Thursday, March 14, 2013

Francisco 1 for Asis or Francisco Franco?

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was a high-ranking official in the Society of Jesus of Argentina when a military junta was installed in the South American country in 1976.  The chosen name for the new pope Francisco 1 could be interpreted as for Francisco de Asis or Francisco Franco. What could be worst for the thousands of priest executed for their devotion to the poor in Latin America is the chilly open wounds (heridas abiertas) still fresh: From cardinal Ratzinger, the Inquisitor, to cardinal Bergoglio, the traitor.

According to tortured priests and a former catequesis director from Moron in Buenos Aires, priests Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics were kidnapped in May of that year by the navy and other military and police forces. "They surfaced five months later, drugged and seminude, in a field," according to a report appeared in 2010. A 2005 lawsuit accused Bergoglio of unspecified involvement in the abductions. The reports cited "the military government secretly jailed [Yorio and Jalics] for their work in poor neighborhoods."

In 2010 there was a pressure to investigate Bergoglio for his involvement or not during the 'dirty war' in Latin America and Operation Condor.

While in the U.S.A. the biggest nightmare for the Catholic Church is the child abuses committed by priest and protected by the church hierarchy, in Latin America child abuser priests were protected and moved around between dioceses. Active priest dedicated to the poor and the Liberation Theology were ostracized, removed from priesthood, or left by the hierarchy in the hands of military regimes, especially during the Operation Condor, an agreement among dictators to exchange information and political prisoners.

While Argentina rang with celebratory church bells at the news of the first Latin American pope, some were seized by doubt and confusion. "I can't believe it, I don't know what to do, I'm in so much anguish and so enraged," wrote Graciela Yorio in an email published in the Argentine press on Thursday morning.

In 1976, her brother, Orlando Yorio, along with another Jesuit priest, Francisco Jalics, were seized by navy troops in the slums of Buenos Aires and held and tortured for five months at the ESMA camp, a navy base in the capital where 5,000 people were murdered by the military junta.

The two priests served under Bergoglio, who is accused in some quarters of abandoning them to the military after they became involved in leftist social movements.

His chief accuser is journalist Horacio Verbitsky, whose book El Silencio paints a disquieting picture of Bergoglio's relationship with the priests who sought his protection when they felt their lives were in danger from the military because of their social work in the slums.

Double Game

Verbitsky believes the then chief of the Jesuits in Argentina played a double game, aiding Yorio and Jalics while expressing concern about their activities to military officers.

But Verbitsky's views are seen as overly simplistic by other observers of that era. "Verbitsky is not wrong, but he doesn't understand the complexity of Bergoglio's position back then when things were so dangerous," said Robert Cox, a British journalist and former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald, the only newspaper in Argentina that reported the murders as they happened. "He can't see how difficult it was to operate under those circumstances."

Victims of "Dirty War" Blamed by the Vatican

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.

For many, this time, the Vatican rewarded and appreciated the work of Bergoglio a 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.”

In Paraguay the Jesuit order took over the administration of the Seminario Mayor de Asunción  to  aggressively going after students suspicious of being part of the Liberation Theology. In 1983 about 30 students were spelled without any option to defense themselves of any wrong doing. Priests suspected of working too much with the poor were seems as communists and persecuted by the dictator General Alfredo Stroessner. Meanwhile, predator priests were protected by the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

The intriguing aspect of the Jesuit order is that just as in Argentine, Paraguay or El Salvador the congregation was divided among the priests willing to give their lives for the poor and social justice in Latin America and the others who participated in the torture or killing of their own.


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