Tony Greenstein | 01 April 2013 | Post Views:

The future Pope Francis, Cardinal Bergoglio, with the head of the Argeninian Junta General Videla

There is nothing new about the allegations surrounding the new Pope and nothing out of character either when it comes to supporting fascist violence and far-right regimes.  Franco had no better supporters than the Roman Catholic church.  The same with Mussolini.  Pope Pius XII was a fierce anti-communist who, along with the Catholic clergy in Germany supported Hitler’s war against ‘Bolshevism’ and refused to speak out against the persecution of Jews and Gypsies.

Just one Catholic priest, Pastor Bernard Lichtenberg, of Hedwig Cathedral in Berlin, spoke out against the deportation and extermination of the Jews.  Pius XII couched his condemnations in homilies and generalisations.  When on October 14/15 the Nazis rounded up over 1,000 Jews in Rome, of which the Pope is the Bishop, Pius remained silent.  Yet the silence of the Catholic Church also extended to the mass murder of its own priests in Poland, who were considered part of a Polish intelligentsia which must be wiped out.  That is why cries of ‘anti-Semitism’ are not convincing as an explanation.

In particular the Apostolic Nuncios, in Slovakia and Budapest, were without doubt responsible for intervening and doing their best to save Jews from deportation.  Indeed appalling though the official Catholic Church’s reaction to the holocaust was, the Zionist response was even worse.

It is therefore no surprise to know that the leading Catholic clergy in Argentina, of which Bergoglio was one, failed to speak out against the ‘disappearance’ of 30,000 Argentinians and their torture.

Cardinal Bergoglio and his supporters have made much of his humility, simple life (he even cooks his own meals and travels by public transport!).   There is nothing new in this.  What is clear is that Bergoglio comes from the same right-wing tradition as the former Hitler Youth Member, Cardinal Ratzinger, the former pope.  Bergoglio was fiercely opposed to liberation theology. 

As Archbishop Helder Camara of Brazil put it : ‘”When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

The Church teaches passivity in the face of the rich and the ruling class.  The meek will inherit the kingdom of god but in the present life they must acquiesce and render unto Caesar that which is his.  In the words of the Wobblies take-off of the Salvation Army they supported ‘pie in the sky’ but hunger on earth.

The Catholic Church today is a fabulously rich institution.  Pope Francis will no longer be leading a ‘humble’ life but will live surrounded by the immense wealth of the Vatican and the priceless Sistine Chapel and Basilica paintings of Michaelangelo, to say nothing of servants and bodyguards.

Tony Greenstein

The heart of darkness and the new Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Cardinal Bergoglio

Cross posted from Organised Outrage
“The church’s role and support of the dictatorship hasn’t been fully shown under the light of day” – Ian Mount

Last night within minutes of learning that the new leader of Roman Catholicism hailed from the Church hierarchy in Argentina I posted the following comment on my Facebook wall:
‘I wonder what his position was during the dirty war. The then cardinal was an absolute bastard and backed the government when it was murdering, raping, torturing and disappearing people.’ 
From my late teens I have had an interest in that period of Argentine history known as the rule of the Generals. At a conference on oral history in Ennis recently I recommended Horacio Verbitsky’s book The Flight: Confessions of an Argentinian Dirty Warrior as one that provided rich insight into the times. Although if the reader wants a more overarching and thorough account of the era, Guerrillas and Generals: The Dirty War in Argentina is hard to go past. It is certainly one of my favourite works of non-fiction read within the past decade.

sistine-chapel-michelangelo-painting – the not so humble surroundings of Pope Francis Bergoglio

Horacio Verbitsky has been one of the biggest critics of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Reportedly in his book, The Silence: from Paulo VI to Bergoglio, the secret links between the Church and the Navy Mechanics School, which unlike The Flight is not available in English, he claims that the new pontiff when “Provincial” of Argentina for the Society of Jesus, was complicit in the activities of the regime: ‘It is terrible to see how he is rewarded.’

Although the ‘highest ranking Jesuit in Argentina during the military dictatorship led by General Jorge Videla’, Bergoglio seems not to have challenged the military juanta. And Videla would later claim in an interview that ‘he had received the blessing of the country’s top clergymen for the actions of his regime.’

While Verbitsky is a serious journalist and human rights advocate he was at one time a member of the Montenero guerrillas, many of whose members suffered appalling violence at the hands of the Videla regime.

Whether his association with the guerillas has given his observations an ideological hue will always be a matter of debate and his detractors will certainly seek to use it to smear him.  Perhaps less easier to dismiss through the usual recourse to the slander rebuttal is the very dark shadow cast by legal proceedings:

In 2010, Bergoglio was questioned as a witness by judges probing the arrest and torture of two young Jesuits, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were taken to the notorious Naval School of Mechanics in March 1976. ESMA was known as a torture center during the so-called Dirty War, in which government agents targeted suspected left-wing activists, tens of thousands of whom were “disappeared.” Yorio and Jalics were freed alive after five months. Bergoglio was alleged to have betrayed the young missionaries to the regime because they had become opposition sympathizers and he wanted to preserve the Jesuits’ political neutrality.He was also questioned in two more investigations into alleged regime crimes, but no charges were brought and he denied any wrongdoing.

Bergoglio and Videla 

Michelangelo’s Pieta in the Basilica Church in St Peter’s Square

Other human rights activists who have documented the atrocities of the regime have defended the new pope.  Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, himself tortured by the military, argued:

“Perhaps he didn’t have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship … Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship. He can’t be accused of that.”

The evidence thus far is that Bergoglio was at best silent. It was certainly a dangerous time for clergy who did speak out. They faced torture, murder and disappearance. And allegations in the Guardian two years ago that political prisoners were spirited away to Bergoglio’s holiday home by the military to avoid Inter-American Human Rights Commission investigators are almost certainly without foundation. Against that, the Church has a history of lying and covering up for its princes, making it hard for the average observer to get to the truth.

1976-83 was a dark period in the history of a country already familiar with volatility and political violence. Argentine society was well into the throes of a guerrilla war where the guerrillas did not emerge with distinction for the manner in which they often treated those they kidnapped and held in people’s prisons. But it was really when the military staged a coup in 1976 allowing it to take power that the country would have made an appropriate candidate for the title of Joseph Conrad’s work on Africa, The Heart of Darkness. The election of a new Catholic pontiff from a country with a dark history is already serving as an invitation to the Dirty War to yield what may be a dirty truth.

By Anthony McIntyre of the Pensive Quill.

Critics claim new Pope was part of Argentinean cover-up during junta reign

The Unholy Trinity

Critics of new Pope Francis have claimed that he maintained his silence as Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship raged a dirty war against left wing activists.

Some critics have pointed to his failure and the failure of his church to expose human rights violation at the height of military rule.

The claims were made in the wake of the publication of an interview with Argentina’s former military dictator Jorge Videla.

The interview, conducted in 2010, were only published on Sunday, hours before Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope in Rome.

In the interview, Videla claims that he kept Argentina’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of ‘disappearing’ political opponents.

He also told El Sur magazine that that the country’s Catholic leaders, including the new Pope claim his critics, offered advice on how to ‘manage’ the policy.

Videla said he had ‘many conversations with Argentina’s then primate Cardinal Primatesta, about his regime’s dirty war against left-wing activists.

He claimed there were also conversations with other leading bishops from Argentina’s Episcopal conference as well as with the country’s papal nuncio at the time, Pio Laghi.

Videla said: “They advised us about the manner in which to deal with the situation.
“In certain cases church authorities offered their good offices and undertook to inform families looking for disappeared relatives to desist from their searches, but only if they were certain the families would not use the information to denounce the junta.

“In the case of families that it was certain would not make political use of the information, they told them not to look any more for their child because he was dead.”

Videla added: “The church understood well and also assumed the risks of such involvement.”

Critics say the Videla confession confirms long-held suspicions that Argentina’s Catholic hierarchy collaborated with the military’s so-called process of national reorganisation, which sought to root out communism.

sistine chapel and michelangelo paintings

Thousands of left-wing activists were swept up into secret detention centres where they were tortured and murdered after the Videla led coup in 1976.

The interview claims military chaplains were assigned as spiritual advisers to the junior officers who staffed the centres.

The Argentinean church’s actions were in stark contrast to the Catholic hierarchy in Brazil, where church leaders denounced that country’s military dictatorship and provided sanctuary to its victims.
Argentinean bishops were prominent defenders of the regime against accusations of human rights abuses from abroad.

The report says that at the height of the state’s offensive, Cardinal Primatesta refused to meet with mothers of the disappeared.

It claims he also prohibited the lower clergy from speaking out against state violence, even as death squads targeted Catholic priests critical of the regime.

The “Dirty War” Pope

Cross posted from The “Dirty War” PopeWorld Socialist Web Site  16 March 2013

For over a week, the media has subjected the public to a tidal wave of euphoric banality on the Roman Catholic Church’s selection of a new pope.

This non-stop celebration of the dogma and ritual of an institution that for centuries has been identified with oppression and backwardness is stamped with a deeply undemocratic character. It is reflective of the rightward turn of the entire political establishment and its repudiation of the principles enshrined in the US Constitution, including the wall of separation between church and state.

What a far cry from the political ideals that animated those who drafted that document. It was Thomas Jefferson’s well-founded opinion that “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

Jefferson’s view—and the reactionary character of the media’s sycophantic coverage—finds no more powerful conformation than in the identity of the new pope, officially celebrated as a paragon of “humility” and “renewal.”

Placed on the papal throne is not only another hard-line opponent of Marxism, the Enlightenment and all manner of human progress, but a man who is deeply and directly implicated in one of the greatest crimes of the post-World War II era—Argentina’s “Dirty War.”

Amid the pomp and ceremony Friday, the Vatican spokesman was compelled to address the past of the new Pope Francis—the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio. He dismissed the accusations against him as the work of “anti-clerical left-wing elements.”

That “left-wing elements” would denounce the complicity of the Church’s leaders in the “Dirty War” waged by the military junta that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983 is scarcely surprising. They accounted for many of the estimated 30,000 workers, students, intellectuals and others who were “disappeared” and murdered, and the tens of thousands more who were imprisoned and tortured.

But some of Bergoglio’s harshest critics come from within the Catholic Church itself, including priests and lay workers who say he handed them over to the torturers as part of a collaborative effort to “cleanse” the Church of “leftists.” One of them, a Jesuit priest, Orlando Yorio, was abducted along with another priest after ignoring a warning from Bergoglio, then head of the Jesuit order in Argentina, to stop their work in a Buenos Aires slum district.

During the first trial of leaders of the military junta in 1985, Yorio declared, “I am sure that he himself gave over the list with our names to the Navy.” The two were taken to the notorious Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) torture center and held for over five months before being drugged and dumped in a town outside the city.

Bergoglio was ideologically predisposed to backing the mass political killings unleashed by the junta. In the early 1970s, he was associated with the right-wing Peronist Guardia de Hierro (Iron Guard), whose cadre—together with elements of the Peronist trade union bureaucracy—were employed in the death squads known as the Triple A (Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance), which carried out a campaign of extermination against left-wing opponents of the military before the junta even took power. Adm. Emilio Massera, the chief of the Navy and the leading ideologue of the junta, also employed these elements, particularly in the disposal of the personal property of the “disappeared.”

Yorio, who died in 2000, charged that Bergoglio “had communications with Admiral Massera, and had informed him that I was the chief of the guerrillas.”

The junta viewed the most minimal expression of opposition to the existing social order or sympathy for the oppressed as “terrorism.” The other priest who was abducted, Francisco Jalics, recounted in a book that Bergoglio had promised them he would tell the military that they were not terrorists. He wrote, “From subsequent statements by an official and 30 documents that I was able to access later, we were able to prove, without any room for doubt, that this man did not keep his promise, but that, on the contrary, he presented a false denunciation to the military.”

Pope Francis enjoys a joke with supporters of the Junta

Bergoglio declined to appear at the first trial of the junta as well as at subsequent proceedings to which he was summoned. In 2010, when he finally did submit to questioning, lawyers for the victims found him to be “evasive” and “lying.”Bergoglio claimed that he learned only after the end of the dictatorship of the junta’s practice of stealing the babies of disappeared mothers, who were abducted, held until giving birth and then executed, with their children given to military or police families. This lie was exposed by people who had gone to him for help in finding missing relatives.

The collaboration with the junta was not a mere personal failing of Bergoglio, but rather the policy of the Church hierarchy, which backed the military’s aims and methods. The Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky exposed Bergoglio’s attempted cover-up for this systemic complicity in a book that Bergoglio authored, which edited out compromising sentences from a memorandum recording a meeting between the Church leadership and the junta in November 1976, eight months after the military coup.

The excised statement included the pledge that the Church “in no way intends to take a critical position toward the action of the government,” as its “failure would lead, with great probability, to Marxism.” It declared the Catholic Church’s “understanding, adherence and acceptance” in relation to the so-called “Proceso” that unleashed a reign of terror against Argentine working people.

This support was by no means platonic. The junta’s detention and torture centers were assigned priests, whose job it was, not to minister to those suffering torture and death, but to help the torturers and killers overcome any pangs of conscience. Using such biblical parables as “separating the wheat from the chafw,” they assured those operating the so-called “death flights,” in which political prisoners were drugged, stripped naked, bundled onto airplanes and thrown into the sea, that they were doing “God’s work.” Others participated in the torture sessions and tried to use the rite of confession to extract information of use to the torturers.

This collaboration was supported from the Vatican on down. In 1981, on the eve of Argentina’s war with Britain over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, Pope John Paul II flew to Buenos Aires, appearing with the junta and kissing its then-chief, Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, while saying not a word about the tens of thousands who had been kidnapped, tortured and murdered.

As Jefferson noted, the Church is “always in alliance with the despot,” as it was in backing Franco’s fascists in Spain, its collaboration with the Nazis as they carried out the Holocaust in Europe, and its support of the US war in Vietnam.

Nonetheless, the naming of a figure like Bergoglio as pope—and its celebration within the media and ruling circles—must serve as a stark warning. Not only are the horrific crimes carried out in Argentina 30 years ago embraced, those in power are contemplating the use of similar methods once again to defend capitalism from intensifying class struggle and the threat of social revolution.

Bill Van Auken

Pope’s election revives row over Argentine junta

Posted  Friday, March 15  2013 at  00:57

Argentine cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s election as Pope Francis
has revived a longstanding controversy over his role during the dark
days of his homeland’s “Dirty War.”

Francis’s elevation was widely celebrated in
Argentina, but some accuse him and his country’s church of having been
too close to the brutal right-wing junta in power between 1976 and 1983.

In 2010, Bergoglio was questioned as a witness by
judges probing the arrest and torture of two young Jesuits, Orlando
Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were taken to the notorious Naval School
of Mechanics in March 1976.

ESMA was known as a torture center during the
so-called Dirty War, in which government agents targeted suspected
left-wing activists, tens of thousands of whom were “disappeared.”
Yorio and Jalics were freed alive after five months.

Bergoglio was alleged to have betrayed the young
missionaries to the regime because they had become opposition
sympathizers and he wanted to preserve the Jesuits’ political
He was also questioned in two more investigations
into alleged regime crimes, but no charges were brought and he denied
any wrongdoing.

Horacio Verbitsky, a leftist author and militant
who has written extensively on the Dirty War, claims that he has found
five new witnesses who confirm Bergoglio’s role in the military
government’s crackdown.”
Verbitsky maintains that the church actively
collaborated with the regime and was even complicit in the disappearance
of dissident priests.

For his part, Bergoglio has always denied any
implication in the case of the two tortured missionaries, and even
insists he intervened with the then head of the junta, Jorge Videla, to
beg for their freedom.

“He even allowed them to leave for Italy,” said Jose Maria Poirier, director of the Argentine Catholic journal Criterio.
“Some clergymen stayed silent, others were
complicit. There were bishops who sympathized with the dictatorship, but
that’s not the case with Bergoglio, he’s a man beyond reproach.”

And 81-year-old Argentine architect Alfredo Perez
Esquivel, himself a torture victim and winner of the 1980 Nobel Peace
Prize for his human rights advocacy, came to Bergoglio’s defence in an
interview with BBC radio.

“There were bishops who were accomplices of the
dictatorship, but Bergoglio was not,”
he said. “There is no link between
him and the dictatorship.”

A group accused of crimes against humanity under
the dictatorship appeared in court wearing Vatican rosettes in honor of
Bergoglio’s new papal duties.
The defendants sat in the dock wearing the Vatican
insignia on the lapel of their jackets during a hearing in the
northwestern city of Cordoba.

The trial aims to determine the responsibility
of a group of more than 40 soldiers in atrocities committed in the
clandestine detention center La Perla.

In 2007, former police chaplain Cristian von
Vernich became the first Argentine priest to be jailed for life. He was
found guilty of complicity in seven murders, 31 cases of torture and 42

Vatican defends Pope Francis’ actions during Argentina’s’Dirty War’

By Alessandro Speciale| Religion News Service, Published: March 15

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Friday (March 15) hit back at critics who claim that newly elected Pope Francis failed to do enough to protect two fellow Jesuits during Argentina’s military dictatorship.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, has been criticized for his stance towards the military junta in his native Argentina, when as many as 30,000 people died or disappeared.

After his election to the papacy on Wednesday, Francis has faced intense scrutiny for his role in the arrest of two young Jesuits, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were detained for months in a notorious torture center.

Bergoglio, the first pope to hail from Latin America, was the top-ranking Jesuit in Argentina in the 1970s during the nation’s “Dirty War.”

At a press conference on Friday, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said there has never been “a concrete or credible accusation” against Bergoglio. “He was questioned by an Argentinian court as someone aware of the situation but never as a defendant.”

According to Lombardi, criticism of Bergoglio, which first emerged on the eve of the 2005 conclave that elected then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, is aimed at discrediting the church.

The accusations come from “anticlerical elements to attack the Church,” Lombardi said, and “must be firmly rejected.”

According to the Vatican spokesman, Bergoglio acted “to protect many persons at the time of the military dictatorship.”

Led by Jorge Videla, the military government orchestrated a reign of terror that plucked political enemies from their homes and sent then to sadistic torture centers where they were often raped, drugged and subjected to mock executions before they were killed.

The victims are called “los desaparecidos” or “the disappeared,” and number as high as 30,000. Argentinians today are still searching for the remains of the disappeared and their living offspring — scores of babies were born in their parents’ torture chambers and given to military families to adopt.

Critics say at worst, the Catholic Church was complicit in the crackdown and, at best, didn’t speak out forcefully enough to stop it. In one of his last acts as head of the Argentinian Catholic bishops’ conference, last year Bergoglio issued a collective apology for the church’s failure to protect its flock.

On Friday, the Vatican released a statement by Jalics, one of the two Jesuits allegedly tortured under Bergoglio’s watch. He said that while he has no information on Bergoglio’s actions during the five months he and his companion were detained and tortured, after his release he and Bergoglio “celebrated Mass publicly” and “embraced one another.”

“I have made my peace with these events and, as far as I am concerned, the case is closed,” he adds. “I wish Pope Francis God’s rich blessings for his office.”

Bergoglio himself always denied the accusations.

In a 2010 book-length interview, he said the two Jesuits were eventually released partially because he and his fellow Jesuits tried “like crazy” to obtain their release.

“The same night I heard about their kidnapping, I started acting,” he said in the book. The future pope says he met twice with Argentina’s military junta leadership to negotiate for their release.

While Bergoglio was always critical of the left-wing political activism of some parts of the clergy who fought actively against the dictatorship, he says he “did what he could at the time, with the little relations he could count on, to advocate for those who had been kidnapped.”

Three quarters of Argentina’s 40-million-strong population are Catholic, but the influence of the church diminished under President Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina, who succeeded him in 2007.

Cristina Kirchner’s government has legalized same-sex marriage in the teeth of strong opposition from the bishops, but pressure from the church has stymied moves to legalize abortion.

And Poirier argued that Francis’s elevation might “reverse the decline and strengthen the church” in Argentina by giving it a more attractive local face.

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Tony Greenstein

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