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A Holy Week Reflection on Church and State and Pope Francis

The Gospels tell us that the religious leaders were the only people Jesus reprimanded and chastised. They were hypocrites and didn’t set a good example. In turn, they paid Judas 30 pieces of silver to help them arrest Jesus. Their court handed Jesus over to the civil government to have him tortured and executed.

Early Christians were mostly a persecuted minority until the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. By law, no other religion would be tolerated. So Christian leaders supported the state. Constantine used Christianity, in part, to unify his empire. Church leaders used the Roman Empire as their organizational model even though Jesus told his followers, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

From then on, the Roman Catholic Church was allied with European emperors and monarchs. In return for the legitimacy bestowed on them by prelates and popes, the civil governments made the religious leaders wealthy and powerful. The emperors and monarchs also enslaved their populace, executed the innocent, conquered indigenous populations and waged war in the mutual interests of church and state.

When Pope Pius IX lost his last feudal territories in the unification of Italy in 1870, other aristocrats who had also lost their hereditary lands advised him how to use money instead of land to produce income and wealth. When the Austro-Hungarian Empire – the last Catholic monarchy – was defeated in the First World War, Vatican officials sought alliances with new states.

Popes opposed democracy as a dangerous influence on their own absolute sovereignty. Socialism was unacceptable to the new capitalists. Communism, which prohibited both religion and private property, became the Vatican’s chief enemy. But fascism was both totalitarian and capitalist.

The word “fascism” originated after the First World War in Italy as did the terms “right” and “left” to describe political ideologies. The term clerical or clerico (i.e. Catholic) fascism emerged shortly thereafter. European Catholic leaders created or supported fascist parties in majority-Catholic countries. Some were able to seize power in the 1920s and 30s. In addition to Benito Mussolini, dictatorships and political movements involving elements of clerical fascism and supported by the Popes Pius XI and XII include Francisco Franco in Spain, António Salazar in Portugal, Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria, Jozef Tiso in Slovakia, the Croation Ustasha, Hungary’s Iron Cross Party, the Rexists in Belgium and Vichy France.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio and the Dirty War

A recent article titled “Can Even God Forgive Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” was written by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and author of The Ghosts of Montes de Oca: Naked Life and the Medically Disappeared – A Hidden Subtext of the Argentine Dirty War. In her article, Scheper-Hughers reviews Pope Francis’ history during the Argentine Dirty War (1976-1983). She writes that the military junta was led by General Jorge Videla, “a devout Catholic, influenced by the ultra-conservative philosophy of Opus Dei, an international right-leaning (proto-fascist) Catholic organization.”

Fr. Josemaria Escriva founded Opus Dei in 1928. “The Work,” as it is sometimes referred to by its members, supported and grew along with clerical fascism in Spain.  “Internally, it is totalitarian and imbued with fascist ideas turned to religious purposes, ideas which were surely drawn from the Spain of its early years,” wrote ex-member John Roche, a professor at Oxford University in England, and quoted by investigative journalist Martin A. Lee in 1983.

However, the Argentine military junta was also influenced by Nazis via fascist Spain and the post-war Vatican-supported ratlines.


As early as 1943, the Vatican’s Msgr. Montini (later Pope Paul VI) participated in a Madrid-based group whose purpose was to help right-wing militaries joined with capitalist governments to seize power after World War II. At the time, “a number of large German companies had established branches in [officially neutral] Spain where they succeeded in cloaking their operations….The transfer of funds out of Germany to Spain became substantial.” (Michael Phayer, Pius XII, the Holocaust, and the Cold War (Indiana University Press, 2008)).

Juan Peron, who had trained under Mussolini, came to power in Argentina in the spring of 1943 assisted by Fifth Column activity organized by SS-Brigadeführer Walter Schellenberg. Many SS officers had right-wing financial and commercial interests – “the community of world money.” Their allegiance was not to the working-class Hitler, but to the elitist SS-Reichsführer Himmler. In 1946, the Archbishop of Freiburg told a U.S. military interrogator that he “considered the SS to be the most respectable of the Nazi Party organizations.” (Charles Higham American Swastik:The Shocking Story of Nazi Collaborators in Our Midst from 1933 to the Present Day (Doubleday, 1985))

“The Vatican, naturally, backed Peron completely.” (Phayer)

Another group meeting in Madrid had a “harebrained design for peace” with Pius XII playing a central role based on the idea the Allies would negotiate an end to the war before they gained a military victory. Spain, Portugal, Argentina and the Vatican together with Germany would be the nucleus of a bloc in a post-war political realignment. Schellenberg intended to use his close contacts in these countries to put out peace feelers. “In a meeting connected with this plot, Himmler told Juan Carlos Goyeneche, Peron’s confidential agent, to let Pope Pius know that he was ‘very approachable’ on religious matters. After discussions with Himmler, Goyenche orchestrated understandings with Vichy France, Hungary, Rumania, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, the purpose of which was to organize the Christian order of postwar Europe. Although the Argentines and Spaniards took the diplomatic lead, Schellenberg believed that the Vatican’s involvement was essential.” (Michael Phayer, The Catholic Church and the Holocaust, 1930–1965 (Indiana University Press, 2000)

“Spain became a haven for Nazi war criminals at the end of World War II in 1945, when many were drawn here by the protection offered by the government of Francisco Franco.”  With their massive amounts of stolen assets and investments in Spain, it is not impossible that at least some of the funding for that country’s prosperity and Opus Dei growth in the postwar period came from this source since they shared mutual goals.

Opus Dei was founded to attract the ambitious professional classes. They “targeted the intellectual elite, the well-to-do, and the socially prominent.” One meeting was described as “30 to 40 doctors and lawyers…the influential people of the city.”

Escrivá moved to Rome in 1946 and from there he travelled throughout Europe. In 1947, he received Pius XII’s approval for The Work. In 1950 the pope allowed married people and priests already ordained to join the Opus Dei religious order. Pius also gave his permission for membership by non-Catholic “associates.”

In Spain’s post-war economy, “the technocrats, many of whom were members of Opus Dei, were a new breed of politicians who replaced the old falangist guard.”  By the latter stages of the Franco regime, ten out of 19 cabinet officers belonged to or were closely allied with Opus Dei.


Many highly-placed German and Austrian officers were Knights of Malta, originally a group of European Catholic nobles and monarchists who banded together in the 19th century. In partnership with the Vatican, they tried to suppress the democratic and national unification movements which followed the French Revolution. During World War II, members were allied with Franco in Spain, the Vichy French, Italian fascists and the German-Austrian supporters of Hitler. (Penny Lernoux, The People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism (Viking, 1989)).

Per Phayer, Austrian Bishop Hudal’s ratline concentrated on assisting this group to escape post-war prosecution but others paid their way into the ratline. Using Archbishop Siri’s Genoese port connections, war criminals such as Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Franz Stangl, Alois Brunner and Walter Rauff sailed from Genoa to Barcelona and on to Buenos Aires. U.S. intelligence was able to trace support of Hudal’s operation to the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission of Assistance and expatriated Germans and Austrians in Argentina. “In his postwar memoir, Hudal bragged that he devoted all his charitable work after the war to helping fascists and ‘so-called war criminals’ in order to accomplish his long-time goal of the ‘marriage of Nazism and Catholicism.’”

Numerically, the largest ratline was operated by Vatican agent and Ustasha priest, Krunoslav Draganovic, and “reveals the direct involvement of Pope Pius XII himself,” according to Phayer. Draganovic had served as an army chaplain with the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Jasenovic concentration camp. Under Croatian president Ante Pavelic’s policy of “kill a third, deport a third, and convert a third” of the population, the Catholic Ustasha executed, tortured, starved, buried alive and burned to death 750,000 Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, Jews and Roma between 1941 and 1945 with the full knowledge of Pius XII. Nearly half of the 22 concentration camps in Croatia were headed by Roman Catholic clergy. The worst – and third largest concentration camp in Europe – was Jasenovic. Run by the Franciscan priest, Miroslav Filipovic, thousands were victims of “mass shootings, clubbings and decapitation.”  After the collapse of the Nazi-puppet Ustasha regime, Draganovic returned to his base in Rome where he established escape routes for Croatian war criminals.

“An American diplomat working in the Buenos Aires embassy wrote to the State Department deploring the fact that ‘the Vatican and Argentina [are conniving] to get guilty people to haven in latter country.’” (John Moors Cabot, June 11, 1947, cited by Phayer) “The Vatican was able to use deposits of stolen Nazi funds to finance these endeavors,” wrote Lee.  “It would have been perfectly possible to channel funds to escaped war criminals in South America from Vatican Swiss bank accounts through the branches of Sudameris” a South American bank in which the Vatican was heavily invested and “which in the eyes of the Allies was simply an Axis Bank.” (John F. Pollard, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

“Based on previously secret files in Brazil and Chile, investigators of the central war criminal authority in Germany estimated 9,000 war criminals escaped to South America, including Croatians, Ukrainians, Russians and western Europeans who aided the Nazi murder machine. Most, perhaps as many as 5,000, went to Argentina; between 1,500 and 2,000 are thought to have made it to Brazil; around 500 to 1,000 to Chile; and the rest to Paraguay and Uruguay. Of particular interest to the investigators were the passports provided by the Vatican.”

In 1950, Opus Dei established themselves in Argentina and Chile. “Escriva visited Chile in 1974, only months after Pinochet seized power, at a time when most international figures were staying well away. From Chile to Peru to Venezuela, allegations have followed Opus Dei, as it has recruited across South America, that its members have been senior participants in authoritarian coups and governments.”

“Raphael Rey, a right-wing former defense minister in Peru and numerary member of the Roman Catholic sect Opus Dei, is considered by many to be the main apologist for atrocities committed by military and police forces in Peru’s bloody internal war in the 1980s and 90s. In 2003, Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that 69,280 people were killed in those two decades, a figure Rey hotly disputes.”

“Some Jewish groups in Argentina saw a continued Nazi influence in the armed forces and the police long after the first Peron government. They claimed there was persistent anti-Semitism at an official level, and that neo-Nazi propaganda was rife. Speculation and myths about the extent of this influence – and the amounts of money transferred from Nazi Germany into German front companies in Argentina – grew with the years. Critics say…that the whole truth will never be known.”

(When Pope Ratzinger lifted the excommunication of the Society of St. Pius X order of priests in 2009, their Bishop Richard Williamson created an international firestorm by denying there were gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps and stating that “only” 300,000 Jews were killed by Nazi Germany. So Williamson returned to the Society’s seminary located near Buenos Aires where he had lived the previous six years.)

“The Nazi influence was very much a part of the [Dirty War]. Pictures of Hitler hung in torture chambers and the torturers sometimes played Hitler speeches while torturing. While Argentina had the largest concentration of Jews in Latin America, Argentine society, particularly the Church and the military, were bastions of anti-Semitism.”

The Dirty War was the result of:

A carefully orchestrated campaign by the conservative media, the support of the Argentine landowners and industrialists, and pressure from international financial circles creating an image of the generals as reasonable and honest men willing to shoulder the heavy burden of “saving” Argentina. The military, presenting itself as the defender of “tradition, family and property,” considered any criticism of its rule as a sign of anti-Argentine, subversive behavior….

The internal enemy was [declared] more dangerous than enemies from abroad because it threatened the fundamental Western and Christian values of Argentine society.

(Rita Arditti, Searching for Life: The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Disappeared Children of Argentina [University of California Press, 1999] The Mothers – now Grandmothers – of the Plaza de Mayo is an association of Argentine mothers created in 1977. They assembled every Thursday in the Plaza de Mayo to protest the crimes committed during the Dirty War to keep alive the memory of the desaparecidos, the “disappeared.”)

The Dirty War “shocked the conscience of the world. In the aftermath of a military coup, the junta and their hired killers disappeared an estimated 30,000 who never returned.” One website adds another “20,000 exiled, 14,000 political prisoners, over 500 stolen babies unlawfully appropriated – torn from the arms of their mothers, without compassion, 365 clandestine detention centers, 7 years of terror and silence.”

Scheper-Hughes writes about “the most heinous crimes against humanity committed by the generals and their henchmen.”

The Proceso de Reorganización (the military dictatorship’s name for the war) turned ordinary people into enemies of the state and waged a war through the process of limpieza, a political cleansing of dangerous and dirty elements, subversives, beginning with leftist guerrillas, those suspected of supporting the left, union leaders, university students, artists, writers, journalists, psychoanalysts, nuns and priests who lived and worked with the poor, and then going after the politically neutral, the unaligned, until finally the crazy generals went after the merely ‘indifferent’.

The tactics were ruthless: kidnappings in broad daylight, disappearances, interrogations, sadistically creative forms of torture, (abusing children in front of their parents, torturing wives in front of husbands) and murder, hundreds of the alleged 30,000 by means of drugging and dropping living bodies into the sea from planes and helicopters. The Dirty War created a culture of terror and a space of death that silenced the surviving and trembling majority and that made a mockery of the legal, judicial, commercial, and religious institutions, inviting them to be active co-conspirators in what could be called an ultra-orthodox Catholic jihad….

The meteoric rise to ecclesiastical power of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, began simultaneously with the rise of Videla in 1973, with Bergoglio’s appointment as Provincial, head of the Society of Jesus in Argentina. [Bergoglio] was a controversial and divisive religious leader who provoked a severe rift in the Society of Jesus between priests who were ready to challenge the dictatorship’s gross violations of basic human rights and those clerics, old and young, who followed their provincial leader’s attempts to distance themselves from politics. Words like ‘liberation’, ‘structural violence’, ‘conscientizaçao’ (the Brazilian key word signifying the awakening of a critical consciousness) were not acceptable and Bergoglio cautioned the Jesuits to reject the false theology of liberation, and to avoid contact with those who used the scriptures to politicize and empower the poor.

[While other Latin American] Jesuits arose as a strong presence in defending the political and human rights of peasants, indigenous peoples and the urban poor, under Jorge Mario’s leadership, the [Argentine] Society of Jesus, was shaped into a theological phalanx of the right-wing dictatorship.

“There were, in fact, deep divisions between the conservative Argentine Jesuit province and other Jesuit provinces in the West,” wrote Fr. Michael Campbell-Johnston who, in addition to being provincial of the British Jesuits during the time that Bergoglio was head of the Argentine Jesuits, had spent many years in El Salvador. Bergoglio “naturally defended the existing situation, though I tried to show him how it was out of step with our other social institutes on the continent. Our discussion was lengthy [but] we never reached an agreement.” Fr. Campbell-Johnston recalls that “at the time [when] there were an estimated 6,000 political prisoners in Argentina and another 20,000 people who had been ‘disappeared,’ our institute in Buenos Aires was able to function freely because it never criticized or opposed the government. As a result, there were justice issues it could not address or even mention. This was the topic I remembered discussing at length with Fr. Bergoglio.”


Then came the allegations concerning the former Jesuit Provincial’s ‘timid’ behavior toward the military dictatorship as Argentina veered into a state of total warfare….a social-political cleansing so fierce, so arbitrary, so ugly that some of military officials ordered to carry out the executions became ill and went to their priests for advice. Unfortunately, there were enough high ranking Catholic clerics who joined forces with the Dirty War warriors, to calm the doubts of the executioners, using Scriptural texts and Theological Reason.

Scheper-Hughes details “three standing accusations” against Bergoglio:

  • The first concerns Bergoglio’s privileged knowledge and his possible complicity in sanctioning the removal (i.e, confiscation) of babies from disappeared and detained political prisoners and their placement in “good” Christian, military households where they would be saved from the germ of the subversive Marxist thinking of their parents….
  • The second allegation concerns the Tribunal’s investigation of a military raid on a rural church during which three persons, two French missionary nuns and a lay catechist, and personal friend of Bergoglio were disappeared….
  • The third accusation, and the one that has received the greatest attention, concerns the role Bergoglio played in the disappearance, detention, interrogation and torture of two of his own Jesuit priests in training: Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics.

The Vatican “stepped in quickly [after Bergoglio’s election as pope] to deny the allegations as nothing more than ‘opportunistic defamations from anti-clerical leftists’ (New York Times).”

The pope’s supporters published a book, Bergoglio’s List: Those Saved by Pope Francis; Stories Never Told, about “the clandestine network set up by Fr. Bergoglio during Argetina’s Dirty War to save men and women in danger of arrest, torture and murder by the Argentinian Junta.” These are accounts made known after Bergoglio’s ascent to media superstardom.  

It is, however, a statement approved by Bergoglio in November 2012, just five months before he became internationally known, which confirms many of the “opportunistic defamations from anti-clerical leftists” against the pope.

Human rights activist Emilio Mignone’s book Witness to the Truth and investigative journalist and human rights activist Horatio Verbitsky’s book The Silence, among other reports, document the close alliance between the junta and Catholic Church and the active participation of hierarchs who knew about the torture and killing.

When General Jorge Videla was in prison (an Argentine court had sentenced him to 50 years for orchestrating the theft of babies born in captivity to women subsequently murdered by their military captors), he confirmed the “open collaboration of the Catholic Church in the Dirty War” during an interview made public in July 2012. Videla admitted that his “relationship with the Catholic Church was excellent, very friendly, honest and open.” Videla also explained, “We had to remove a large set of people who could not be brought to justice nor shot…Each disappearance can be understood as masking, the concealment of a death.” Videla said this was necessary to install a market economy. “[The hierarchs] advised us about the manner in which to deal with the situation [of the ‘disappeared],’” Videla said. He had “many conversations” with Cardinal Primate Raúl Francisco Primatesta and meetings with other leading prelates including Pope Paul VI’s nuncio to Argentina, Archbishop Pio Laghi.

After Videla’s interview was made public, Argentina’s bishops had little choice but to respond. When Bergoglio became coadjutor (with right of succession to) archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1997, the country’s capital and largest city, he became the most influential Catholic official in the country. He was elevated to cardinal primate (i.e. the sole cardinal in the country) in February 2001. Bergoglio served as president of the Argentine Bishops Conference (CEA) from 2005 to 2011 and thereafter remained an official member of their permanent governing body. Because he could veto or advance any position taken by the CEA, the response to Videla’s interview represents Bergoglio’s views.

Finally, in November 2012 the CEA issued the type of conditional apology favored by prelates regarding clerical sex abuse displaying a lack of genuine contrition – like Pope Francis’ recent apology for the sexual abuse committed by priests without acknowledging his own and other prelates’ responsibility for the global torture of hundreds of thousands of innocent children. (As Vatican reporter John L. Allen noted, Bergoglio is a “shrewd political operator” and “savvy tactician.”)

The CEA statement, Los Obispos de la República Argentina, 104º Asamblea Plenaria, 9 de noviembre de 2012, “acknowledged the Church’s failure to protect its flock during the 1970s.” The bishops admit on one hand “we have been, at various times in our history, tolerant of totalitarian attitudes.” But on the other hand, they absolve the Church from any guilt: “We have the word and testimony of our elder brothers, the bishops who preceded us about whom we cannot know how much they personally knew of what was happening. They tried to do everything in their power for the good of all, according to their conscience and considered judgment….”

The bishops wrote: “This is what is required: a determination to search for the truth, the recognition of that which is deplorable, the repentance of those who are guilty, and reparations made for the injustice and damages suffered.” But they refer to Videla’s charges that bishops were complicit as being “completely divorced from the truth of what the bishops were involved in at that time.”

“We know the suffering…because of state terrorism as we know of the death and devastation caused by guerrilla violence,” they stated.

Some Argentines responded that not only did the bishops wait far too long to apologize for the Church’s failures, but they also objected to their equating “guerilla violence” with the actions of the dictatorship as well as their self-righteous and inaccurate defense of the Church. The bishops “also have yet to identify those responsible for the many human rights violations that the Church was aware of at the time.” The activists are angry over the positions Bergoglio has taken in recent years. “Some say he’s been more concerned about preserving the Church’s image than providing evidence for Argentina’s many human rights trials.” “There’s hypocrisy here when it comes to the Church’s conduct, and with Bergoglio in particular,” said Estela de la Cuadra, daughter of founder of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. “There are trials of all kinds now, and Bergoglio systematically refuses to support them.”

The following month, in December 2012, a provincial tribunal denounced not only the “complicity” of the Church with the dictatorship but regretted that there also “remains…a reluctant attitude of Church authorities and even members of the clergy to solve the crimes now being judged.” In their ruling, the three judges stated: “Surely the members of God’s people, and the generality of Argentina society, expect from an institution of such importance as the Catholic Church more crisp and clear repudiations and who, in one way or another, allowed and consented to the commission of serious events such as those now judged.”

If Pope Francis wants to cooperate with the victims of the Dirty War, he can open the Vatican archives on Argentina during that period stated former judge Baltasar Garzon, advisor to the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina.

John Paul II, Opus Dei and Cardinal Angelo Sodano

Another indication of Bergoglio’s right-wing ideology is that he was promoted up the ecclesial career ladder to cardinal by Pope John Paul II even though it is rare for Jesuits to accept positions in the hierarchy because they do not view themselves as wielders of ecclesial power. Pope Wojtyla, “installed as pope by Opus Dei,” granted The Work freedom from control of any hierarch save the pope.

By this time, Opus Dei was “an efficient machine run to achieve worldly power.” (Lernoux)”Opus Dei pursues the Vatican’s agenda through the presence of its members in secular governments and institutions and through a vast array of academic, medical, and grassroots pursuits. Its constant effort to increase its presence in civil institutions of power is supported by growth in the organization as a whole: ….their work in the public sphere breaches the church-state division that is fundamental to modern democracy,” according to Gordon Urquhart, journalist and author of The Pope’s Armada: Unlocking the Secrets of Mysterious and Powerful New Sects in the Church(1995).

“As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, [Bergoglio] was in contact with various faithful of Opus Dei. He also is well acquainted with St. Josemaria. Some years ago, here in Rome he came to visit the sepulcher and stayed there praying for 45 minutes,” noted the current leader of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez. (Thanks to Sharon Wraight for this reference.) 

In July 2013, Pope Bergoglio ordered the beatification of 522 “martyrs of the faith” killed by republican militias in the build-up to and during the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War resulting in Franco’s victory. “More than 100 support groups for victims of Franco’s forces wrote an open letter to the pope calling on him to apologize for the Church’s role, which they said helped to legitimize ‘the military uprising and the Franco dictatorship that claimed so many victims.’… Critics of the Catholic Church argue that while it is happy to honor those killed by republicans, it has failed to address the far higher number of republicans who were murdered by Franco’s forces.” Or for that matter, the murder of thousands more Spaniards by Franco after the war ended.

Also in July, Bergoglio approved the beatification of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the second leader of Opus Dei.

In the past year, the pope has appointed men close to Opus Dei to the highest positions of power in the Church. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga has become the pope’s right-hand man, “some might say vice pope.” Australian Cardinal George Pell is head of the Secretariat of the Economy reporting directly to the pope. This position gives him control over all finance and staffing. German Cardinal Reinhard Marx is coordinator of the Council for the Economy which “is understood to be a body having the authority to act, and not a mere advisory body of the Secretariat of Economy.”

Wojtyla became pope in 1978, “as right-wing death squads were gaining momentum across Latin America.”  The first media super-star pontiff directed his Church’s resources, including his travel itinerary and personal appearances, in support of the butchers of hundreds of thousands.

Wojtyla was allied with the Reagan administration, the (now including wealthy Americans) Knights of Malta and Opus Dei to defeat the “anti-clerical leftists” in Latin America. “Of all the groups that were engaged in the U.S.-sponsored campaign against [adherents of] liberation theology, none played a more significant role than Opus Dei.”

The Argentines dominated the Latin American Anti-communist Confederation (CAL), the regional branch of the nefarious World Anti-Communist League. Its chairman, Argentine Suarez Mason, became one of Latin America’s chief drug traffickers. The September 1980 CAL conference approved the “Argentine solution” of death squads from Buenos Aires to Guatemala City to be financed in part through drug profits and in part, through the Vatican Bank. In total, the Vatican Bank guaranteed loans worth millions to finance bogus Latin American companies which supplied arms to Argentina.

As soon as Reagan won the 1980 election, Wojtyla transferred one of Videla’s co-conspirators, papal nuncio Archbishop Pio Laghi, to the Vatican’s Washington D.C. nunciature. Laghi became a tennis partner of former CIA director and vice president, George H.W. Bush, and a friend of the extended Bush family.

After his inauguration, “Reagan entered into a covert alliance with the Argentine junta. He ordered the CIA to collaborate with Dirty War experts in training the Contras, who were soon rampaging through towns in northern Nicaragua, raping women and dragging local officials into public squares for executions.” “The Vatican has refused to open its archives for any serious research into its relationship with the CIA and other Western intelligence services,” noted investigative journalist and author, Robert Parry.

Before leaving for Argentina on June 10, 1982, Wojtyla met with Reagan in Rome on June 7. During his time in Argentina, the pope refused to meet with human rights organizations and never referred to his Church’s complicity in the barbarity.

Wojtyla was advised on Latin American affairs by his Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, a ruthless agent of military dictatorships. During “an era in which the universal Church was constantly of core geopolitical importance,” Sodano led “John Paul II’s belligerent anti-communist crusade….With the struggle againt Liberation Theology as background, Sodano built a network of papal nuncios and bishops from which he exerted his influence over Latin America….There is a whole generation of nuncios, diplomats and bishops who owe their rise to Cardinal Sodano. The star of Jorge Mario Bergoglio starts rising in the 90s.”

When Sodano, as Dean of the College of Cardinals, celebrated the 2013 Mass which precedes the opening of a conclave, his homily could be viewed as a blueprint for Bergoglio’s papacy. “Sodano took note of the prevailing winds and anticipated the cardinals’ move. Sodano spoke of mercy and of reaching out to the peripheries of the world. Looking back, each word – and in the Vatican, nothing is accidental – seems to be a clear endorsement of Pope Francis’ views.”

After being pope for a month, Bergoglio appointed Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga as coordinator of a group of eight cardinals who would advise him on the governance of the Church. Rodríguez Maradiaga is “the leader of Opus Dei” in Honduras which “participated actively in the 2009 coup against the constitutional [and progressive] president, Manuel Zelaya. According to an investigation, active members of this clan are making intromissions in the Honduran national politics, despite Honduras being officially considered a secular country.” Rodríguez Maradiaga, “who has not denounced the violation to the constitution that the coup was, has instead blessed it.”

Bergoglio appointed Cardinal Pietro Parolin, described as a “protégé of,”  “raised by”  and “close to” Sodano, as his Secretary of State. 

The Current Church and State Alliance

21st century fascism [is bred by] a new transnational capitalist class (TCC)” responsible for “the appearance of novel relations of inequality and domination in global society.”

Wojtyla transformed the U.S. episcopate (often unnoticed because it took a couple of decades for the prior bishops to die or retire and be replaced) from men who had marched with civil rights leaders and opposed nuclear proliferation into champions of the U.S. plutocratic Republican Party. Bergoglio served the same function in Argentine politics, remaining a staunch and outspoken opponent of the progressive Kirschner governments.

Pope Bergoglio openly declared his political ideology when, during the press conference on the return flight from Brazil’s World Youth Day, he denounced “masonic lobbies.” “Masonic lobbies” is a decades-old conspiracy theory advanced by right-wing Catholics that “behind every Democrat, every liberal, every progressive” are secretive and cunning Masons who want to destroy the Church and rule the world.

The current institutional Church operates under the post-Constantinian form of alliance. The popes and prelates support and legitimize parties and governments of the corporatocracy who wish to impoverish the 99%. The plutocrats maintain the Church’s wealth and power. Even the Church-friendly Vatican Insider admitted that the U.S. Church gets its funding “particularly from the wealthy.”

As head of the Buenos Aires archdiocese, Bergoglio “transferred its funds to international banks such as HSBC and UBS,” two banks which have paid enormous fines for illegal operations. As pope, he has brought in members, consultants and advisors of the fascist “transnational capitalist class” to “reform” Vatican finances.

As George Weigel, a founding theocon of the Religious Right and head of one of the earliest neocon thinktanks, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told Chris Matthews the day Bergoglio became pope. “I spent an hour talking [vetting?] with Cardinal Bergoglio in Buenos Aires last May….That`s the thing that needs to be said here. He’s a John Paul II guy. This is a man very much formed by the pontificate of John Paul II, who loved him to pieces. And I think we`re going to see a little bit more of that in this pontificate as it goes forward.” (Thanks to Gerald Slevin for the tip about this interview. Please read his sensational blog, “Papal Circuses – Yes. Cardinals Trials – No. Why??”.)


Before he was gunned down in 1980 for opposing the Wojtyla/Reagan-backed El Salvador militia, Archbishop Oscar Romero said, “I have frequently been threatened with death. I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.”

When Ma Joad worried that Tom Joad would be killed “if all our folks got together and yelled” because “one guy [has] a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers [are] starvin’,” Joad replied, “Then it don’ matter. Then I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where – wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ – I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build, why, I’ll be there.” (John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath)


(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America (Clarity Press, 2009))


2 Responses

  1. These issues and what we can notice that the character and influence is not small.

  2. […] https://opentabernacle.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/a-holy-week-reflection-on-church-and-state-and-pope-f… […]

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