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Vatican missteps on Warsaw

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Jan 10, 2007

Over on the excellent First Things blog, Robert Miller analyzes the Wielgus debacle, giving special attention to the role of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re and the Congregation for Bishops, which vetted the Warsaw appointment. He reaches this conclusion-- which, when you follow his argument, seems inescapable:

Now, either the Vatican knew about Wielgus’ past when it appointed him, as Wielgus says and as the Vatican’s statement in December strongly suggests, or else it did not, as Re now maintains. If the former, then the Vatican’s investigation of Wielgus prior to the appointment was grossly negligent, failing to discover information that was readily available in Poland. If the latter, as seems much more likely, then the Holy See exercised very poor judgment in making the appointment in the first place and even worse judgment in attempting to ram it through even after the truth about Wielgus became public.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 11, 2007 2:51 PM ET USA

    Apparently, Joseph Ratzinger had met Wielgus when he was Archbishop of Munich. Perhaps that was the reason (as much as I hate to say it) that he nominated an uninspiring choice. And he got burned big-time. I think the Pope needs to look outside his immediate circle of acquaintances for episcopal appointments. Look at San Francisco and Salt Lake City.

  • Posted by: Deacon Bart - Jan. 11, 2007 10:37 AM ET USA

    Ignacio, you are correct about the internal forum and forgiveness.Still one must wonder at the wisdom of placing someone who has had need of the internal forum into a position where the reason the forum was needed is certain to come to light.No matter how this played out it was poorly done by the Vatican professionals.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 10, 2007 7:31 PM ET USA

    It seems to me that bishops should indeed show heroic virtue. Isn't much of our problems due to the process of selecting bishops which generally does not really seem to be a serious, exhaustive search for heroic virtue and holiness? I know of two priests...perhaps 3...who would be astoundingly good bishops. But that is not likely to ever happen...whereas some remarkably uninspiring selections are made.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 10, 2007 7:29 PM ET USA

    Giovanni Battista Re should resign too, and Benedict XVI accept his resignation immediately, and shake up the Congregation for Bishops. The higher your office, the less tolerance one should expect to receive.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Jan. 10, 2007 10:28 AM ET USA

    My question is: Do they have more information than we do? Could it be that in the internal forum it became clear that the Bishop did sin and was repentent of that sin? Thus were willing to accept that someone living under persecution could not show heroic virtue in a particular situation and still be qualified to be archbishop. Or could it be that Weilgus looked them in the eye and denied that the matter very serious? As we know all too well, often perps deny the seriousness of their actions.

  • Posted by: MM - Jan. 10, 2007 9:55 AM ET USA

    Too often in these situations, perplexed Catholics scramble to find charitable, sympathetic rationalizations for their leaders extraordinary actions. Good for Robert Miller for following his analysis through to the obvious, if uncomfortable, conclusion.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 10, 2007 9:25 AM ET USA

    Not inspiring choices are they? Let us pray that the Holy Spirit lifts us sinfully bumbling Catholics out of the messes that we so readily make for ourselves. Lord only knows, we cannot do it on our own.