FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

In the Time of the Jackboot Popes

by TOM CLIFFORD

The two popes have a jackboot pedigree. Benedict was a member of the Hitler Youth and Francis faces serious questions over support for the Argentine junta. With an average age of 72 the cardinals in conclave, half of them selected by Benedict, were never going to go for a “modern pontiff”.

As one of the world’s wealthiest organizations, the Catholic church’s boardroom does not do happy clappy, touchy feely. Take away those cardinals tainted by sex abuse scandals, those whose ideology tends towards liberation theolgy, (an ever decreasing circle), the infirm (physicaly and mentally) and those from what was once called the Third World (still viewed with a degree of suspicion in the Vatican) and the choice is rather limited. Francis may be from South America, but the Europeans, still the driving force at the conclave, feel comfortable with him.

But one simple question needs to be addressed. Does Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis, have blood on his hands?

It is far from clear that he doesn’t.

Walking the streets of Buenos Aires it is not uncommon to come across plaques inlaid into the pavements commemorating a short life. Neighborhood committees have remembered those who fell to the junta (1976-83) in a way that shames the church’s acquiescence to the generals.

Bergoglio twice refused to appear in court to answer questions about his role in the ‘Dirty War’. His replies to questions when he did appear in 2010 were evasive, especially over the issue of stolen babies, a subject which continues to haunt Argentina.

What did the pope know and when did he know it?

The junta grabbed power in March, 1976, but only after its leading figures met members of the church heirarchy for their blessing. At first the church denied the meetings took place but now acknowldege they did.

For the following seven years, the Catholic church in Argentina, and the new pope, were largely silent. Some excpetionally brave priests and nuns took a stand for justice and opposed the junta but these were few in number and shunned by their religious superiors.

Students, trade unionists, journalists were targeted. Their drugged bodies dumped from military planes above the choppy South Atlantic. The women were often raped.

“We have much to be sorry for,” Father Ruben Captianio told the New York Times in 2007. “The attitude of the church was scandalously close to the dictatorship to such an extent that I would say it was of a sinful degree.”

The mothers of the Plaza de Mayo were rarely accompanied by members of the church during their dignfiied and brave protest against the junta.

This was not just a small war in a far-away  country of which most of the world knew little.  As many as 30,000 people were killed or disappeared during this period, and many children and babies were abducted from parents imprisoned in concentration camps or murdered by the regime.

Bergoglio led the Argentine Jesuits from 1973-79. He was a leading member of the church when the militray sought its approval for a coup

The most famous “missing baby” is the congresswoman Victoria Donda. Her parents were killed after her mother, who had been kidnapped, gave birth in military custody in Aug 1977. “It is important to remember that this was not a civil war,” Donda told me when we met in 2009.

“The term implies two roughly equal sides. The ‘Dirty War’ was state terror. The military had a social and economic plan to impose and that’s why they targeted the political opposition.” But Donda said there is no chance of such a regime returning in Argentina. “People are more aware of their rights today than before. But we must teach our children about what happened. It is  important not to forget.”

At the very least, Bergoglio did not bear witness to the suffering of his people. He has a powerful pulpit from which to make amends. But all indications are that he will opt to forget just what occurred in his country in those seven years.

Tom Clifford worked as a freelance journalist in Argentina in 2009 and interviewed many of the surviors of the Dirty War including Victoria Donda.

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail