Spies in the Vatican: The Soviet Union's War Against the Catholic Church

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Overview

The shocking history of the Soviet Union’s espionage campaign against the Catholic Church.
Already infamous for the arbitrary, paranoid persecution of its own citizens throughout much of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union—as is revealed in John Koeher’s revelatory, eye-opening exposé—also waged a vicious espionage campaign against the Catholic Church and its followers. From the persecution of local priests to an assassination order against Pope John Paul II, the KGB viewed ...

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Overview

The shocking history of the Soviet Union’s espionage campaign against the Catholic Church.
Already infamous for the arbitrary, paranoid persecution of its own citizens throughout much of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union—as is revealed in John Koeher’s revelatory, eye-opening exposé—also waged a vicious espionage campaign against the Catholic Church and its followers. From the persecution of local priests to an assassination order against Pope John Paul II, the KGB viewed Catholicism as a threat to stability in Eastern Europe and treated the church as an enemy of the State.
Lifetime journalist and former U.S. Army Intelligence Officer John Koehler has written the definitive book on this startling history. Using never before seen documents and transcripts, including an order against the Pope that was signed by Gorbachev and nine other Politburo members, Koehler paints a vivid picture of the network of spies and double agents who were working to infiltrate the Church’s infrastructure, from the Vatican down to local parishes. But what is most impressive is the overwhelming evidence of the extreme courage of everyday believers who offered shelter and protection to the persecuted, despite the danger of their own arrest or execution.
The KGB’s efforts to purge the Soviet Union of the church’s “conspiratorial influence” would eventually backfire. The shared sense of unity that developed as a result of these attacks, compounded with the myriad of grievances brought on by decades of brutal Soviet rule, would culminate in the birth of the Solidarity movement after a visit by the Pope in the late 1980s.
This unprecedented chronicle of the Soviet Union’s cold war against the Catholic Church is a vital and important contribution to the works of twentieth century history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Though it's well known that the U.S.S.R. spied on everyone, readers will be amazed by this account of its extensive infiltration of the Catholic Church. A journalist and former army intelligence officer, Koehler (Stasi) explains that the KGB relied on Catholic Eastern European agents, many of whom occupied prominent positions in the church hierarchy, and they listened in as U.S. and European leaders briefed the pope. Koehler mines mostly East German and Polish secret police archives and quotes them, sometimes too liberally. Included is a pitiful but lengthy verbatim 1973 transcript of South Vietnam's foreign minister begging the pope for assistance as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw, but there are also too many tedious discussions of minimally interesting cold war topics. The digressions from spying vary from an interminable account of Pope John Paul II's 1979 Polish visit to juicy details of the KGB-backed 1981 assassination attempt on the anti-communist pope. Koehler's angry book will satisfy readers who remain outraged at Communist perfidy, but they will work hard for the satisfaction unless they skim long sections of verbatim quotes and political analyses. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Investigation into the Cold War attempts by Soviet and East European Communist powers to infiltrate the Vatican and disrupt its populist influence. Journalist and former Army intelligence officer Koehler (Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police, 1999) mines documents obtained from the files of the East German and Hungarian secret police, as well as Moscow's Politburo, to build the story of a sustained effort over decades to blunt the power of the anti-communist Roman Church in socialist countries. Following the Soviet overthrow in Russia, the author avers, the revolutionary council may have planted its first spy against the Catholic Church in that country as early as 1922. Purges and even executions of clerics followed, sparing no Christian sect at first, but when the Soviets later cut a deal with the Russian Orthodoxy it created a rift that literally drove the Roman church underground by 1941. As the Cold War proceeded, the Russian KGB received a major intelligence report on the Vatican's "Ostpolitik" policy-to resist the suppression of religious freedom in Eastern Europe and support anti-socialist movements-via the Polish authorities. The Soviet use of clerical agents, many Polish, became a regular threat, countered by the Vatican's measures which at one point included an American Jesuit priest who became the Vatican's top spy-catcher. Both sides occasionally "turned" each other's agents to double agents. The CIA became actively involved, particularly during the Reagan administration, using the Vatican as an intelligence resource but also as a "leak" center to feed selected information to Moscow. Koehler diligently tracks the story through the decades, but the narrativeis overloaded with facts and short on dramatic tension. The heavy reliance on official documents imparts little human drama and undermines the intrigue the author often overplays. Agent: Peter Riva/International Transactions
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605980508
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 8/4/2009
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John Koehler is the author of Stasi: The Untold Story of the East German Secret Police. He has worked as a journalist for nearly forty years with the Associated Press and is a former U.S.
Army Intelligence Officer, specializing in counter-espionage and intelligence collection. An adviser to President Reagan from
1985-1989, John is retired and lives in Stamford, Connecticut.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A must read for anyone who wants the real scoop about the Cold War & maybe required reading for those who claim to teach history

    Recently I had a talk with a young Russian man. He was here in a work exchange program on the beach. He asked about the many war relics on at Fort Pickens. He was interested and knew a lot about WWII. He corrected me on the turning point of the war in Europe being Stalingrad. It is no longer Stalingrad but he knew all about it.

    I am of the generation that was taught to hide under the desks at school when the Russians were bombing so I asked about the Cold War. He knew little about it as would an American youngster his age. This book is an amazing account of part of that war and how intense it was. It is a very well footnoted account of the Soviet's infiltration of the Pope's inner sanctum.

    The author, John Koehler, was a former U.S. Army Intelligence Offer specializing in counter-espionage and intelligence collection, and an adviser to President Regan as well as journalist for almost 40 years. As I have said about other contributors, he was there!

    This is a must read for anyone who wants the real scoop about the Cold War and maybe required reading for those who claim to teach history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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