaded Hungarian communists.

In the west since the fall of the Soviet state, evidence has come forward of extensive ties between US Catholics and the Soviets in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. The so-called “Venona Papers” were declassified in 1995 and showed that Stalinist era agents were working closely with members of the legal US Communist Party.

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, philosophy professor and widow of the renowned philosopher and anti-Nazi activist, Dietrich von Hildebrand, has said that Americans are “naëve” to think that Soviet agents, whose intention was to undermine the then-powerful political influence of the Catholic Church, would have passed over the Catholic seminaries.

Von Hildebrand cites the voluminous Senate committee testimony of former Communist Party organizer and high Party official, Bella Dodd who revealed that the Catholic priesthood in the US and other western countries had been heavily infiltrated by communist agents whose mission it was, she said, “to destroy the Catholic Church from within.” Dodd predicted changes in the Church that would be so drastic that “you will not recognize the Catholic Church.”

Dr. von Hildebrand recalled in an interview with Latin Mass magazine in 2001, “Bella Dodd told my husband and me that when she was an active Party member, she had dealt with no fewer than four cardinals within the Vatican ‘who were working for us’.”

Dodd, who later became a Catholic and wrote a book about her experiences, said that she herself had placed as many as 1200 agents into Catholic seminaries in the 1920’s and ‘30’s under directives from Moscow. In a 2002 interview with International News Analysis, Von Hildebrand confirmed that Dodd had admitted that her own infiltrators would have reached their highest positions of power and influence in the early to mid-60’s, the same period that saw the near total collapse of Catholic discipline and the beginning of the sexual abuse scandals.

In his book, the Venona Secrets, Herbert Romerstein, former head of the Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at the United States Information Agency, confirmed the existence of the Soviet plan to undermine the Catholic Church. He wrote that the archives of the former Soviet Union reveals that the Communist Party had infiltrated several influential Catholic organizations, including the Holy Name Society, which currently has chapters in many US parishes.

See more on Dodd from Toby Westerman: