Prague radio claims four Bishops take oath
By DOUGLAS HYDE
ARCHBISHOP Beran of Prague, heroic opponent of the
Nazis whom the Gestapo sent to the Dachau concentration camp, has been banished from his diocese by the Czech Communist Government. According to one Prague paper his exile will be for life.
But popular support for the Czech Primate has remained so strong, despite the bitter propaganda which has been maintained against him throughout his eighteen months' house arrest, that even when the news was broken by the Government on the radio last Saturday, it was made as vague and unsensational as possible.
Mgr. Beran, said the broadcast, had been ordered to live outside his diocese because of his " uncooperative attitude " towards the regime and his negative attitude " to its new Church laws.
Just that—and the news that in his place was being put a Government endorsed " vicar capitular," Fr. Antonin Stehiik, whose attitude to the regime is, of course, " uncompromisingly positive."
Then the Communist propaganda machine got to work and within 48 hours produced a broadcast. said to have been made by Mgr. Carsky, Bishop of Kosice. Slovakia, on behalf of himself and three other Bishops.
In it he pledged their support for the Government, for the phoney " World Peace Movement," for the Communists' Office for Church Affairs. their State scheme for financing priests, and apposed the Vatican decree excommunicating those who join the Communists.
" We promise," said the broadcast, " that we will not deal out Church punishments to the faithful and priests for political reasons."
The Bishops—if the broadcast was genuine—are the first, with the exception of Dr. Eltschkner, Auxiliary Bishop of Prague, who is known as a patriotic priest," to support the Czech Communist regime.
They are, in addition to Mgr. Carsky, Bishop Picha, of Bradec Kralove, Bishop Trechta, of Lio=rice. • and Bishop Lail k, of Trnava.
All four, the Communists claim, have now taken the pledge of loyalty the regime. When the pledge was first demanded of them, all the Bishops refused to take it although, under protest, they permitted priests and laity to do so in order to ensure that the sacraments should be available to the faithful.
With Archbishop Beran now banished and obviously living under the constant threat of having to face a framed-up trial, it would seem not improbable that they should having demonstrated their protest. now agree to take the oath.
But this would not, in itself, lead inevitably to giving the full support which the Communist propagandists now claim to have got from them.
The four Bishops had, during the Church-State dispute, all signed pastorals calling for resistance to the regime and had been denounced by the Communists for so doing.
Ilt is clear, therefore, that if they have taken the action attributed to them it has not been as free men_ Despite the broadcasting of the news of Archbishop's Beran's banishment, no news was given of his whereabouts, and pressmen who have tried to obtain details have been passed from one Government department to another, each of whom denied either knowledge of or responsibility for where the Primate might be or what might happen to him.
But the Prague paper Lidoea Demokracie on Tuesday suggested that he would be exiled for life. It implied that the place in which he will be confined will be decided by the Minister of the Interior who. according to this source, was responsible for the action against him.
In recent "treason" trials his name, along with those of other Bishops. has been repeatedly mentioned in connection with alleged espionage activities and it has been generally assumed that a "Cardinal Mindszenty case" was being manufactured against him.
Such an attack, indeed, was expected at the time when, in July, 1949. Communists interrupted a Pontifical High Mass in St. Vitus' Cathedral. in an attempt to build up public feeling against him.
From that day the Archbishop was prevented from leaving his palace, being under virtual house arrest and only the great popular affection in which he is held has stopped the Communists from martyring him already.
Czechoslovakia's other Archbishop, Mgr. Matocha of Olomouc, has also been under house arrest since 1949. It has been expected that both would feature in any future major "treason" trials, since both have been repeatedly named as traitors by members of the Government.
Of the 15 Czechoslovak Bishops, three have already been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment on charges of treason and espionage, and a number of others are under house arrest or have disappeared.