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Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Pope, Old Problems

New Pope! New Pope! New Pope!
Pope Francis I: Lovechild of Alec Guinness and Jonathan Pryce.
Really, doesn't he look like George Smiley undercover?
It's a Francis! The first one. He's also the first Jesuit. He's also the first pope coming from the Americas (though an Italian family), Argentina to be precise.

And everyone went mental at the news. He's so nice, so friendly, such a shunner of wealth and privilege. Great. What will change now? What can kind of person...pope is he?

So the good:
  • Long standing concern with poverty and inequality. 
"We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."
This is nice. A stand on poverty and how it impacts people is good. And if the pope is speaking out on economic inequity, that will be grand. Maybe some of the conservatives in the US will listen and learn. (No. I know they won't listen or learn.)

  • He's been refusing a many of the trappings of his post as cardinal up to now. He takes the bus. He lives in smaller rooms in Buenos Aires.
How will this translate? He has to live in the palace. He has to be driven in the popemobile. So will his philosophy carry over? And how? ...And was he still using his summer home?

  • Spoke out against priest that won't baptize children born out of wedlock.
  • Has shown sympathy for those suffering from AIDS.
It's nice. But if he wasn't sympathetic, he's be a horrible person. Still, the are positives.


In Between:
It is an interesting thing. One of the outgrowth of Liberation Theology is the idea that their is inequity that leaves some poor and put upon. Yet Francis opposes LT. It seems, while he supports it's economic message, it's social and political messages do not meet with his approval.

The church has been hostile to it's advocates for some time now. And it's criticism of church hierarchy and authoritarianism may not be things the pope agrees with. Nor may he care for the view of Jesus as a revolutionary looking to bring upheaval and change to society. Nor it's ties to Marxism.

It is really no surprise to see a pope selected that opposes this view. At least the economic message will be addressed, we hope.


The problems:
  • Opposes gay marriage.
He's called gay marriage a plot again God, and openly opposed gay marriage law in Argentina.
“Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

  • Opposes gay people adopting children.
He's said it's a form of abuse to allow gay people to adopt.

  • Opposes abortion access.
  • Opposes birth control.
He has talked, in relation to abortion and contraception, of "the culture of death".

All of the above is par for the course within the Catholic Church hierarchy  Still, it shouldn't be forgotten that these are stands in the church. They are stands having negative impacts in the United States, and around the world.

  • There are questions on whether he collaborated with the military dictatorship of Argentina in the 1970's in actions that lead to numerous deaths, including priests.
What seems clear is that there was complicity between the Catholic Church in Argentina and the military. Now, the question is who in the church, and what? I have not heard any evidence supporting that the pope is tied to deaths, though it has been alleged. The question is, how did he handled being a religious leader during this time of military rule and abuse.

Remembering those
that disappeared.
It was a complex thing in those years. Religious groups were drawn in, obliged, threatened, and/or in league with oppressive rulers. Some priest were present at torture sessions. Some shared information with the military. Some argued against people's treatment. Some were brutally murdered. All of this is part of the reason Liberation Theology arose.

One journalist has written a book that says the pope, while in Argentina, hide away political prisoners of the military. He was hiding them for the military. He placed these prisoners at his holiday home on the island El Silencio, while human rights delegates were in the country. This would mean he worked with the military to hide prisoners so they would not be seen or talked to by outsiders. This is all claimed by the book.

I have not heard this story verified, or if there is another side to the story. He has said that he spoke up for some priest that were arrested to get them freed, and helped some escape the government. This is his position, and what he's been willing to talk about. There is obviously more to the events of this period in Argentinian history.

Sadly, I have not seen any news people here in the US look into it.



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