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Parry writes: "Would he stand up to Argentina's military neo-Nazis 'disappearing' thousands including priests, or keep his mouth shut and his career on track? Like many other Church leaders, Pope Francis took the safe route."

Argentine Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, speaks during a mass for Ash Wednesday, 02/13/13. (photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentine Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, speaks during a mass for Ash Wednesday, 02/13/13. (photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)



Pope Francis, CIA and 'Death Squads'

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

17 March 13

 

In the 1970s, Father Jorge Bergoglio faced a moment of truth: Would he stand up to Argentina’s military neo-Nazis “disappearing” thousands including priests, or keep his mouth shut and his career on track? Like many other Church leaders, Pope Francis took the safe route, Robert Parry reports.

he election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis brings back into focus the troubling role of the Catholic hierarchy in blessing much of the brutal repression that swept Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, killing and torturing tens of thousands of people including priests and nuns accused of sympathizing with leftists.

The Vatican's fiercely defensive reaction to the reemergence of these questions as they relate to the new Pope also is reminiscent of the pattern of deceptive denials that became another hallmark of that era when propaganda was viewed as an integral part of the "anticommunist" struggles, which were often supported financially and militarily by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

It appears that Bergoglio, who was head of the Jesuit order in Buenos Aires during Argentina's grim "dirty war," mostly tended to his bureaucratic rise within the Church as Argentine security forces "disappeared" some 30,000 people for torture and murder from 1976 to 1983, including 150 Catholic priests suspected of believing in "liberation theology."

Much as Pope Pius XII didn't directly challenge the Nazis during the Holocaust, Father Bergoglio avoided any direct confrontation with the neo-Nazis who were terrorizing Argentina. Pope Francis's defenders today, like apologists for Pope Pius, claim he did intervene quietly to save some individuals.

But no one asserts that Bergoglio stood up publicly against the "anticommunist" terror, as some other Church leaders did in Latin America, most notably El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero who then became a victim of right-wing assassins in 1980.

Indeed, the predominant role of the Church hierarchy - from the Vatican to the bishops in the individual countries - was to give political cover to the slaughter and to offer little protection to the priests and nuns who advocated "liberation theology," i.e. the belief that Jesus did not just favor charity to the poor but wanted a just society that shared wealth and power with the poor.

In Latin America with its calcified class structure of a few oligarchs at one end and many peasants at the other, that meant reforms, such as land redistribution, literacy programs, health clinics, union rights, etc. But those changes were fiercely opposed by the local oligarchs and the multinational corporations that profited from the cheap labor and inequitable land distribution.

So, any reformers of any stripe were readily labeled "communists" and were made the targets of vicious security forces, often trained and indoctrinated by "anticommunist" military officers at the U.S.-run School of the Americas. The primary role of the Catholic hierarchy was to urge the people to stay calm and support the traditional system.

It is noteworthy that the orchestrated praise for Pope Francis in the U.S. news media has been to hail Bergoglio's supposedly "humble" personality and his "commitment to the poor." However, Bergoglio's approach fits with the Church's attitude for centuries, to give "charity" to the poor while doing little to change their cruel circumstances - as Church grandees hobnob with the rich and powerful.

Another Pope Favorite

Pope John Paul II, another favorite of the U.S. news media, shared this classic outlook. He emphasized conservative social issues, telling the faithful to forgo contraceptives, treating women as second-class Catholics and condemning homosexuality. He promoted charity for the poor and sometimes criticized excesses of capitalism, but he disdained leftist governments that sought serious economic reforms.

Elected in 1978, as right-wing "death squads" were gaining momentum across Latin America, John Paul II offered little protection to left-leaning priests and nuns who were targeted. He rebuffed Archbishop Romero's plea to condemn El Salvador's right-wing regime and its human rights violations. He stood by as priests were butchered and nuns were raped and killed.

Instead of leading the charge for real economic and political change in Latin America, John Paul II denounced "liberation theology." During a 1983 trip to Nicaragua - then ruled by the leftist Sandinistas - the Pope condemned what he called the "popular Church" and would not let Ernesto Cardenal, a priest and a minister in the Sandinista government, kiss the papal ring. He also elevated clerics like Bergoglio who didn't protest right-wing repression.

John Paul II appears to have gone even further, allowing the Catholic Church in Nicaragua to be used by the CIA and Ronald Reagan's administration to finance and organize internal disruptions while the violent Nicaraguan Contras terrorized northern Nicaraguan towns with raids notorious for rape, torture and extrajudicial executions.

The Contras were originally organized by an Argentine intelligence unit that emerged from the country's domestic "dirty war" and was taking its "anticommunist" crusade of terror across borders. After Reagan took office in 1981, he authorized the CIA to join with Argentine intelligence in expanding the Contras and their counterrevolutionary war.

A key part of Reagan's Contra strategy was to persuade the American people and Congress that the Sandinistas represented a repressive communist dictatorship that persecuted the Catholic Church, aimed to create a "totalitarian dungeon," and thus deserved violent overthrow.

A special office inside the National Security Council, headed by longtime CIA disinformation specialist Walter Raymond Jr., pushed these propaganda "themes" domestically. Raymond’s campaign exploited examples of tensions between the Catholic hierarchy and the Sandinista government as well as with La Prensa, the leading opposition newspaper.

To make the propaganda work with Americans, it was important to conceal the fact that elements of the Catholic hierarchy and La Prensa were being financed by the CIA and were coordinating with the Reagan administration's destabilization strategies. [See Robert Parry's Lost History.]

Evidence of Payments

In 1988, I discovered evidence of this reality while working as a correspondent for Newsweek magazine. At the time, the Iran-Contra scandal had undermined the case for spending more U.S. money to arm the Contras. But the Reagan administration continued to beat the propaganda drums by highlighting the supposed persecution of Nicaragua's internal opposition.

To fend off U.S. hostility, which also included a harsh economic embargo, the Sandinistas announced increased political freedoms. But that represented only a new opportunity for Washington to orchestrate more political disruptions, which would either destabilize the government further or force a crackdown that could then be cited in seeking more Contra aid.

Putting the Sandinistas in this "inside-outside" vise had always been part of the CIA strategy, but with a crumbling economy and more U.S. money pouring into the opposition groups, the gambit was beginning to work.

Yet, it was crucial to the plan that the CIA's covert relationship with Nicaragua's internal opposition remain secret, not so much from the Sandinistas, who had detailed intelligence about this thoroughly penetrated operation, but from the American people. The U.S. public would get outraged at Sandinista reprisals against these "independent" groups only if the CIA's hand were kept hidden.

A rich opportunity for the Reagan administration presented itself in summer 1988 when a new spasm of Contra ambushes killed 17 Nicaraguans and the anti-Sandinista internal opposition staged a violent demonstration in the town of Nandaime, a protest that Sandinista police dispersed with tear gas.

Reacting to the renewed violence, the Sandinistas closed down La Prensa and the Catholic Church's radio station - both prime vehicles for anti-Sandinista propaganda. The Nicaraguan government also expelled U.S. Ambassador Richard Melton and seven other U.S. Embassy personnel for allegedly coordinating the disorders.

Major U.S. news outlets, which had accepted their role treating the Sandinistas as "designated enemies" of the United States, roared in outrage, and the U.S. Congress condemned the moves by a margin of 94-4 in the Senate and 385-18 in the House.

Melton then testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee first in secret and then in public, struggling to hide the open secret in Washington that Nicaragua's internal opposition, like the Contras, was getting covert help from the U.S. government.

When asked by a senator in public session about covert American funding to the opposition, Melton dissembled awkwardly: "As to other activities that might be conducted, that's - they were discussed - that would be discussed yesterday in the closed hearing."

When pressed by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum on whether the embassy provided "encouragement - financial or otherwise - of dissident elements," Melton responded stiffly: "The ambassador in any post is the principal representative of the U.S. government. And in that capacity, fulfills those functions." He then declined to discuss "activities of an intelligence nature" in open session.

On the Payroll

In other words, yes, the U.S. government was covertly organizing and funding the activities of the supposedly "independent" internal opposition in Nicaragua. And, according to more than a dozen sources that I interviewed inside the Contra movement or close to U.S. intelligence, the Reagan administration had funneled CIA money to virtually every segment of the internal opposition, from the Catholic Church to La Prensa to business and labor groups to political parties.

"We've always had the internal opposition on the CIA payroll," one U.S. government official said. The CIA's budget line for Nicaraguan political action - separate from Contra military operations - was about $10 million a year, my sources said. I learned that the CIA had been using the Church and Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo to funnel money into Nicaragua.

Obando was a plodding but somewhat complex character. In the 1970s, he had criticized the repression of the Somoza dictatorship and expressed some sympathy for the young Sandinista revolutionaries who were trying to bring social and economic changes to Nicaragua.

However, after the murder of El Salvador's Archbishop Romero in 1980 and Pope John Paul II's repudiation of "liberation theology," Obando shifted clumsily into the anti-Sandinista camp, attacking the "people's church" and accusing the Sandinistas of "godless communism."

On May 25, 1985, he was rewarded when the Pope named him Cardinal for Central America. Then, despite mounting evidence of Contra atrocities, Obando traveled to the United States in January 1986 and threw his support behind a renewal of military aid to the Contras.

All this made a lot more sense after factoring in that Obando had essentially been put onto the CIA's payroll. The CIA funding for Nicaragua's Catholic Church was originally unearthed in 1985 by the congressional intelligence oversight committees, which then insisted that the money be cut off to avoid compromising Obando further.

But the funding was simply transferred to another secret operation headed by White House aide Oliver North. In fall 1985, North earmarked $100,000 of his privately raised money to go to Obando for his anti-Sandinista activities, I learned from my sources.

I was also told that the CIA's support for Obando and the Catholic hierarchy went through a maze of cut-outs in Europe, apparently to give Obando deniability. But one well-placed Nicaraguan exile said he had spoken with Obando about the money and the Cardinal had expressed fear that his past receipt of CIA funding would come out.

What to Do?

Discovering this CIA funding of Nicaragua's Catholic Church presented professional problems for me at Newsweek, where my senior editors were already making clear that they sympathized with the Reagan administration's muscular foreign policy and felt that the Iran-Contra scandal had gone too far in undermining U.S. interests.

But what was the right thing for an American journalist to do with this information? Here was a case in which the U.S. government was misleading the American public by pretending that the Sandinistas were cracking down on the Catholic Church and the internal opposition without any justification. Plus, this U.S. propaganda was being used to make the case in Congress for an expanded war in which thousands of Nicaraguans were dying.

However, if Newsweek ran the story, it would put CIA assets, including Cardinal Obando, in a dicey situation, possibly even life-threatening. So, when I presented the information to my bureau chief, Evan Thomas, I made no recommendation on whether we should publish or not. I just laid out the facts as I had ascertained them. To my surprise, Thomas was eager to go forward.

Newsweek contacted its Central America correspondent Joseph Contreras, who outlined our questions to Obando's aides and prepared a list of questions to present to the Cardinal personally. However, when Contreras went to Obando's home in a posh suburb of Managua, the Cardinal literally evaded the issue.

As Contreras later recounted in a cable back to Newsweek in the United States, he was approaching the front gate when it suddenly swung open and the Cardinal, sitting in the front seat of his burgundy Toyota Land Cruiser, blew past.

As Contreras made eye contact and waved the letter, Obando's driver gunned the engine. Contreras jumped into his car and hastily followed. Contreras guessed correctly that Obando had turned left at one intersection and headed north toward Managua.

Contreras caught up to the Cardinal's vehicle at the first stop-light. The driver apparently spotted the reporter and, when the light changed, sped away, veering from lane to lane. The Land Cruiser again disappeared from view, but at the next intersection, Contreras turned right and spotted the car pulled over, with its occupants presumably hoping that Contreras had turned left.

Quickly, the Cardinal's vehicle pulled onto the road and now sped back toward Obando's house. Contreras gave up the chase, fearing that any further pursuit might appear to be harassment. Several days later, having regained his composure, the Cardinal finally met with Contreras and denied receiving any CIA money. But Contreras told me that Obando's denial was unconvincing.

Newsweek drafted a version of the story, making it appear as if we weren't sure of the facts about Obando and the money. When I saw a "readback" of the article, I went into Thomas's office and said that if Newsweek didn't trust my reporting, we shouldn't run the story at all. He said that wasn't the case; it was just that the senior editors felt more comfortable with a vaguely worded story.

Hot Water

We ended up in hot water with the Reagan administration and right-wing media attack groups anyway. Accuracy in Media lambasted me, in particular, for going with such a sensitive story without being sure of the facts (which, of course, I was).

Thomas was summoned to the State Department where Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams heaped more criticism on me though not denying the facts of our story. Newsweek also agreed, in the face of right-wing pressure, to subject me and the article to an internal investigation, which quietly reconfirmed the facts of the story.

Despite this corroboration, the incident damaged my relations with senior Newsweek editors, particularly executive editor Maynard Parker who saw himself as part of the New York/Washington foreign policy establishment and was deeply hostile to the Iran-Contra scandal, which I had helped expose.

As for Obando, the Sandinistas did nothing to punish him for his collaboration with the CIA and he gradually evolved more into a figure of reconciliation than confrontation. However, the hyper-secretive Vatican has refused to open its archives for any serious research into its relationship with the CIA and other Western intelligence services.

Whenever allegations do arise about the Catholic Church's hierarchy winking and nodding at the kinds of human rights atrocities that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, the Vatican PR department lashes out with sternly worded denials.

That practice is playing out again in the days after the election of Pope Francis I. Rather than a serious and reflective assessment of the actions (and inactions) of Cardinal Bergoglio, Cardinal Obando, Pope John Paul II and other Church leaders during those dark days of torture and murder, the Vatican simply denounces all allegations as "slander," "calumny" and politically motivated lies.

 

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+49 # goodsensecynic 2013-03-17 11:43
While not a Catholic, a Christian or anything else, I understand that the Church remains an influential social and political force. It cannot be ignored and it does little good just to denounce it.

I also understand that the behavior of Pius XII, Francis I and others who either remained silent or colluded with murderous regimes will not be resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

Some say they did their best through quiet diplomacy; others say that they were "snitches" or worse.

While the crimes of the Church in offering aid and comfort to everyone from Mussolini and Franco to "Papa Doc" and Pinochet need to be remembered and not forgiven by a snigger and a "whoops!" from the Holy See, we must demand at least this:

Claiming to be an innocent bystander or to be unaware of events is no longer tolerable. The Vatican in particular and the Church in general has tried to deny or excuse itself on any number of issues from politics to pedophilia. Enough!

The Church must commit to becoming aware of the world. It has a duty to expose and denounce evil where it plainly exists.

Once it gets the hang of it, it could start looking at itself and the hate-filled "values" it serves - not least misogyny and homophobia and peddling fear, fantasy and "opiates" to the people, but that can wait ...

Francis I has shown no inclination to behave better than his immediate predecessors ... but hope springs eternal.
 
 
-37 # Mannstein 2013-03-17 14:25
Franco saved 40,000 Jews during WWII more than FDR and Churchill put together. But hey ya gotta smear the guy because he couldn't stand the stinking communists.
 
 
+15 # CAMUS1111 2013-03-17 17:26
"According to the recent discovery of a World War II document, Franco ordered his provincial governors to compile a list of Jews while he negotiated an alliance with the Axis powers.Franco supplied Heinrich Himmler with a list of 6,000 Jews in Spain, for the Nazis' "Final Solution". However, Franco built no Jewish concentration camps on Spanish territory, nor did he voluntarily hand Jews over to Germany. Spanish diplomats, acting outside of Franco's authority,[cita tion needed] extended their diplomatic protection over Jews in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Balkans." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Franco
 
 
-6 # Mannstein 2013-03-18 09:42
According to testimony by a US Jewish leader after the war in front of a US Senate CommitteeFranco saved 40,000 Jews during WWII. Anyone who writes something on Wikipedia which wikipedia doesn't agree with is errased post haste. Don't trust everything you read there. As for Pius XII he was awarded a prize after WWII by the Chief rabbi of Rome for helping the Jews. Subsequently this rabbi converted to Catholicism. That of course would be an anathema to the likes of Abe Foxman of the ADL who himself was saved by a Polish Catholic family which he now disparages.
 
 
+3 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-19 19:38
Why are you babbling about communists? This article is about the murder of thousands of people who were fighting oppression, and how the RCC was implicated directly in that oppression. To claim that somehow the murder of so many innocent people, in Central America many of them illiterate peasants, is a fight against communism is just so obviously false that one has to wonder at the real agenda of someone pushing that story.

We know that Reagan was pushing it for the benefit of American corporations. Why are you pushing it?
 
 
+35 # Mannstein 2013-03-17 14:33
Where are the Evangelical clergy when it comes to standing up for the rights and justice of the Palestinians?
 
 
+1 # karenvista 2013-03-21 17:28
Quoting Mannstein:
Where are the Evangelical clergy when it comes to standing up for the rights and justice of the Palestinians?


Everybody is afraid of being called an "antisemite" even though Palestinians are semites too.

Look what happened to Hagel for saying "I'm an American Senator not an Israeli Senator."

The threat of being called antisemitic quiets almost everyone.
 
 
+28 # Regina 2013-03-17 14:50
No, cynic, "it" can't wait. How many generations must suffer the crimes until the church acknowledges its participation in, and contributions to, those crimes? Their "values" continue without resolution or reformation. They are renewed in every generation. (I am also "not a Catholic, a Christian, or anything else.") Francis might offer a better verbal line, but I don't expect true enlightenment.
 
 
-20 # charsjcca 2013-03-17 11:44
Get on board. If you are with the Saint Francis of Assisi Prayer you know the journey. I am thankful that this Prayer led me to releasing guilt and shame from my life and set me upon a path of action.


I am not deserting Martin Luther King, Jr., because he did not set himself ablaze in the public entrance of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Take from humanity what you can get and do what you can. I will be all in with Francis 1. Others might remain hidden in the bulrushes of the Southern Manifesto.
 
 
+32 # tswhiskers 2013-03-17 11:50
I think it is not much of a surprise to Americans that the U.S. has since WWII been quite the hypocrite in its foreign policy. In the 1950's and '60's we chose as our allies any govt. that swore to oppose Communism. This was certainly true in Latin and South America. The Vatican too has always put its self-interest before Christian altruism. As I have stated before, the Vatican (not the Church made up of millions of honest believing Catholics) is and has for most of its existence been a very corrupt institution, liable to all the human weaknesses of secular institutions. This is easily made clear in any history of Christianity that does not have the imprimatur of the Church. The Vatican is still pretty much the same CYA, corrupt organization it has ever been; what has changed is that the society around it is now well-educated, more secular, less religious than formerly. And many societies no longer accept all Church policies unquestioningly .
 
 
-14 # Mannstein 2013-03-18 10:33
The US opposed Communism after WWII because some some enlightened Western statesman, unlike FDR, finally saw the light.

It was non other than Churchill who claimed after the Iron Curtain descended in 1945 across Eastern Europe, "We may have slaughtered the wrong pig".

Check out this video which shows the Communist destruction of the Cathederal of Christ the Savior in Moscow, 1931.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFlx55OANg8

But then of course being enthralled by that stinking Communist ideology you would approve of the heroes of the USSR destroying Christian places of worship.

I can recall Nakita Kruchev at the UN vowing to bury us all in the US. You may have been too young, but that probably also meets with your approval.

Lenin had a name for your kind. He refered to them useful idiots.
 
 
+33 # Guy 2013-03-17 11:53
If indeed there is such a place as hell,there will/is a special place for people that planned and practiced the genocide of thousands of people in Central and South America on the part of corporate political fascism .And this includes the church hierarchy at it's highest levels .
The truth will not be denied ,as grueling an experience it is for those that have refused to see it.
 
 
+29 # jwb110 2013-03-17 12:03
I am over 60 years old and in that lifetime the only Pope who wasn't a coward was "John the 23rd". If for no other reason I would have left the Church because I am not comfortable in the company of cowards.
 
 
+18 # Salus Populi 2013-03-17 18:07
I would add Pope John Paul I to the list of courageous and reformist Popes. It is very likely that he was murdered after barely a month due to his commitment to investigate the Vatican Bank, revisit the Church's view on abortion, and carry out other projects that were opposed by the Church hierarchy.
 
 
-3 # Mannstein 2013-03-18 10:03
"revisit the Church's view on abortion"

Is this your biase opinion or due you have a reputable source backing up such remarkable nonsense.
 
 
+3 # tingletlc 2013-03-18 11:53
Hold it, Mannstein. I'm still waiting for your response to my 3/14/2013 14:22 request for citations for your claims that Pius XII and Franco saved large populations of Jews during WWII. Whaddya got?

As evidence that some people actually take documentation seriously, note that NOMINAE at 3/16/2013 21:14 claimed that the Church had an "underground railroad" to South America for senior Nazis, then posted again at 3/16/2013 21:45 to retract the claim, having researched it and not found the proof.

How about it? Do you also have the stones to Mann up?
 
 
-2 # Mannstein 2013-03-19 13:03
Check out the following wicjh documents that franco saved 60,000 jews during the War:

http://www.hitlerstoppedbyfranco.com/franco_jews.htm

Pius XII did the same but I leave the research as an exccersise to the student.

Judging from some of responses of the commentators here I endeavor to conclude that they regret Stalin's looting and raping Red Army hordes only made it to the Elbe instead of the Atlantic in 1945.
 
 
+2 # tingletlc 2013-03-19 18:39
Great! I thank you for this. "Hitler Stopped by Franco" is a novel, so it can't be said to "document" anything, but it's a start, and it'll make interesting reading for me, since I lived and worked in Franco Spain for a couple of years in the early 1960s.

Meanwhile, a look at the Pius XII question could begin with

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/pius.html

which at first blush seems fairly balanced, is loaded with citations, and includes links to dissenting opinions. If I want to draw a conclusion about Pius XII — and I'm not sure I do — a lot of critical reading awaits me. You could do some as well.

The gloss that all of this tends to provide on Francis I is that Popes are human, like you and me, and in constant danger of failing. In Bergoglio's place in Argentina under the junta, my cowardice would be guaranteed (I lived and worked there also, years before the Dirty War) — but I'm not in line to be Christ's vicar on earth, for whom a higher standard should be expected.
 
 
+1 # karenvista 2013-03-21 17:51
Since the Soviet Union bore a large share of the fighting in defeating Hitler and you spend most of your time denigrating them, I presume you would have preferred that Hitler won the war.

Those are the options.
 
 
+2 # Mannstein 2013-03-18 09:59
"I am not comfortable in the company of cowards."

Bishop von Galen of Munster Germany spoke openly from the pulpit condemning Nazi racial policy and the practice of euthanasia by the Reich Government. The authorities threatened to shut him up but he refused to be cowed. This took considerable courage in a dictatorship. Incidentally, it was at a time when racism and euthanasia was alive and well in the "land of the free". Von Galen also strongly criticised the behavior of Allied troops when they entered West Germany at the end of the war. He specifically condemned wide spread looting and rape on the part of the occupying troops. That also took courage and did not endear him with the Allied occupation. Not every member of the Church hierarchy is a coward as you would imply.
 
 
+30 # namewon 2013-03-17 12:06
Thank you for this in-depth report. I have been trying to understand how to take the new pope ever since he appeared on the scene, and now I think I get the picture. More than that, I continue to understand that for a person to have any kind of authentic spiritual life it's best to stay away from religious institutions, especially the Roman Catholic Church and--face it--most if not all of its affiliates.
 
 
+2 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-19 19:40
Probably the most incisive observation on this message board.
 
 
+40 # PABLO DIABLO 2013-03-17 12:07
Read Walsh's IRAN/CONTRA report for even more disgusting efforts by Reagan and George H.W. Bush in Nicaragua. THANK YOU Robert Parry for ALL you have done to expose the truth.
 
 
+19 # ansleypk@aol.com 2013-03-17 12:15
I've always thought that Pope John Paul retreated from condemning drugs and those who kill and profit from drugs when he visited Latin America and just wallowed in the adulation. Oh, there were a couple of weak statements but where was the outrage and condemnation. He might have made a dent in these Catholic countries where politicians run scared (and rightfully so). Pope John Paul was too busy condemning homosexuals and the distribution of condoms, WHICH WOULD HAVE SAVED LIVES rather than making drugs his main challenge. Too often Church (and political) leaders take the safe route. A pope has more influence and power with his (and maybe some day HER) 1.2 billion followers than all of the politicians in every country put together. Drugs are one of the top two or three threats in the world.
 
 
+31 # mdhome 2013-03-17 12:20
No surprise, the church benefits from an illiterate, uninformed peasantry.
 
 
-11 # Mannstein 2013-03-18 10:04
Spoken like a true bigot.
 
 
+4 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-19 19:48
How else do you explain their actions? Opus Dei supposedly provides schooling to children from poor families, but when you look at the curriculum, you find that they are being trained to be maids and gardeners for the rich. When the Mexican government put in a program to help rural women in Guererro and Oaxaca the RCC tried to shut it down because it included courses in family planning.

When the poor get the chance for education, often provided by one of the right wing Protestant groups, they jump at the chance. That's one of the many reasons that Protestant evangelists are making so much headway in Latin America. The evangelists are working to improve their lives, something the RCC has neglected since the Conquest.
 
 
+24 # goodsensecynic 2013-03-17 12:30
The question of the nature and extent of the collusion between Pius XII and the Nazis or Francis I and the brutal Argentine military dictatorship will not likely be resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

It is enough to say that the Roman Catholic Church has had a mutually supportive relationship with authoritarian governments wherever the Church has been an important social institution. In the 20th-century, relations between Roman Catholics and dictators from Mussolini to Franco and from Pinochet to "Papa Doc" Duvalier (Mother Teresa's favorite) were symbiotic.

In retrospect, some men of the church have expressed regret (usually claiming they didn't know what was going on) or claiming they were using quiet diplomacy to assist as many victims as possible. We can believe them if we wish.

From now on, however, there must be no excuses. If the Church is to be worthy of any admiration, it must open its eyes to the world, and expose and condemn evil where it exists.

If it is successful, it will be on the side of humanity and perhaps worthy of respect. And, if it gets good at rooting out evil, it might even look inwardly to see how it's official policies of misogyny and homophobia rate on any sensible measure of good and evil.

If some serious self-criticism and change follows, well and good. After all, the Church has finally admitted that the Earth is not the center of the Universe and that Evolution is a biological fact.

Hope springs eternal!
 
 
-14 # Mannstein 2013-03-17 16:55
"collusion between Pius XII and the Nazis"

Before you blather on about matters of which you haven't the least knowledge and further make a fool of yourself Google:

"Mit brennender Sorge & the Nazi Party"

It's a Papal Encyclical of 1937 addressed to the German Reich condemning Nazi ideology.

As for Franco educate yourself as to how many Spanish clergy were executed and the general persecution of the church by stinking Communists during the civil war. You expect the Vatican to support that I suppose.
 
 
-14 # Mannstein 2013-03-17 17:12
FDR allied himself and supported the biggest mass murderer of the 20th century, good old Uncle Joe, who already in the 1930s had wipoed out 7 million Ukranians. The US Left didn't say a word. Nada. Zero. As a matter of fact they claimed the USSR was a paradise. That US support and policy courtesy of FDR sealed the fate of 40 million Christians to stinking Communist persecution after the war. Once more the Left was silent. One gets the distinct impression that Christians are second class victims as far as Leftists are concerned. Some would even go so far and claim the Christians deserved it.
 
 
+4 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-19 19:54
Hope may spring eternal, but supporting the power structure has been a pattern that has been in existence since Constatine. It occurred all through the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages when the RCC sent off armies to remove the people interfering with Italian city state trade coming through the Middle East, through the Conquest in Latin America up to the present day when the RCC is one of the two forces in the PAN, the other being the industrialists, that is pushing a right wing economic program in Mexico.
 
 
+24 # WillD 2013-03-17 12:34
I never met Jesus Christ - I'm too young, as I was born after the dinosaurs - but I just think, on the basis of the very little I know about his teachings, that if Jesus Christ would come back, he would do terrible things to these people in their weird dresses.
 
 
+7 # Tje_Chiwara 2013-03-17 12:45
Martyrdom is really great . . . but not everyone. It really is best to let the other poor bastard die for his country . . . and, if the poor bastard is actually on your side, joining him in paradise has limited utility. As in all things, we must unfortunately deal with political reality, and bend it when we can. I see the Pope as an opportunity, not to raise questions about his past, but to use his alleged ideals and what he supposedly stands as an open door, to help the Catholic Church fulfill a promise more in keeping with those ideals than the dirty ugly past realities that have tainted so many aspects of its history.

There can be redemption, even for a church, or a religion. And the Catholics (as well as Muslims) have many ideals which need to be encouraged, not disparaged.
 
 
+1 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-19 19:57
While what you say is true, the behavioral patterns of a lifetime are not easily changed, especially 180°.
 
 
+28 # Manacha 2013-03-17 13:18
Exactly so! Thank you for the article, too bad very few will read it, and less believe a word of it. The Catholic Church has a murky past in Latin America, and more so in Argentina, so the propaganda of the new Pope as "being for the poor" and being "humble" has the same credibility as a soap ad.
 
 
+1 # rcossebo 2013-03-17 13:27
Remember that it says in the Bible to render unto Caeser's that which is Caeser's and unto God that which is God's! Ergo, earthly stuff = Caeser's, religious stuff = God's. Cut and dried.
 
 
+7 # fredboy 2013-03-17 13:51
Just like most U.S. clergy during the past decade...
 
 
+20 # Doggone 2013-03-17 14:31
To dismiss allegations as "calumny" and "slander" is what all liars and greedy evil-doers say, hoping we will buy it one more time. And most people do, shame on the peeps for their willingness to look the other way and allow themselves the comfort of complicit deceit. The Vatican is steeped in crime and pedophilia, the reason they keep things well hidden should be obvious to all. Otherwise we would have torn them to pieces with the knowledge of what it truly is, a bed of vipers and evil. Humanity has been fooled for centuries by the vatican! Open the vatican files and let in the light of truth.
 
 
+1 # karenvista 2013-03-21 18:47
The Catholic Church is above all countries and the laws of all humankind. Just ask them.

I think they first posited that when they forged "the Donation of Constantine" in the 8th century. They made the papacy the owner and superior to the kings of all lands, both discovered and undiscovered. (Everyone seemed to know that there was a lot more out there that was not yet conquered or "discovered.")

At many times they taxed the people in Catholic areas at rates equal to the governments, in addition to selling indulgences, reducing time in purgatory for monetary or property donations and selling tiny pieces of "relics" of saints and other "holy" persons.

They also took the property of "heretics" and people they excommunicated, even noblemen.

They had lots of ways of enriching themselves, even before they got to "the New World."

That's also why the church still doesn't think that secular laws apply to them so they don't want to turn pedophiles over to the authorities.
 
 
+28 # CenTexDem 2013-03-17 14:34
His venial sin pales in comparison to the continuing mortal sin of the continued existence of U.S. taxpayer funded U.S. government's School of the Americas that helped train the military that oppressed the poor in El Salvador in the days of the killing of Jesuit priests, Maryknoll nuns, and the quiet upper class cleric whose conscience caused him to be a a Christ like champion of the poor called for by the social justice values of the Gospel who sacrifice his life while saying Mass because of those values of Jesus, Bishop Romero.
 
 
+15 # Walter J Smith 2013-03-17 14:54
This is tellingly precise: "...the Church's attitude for centuries, to give "charity" to the poor while doing little to change their cruel circumstances - as Church grandees hobnob with the rich and powerful...."

That helps about all we need to figure out why he is the darling of the lamestream media.
 
 
+4 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-19 20:00
When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist .- Dom Helder Camara

One of the victims of JPII and Ratzinger when Ratzinger was head of the Inquisition.
 
 
+1 # da gaf 2013-03-17 16:40
the only chance for world peace is to get rid of these 300 phony organized religions including all forms of Christianity--t here is no truth in any of them..truth is with each individual- his or her own personal experience- not a stupid believe system- all beliefs are lies- one doesn't believe in the sun..does he? he knows it exist because he see it- but all religions are supported on believes -in other words- they hope it is. The Catholic Vatican is very criminal institution.. they have been behind all sorts of criminal deeds- but the worshipers are weak and hesitant in investigating the true nature of this powerful organization.
 
 
+2 # corals33 2013-03-17 16:40
The roman church is not just another institution; it is THE INSTITUTION make no mistake.There is no new Pope; the pope is dead, long live the pope.St.Peter(r ome),ST Paul(england) and the District of COLUMBIA(americ a) complete the holy trinity of the western world.Readers would do well to do their own research and DO NOT DEPEND on popular periodicals and fly-by-night scholarship.
 
 
+7 # fredboy 2013-03-17 16:52
Throughout my life I have noticed that cowardice is often rewarded.
 
 
+23 # Texan 4 Peace 2013-03-17 17:46
I've known a number of priests and nuns who lived their faith through Liberation Theology, casting their lot with the poor and oppressed. They are the best the Catholic church has to offer; if the church hierarchy had ever acknowledged that, it would be a very different church today.
 
 
+2 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-19 20:02
Absolutely. And the RCC as we know it would crumble, hopefully to be replaced by something completely different.
 
 
-15 # maude316 2013-03-17 17:52
response to walter J. Smith and others, your comment sounds like a description of Liberals. How long has our government been paying for votes by giving "entitlements" while keeping an increasing number in poverty. Do we really thing that Obama or any other liberal really cares about anyone being in poverty? I am also wondering if you all think its okay for Obama to fund and defend terrorist groups for them to take over countries in the middle east, and then torture and kill Christians in those countries. Is there anyone here that can say its okay that our president has yet to say even one word in defense of the persecution of Christians?
 
 
+3 # da gaf 2013-03-17 18:59
all organized religions are phony it offers nothing to mankind except guilt,fear and misery they are the devil if any devil exist they have driven mankind to the edge of extinction... to the point that this world can be totally destroyed any minutes - the blame goes to these 300 idiotic beliefs religious systems-which nothing can be proved..all is imagination..al l we know is that Existence exist..that why it is called Existence...and it has no beginning nor end.... it just is.the mystery will always remain.
 
 
+12 # ganymede 2013-03-17 20:57
As usual, a brilliant piece from Robert Parry. We know enough about the Catholic Church and the murderous foreign policy of the US since WWII, to understand why the major countries of Latin America have successfully gone their own way for the past 20 years or so. It isn't just Hugo Chavez, it's the fact that the US doesn't seem able to help poor countries become more equitable and prosperious, just as our indigenous rightwingers can't help the majority of people in our own country. My conclusion is a simple one but one that is staring us in the face, namely that capitalism and all the institutions that uncritically support it, has to be reformed before it destroys the world.
 
 
+10 # Pickwicky 2013-03-18 16:31
My take on Pope Francis is the following: given his mild to lame involvement in Argentina's black days, and his focus on perceived acts of 'piety', that is, riding buses (for all to see), cooking his own meals (an event quick to hit the grape-vine), walking out onto Rome's streets (for all to see), et al,--it seems that to Francis it is far more important to construct his reputation and character on little things, than to take big chances. Far more important to be seen working his small deeds of humility and charity, than to do the behind-the-scen es dangerous work that would have helped the priests and nuns of Argentina. This suggests he'll do little to work out the Church's huge problems. Nevertheless, his small deeds may ingratiate him with the faithful. Too bad.
 
 
+6 # Illana Naylor 2013-03-18 20:28
In 1984 I travelled to Nicaragua with the Witness for Peace in support of the Sandanistas and popularly elected President Daniel Ortega and in opposition to the US backed Contras. I had tremendous respect for Fr. Ernesto Cardenal and regarded Oscar Romero as a hero. I was unaware of the extent of the duplicity of the Catholic Church hierarchy. That Pope Francis was so quiet during the terror of the depresiados is a significant concern.
 
 
+2 # Okieangels 2013-03-20 09:51
A lot of this has been written about by Father Matthew Fox. It's been no great surprise that John Paul 2 and Benedict wanted to silence priests that have been critical of the church - 105 progressive theologians silenced.
 
 
+2 # thetruth101 2013-03-20 23:32
Highly impressed with your article I have known this for a while. I also know that the CIA/US government was behind the killing of Monsenor Romero in El Salvador, Gen. Powel at the top. I am surprised that a top journalist like you does not even vaguely reffer to it or really knows it but could look into it.
 

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