Several Notes on the Issue of Priests and Totalitarian State Power in a Historical Context
The historian Petráček takes for his study as a starting point a strong conviction that the analysis and evaluation of the phenomenon of priests’ and church collaboration with the State Security in communist states shouldn’t be done without taking into consideration the mentality, education and formation with which priests in Central Europe were entering in this period of Church history. How were they prepared or unprepared for the conflict with state authorities, whether they had a chance to succeed, and where hidden pitfalls lay, which they could only slowly and gradually get to know and adapt to them. The author shows that the formation of priests was for generations aimed towards the loyalty to the secular power, so their resistance and ability to oppose was developed gradually. The social background of the priests in the broad sense of the word also made them less resistant to pressure and manipulation of the state power, which could than easily abuse their weaknesses and frustration. According to Petráček, it is – on the contrary – strangely enough, how the Catholic clergy as a whole could endure regardless of all these difficult conflicts and temptations.
Catholic Priests as Unofficial Collaborators of the State Security
On the basis of 60 priests who were regarded as “Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter (IM)” (= unofficial collaborator, secret agent) by the Ministry of State Security (= Stasi) in the former GDR, Gregor Buß tries to develop a typology of the reasons for collaborating with the Stasi. Buß differentiates among 12 reasons: from fear and blackmailing up to selfishness and vanity. It is shown that priests had all kinds of motivations to get in contact with a representative of the Stasi and that their motivations in many cases were similar to those of other collaborators. Like all other human beings also priests were not free from human weaknesses. In most of the cases the „unofficial collaborators“ did not only have one reason for collaboration but were motivated by a mixture of reasons, very often their motivation could also change during their „career“ in the Stasi. Especially perplexing are also those cases where no exact reason for collaboration can be found. It seems that in many cases priests unconsciously slipped into the web of the Stasi.
The Peace Movement of the Catholic Clergy
The study of Pavol Jakubcin, a member of the Slovak Nation’s Memory Institute, traces the history of the Peace Movement of Catholic Clergy, an organization founded in the early 50s on the impulse of the communist regime, and who under the guise of fight for peace through the “progressive” priests should influence the believers. Jakubcin shows how the movement gradually discredited itself by its dependence on the regime (movement activities were strictly directed from the top); its true form came out (as unacceptable attacks on the Holy See and the Pope) and lost its influence among priests, especially in the 60s in connection with the Vatican Council and the partial political liberalization in 1968. Despite all efforts of the regime to strengthen its authority and influence, the movement was finally dissolved in July 1968.
Penetration of State Security (StB) into the Structures of the Roman Catholic Church
Possibilities and Limitations of Historical Knowledge
The historian Jiří Plachý in the beginning of his study clearly shows the technical limitations impeding any attempt to examine Czech State Security archives. They have undergone several waves of pulping and offer a less than fragmentary image. The author then discusses the contacts between the State Security and priests, mostly ones of the generation studying at the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology in Litomerice in the early 60s, and sorts them according to common characteristics from the priest-victims of secret processes to collaborators, candidates and designating persons. He comes to conclusion that the release of various lists satisfying sufficiently public opinion, which also received the misleading impression that this way may bring a simple settlement with the past, the real culprits of Communist injustice have escaped the attention. And they were not the people forced to collaboration, but precisely the agents and their superiors.
Casualties or Collaborators?
Secret Cooperation of Catholic Priests with State Security in Diocese of Spiš
The study of the Slovak historian explores the collaboration of priests with State Security in the diocese of Spiš. The author typologies the ways of contact, knowledge or ignorance of cooperation, deals with the problem of signing cooperation, submission of written reports, rewarding secret collaborators among the priests, and termination of the cooperation. He also deals with the motivation for cooperation, which included in most cases fear. He concludes that there it is not possible to evaluate across the board, because the extent of cooperation was very individual, in many cases obviously insincere and mocked, and not least the fragmentation of surviving archives doesn’t permit entirely objective research.
Reconstruction of a Case of an Informer of the East German State Security (Stasi)
At the outline of circumstances in which a student pastor of Leipzig, Clemens Rosner, was hired to cooperation with Stasi, is clearly visible a danger of the rash of sensational interpretations of archival materials. The author explores not only the available archival materials, but uses mainly an opportunity to contact Rosner himself. Rosner was involved in secret financing of student parishes in East Germany by the form of not quite legal remittances. At a time when a part of the whole affair began to interest the police, Rosner was forced into cooperation, which he then regarded as a lesser evil than the threat to the undertaking as a whole. He was never hiding his contacts, and therefore the contact with him has since been released.
State Security (StB) and ChurchA Survey among the Bishops of the Former Eastern Bloc
(Rudolf Baláž, Henryk J. Muszynski, Asztrik Várszegi OSB, Miloslav Vlk, Joachim Wanke)
Study of the history of the Czech Catholic Church during the Communist government carries inevitable need to confront the results of research with the experience of other countries of the former communist bloc. Was the situation of the Czech Church – including its dark side – unique? Was the conflict between the Church and State in the Czech countries different from the situation in neighbouring countries? Were motivations of Czech priests forced to cooperate with State Security and their moral dilemma other than those of Polish or Hungian ones? And most important questions – how to cope with the past, and which steps to take today? With these questions we addressed the bishops of the former Eastern bloc Rudolf Baláž from Slovakia, Henryk Muszynski from Poland Asztrik Várszegi OSB from Hungary, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk from the Czech Republic, and Joachim Wanke from the former East Germany.
The Question of Freedom
How Can Unofficial Contacts with the State Security be Morally Evaluated?
How to evaluate cases of collaboration with the socialist secret police (= Stasi) is not only a historical but also an ethical question. Gregor Buß, a moral theologian, tries to approach this complex problem from different perspectives. He claims that the reasons for collaboration can be found either in a lack of will, a lack of freedom, or a lack of cognition. All these “lacks” can be morally criticized, but on the other hands there may also be justifications for them. Buß tries to analyze in how far these “justifications” can excuse the behaviour of the collaborator. He comes to the conclusion that the level of freedom is decisive for the moral evaluation of collaboration with the Stasi.
“From Velehrad to Agnes”
The Phenomenon of Subversive Character of Religious Pilgrimages in Czechoslovakia in the Second Half of the 80s in the Context of Political and Public-Safety Precautions
The historian Jaroslav Šebek in his study deals with changes in the relationship between the Church and State in the second half of the 80s of the 20th century. He shows how within the Church grew an awareness of subversive self-confidence and multiplied actions demonstrating this fact. The author sees as a certain turning point a pilgrimage to the Sts. Cyril and Methodius to Velehrad in 1985, which should be seen in context of the trend of those years to demonstrate through pilgrimages a membership to the Church and a critical attitude towards the regime. It counts particularly for pilgrimages connected with the national saints, in the spirit of the Decade of Spiritual Renewal, St. Vojtech (Adalbert) and then mainly with activities connected with the canonization of Bl. Agnes of Czech. State Security (StB) constantly monitored these events and tried to inhibit them by all possible means, but interfered with growing self-confidence not only among the hierarchy – Cardinal Tomášek – but also among active laity and believers. The pilgrimage of thousands of believers to Rome in November 1989 as if symbolically started the fall of the communist regime in the country.
The Catholic Church for Forty Years under Communist Regime
The historian Jan Stríbrný offers in the final review article a prospect of the history of the Catholic Church during the Communist totalitarian regime. From this larger perspective is apparent the dynamics of development – from the strong, high quality post-war generation, decimated brutally by the Stalinist regime in 50s, to the 60s – although not a significant relief for the church as a whole – but still it was possible for many people to find the path to the faith and to the Church, up to the “normalization”, when an active cooperation within the dissent was developed, and prepared in the late 80s a number of powerful acts of resistance against the regime.