Matthew Fox is an ex-priest who was famously silenced and later expelled by Pope Benedict XVI for his progressive politics. He is the author of the book The Pope’s War, which details Pope Ratzinger’s reactionary politics and otherwise scandalous tenure.
Ken Klippenstein: What was Bergoglio’s time in Argentina like?
Matthew Fox: His record in relation to the military junta is terrible. There’s no evidence that he stood up to them at all. There’s some evidence that two of his priests were tortured and killed by the military junta. People in Argentina say that he turned them in. I don’t know if that’s true, but they are very critical of him.
One of the peculiar things about his background is that in his late 60s, he went to Germany and got a doctorate. That’s unusual for a Cardinal. I think part of that trip was that he got more and more in touch with the German wing of the Catholic Church, the very extreme right-wing. The right-wing that gave us Ratzinger [Pope Benedict XVI]. I think that they were preparing him for this job. He got marinated in the right-wing German version of church.
His autobiographer said that this man is not a third-world person; he’s not a third world priest. I think that’s a really important statement. The thought is that he’s representing the third world, but the truth is that he is typical of the Bishops and Cardinals that they’ve been appointing for 42 years in South America. Opus Dei and Communion Liberation are about obeying the Pope and nothing else.
KK: You’ve described the Catholic hierarchy and the CIA as having a joint role in opposing Liberation Theology, a Latin American spiritual movement emphasizing social justice. Could you elaborate on this?
MF: Two months after Reagan was sworn in, there was a meeting of the National Security Council in Santa Fe to discuss one question: how can we destroy Liberation in Latin America? They said, ‘We can’t destroy it, but we can split the church.’ So they went after the Pope with the head of the CIA, William Casey (who was a very far right-wing Catholic, probably an Opus Dei), made 29 trips to the Vatican with satchels full of cash to give to the Pope in exchange for his going after liberation theology in Latin America. It’s a story I tell in depth in my book, The Pope’s War.
They’ve replaced Liberation Theology bishops and cardinals with Opus Dei and Communion Liberation bishops and cardinals, including this new Pope—he is Communion Liberation. I write about them in my book, too. They are a neo-fascist cult (which the last two Popes fully endorsed) out of Italy. They’re all about obedience, obedience, obedience. Nothing else. That’s their theology: just obey the Pope.
I hope this new Pope can break out of it, but that is his tribe. He turned his back on Liberation Theology-based communities, refused to support them, and instead linked up with Communion Liberation, which is very scary.
KK: Has the war on Liberation Theology been waged right up until the present?
KK: What is the political significance of Liberation Theology?
MF: It grew out of the values and teachings of Vatican II, which said that the church is the people, not the hierarchy. It especially involves a preferential option for the poor.
The Vatican with the complicity of the CIA and the American Government set out to destroy this movement. In many ways they’ve done it. The spin that the CIA put on Liberation Theology is that’s it’s Marxist, so we’re fighting Marxism. That lie told by the CIA over and over again, took root in many people’s minds in the North American media because it serves the agendas of capitalist media and other corporations.
KK: So would you characterize the U.S. military’s crackdown on Liberation Theology as an extension of the Red Scare?
MF: Definitely. They didn’t want another Cuba in Nicaragua, Argentina, etc. So it became an excuse to do anything. The U.S. stationed ships outside the coast of Brazil defending its dictator. And then of course you have Chile, where Allande, a democratically elected president, was overthrown by the CIA; and a dictator, Pinochet, took over. The Pope John Paul II picked personally for his Secretary of State (the number two job in the Vatican) the Ambassador to Chile, Angelo Sodano, who was very close to Pinochet. Pinochet gave Sodano a special award he was so pleased with him. This guy ran the Vatican for 26 years.
KK: Why won’t the Catholic Church tolerate Liberation Theology?
MF: A lot of it comes from right-wing German Bishops and financiers. They were very worried about South America going Communist, which fits in perfectly with the narrative of Reagan’s State Department. Also, the German church is the most dominant church in Catholicism because they give the most money to Rome. In Germany, taxes subsidize the Catholic Church whether you’re a part of it or not.
So you have the CIA and right-wing Germany wanting to kill Liberation Theology. There are geopolitical forces at work here, and of course economic forces: capitalism did not want to be rivaled by socialism or any alternative. A good example would be Chávez. In the American press you can hardly find what he accomplished. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he did a lot for the poor in Venezuela.
KK: Would you say that Liberation Theology contradicts the tenets of capitalism?
MF: Yes, definitely. Aristocrats and oligarchs can run a whole country [with capitalism], so that’s why Liberation Theology is dangerous.
KK: What was the Vatican’s involvement in the U.S.’ dirty wars in Central America?
MF: There were a number of Bishops who colluded with the government and the military, just as a number of Bishops did so under the Nazis.