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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vatican Faces Questions as Polish Prelate Leaves

WARSAW -- The Roman Catholic Church in Poland was in turmoil Monday as a second prelate stepped down because of his communist-era secret police ties, after Sunday's resignation of this city's archbishop over similar allegations.

Questions spread about just how broad and deep a stain secret-police collaboration has left on a church long regarded as a beacon of faith and freedom during the Communist era. Many people also have asked how or why the Vatican could have invited the storm by appointing a man to such a sensitive post despite knowing that he had a clouded past.

"The people responsible for the procedure of appointing such candidates applied the traditional way of doing it, which means it was without an investigation and was based on their confidence in the truthfulness of the candidate," said the Reverend Dariusz Kowalczyk, head of the Jesuits in Warsaw.

But many people here worry that a mishandling of the affair could permanently damage the last major bastion of Roman Catholic faithful in Europe at a time when the Polish church is already facing the secularizing trend that has emptied churches in Italy, France and Spain.

While cases of Communist collaboration by Polish clergy members have made headlines before, the latest threatens to set off what some worry could be a pernicious cycle of exposures that could erode the church's image.

One day after Archbishop Wielgus resigned after admitting that he had collaborated with the Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, or Security Service, the Reverend Janusz Bielanski resigned as rector of Krakow's Wawel Cathedral, the burial site of Polish kings and queens. Father Bielanski cited "repeated allegations about his cooperation with the secret services" in his resignation.

The archbishop's resignation has divided the church between those, like Cardinal Jozef Glemp, who were angered that public pressure had scuttled the appointment and the 60 percent who wanted him to step down, said a recent survey.