Priest-politician primed for sinister new role ?
By DOUGLAS HYDE
WHAT may prove to be the most sinister move yet in the fight of the Czech Communist State against the Church was announced in Prague last Sunday.
Fr. Antonin Stehlik, the so called " Vicar Capitular," put by the Communists to fill the place of banished Archbishop Reran, as his first public act lifted the Pope's ban on the excommunicated Fr. Josef Plojhar, Minister of Health in the Communist Government.
And on Easter Sunday, as a consequence, Fr. Plojhar, by permission of the enemies of the Church, will celebrate a mockery of a Mass in his birthplace in Ceske Budejovice, Bohemia.
But to the Communist Government, and presumably to Fr. Plojhar himself, the "right" to celebrate Mass again after being banned by Archbishop Beran and then excommunicated by the Pope is the least important aspect of this cynical move.
Behind it is the clear intention to use him in some important future role in the schismatic Church they hope to create.
For the priest-politician Fr. Plojher is one of their most active in struments. He has held office in their Government. travelled all over Europe in support of their campaigns and, it is believed. helped to direct their fight againvt the Church.
It may he taken for granted that the ban has not been lifted in order simply to enable hi.m to say a mock Mass.
Fr. Plojhar was suspended by Archbishop Beran in June, 1948. after he became a member of the Government in defiance of a ban by the Hierarchy on priests holding public office.
Later he was automatically excommunicated under the decree of the Holy Office against those who actively support atheistic Communism.
Monday's official announcement said that the annulment had "ended the wrong done to Fr. Plojhar by Mgr. Reran for his positive attitude towards the People's Democratic Regime."
Thus, just nine days after the announcement of the banishing of Archbishop Reran, Fr. Stehlik. the Communists' nominee, acting on their behalf, has claimed the right to override both the Archbishop and the Pope.
Grim confirmation that the banishment of Mgr. Beran. Archbishop of Prague, is intended by his Communist persecutors to be for life has come from a leading member of the Czech Government. In a speech last week-end Alois NM. Minister of Transport, made a reference to the head of the Church in Czechoslovakia as " the former Archbishop of Prague." But, apart from this cynical admission of the Government's intentions, no information had been vouchsafed by his captors, ten days after the news of his removal, as to either his whereabouts or his fate.
Meanwhile, the Holy Father has exgommunioated all those responsible for the .measures which have been taken against him or who have had any part in his banishment.
The decree of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation, of which the Pope is Prefect, it similar to that invoked against those responsible for the " trial " and imprisonment of Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary.
In many ways the Czech Communists' treatment of Archbishop Reran is more clever, more subtle and even more reprehensible than that of the Hungarian Cornersumsts against Cardinal Mindszenty.
Their course of action has been dictated by five considerations: 1. Determination to avoid at all costs giving him the privilege of martyrdom; 2. Fear that, despite all they might do to him in jail the man who has already suffered at the hands of the Nazis in Dachau might prove "unresponsive " to treatment;
3. Fear of the anger of the populace in the face of his tremendous popularity and the love, and respect in which he is held throughout the country;
4. Anxiety to avoid repeating the experience of Hungary where the persecution of the bead of the Church has led to something in the nature of a spiritual revival.
5. Desire to keep other members of the Hierarchy in a state of prolonged suspense. aimed at their demoralisation.
The newspaper Lidove Noviny reported that Mgr. Beran, would not be tried for his "negative attitude towards the People's Democratic Republic" (the excuse given for his removal from his see).
" Archbishop Reran did not
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