Trick to compromise Bishops and laity
By DOUGLAS HYDE ALL over Europe behind the Iron Curtain and this side of it too, the Communists are using peace as a weapon of war, war against the We st and, increasingly during recent weeks, against the C hurch in particular.
From East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Italy have come reports this week of the resolution passed at the Stockholm " peace " conference in March being used to blackmail priests, laity and Catholic organisations into giving what can be construed as support for Communism, or taking the consequences.
Communists there, as elsewhere, have been trying to get priests to sign what are obviously antiWestern petitions, calling for the banning of the atom bomb and for lasting peace.
" You know that the Catholic faith labels war an evil," wrote Cardinal von Preysing, " and that Catholic morality considers the causing of a war, with the continuously growing horror of weapons of war, morally evil. . .
"But if Catholic priests are asked for statements of this nature, the reason does not seem to be a desire to make sure that they favour peace. Other considerations play their part."
The nature of those " other considerations" is made abundantly clear by the reports from those countries where the attack upon the Church has reached a more advanced stage.
In Hungary, for example, Communist Party members are being ' sent to prebysteries, convents and monasteries, questioning priests and religious as to whether or not they favour world peace.
To such a leading question, a " yes" appears the only possible answer. Then they are asked if they are against the dropping of atom bombs — and again most feel that the only truthful answer is " yes."
1 hen they are asked to sign a " peace" petition. If they hedge they are charged with being in the camp of the imperialist warmongers. American agents and enemies of the people.
If they agree to sign, their names are used to persuade other clergy to do the same and to convince the laity that their priests are now suppr-''gig the Communists' world campaign.
fore long they are represented as backing the regime itself and anyone so involved will find it very difficult to extricate himself. particularly if, as is often the case, they have had no political experience and are not up to the duplicity of the Communists.
The Hungarian Bishops are reported to have issued a declaration affirming that they are unequivocally on the side of peace throughout the world, in order, it would appear, to relieve the pressure upon their priests.
They were careful, the report says, to add : he Hierarchy issue this declaration also in the name of the secular priests, monks and nuns. thus substituting for any other statements or signatures."
But, although this must be a help to those who are being grilled. the campaign goes on.
A conference of " patriotic " (apostate) priests in Hradec Kralove, Czechosolvakia, where the campaign has been running for some weeks, was used last week for the same purpose.
A resolution condemned "the imperialist policy of the warmongers" and pledged those present to become " an effective part of the world camp for peace,"
" We regret above all," the resolution stated, " the absence of our Bishops from the ranks of those who participate in this effort although it is their moral duty to lead us in this sphere as in all things."
There was clear evidence. too, in the Polish Church State agreement of April 14 that the Bishops there had been subjected the same sort of pressure and so were confronted with the same dilemma as that which is facing so many in lands where to be branded 'asa watsnunger is the first step on the road to being charged as a spy.
Reports from Italy indicate that the same technique, adapted to different conditions, is being tried out in non-Communist countries too. A country where both Communism and the Church are strong was an obvious first choice.
The Italian Communist daily paper, Unita, and the rest of the pro-Communist Press this week suggested that Catholic Action should now support the Stockholm resolution and declared, too, that the Communists, because of their concern for peace, should be allowed to come in on Catholic Action's National Youth Day demonstrations on May 21.
These overtures were turned down emphatically by the Catholic Action paper, Quotidiano.