Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Francis is and is not Bergoglio"

The Argentine philosopher Ricardo Forster has something to say about Jorge Bergoglio/Pope Francis I that I find especially interesting (Té para tres por Ricardo Forster Página/12 29.04.2013):

Está dentro de la anomalía argentina, porque que el primer papa no europeo sea argentino es una desmesura. Creo que Bergoglio se enfrenta a ser Francisco y una situación terriblemente crítica de la Iglesia. A su vez, eso pone en discusión hacia dentro de la Argentina la relación con una Iglesia y su jerarquía que a lo largo de la historia fue tremendamente conservadora y que en los momentos más oscuros fue cómplice. Francisco es y no es Bergoglio. Porque si bien tiene detrás su biografía está en un lugar completamente distinto, que modifica incluso la subjetividad de la persona.

[He is within the Argentine anomaly, because of the fact that the first non-European Pope is an exceptional thing. I think Bergoglio is confronting being Francis and terribly critical situation for the Church. At the same time, it bring puts into discussion inside Argentina the relation with a Church and its hierarchy that throughout history was tremendously conservative and that in the darkest moments was complicit. Francis is and is not Bergoglio. Because if there is good behind his biography, he is in a completely distinct place, which modifies even the subjectivity of the person.]
I'm not familiar with Forster's style, so I'm not sure if he is being particularly circular there.

But I find the statement "Francis is and is not Bergoglio provocative in that context. On one level, it's a statement of the banal reality that having a significantly different formal role in an organization forces a person to have a new perspective and possibly to act in new ways.

But on another level, it suggests that Bergoglio's dark record in collaborating with the dictatorship of 1976-83, while avoiding the level of collusion and public defense of the regime that others in the Argentine Church hierarchy committed, could have more to do with the calculations of an ambitious and promising Church leader dominated bya reactionary, authoritarian, often explicitly anti-democratic Church hierarchy. And that his new role gives him new freedom to act in a more humane and honestly Christian way, if he really wants to.

I'm more inclined to think that the dictatorship was a more crucial test of the quality of person Bergoglio is. I'm hoping he surprises us. I'm hoping he sees his less-than-entirely-honorable role in relation to the dictatorship is something that as Pope he has to live down, to remove as a liability. And that to do so, he will push for some constructive and badly needed reforms in the Church to make the Church's business more transparent and its clergy more responsible and responsive and less exclusively male.

"Francis is and is not Bergoglio" is a good-news/bad-news message. The good news is that he has new freedom and power to do constructive things. The bad news is that he's Jorge Bergoglio.

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