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Did the College of Cardinals Foresee the Dirty War Controversy?

March 19, 2013 ·

Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election to the papacy further tarnishes the position -- and the Church.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio's election to the papacy further tarnishes the position -- and the Church.

In a New York Times piece titled Starting a Papacy, Amid Echoes of a 'Dirty War', William Romeiro and Simon Neumann write:

And last November, after the future pope’s tenure as head of the bishops’ conference had ended, the church issued another statement in response to the assertion by Jorge Videla, the former head of the military junta, that Argentine bishops had in effect collaborated with the dictatorship.

That sentence contains two disturbing details. The second first: to whatever extent he's a "kettle," Videla still manages to paint the "pot" of the Argentine church pretty black. Meanwhile, re "last November," bear in mind that the Vatican knew since then that Jorge Mario Bergoglio was tarnished by the Dirty War and, by all rights, should have disqualified him as a candidate for pope. After all, as Romeiro and Neumann write:

Even as the head of the Argentine Conference of Bishops from 2005 to 2011, Francis resisted issuing a formal apology for the church’s actions during the Dirty War, disappointing human rights campaigners. 

And it's not as if he would have been breaking new ground.

This stance by Argentina’s church stands in contrast to the resistance against dictatorships by Catholic leaders elsewhere in Latin America at the time — notably in Chile and Brazil, two nations where far fewer people were killed. 

One can only surmise that the College of Cardinals anticipated the Dirty War controversy and figured that Bergoglio would weather the storm. Was the empathy he shows the poor expected to simply outweigh and override the controversy? Whether or not that's true, insulated and arrogant as ever, the Vatican continues to undermine the legitimacy -- and relevancy -- of the Papacy.