RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Weissman writes: "Like Old Testament prophets, dogged journalists from Argentina and around the world have raised concern about the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to become Pope Francis."

Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural Mass with cardinals inside the Sistine Chapel, 03/14/13. (photo: CTV/AP)
Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural Mass with cardinals inside the Sistine Chapel, 03/14/13. (photo: CTV/AP)

Pope Francis and Argentina's Dirty War: Nine Questions He Needs to Answer

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

22 March 13


ike Old Testament prophets, dogged journalists from Argentina and around the world have raised concern about the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to become Pope Francis. Was he, they ask, complicit with the Argentine military that kidnapped, tortured, raped, killed, and "disappeared" tens of thousands of people starting even before the coup of March 1976? The victims included two bishops and as many as 150 priests and nuns, and the atrocities reached the absolute horror of stealing newborn babies from their mothers and throwing living prisoners from helicopters and airplanes into the South Atlantic.

The journalists are simply messengers. Most of their first-hand testimony come from sources within Argentina's divided Church and will not go away no matter how often Vatican spokesmen dismiss it as old smears spread by the anti-clerical left. We have heard this spin before, over both the Church's complicity with the Nazi Holocaust and early allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up. Pope Francis needs to do better than that. If he wants to put the dirty war behind him, he needs to provide full and convincing answers to nine deeply disturbing questions.

1. Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, the imprisoned leader of the military junta, credits Papal Nuncio Pío Laghi, Archbishop Raul Francisco Primatesta, and other Church leaders with advising the military junta and helping handle the situation of the disappeared. "In some cases," the former dictator told Argentina's Revista El Sur, "the Church offered its good offices and told the relatives to give up searching for their child because he [or she] was dead." But the Church only did this, said Videla, "if it was certain that the relatives would not use the information politically" against the junta. How, Your Holiness, do you explain such close collaboration?

2. Church officials in Argentina have repeatedly asked forgiveness for their failure to speak out against the junta's human rights violations, and Bergoglio personally called for the Church to do public penance for the sins of the dirty war. The Church obviously lacked courage and moral clarity, but it was far from silent. It publicly supported the military junta. Cardinal Archbishop Juan Carlos Aramburu gave communion and his blessing to the newly installed dictator, Gen. Videla. Bishop José Miquel Medina, the head chaplain of the armed forces, and other church leaders justified torture, while providing chaplains to help the torturers overcome their moral qualms. In his visit to Buenos Aires in April 1982, Pope John II publicly embraced Videla's successor General Leopoldo Galtieri and refused to meet with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who were demanding justice for their disappeared relatives. When, Your Holiness, will the Church face up to the depth of its complicity?

3. In 2007, an Argentine court convicted Father Christian von Wernich, a police chaplain, for his complicity in seven murders, 42 abductions, and 31 cases of torture. According to BBC News, several former prisoners testified that he used his position as a priest to win their confidence and then passed what they told him to police torturers and killers. The former prisoners said that he attended several torture sessions and told the torturers that they were doing God's work. Von Wernich is now serving a life sentence. As archbishop, Bergoglio ruled against giving holy communion to politicians and health care workers who facilitate abortion, while allowing von Wernich to remain a priest and provide communion to his fellow prisoners. Does Your Holiness truly believe that Church doctrine on abortion and contraception is more important to uphold than prohibitions against torture and mass murder?

4. In a case directly involving Bergoglio when he was the top Jesuit in Argentina, the army kidnapped, drugged, tortured, and held captive two of his subordinates who had been living and doing social work in a Buenos Aires slum. The army held Fathers Orlando Yorio and the Hungarian-born Franz "Francisco" Jalics blindfolded and in chains for five months and then dumped them half-naked and drugged into a field on the outskirts of the city. Soon after, Father Yorio sent the Jesuit hierarchy in Rome a first-hand report in which he accused Bergoglio of promising to speak to people from the armed forces and assure them that the two priests were not working with the left-wing guerrillas. But, wrote Yorio, Bergoglio spread rumors that we were. "We began to suspect his honesty," wrote Yorio, who reportedly forgave Bergoglio, but never withdrew his charges. Would Your Holiness release the late Father Yorio's full report and your detailed response to it?

5. Father Jalics made similar charges and has never withdrawn them. Now at a monastery in Germany, he says he has forgiven Bergoglio and does not want to comment on the new pontiff's role in what happened. Would Your Holiness ask him, in the name of truth, to testify about what he knows?

6. In 1979, Father Jalics was living in Germany and asked Bergoglio to help him get his passport renewed. Bergoglio made the formal request, but The Guardian has published a typed note from the foreign ministry archives that "appears to prove that Bergoglio said one thing and did the opposite." The note records that Jalics and Yorio "lived in small communities that the Jesuit Superior [Bergoglio] disbanded in February 1976. They refused to obey, requesting that they be removed from the order." According to the note, the information came from Bergoglio, who recommended that the foreign ministry not renew Jalics' passport. How, Your Holiness, do you respond to this damning evidence?

7. Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina's best-known investigative journalists, uncovered the above document and interviewed many of the dissident voices within the Church, presenting their evidence in his left-leaning Peronist daily Pagina 12 and his best-selling "El Silencio: De Paulo VI a Bergoglio." He is also a direct participant in the story, having shown the courage after the coup to take up arms in the guerrilla war against the military dictators, and he is a staunch supporter of Argentine President Christina Kirshner, who fought against Bergoglio and the Church to legalize gay marriage and provide free contraception. But, whatever his politics, Verbitsky is an internationally respected journalist and human rights campaigner who interviewed and corresponded with Bergoglio, initially published the prelate's version of events, and still goes out of his way to defend the new pontiff where the evidence against him is lacking. Would Your Holiness ask your defenders to stop trying to kill the messenger and deal with the specific evidence Verbitsky offers?

8. Pope Francis has long talked of making the poor central to the Church, encouraging Christian charity toward them and criticizing inadequate government and even IMF policies. But, in line with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he worked to suppress Liberation Theology, which called for helping the poor to organize to fight for their own rights. This appears to have been an underlying issue in his treatment of Fathers Yorio and Jalics and in the heated divisions within Argentina's Catholic Church. Will Your Holiness now reopen the debate and allow defenders of Liberation Theology to speak freely within the Church?

9. Horacio Verbitsky and other critics are quick to credit Bergoglio with helping many of the junta's opponents and even hiding them from arrest. "I know people he helped," said Father Yorio's brother Rodolfo. "That's exactly what reveals his two faces, and his closeness to the military powers. He was a master at ambiguity." Over the years, Your Holiness, you have been a reluctant, vague, and often evasive witness about your role – and the role of your fellow priests – in the dirty war. Would you now, in the spirit of truth and reconciliation, give independent journalists and historians access to Church archives, which – along with in-depth interviews and already available government archives – will allow them to set the record straight?

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes on international affairs.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

+56 # jmac9 2013-03-22 16:47
Church - smurch -

Catholic corporation is more like it; With its medieval ridiculous rules and vast sex perversions.

Poor Jesus - even he was a myth - upon which this tyranny was founded and has criminally perpetuated its profits.

Just look at the history of this fraud; its murderous Inquisition - to terrorize people into submission, suppression of science from Galileo and the like, driving all Jews out of Spain, sanctioning over 1,000 years of brutalizing Jews, which reached its peak with Hitler and the Nazi,
its complicity in the USA's dictatorships and violence throughout Latin and South America and its continued suppression of women and homosexuals.

it isn't worth one dime for all the gold, artwork, silk robes, and cathedrals that it has squeezed out of the people.
Sue it for all its sexual hypocrisy until its bankrupt.
Let it rot.
+34 # Rangzen 2013-03-22 22:31
All of this makes me think with poignance of the saintly moral hero Oscar Romero. Why can there not be more like him in this world?
-55 # 2013-03-22 23:08
Inuendo does not trum the actions of Cardinal Bergoglio in the service of the poor. Hearsay and implication do not hold up in court and should also have no place in journalism Mr. Weissman. Are we feeling a need to take down a holy man to further your career? Or are you just another bigot spewing filth at the Catholic Church?
+25 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-23 15:03
While hearsay may have no place, what this article talks about is facts on the ground. To bring up "hearsay" is a deliberate effort at distraction.
+11 # Doubter 2013-03-23 22:44
The church has no need for filth spewing bigots.
It has ALWAYS generated enough evil to drown any "holy" person that might accidentally or otherwise wander into its sphere of influence.
+6 # cafetomo 2013-03-22 23:11
This pope is being an exception by example. What he does is rapidly becoming more important than what he has or hasn't.

Look to the example he sets that horrifies the upper echelons of the elite clergy. He gives away the shiny red shoes, invites the common folk in to his presence for service, even instructs followers to sell the throne they brought to his temporary quarters in the hotel he resides , and give the money to the poor.

Sins of the past are more easily forgiven, when good works result today. Is it really best to mire someone in recrimination when they do good with what they are given?

Perhaps this individual deserves some conditional sufferance from us, especially since we have little more than the words of others to accuse him with. This may be the person to lead the institution into becoming something that does more good than harm.

There is little of humanity that has not come from unimaginably inhumane actions. I would attempt a modicum of patience, in hopes of seeing something better than what has been evidenced in my lifetime.
+17 # Oscar 2013-03-23 08:15
Quoting cafetomo:
[...]Perhaps this individual deserves some conditional sufferance from us,[...].

Despite the evidence against him, I am willing to give this Pope some time before deciding that he will do no good. I waiting for him to:
1) Unequivocally declare that the climate change is man made and that we CAN do something about it.
2) Condemn the companies that have defile the environment and defraud the poor that he say to defend.
+6 # mjc 2013-03-23 09:46
Pope Francis has had a long tuime as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to review his complicity with the military and their human instruments of torture and death. For him to take the name "Francis" as Pope SEEMED to be a sign that here indeed was a new force in the church, a force of humility and concern for other human beings but instead he has gone through the motions of a Jesuit without the underlying need to confess his sins. The questions proposed will never be answered by this Pope or any other. They are too damning of what it means to be a Catholic, a priest, the representative of Christ on earth.
+28 # cordleycoit 2013-03-23 02:03
Why are the boys from Chicago missing from this indictment. The bankers made a great deal of lolly out of supporting the bayonet's at the throat of the Argentine People.
Market place economics can only survive with the army in charge and the church compliant. The amazing thing is the survival of the resistance which shows when the people rose up after a whole generation of intellectuals were murdered. Yes the Pope owes the dead an explanation.
+18 # Manacha 2013-03-23 05:29
A very good article. I would add a few details: apparently, Jalics "recanted" recently saying that now he has the facts to exonerate the Pope, while before he thought him guilty. If we consider he is still a priest, who has forgiven everyone who hurt him, he might be influenced by the "good of the church". His statement is similar to the Soviet political prisoners' confessions. All other facts have no changed. Yes, for the RCC's conservative wing Liberation Theology was worse than the military Junta, abortion and contraception worse than murder and abduction, Pope Francis is "a right wing populist", very, very right wing, and with the marketing skills of a populist.
-34 # charsjcca 2013-03-23 07:24
Pope Francis 1 does not need to answer ANY questions, not nine or one, about a regime fully supported by the United States government for decades.

Pope Francis 1 is the right person for this hour in human history and we will do just find without the help of the international media.

Pray for yourselves. We will pray for Pope Francis 1.
+16 # Oscar 2013-03-23 08:59
Quoting charsjcca:
Pope Francis 1 does not need to answer ANY questions, not nine or one, about a regime fully supported by the United States government for decades.

Pope Francis 1 [...] will do just find without the help of the international media.


You are partially right: the military regime was supported by US government; but he could not done alone, without the help of others, like the catholic church.
On the other hand, Pope Francis do need, as always, the help of the international media, specially now that the church is so debilitated by the scandals of the pedophile priests.
+13 # fredboy 2013-03-23 08:22
Remember this: If you speak up, in any organization, you will be despised and never rise to the top.
+10 # tuandon 2013-03-23 09:56
Pope Francis was NOT the Primate Archbishop of Argentina when the Dirty War occured. If he does succeed in taking the Church back to its original mission of caring for the poor, more power to him. I do not know that I entirely believe these stories of his "complicity" in the Dirty War. Maybe other prelates did cooperate with the Videla regime. But it's easy to put forth allegations, so...Let things take their course and some questions will be answered.
+8 # Okieangels 2013-03-23 17:34
Not only was he not archbishop, but many don't stop to consider that sometimes covert action and back-room deals might save more lives than blatant, in-your-face public statements. But then, it always comes down to this - questions about why people didn't do more.
+10 # jwb110 2013-03-23 10:15
The Old and New Testament press its followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give shelter to the homeless. Is this what is meant by Liberation Theology. If so then maybe those men and women follow the scripture to a greater degree.
The paranoia around stamping out the godless Communists only served the purpose of driving population more in that direction. I was schooled by Sisters of Providence, Brothers of St Francis and Jesuits. They were all clear that a sin of omission was as the same as a sin of commission. They all so stressed that willful murder was a sin the "cried to heaven for vengeance". Can there be anyone for whom there is immunity for such sin? God will judge.
+11 # reiverpacific 2013-03-23 10:27
Well, after all, the last Pope was a member of Hitler's Nazi youth in his formative years.
After all, Bergoglio lived long and prospered -his allegedly humble lifestyle notwithstanding - through all these years of US domination and armed buttressing of the South and Central American dictator-domina ted, death squad enforced nations, now largely turning away from this capitalist - totalitarian meddling beginning by kicking all the US military and CIA bases out and evolving into democratic leftist governments inspired by the late, great Hugo Chavez, who is the one who should be beatified in a secular sense but who is demonized in the US owner-media.
Sadly, whatever emerges, this and other pontiffs will continued to be lauded, worshipped, believed and applauded by all those who have bought into the whole Catholic guilt-trip mythology and male-domination of the church of suckers worldwide.
BTW, I'm a recovering Catholic, have lived all over S. @ C. Americas, so know a little bit of what I write in this context.
I do have a lingering admiration for the Maryknoll Sisters and individual courageous priests like Archbishop Oscar Romero, who really walk the talk everywhere they be and like Romero, have been murdered for their unconditional aid to the truly poor and oppressed, as in El Salvador in 1980 by a death squad trained at the former "School of the Americas" in Panama, relocated to Fort Benning, Georgia, two of the perpetrators being later give US citizenship.
Go figure!
+8 # Don Thomann 2013-03-23 10:30
"Francis" because he cares about the poor! Oh yes, the Roman Catholic Church has always cared about the poor, they have cultivated them for centuries very successfully - they are, after all, their biggest money making crop. That is why even today the more Catholic a nation the poorer the people.
-1 # Guy 2013-03-23 11:47
I am no longer a catholic.I don't need a religious crutch anymore,but many still do.
I would say that he needs a chance to prove himself,instead of the disinformation and innuendos.
Especially coming from the quarters of Mr.Weissman since the new pope has declared that he is seeking better relations with Islam.We can't have that now can we.
+1 # reiverpacific 2013-03-25 21:22
Quoting Guy:
I am no longer a catholic.I don't need a religious crutch anymore,but many still do.
I would say that he needs a chance to prove himself,instead of the disinformation and innuendos.
Especially coming from the quarters of Mr.Weissman since the new pope has declared that he is seeking better relations with Islam.We can't have that now can we.

With a li'l bit o' luck, they might just manage to cancel each other out, to the planet and it's people's eternal benefit!!!!!
+7 # Texas Aggie 2013-03-23 15:08
The problem with this pope isn't so much that he practiced evil, but that he was content to let it exist without trying to fight it. To fear for his life by opposing the military is a reasonable position to take, but what it shows is a man with very little personal courage. That bodes very ill for someone who is supposed to be reforming a powerful hierarchy that will be strongly opposed to any reformation. I hope that somewhere he finds his inner Archbishop Romero.
-3 # Okieangels 2013-03-24 09:19
Maybe all true, but if he had been more vocal, how many more lives would have been at stake?
+1 # Hacienda View 2013-03-27 02:46
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do (or say!) nothing"
+7 # MDSolomon 2013-03-23 19:17
The religious operations of the Church are only a front for a powerful bank and intelligence operation. The political, economic, and social policies of this organization are no different that those who control the City of London, the Federal Reserve System, and the multitudinous banks, corporations, and governments that they control: world domination through murder and theft.
+2 # Midwestgeezer 2013-03-24 07:44
His Holiness? HOLINESS?? WTF!!!
+9 # cokacoa2 2013-03-24 11:24
When journalists criticise Pope Francis, they fail to consider what it takes to help others when a hostile dictatorship backed by US dollars and the power of the US government is crushing your country. A church leader has no army, navy, CIA, special forces, etc to strong arm anyone, he only has wit and faith. Could Shindler have helped hundreds of Jews behind the Nazi's back if he had bragged about it? Is is amazing that Bergoglio got two priests released naked and drugged. If he hid amd saved others it was because he kept his mouth shut about it. Perhaps a better question might be, how can we Americans live with the thought that our tax dollars backed that "Dirty War" in Argentina and we revere Ronald Reagan as a great leader when we know he backed the evil actions of more than one dictator in South America which unlike Bergoglio he had the army, navy and special forces to stop.
+4 # Activista 2013-03-25 00:10
agree - US crimes in Central and South America from Argentina to Guatemala - this is where Weissman should put his effort - like Henry Kissinger gave his approval to the "dirty war" in Argentina in the 1970s ...
KISSINGER TO THE ARGENTINE GENERALS IN 1976: "IF THERE ... 27, 2004 – U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets with Argentine ... Kissinger to Argentines on Dirty War: "The quicker you succeed the better" ...
Kissinger Backed Dirty War Against Left in Argentina 28, 2004 – Kissinger Backed Dirty War Against Left in Argentina Transcripts show former secretary of state urged violent crackdown on opposition ...
+5 # Activista 2013-03-24 23:54
I would ask 10 question of USA politicians - war criminals - responsible for genocide in Guatemala - Central America - where hundreds of priests were KILLED by US supported juntas (and out "friends" who were arming the juntas, while senate put embargo on arms shipment ...).
Study Iran-Contra affair - “washing the transaction through Israel wouldn’t make it legal.” - CIA usage of funds to finance ...
Send US war criminals to Hague ... leave pope alone ... he did the max for poor in the totalitarian - US supported regime.
0 # Luis Emilio 2013-03-25 09:18
Quoting Activista:
[...]leave pope alone ... he did the max for poor in the totalitarian - US supported regime.

The Pope has always been an instrument of the US.
+3 # frederico 2013-03-26 22:40
The Catholic Church and organized religion-The biggest hoax in human (his)story.

American Exceptionalism- The 2nd biggest hoax in human (his)story.

Common denominator: murdering, genocidal perverts, pretending to be in service to the common good, as they cloak themselves in divinity and the regal power of life and death over all.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.