Priests coerced into collaborating with Communists: Czech Cardinal

Prague Cardinal Miloslav Vlk says that under communism many priests "weren't heroes" and succumbed to pressure to collaborate with the former government but he remains confident that the Czech Church will be spared a scandal similar to that in Poland.

Zenit reports that a statement from the Czech bishops conference issued in the wake of media reports of clergy collaboration with the Communist regime reiterates that under the Communist regime, the Catholic Church was a victim.

At the close of their two day plenary last week, the bishops published the statement in which they emphasised that "no one could escape" the totalitarian situation in the country.

The bishops recalled that when the Communists led by Klement Gottwald came to power in 1948, the authorities decided to put an end to all religious activity they did not control.

At that time, the organisation of the Church was entirely modified. Bishops were arrested, and replaced by priests chosen by the Communist Party.

Thousands of religious and priests were arrested, convents and monasteries closed, and the teaching of the catechism was banned in schools.

In statements quoted by the agency, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, Archbishop of Prague, clarified that the reason for some officials' collaboration was, in most cases, the enormous, often psychological pressure used by the police.

"Many have told me that they did not have the strength to resist, that they weren't heroes, that they were afraid," the cardinal said. He added that he does not think that there will be a scandal similar to that which broke out in Poland.

In their statement, the Czech bishops' admitted that there were priests coerced into collaborating but pointed out that even today Czech society tolerates the heirs of the time of persecution sitting in Parliament as members of the Communist Party.

Individuals who persecuted and tortured their victims, are still in their posts in several administrations, the bishops noted.

Cardinal Vlk, 74, said he is amazed at media interest in priests, who in the main were victims of pressures and blackmail.

Czech Bishops: Church Was Victim of Communism (Zenit, 1/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Cardinal Miloslav Vlk (Wikipedia)
Cardinal Miloslav Vlk (Catholic Hierarchy)
Czech cardinal once washed windows, has led European bishops (Catholic News Service, 1/4/05)

Holy See becoming impatient with Yugoslavia (CathNews, 27/4/99)

2 Feb 2007

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