These revelations about Pope Francis’s alleged role in the disappearance of two Jesuits cast a shadow over the start of his papacy. As Federico Finchelstein, an Argentine historian at the New School for Social Research, says in the New York Times, the new pope’s and the church’s silence during and after military rule was “instrumental in enabling the mass atrocities committed by the junta.” Both the “endorsement and either strategic or willful indifference” actually fostered what Finchelstein says were “the proper conditions for the state killings” of thousands.
The “inaction” of the Church to stand up to the regime is all the more notable as clergy in other Latin American countries, including Chile and Brazil (here many fewer people were killed) resisted dictatorships, according to the New York Times.
The Vatican has condemned any critics of Pope Francis, proclaiming that the old allegations are a “defamatory campaign” against him. Regardless, the collusion of the Catholic church with the generals in Argentina cannot be forgotten.
As head of the Jesuits in that country during the dictatorship, then-Fr. Bergoglio was the top authority for his order. He may not have engaged directly in any unholy alliances with the military, but under its rule, atrocities happened including the stealing of babies from women who then disappeared and the dropping of two French nuns, Alice Domon and Leonie Douquet, over the River Plate from an aircraft. As the Guardian‘s Hugh O’Shaughnessy writes,”the two women who had been working to improve the lives of farm labourers had been kidnapped a few days previously by the Videla dictatorship from a church and a chapel in town.”
In 2012, Videla was sentenced to 50 years in prison for participating in the scheme to steal babies from their parents who had been detained by the military regime.
Fr. Jorge Bergoglio is now the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.
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