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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Feb 26, 2007

In among the records smuggled out of Russia by KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin was a June 16th, 1980 communication from the KGB residency in Warsaw to Moscow Center. Cambridge scholar Christopher Andrew provides a translation:

Our friends [the SB -- Polish Security Service] have serious operational positions [agents] at their disposal in the Vatican, and these enable them to have direct access to the Pope and to the Roman congregation. Apart from experienced agents, towards whom John Paul II is personally well disposed and who can obtain an audience with him at any time, our friends have agent assets among the leaders of Catholic students who are in constant contact with Vatican circles and have possibilities in Radio Vatican and the Pope's secretariat.

The explanations in brackets are Andrew's. New assertions concerning East Bloc penetration of Catholic Rome have been made by Ion Mihai Pacepa, former general of the Romanian Secret Service. Reacting to Pacepa's revelations, Jesuit historian Fr. Peter Gumpel urges caution and scholarly prudence in testing the particular claims made by former intelligence agents, but makes no bones about the attempted penetration itself. I found the following detail noteworthy:

Regarding Pacepa's claims about the successful infiltration of the Vatican, Father Gumpel recalled that "the Soviets tried to insert seminarian spies in two institutions of the Jesuits, in the Pontifical Oriental Institute and in the Pontifical Russicum College." Father Gumpel said, "It was easy to discover them as their behavior provoked so many suspicions and was of such a nature that in the end they were thrown out. It was clear they did not have a vocation."

It doesn't do to ask what might count as "conduct unbecoming" in clerical Rome, but it's reassuring to know there were lines it was possible to cross. Of course one's imagination boggles at the thought of hapless KGB agent-recruits, in training for service as Catholic clergymen, being schooled at some remote camp in the enneagram and gender-inclusive language. To re-spin John LeCarré: "There are certain sacrifices, General Shlobodovitch, which not even your loyal pawn will make in the service of Mother Russia."

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 2:12 PM ET USA

    How is it that these european seminaries can detect candidates without a vocation and the seminaries in the U.S. remain infected with those who have no vocation except to themselves?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 27, 2007 12:46 AM ET USA

    Yet, somehow, those traitors who serve an even greater and eternally implacable power,whose behaviour is probably more likely to engender suspicion and whose actions harm an infinitely greater number of souls go 'undetected'.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 26, 2007 8:24 PM ET USA

    A comedy? In Czechoslovakia during the cold war, it was not a secret operation, but a public policy to produce in 3 to 6 months courses (no H.S. required) "priests", who then replaced many real Catholic priests of eastern rite imprisoned by the communists. It had done "wonders" to denigrate religion in the minds of many Christians. Yes, it was a fertile ground for jokes about those "priests". Not very funny for those in labor camps, nor for any serious Catholic. I know this first hand.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 26, 2007 6:05 PM ET USA

    "Apart from experienced agents, towards whom John Paul II is personally well disposed and who can obtain an audience with him at any time". And how did one obtain an audience with JPII at any time? The Appointments Secretary had a reputation along those lines: he stopped the letters denouncing pederasty by Austrian and Polish heirarchs didn't he?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 26, 2007 3:48 PM ET USA

    No, no, inquisition. On the contrary. Di would starve to death in Hollywood. Can you imagine a CONSERVATIVE writing there? Especially comedy!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 26, 2007 9:31 AM ET USA

    "There are certain sacrifices, General Shlobodovitch, which not even your loyal pawn will make in the service of Mother Russia." Speaking of people who just didn't have the vocation, what the blinkety-blink is Uncle Di doing as an obscure arch-conservative blogger, when he should be writing comedy for Hollywood! He'd be a millionaire! Ah, the wasted talent! :-) Stefan

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