Mar 18, 2013
The world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have a new pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina. He is supposed to be a good pope because he lives “simply” and because “he speaks for the poor.”
It’s the business of “speaking for the poor” that supports the careers of legions of politicians worldwide, inside and outside the churches. But it’s different when it comes to actual deeds that attack poverty and its causes.
In the Catholic Church, some priests and nuns may work on behalf of the poor. But do any of these get promoted in the Church’s hierarchy? No. Whether it’s the “liberation theology” priests of South America, or others like the Catholic Worker movement in the U.S., the clergy on the side of the poor are far more likely to be disowned and suppressed than to rise.
The new pope himself has attacked liberation theology and all those clerics who have argued it. And through his actions, he has demonstrated he has no intention to upset the system. He is from Argentina, where the military dictatorship of 1976 to 1983 caused perhaps 30,000 opponents to be “disappeared” through kidnapping, torture, and murder. Courageous priests and nuns were among those who fought the dictatorship. However, Father Jorge Bergoglio, at that time the Jesuit Provincial Superior of Argentina, supported the regime.
The Superior in fact at one point removed two activist priests from their parishes, which set them up to be kidnapped and tortured by the regime. He also has been accused of helping a Catholic priest, Christian von Wernich, escape the country to avoid prosecution after the dictatorship ended. Von Wernich was later captured and convicted of complicity in seven homicides, 42 kidnappings and 32 instances of torture.
The hierarchy of the church – an extremely wealthy institution – has always served those with wealth. This new pope is no different – no matter how “simply” he may live.