The extent to which the communist secret police controlled Karol Wojtyla’s actions was incredible…” Marek Lasota who was born in 1960 and has a degree in Polish philosophy, with a specialism in history, lives among mounds of letters accumulated by the communist regime and kept in the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), where he is head of the Krakow section. After years of patient research, he has gathered a number of reports and dossiers on Wojtyla. Lasota’s “Karol Wojtyla spiato” (Spying on Karol Wojtyla), published by Intercienze, comes out in Italian in just a few days. The book is a collection of the regime’s secret documents on the pope who passed away in 2005.In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa the scholar also revealed the names of some collaborationist priests whom he mentions in the book.
“During the communist era, authorities saw all priests as enemies of the people and the party – Lasota explains – and they were placed under surveillance by the political police, the “Bezpieca”. Wojtyla had been under surveillance since 1946. This intensified in 1958 when he became Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow. As an archbishop in the ‘60s, he was considered a dangerous political opponent. This is why he was ferociously monitored in everything he did.”
One of the documents presented in the book is particularly striking. It contains 98 questions which spies who kept an eye on the future pope had to answer: attention was paid to every minute detail of his daily life. From the time at which he got up in the morning to his morning activities and the order in which these took place; from how frequently he shaved to the “cosmetics” he used.
There were questions about his habits in the office, which documents he took home with him, whether he took the keys to his desk with him, what he talked about at lunch, whether he “liked playing bridge or other card games, or chess” and with whom he played, whether he smoked or whether he liked alcoholic drinks (“how much does he drink and how often”). The secret police even wanted to know “who supplied his underwear,” who “washed his underwear, socks etc.,” whether “he possessed a medicine cabinet and what medication it contained.”
The worrying extent of the spying was revealed as the historian delved deeper into the “Bezpieka” archives: “It is estimated – he stated – that about ten per cent of the Polish clergy had collaborated with the communists in some form of other. Wojtyla was surrounded by a number of priests who collaborated with the secret police, passing on information about him.” Some of these priests got closer to Wojtyla in moments of weakness, because they were involved in some alcohol, money or sex related affair.
“Wojtyla – Lasota reveals – was being spied on by priests Wladyslaw Kulczycki, Mieczyslaw Satora, Boleslaw Sadus, Chris Michalowski, Zygmunt Siudmak and Joseph Szczotkowski. Fr. Sadus, who passed away in 1990, worked as a parish priest in Krakow and collaborated under the code name “Brodecki”. Fr. Szczotkowski, who operated under the code name “Rose” and died in 2000, had been a canonical priest in Krakow Cathedral and had worked in the city’s curia. But it was not just priests who supplied information to the secret police: many of the people closest to him ended up collaborating with the “Bezpieka”.
The spying on Wojtyla continued until after 16 October 1978, when the Cardinal of Krakow was surprisingly elected Pope. “A report dated 30 November 1984 contains the code names of eleven secret collaborators: Sylwester, Turysta, Sowa, Wolski, Pawlik, Łucjan, Janowski, Robert, Gross, Seneka and Filozof.” “Tourist – Lasota explained during his interview with La Stampa newspaper – was Fr. Antoni Siuda’s code name; Seneka worked for Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny. But there were also some westerners who presented themselves as spies of the regime also became involved: this form of “enrollment under foreign colours” emerged in some reports on the Polish Dominican priest Konrad Hejmo.
Out of the sea of documents, reports and dossiers on Wojtyla, he came out completely clean. He could not be blackmailed, manipulated or influenced. The communist police’s check-up newspaper therefore confirmed that cardinals made the right choice during the 1978 conclave.
* Karol Wojtyla spiato (Spying on Karol Wojtyla) by historian Marek Lasota, (Interscienze editions, pp. 288, €23,40), which reveals the spying activities carried out against John Paul II during the rule of the Polish communist regime, is not available in bookstores but can be purchased online at: http://www.karolwojtylaspiato.it/