Hungary's Clerical Collaborators Seen as Victims

Episcopate Addresses a Sore Point From Communist Era

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BUDAPEST, Hungary, MARCH 7, 2005 ( Catholic priests who collaborated with the Communist regime were victims of an «inhuman system,» said a statement published by the Hungarian bishops’ conference.

The episcopal note was published after a list was distributed in Eastern Europe of spies active in Communist times. The list included names of bishops and priests.

Members of the Hungarian episcopate pointed out that the list appeared «15 years after the change of the regime.»

«It is also commonly known that in 1989 an enormous amount of documents was destroyed that had to do with the activity of the political police and its leaders,» the prelates stated.

«In the decades of socialism every part of society was watched. Even those who were leaders among the lower class were obliged to prepare ‘reports about the atmosphere’ ‘in the interest of preserving the security of the republic of people,'» added the bishops.

«The Communist Party established this observer system also among priests and friars as they were considered the greatest ideological enemy. To set up this system all kinds of mental and physical terror were applied,» continued the statement.

«There were a lot of people who heroically stood their ground against the affliction, sometimes even sacrificing their lives. Among them were lay people, friars and priests. The Catholic Church pays tribute to them for their courage,» the bishops wrote.

«Others left the country or withdrew to a provincial parish to continue pastoral work,» the text continued. «There were also some who broke down under the weight of troubles and agreed to cooperate. They became victims of an inhuman system whose creators and maintainers might be in power today. These politicians do not have a moral base to condemn those who made reports.

«Among the cooperators there were certainly priests, friars and lay people who, unfortunately with harmful intention, sinned against their fellow men. We apologize for what they did to the offended ones and to God.

«Many of the former agents revealed their activity to their fellow priests, relieving their conscience this way. Others apologized after the political changes to those who they had reported about. Although there are some who still owe this apology, in the spirit of Christ’s love we cannot call them to account. ‘Judge not, and you shall not be judged.'»

The Hungarian bishops added: «There are people who draw a parallel between these clerics with those politicians who do not want to face the consequences of their past. Those who are of this opinion may forget that clerical people became victims of politicians and they might become victims also today if their names get published. At the same time these clerical persons do not hold public positions, unlike politicians.»

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