Sunday, March 17, 2013

Alibis, ahoy! Bergoglio/Francis and the 1976-83 Argentine dictatorship

The National Catholic Reporter's work around the selection of the new Pope has been mixed. On the one hand, John Allen, Jr.'s sketches of the candidates and his descriptions of the various decision factors have been very helpful.

Then there's this St. Patrick's Day column by Jesuit Thomas Reese, whose author's biography from NCR describes him as "author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church and was editor of America magazine from 1998 to 2005": Francis, the Jesuits and the Dirty War 03/17/2013. It's a blanket alibi for the actions and inactions of Jorge Bergoglio/Francis I during the 1976-32 dictatorship.

It ends up with boilerplate that pretty much any scoundrel could use with only slight modifications in such a situation:

More recently, Cardinal Bergoglio was involved in getting the Argentine bishops to ask forgiveness for not having done enough during the dirty war, as it was called in Argentina.

In the face of tyranny, there are those who take a prophetic stance and die martyrs. There are those who collaborate with the regime. And there are others who do what they can while keeping their heads low. When admirers tried to claim that John Paul worked in the underground against Nazism, he set them straight and said he was no hero.

Those who have not lived under a dictatorship should not be quick to judge those who have, whether the dictatorship was in ancient Rome, Latin America, Africa, Nazi Germany, Communist Eastern Europe, or today’s China. We should revere martyrs, but not demand every Christian be one.
Earlier in the article, Reese gave a clear sign that his article was hackwork:

Father Bergoglio, like Pope John Paul II, had serious reservations about liberation theology, which was embraced by many other Latin American Jesuits. As a North American I have trouble understanding these disputes since John Paul and Bergoglio obviously wanted justice for the poor while the liberation theologians were not in favor of violent revolution as their detractors claimed. But clearly this was an issue that divided the church in Latin America.
The five seven-year editor of the US Jesuits flagship journal America don't really know much a' nothin' about this here liberation theology stuff? It would be funny if it weren't such painfully bad hokum.

The issues around Begoglio's relationship to El Proceso, the dictatorship of 1976-83 in Argentina, is of course not over whether he should have been a martyr. He's very obviously not that!

The issues have to do with what role he played not only in his general conduct toward the state terror then practiced, but also in particular cases like the arrest and torture of Jesuit priests Franz (Francisco) Jalics and Orlando Yorio in 1976. His later testimony about some aspects of his dealings with the dictatorship were not fully in line with documentation of those incidents in the Argentine Church files.

It's important to keep in mind that this doesn't just have to do with 30-year-old history, though that is significant enough in itself. His new office's initial response, and those of his shameless partisans like Thomas Reese comes off to be in the article cited, to real and substantial questions about Bergoglio's role in the dictatorship and its aftermath has been to take a touchy defensive stance, accuse the critics of "anticlerical" malice, and, as with Reese, use boilerplate defenses that would embarrass a PR hack trying to gussy up the image of some nasty regime and its officials.

Horacio Verbitsky, who has researched the role of the Argentine Church during the dictatorship and was one of the unnamed targets of the Vatican's defense statement on Friday, describes some of the substantive issues in Cambio de piel Página 12 17.03.2013. Reese's polemical article mentions Verbitsky in passing, making him sound like someone who exonerates Bergoglio's conduct during El Proceso. Quite the opposite is the case.

Verbitsky notes that Bergoglio dealt in person and on apparent terms of familiarity with Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera during the dictatorship, and that the two of them had ties to a rightwing Peronist group called the Iron Guard (Guardia de Hierro). Ricardo Ragendorfer writes about the Iron Guard and Bergoglio's history with it in Guardia de Hierro: la organización peronista en la que militó Francisco Tiempo argentino 17.03.2013. He confirms again that Friday's defensive statement from the Vatican was directed in particular at the research of Horacio Verbitsky, and lists some of the major concerns: the Jalics-Yorio case; Bergoglio's attitude toward the theft of babies from political prisoners; and, his specific relationship to Massera during the dictatorship. Ragendorfer describes the rightwing paramilitary Guardia de Hierro, of which the new Pope was a member in 1972-4, the last two years of its existence. Massera later claimed that the Guardia de Hierro, albeit formally disbanded, supported the 1976 coup.

It's not only the sex abuse scandal and the Vatican Bank about which the new Pope has some explaining to do.

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