Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Is Really Behind The Firing Of Archbishop Bezak?

One can't help wonder why Archbishop Bezac was fired.  Could it be because he knows too much about his predecessor?

A story which has really intrigued me the last couple of weeks is the one concerning the removal of Archbishop Bezak from his Archdiocesan See of Trnava, Slovakia.  It is eerily reminiscent of the removal of Bishop Morris of Toowoomba, AU, and is causing a great deal of angst in the Archdiocese.  Although the Vatican process in both firings are identical, the reasons may not be at all identical.  In Morris's case the issues were all doctrinal, and involved deviations in his thinking on the nature of the priesthood, and deviations in practice with regards to the third rite of penance.  In the case of Bezak, the major issue is rumored to be his audacity in investigating the alleged criminal financial accounting practices of his reactionary predecessor, Archbishop SokolJust like with Bishop Morris, the Vatican came under a great deal of criticism for the way the firing of Arcbishop Bezak was in no explanation.  In response to the heat, the Vatican released the following statement as reported on Vatican Insider:

The Nunciature of the Holy See in Slovakia has sent a communiqué clarifying the phases which formally led the Holy See to remove the prelate from his post

Vatican Insider staff - Rome - 7/11/2012 After the numerous reports sent by priests and faithful to the Holy See regarding the pastoral situation in the Archdiocese of Trnava, the Vatican Secretary of State authorised the Congregation for the clergy to carry out an apostolic visit to the Church to verify the complaints,” the communiqué states. (Like with Bishop Morris the Vatican doesn't define the nature of the complaints, nor identify any accusers.)
The visit took place between 22 January and 1 February 2012, under the guidance of the Bishop of Litoměřice (Czech Republic), Mgr. Jan Baxant and the results sent to the Congregation for the clergy to be examined by the relevant authorities. The Congregation for Bishops then informed Mgr. Bezak of the main issues that brought to light in relation to him and his pastoral work. It also asked the bishop to look into what was said about him and explain his position. (Again, neither the original complaints nor complainants were ever made available to Archbishop Bezak. For all he knows, like in the Morris case this investigation may be nothing more than a charade designed to provide cover for a decision already taken.)
Upon careful reflection, the Holy Father decided to ask Bezak to resign from his post in the Archdiocese of Trnava. When the bishop refused to leave, the Holy Father dismissed him and published the decision on 2 July 2012. (This is precisely the Bishop Morris story.  No appeal, no process for defending himself, no real information given for his dismissal.)
The Holy See was “deeply saddened” by the fact that Mgr. Bezak spread the news prematurely, breaking “papal secrecy”. The Apostolic Nunciature invited faithful in Slovakia to “accept the Holy Father’s decision in good will and in the spirit of faith,” expressing the hope that “the unity of the Church in the country would be strengthened.”  (Once again we see the verbal inversion of the Holy See as the victim, not the dictatorial no defense allowed enforcer.  And once again papal secrecy is presented as a more important value than transparency.)


This story is important enough that John Allen felt compelled to use his column to add his own particular warning to the Vatican.  Here is the pertinent part of his piece:

Bezák was appointed in April 2009 to replace longtime Archbishop Ján Sokol, who had reigned in Trnava for 20 years. Sokol was a strong but controversial leader, known for his deeply traditional theological and political views. Among other things, Sokol was a vigorous defender of Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest and Slovakia's president during World War II, when the country was a satellite state of Nazi Germany. (Under the Soviets, Tiso was convicted of war crimes and executed.) (Tiso was actually executed by  Czechoslovakia under President Edvard Benes for state treason and collaboration with the Nazis.)

Friends of Bezák, who's generally seen as a more moderate figure, say Sokol continued to be a major presence in the archdiocese after his resignation, reportedly maintaining a residence in the archbishop's palace. They also say that when Bezák started going over the books from the Sokol era, he discovered serious financial irregularities.

On July 6, civil prosecutors announced an investigation into alleged misappropriation of church funds under Sokol. Media reports say that decision was based in part on Bezák's findings.
The suspicion among Bezák's allies is that Sokol wanted to shut down this review by undercutting his successor, and that Sokol successfully enlisted friends in the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops to get it done.

At a distance, I have no way of knowing how much merit there may be to those charges, though some veteran church observers seem to take them seriously.
Should this theory be confirmed, it would obviously be bad news for the Vatican under any circumstances. At the moment, however, the timing could scarcely be worse.

John Allen minimizes Archbishop Sokol's reactionary bent by calling him traditional in his theology and politics. Allen doesn't explain that traditional in this case is includes reactionary anti Semitic theology and fascist politics.  That makes me wonder if John is warning the Vatican that this mess in Slovakia could expose more about the motivations of some members of the Vatican curia, and that it has more to do with fascist politics than alleged criminal mismanagement of Archdiocesan funds.  (I am not leaving out the possibility the two are related.)

My intuition tells me the Bezak firing,  while appearing much the same as the Morris firing on the surface, is actually a horse of a very different color. This time the fired bishop didn't say the wrong thing, he found the wrong thing.  I really think when this story is all said and done it will be another sordid tale about the Vatican's need to play dirty politics in secular countries.  In that sense John Allen is correct.  This could be really damaging to the Vatican.  I also think Allen's warning is too late.  This may indeed turn out to be another flaming log on the Vatican's march to self immolation.



  1. The bureaucracy under Bertone is ape sh*t crazy and out of control. The world changing deluge in the Vatican, is coming after Benedict's death.

  2. I sincerely hope and pray the world changing deluge does come, but it won't if the Cardinals Pope Benedict has hand selected for their loyalty actually are loyal.

    But then I guess it depends if that loyalty was to him personally, the office of the papacy, or his particular vision of what exactly Vatican II was really about.

  3. Fascinating article, Colleen, about a case that is only just beginning to reveal its true face. Since this is in my own backyard, here are some of the rumors swirling around in this neck of the woods. The uncovering of financial corruption is at the top of any one's list, but to cover that underlying motive for removal, here are a list of specific, objective complaints brought against Bishop Bezak. Number Uno, he held "Nights of the Religions" festivities in the Cathedral in which he dialogued openly with adherents of other religions (which ones) and non believers as well and did not employ proper theological terms and concepts when presenting the Catholic faith, but instead spoke in general universal terms with a pluralist outlook. In other words, he tried to make the faith accessible to non believers and secularists without making any absolute claims for Roman Catholicism or even Christianity in general. Oooops. He transferred 80 priests around for 'misconduct' and ordained 'unsuitable candidates' for the priesthood, 'unsuitable' being a cover for liberal candidates with a more tolerant, pluralist outlook like himself. On the more negative side, in a diocese rife with ethnic tension between Slovaks and Hungarians, he (allegedly) took the side of the Slovaks and neglected the Hungarians, including failing to learn Hungarian as he had promised to do. Who knows. But right now it's financial corruption and a too tolerant, pluralist attitude towards religions that top the list as reasons for his dismissal.

    1. I meant to say "right now it's the uncovering of financial corruption and a too tolerant pluralist attitude towards other religions.....
      and here is an interesting comment indeed from prominent Slovak dissident Frantisek Miklosko:

      Then in March, Mikloško sent two motions to the Vatican, asking for a review of the management of finances of at the Bratislava-Trnava Archdiocese during the term of Archbishop Ján Sokol, the predecessor of Bezák, due to suspicions of improperly handling large sums of money, potentially violating church law. The prominent Slovak dissident František Mikloško added that throughout the period of Communism, the Slovak Roman Catholic Church and he himself worked, lived and brought sacrifices for the faith to the Church and particularly the Pope. ”Faithfulness to Pope Benedict XVI and faithfulness of the Church is in these moments for me the supreme command of conscience, but that does not mean that it can remain silent if the truth is covered by untruth and injustice,” he said.

    2. Thanks for the 'on the scene' info Jayden. I have a hard time believing the Cathedral chats would be that upsetting to the Vatican since the Vatican is pushing Cardinal Ravasi's Court of the Gentiles initiative which is similar. I think the ubiquitous and secret self appointed Temple Police have struck again and this time the Vatican is using the complaints as an excuse to punish Bezak for pursuing the criminal complaint against Sokol. No honor amongst Episcopal thieves.

    3. Bezák's case has absolutely nothing to do with Msgr. Jozef Tiso and fascism, and almost certainly not with doctrinal issues. One very probable explanation is that Bezák stopped some strange financial flows and some forces from the old establishment used their influence in Vatican to reverse the new transparent policies in dealing with archdiocese money. Another possible explanation is that the ongoing financial auditing could even lead to imprisonment of the former archbishop Sokol, uncovering some very embarassing connections. Other explanations seem to be too weak for such an unprecedented action of Vatican. BTW, Sokol's way of dealing with money was to sell a piece of land in Bratislava to TESCO for $10 mln and put the money in his own drawer. It is not clear what exactly he has done with that money, although he claims to use it for various "good purposes".
      The questions sent to Bezák are so incredibly stupid (pure old ladies' gossip, "Is it true that you visit sauna?", "Do you call Holy Father "Mr Pope?", "Do you wear jeans?" and so on) that they could not even have been composed in Rome, otherwise the collective IQ of the Congregation for Bishops would be equal to a room temperature. The first 8 questions are pure nonsense. The last three are stupid as well, but they are those that really matter because they deal with archdiocese economy. One thing is clear: the removal of Bezák was decided upfront, regardless of the results of apostolic visit. Bishop Baxant, who guided the visit, didn't ask Bezák for a single invoice or bill to check, and even asked (before the visit) the chairman of the Slovak Bishops' Conference what would be the reaction on removal of Bezák.

  4. The Vatican is sending a message all right, but it's not the one they intend to send. The message they are sending is that reaction pays, but living the spirit of Vatican II sends your career down the drain.

  5. There is already known some communication between Congregation and Archbishop Bezak - 11 questions and his answers ( ).
    I think, only truely "sin" of Bezak is his attempt to transparent the finance of old bishop Sokol. Some of this "black" finance was dedicated to some targets in Vatican (seminaries?).
    But what happend? Vatican thoughts, the true Slovak catholics will be calm and obedience. The injustice in this fall is so big (Bezak is a really one Pastor bonus, liked by the people), that now is Slovak nation shocked and (in my opinion) to 90 percent on the side of Bezak. The way of Vatican is seen like a way of former comunist secret police.
    Slovakia lost a good bishop. But Vatikan lost the Slovakia.

    1. I can easily see where this Vatican move would appear just like the way of the former secret police.

      Thanks for your comment. It helps to have information from Slovakia.

  6. Bezak shined, in a dark place. He is already a Saint to these people. How on Earth could the Pope have failed to understand this?
    Oh, wait; History.
    Sokal still sings praise to Tiso.
    Benedict remains a Nazi apologist.
    Maybe the restaurant noise bothered Sokol?
    Now the museum will close?
    God help us.

  7. "He ... ordained 'unsuitable candidates' for the priesthood, 'unsuitable' being a cover for liberal candidates with a more tolerant, pluralist outlook like himself."

    Not likely. Archbishop Bezak has been in office three years: not significantly long enough to recruit seminarians and see them through their schooling.

  8. Today - Sunday, December 16th - Bezak will appear and speak in Slovakia´s most popular widely watched TV discussion show "Na Telo" ("Tough Questions"), aired at 1:00 pm. He is going to be the show´s sole guest today. Information about the special nature of today´s show and its prominent guest (Bezak) during the week leeding up to it has been ample both in electronic and print media The entire nation is thus expected to be glued to the TV sets, watching the discussion show to hear from Bezak himeself what he has to say in his defence. His public appearance in the TV discussion show is likely to rekindle all the controversies surrounding his ill-explained removal.

    1. MichalZ, please keep me informed of what AB Bezac had to say. I still think this story is going to be a bomb shell if the truth ever comes out. Thanks for taking the time to comment.