Divisions arise after second priest resigns

WARSAW, Poland – A second prominent Catholic clergyman resigned yesterday after allegations about his links to the communist-era secret police, and the prospect that more clerics may have been compromised threatened the church’s reputation as a bastion of opposition to the old regime.

A day after Warsaw’s new archbishop stunned the faithful by resigning minutes before his formal installation ceremony, the Rev. Janusz Bielanski resigned as rector of Krakow’s prestigious Wawel Cathedral, burial place to Polish kings and queens, Krakow church spokesman Robert Necek said.

Bielanski’s resignation was “in connection with repeated allegations about his cooperation with the secret services” of the communist era, Necek said. He added that Krakow’s archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, accepted the resignation.

The allegations against Bielanski first surfaced last February, but the timing of his resignation deepens the sense of crisis around the church over the issue of priests who were compromised by the secret police.

In a dramatic development Sunday, new Warsaw Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus stepped down from the post he took up two days earlier – announcing the decision during what was supposed to have been his installation Mass.

The revelations about Wielgus, and his abrupt resignation, have rattled Poland and revealed deep divisions within the church over the issue.

Allegations that Wielgus was involved with the secret police were first raised by a Polish weekly on Dec. 20 and exploded into a full crisis Friday when a church historical commission said it found evidence he had cooperated.

Wielgus initially denied it, but then acknowledged he did sign an agreement in 1978 promising to cooperate with the secret police in exchange for permission to leave Poland to study in West Germany.

He stressed that he did not inform on anyone or try to hurt anyone, and he expressed remorse for both his contacts with the secret police and his failure to be open.

Cardinal Jozef Glemp, whom Wielgus was replacing as archbishop of Warsaw, will stay in office until an successor is found.