Fr, Theodor Funk, secretary to Mgr. Matocha, Archbishop of Olomouc and Czechoslovakia's second prelate, has been sentenced to ten years' imprisonment by the Czechoslovak State Court for circulating leaflets urging priests to put into effect the Holy Office decree on Communism.
The official news agency reported in Prague on Monday last that Fr. Funk had been found guilty of treason because he served the Vatican, described as " a foreign, hostile power."
The Court ruled : " Everyone in the service of this foreign, hostile power who carries out or tries to carry out its orders becomes himself an enemy of this country."
This ruling would convict of treason every member of the Catholic hierarchy and most of Czechoslovakia's 6,500 priests. In its report of the trial, the official news agency disclosed for the first time that there had been many espionage trials in Czech courts, in which the Vatican was involved. In these trials, it said, " the inspiration and support of criminal espionage actions by the Vatican was unveiled."
Fr. Funk was the second Czech priest to be imprisoned for high treason after trying to put the Vatican's excommunication decree into effect. The first was Fr. Alois Fastjl, who was sentenced to eight years for refusing the last sacraments to an allegedly dying Communist woman who " recovered " in time to witness against him a few days later.
" The illegal publications explaining the excommunication decree," the report said, " contain instructions under which the confessional boxes would be misused for the disruptive aims of Vatican policy."
The agency report concluded: "Funk, a high Church dignitary, spread this illegal circular among priests who came to religious pilgrimages." Reports in Prague later said that more than 200 priests have been arrested and thrown into prison in Bohemia and Moravia alone, Among them, it said, was a Dominican prior, Fr. Jiri Maria Vesely. Czechoslovakia's newest bishop, Mgr. Matousek, has already taken up his post as Auxiliary to Mgr. Josef Beran, Archbishop of Prague. said a Czech-language broadcast from the Vatican.
The new bishop was consecrated last Saturday in a simple. secret ceremony in a Prague church. Nothing was known of it until he disclosed it himself at Mass the following day.