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The Rise of Pope Francis


In 1990, there were 877 priests in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.

Typically, priests are selected for auxiliary bishop – the first rung up the hierarchical career ladder – from those who have distinguished themselves working for the (arch)diocese. For example, the new auxiliary bishop in Philadelphia had been coordinator and spiritual director of the archdiocesan seminary, an auditor and had served on three boards for the archdiocese in addition to heading five parishes

At the time he was chosen in 1992 as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was assigned to the Jesuit Church in the city of Córdoba, 435 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, and had never held a position working for the archdiocese.

Additionally, like all Jesuits, Bergoglio had vowed to “never strive for or ambition any prelacy or dignity outside the Society.”  He would become the only Jesuit to head the Buenos Aires archdiocese in its 400 year history and the only Jesuit pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church in Latin America

Since the time of the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores, prelates of the Church aligned with the mostly European-descent ruling class. However, in the early 1960s, the Latin American Episcopal Council, known by its Spanish acronym CELAM, helped push the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) toward a more progressive stance. At their 1968 conference in Medellin, Columbia, CELAM officially supported the liberation theology more fully developed by Gustavo Gutiérrez in A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation.

The final document produced at Medellin declared: “The Church – the People of God – will lend its support to the downtrodden of every social class so that they might come to know their rights and how to make use of them.” Liberation theology was falsely characterized as “Marxist” because Gutiérrez had written: “Poverty is not inevitable; collectively the poor can organize and facilitate social change.”

In 1975, Pope Paul VI set limits on liberation theology in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi.”   Under the guise of “anti-communism,” he supported the U.S.-backed military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay by appointing nuncios (ambassadors) and prelates who would collaborate – or at least cooperate – with the regimes.

Pope John Paul II ruthlessly tried to eradicate liberation theology. One theologian counts 104 other theologians removed from their positions by Pope Wojtyla and his head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and successor, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, for espousing these views. Wojtyla also appointed and promoted prelates who shared his opposition to liberation theology and aligned with  the dictators. He chose Cardinal Angelo Sodano as his Secretary of State. As nuncio to Chile, Sodano had supported the dictator, General Augusto Pinochet.

Opus Dei, at the top a secret society of international plutocrats (Hutchison, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei),  was also very influential during Wojtyla’s pontificate. Having helped elect him pope in 1978,  Wojtyla returned the favor by naming Opus Dei as a “personal prelature” in 1982, meaning the society was answerable to no prelate save the pope. Formed in Spain, Opus Dei “is felt with particular force in Latin America.”


Born in 1936, and after graduating as a chemical technician, Jorge Mario Bergoglio entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He made his perpetual vows in 1973 and was appointed provincial, or superior, of all Argentine Jesuits that same year, a remarkable achievement. “The previous provincial had moved swiftly to initiate Vatican II-inspired reforms, and some vocal discontented Jesuits succeeded in having him removed.”

While Bergoglio was provincial, the Jesuit publications were “full of articles against liberation theology.”

The superior general of the Jesuits, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, issued a decree in 1975 which “redefined the work of the Jesuits as supporting social justice.”  “Arrupe was very conscious of the fact that this decree would cause endless grief to Jesuits working in Latin America at this time when fascist dictatorships prevailed in the Southern cone and in Central America …  This [decree] led the Jesuits, especially in Latin America, to work in practical ways with the poor.” “As a result, more Jesuits were persecuted, tortured and forcibly disappeared in Latin America in the 1970s than priests from any other order.”

Michael Campbell-Johnston, provincial of the British Jesuits, had spent many years in El Salvador. He was assigned to make a critical visit to Argentina where there were internal Jesuit tensions about how to respond to the Dirty War (1976-83) waged by a military junta against anyone even suspected of being leftist. Campbell-Johnston recounts how he met with Fr. Bergoglio in 1977.

“At the time,” Fr. Campbell-Johnston says, “there were an estimated 6,000 political prisoners in Argentina and another 20,000 desaparecidos, people who had been ‘disappeared’.” In some countries, the Jesuit social institutes were forced to act underground and in secrecy, he writes, “but…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. He 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.”

On November 25, 1977, the Jesuit Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires awarded an honorary doctorate to a member of the junta, Admiral Emilio Massera. It was “inexcusable” for Bergoglio to honor Massera, head of ESMA (School of Mechanics of the Navy) where “thousands of young Argentines were tortured and murdered in a reproduction of Auschwitz,” Roberto Pizarro, Dean of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Chile and rector of University Academy of Christian Humanism wrote. For Bergoglio to have “cultivated a relationship” with Massera is a “stain” on his record for which “Argentines, the Jesuits and the two hundred billion Catholic in the world deserve an explanation,” declared Pizarro.

Arrupe removed Bergoglio as provincial in 1979.

When Arrupe suffered a debilitating stroke in 1981 (some attributed this to Wojtyla’s persecution of the Jesuits), he was forced to resign. “The purge of the Society of Jesus fairly converged with the elevation by John Paul II … of Opus Dei to the rank of a ‘personal prelature.’” (Szulc, Pope John Paul II) All succeeding superior generals have been appointed by Wojtyla or Ratzinger.

A reliable Vatican reporter wrote that the thirteen years after his dismissal as provincial is “a vacuum in Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s biography. The Province of the Company of Jesus exiled him to Germany. Arrupe was one of the strongest adversaries of Bergoglio within the Jesuits.”  Another noted: “Little is known about …the real motivations that led to his subsequent marginalization until his exile in the peripheral Jesuit residence of Córdoba as a simple spiritual director.”

Sodano was Wojtyla’s secretary of state from 1991 when “the star of Jorge Mario Bergoglio starts rising” from “anonymity.” Sodano “exerted his influence over Latin America. With the struggle against liberation theology as background, Sodano built a network of papal nuncios and bishops.”

In 1992, Bergoglio was appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires.


All bishops are officially appointed by the pope but, with over 5000 prelates worldwide, he must rely on the advice of his trusted advisers in the Vatican, in the local Church and his nuncios. In Latin America, not only did Sodano “wield immense power over appointments of bishops” but also Wojtyla made episcopal appointments which “almost disregarded the wishes of the local Churches,” according to another observer. The official Vatican biography states, “It was Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who wanted Fr. Bergoglio as a close collaborator.”

Years later, Bergoglio said “his greatest intellectual influence and the bridge by which he came to Quarracino” was the Uruguayan historian, philosopher and theologian Alberto Methol Ferre. Methol had referred to the exponents of liberation theology as “solemn jackasses.”

By the mid-1980s, Quarracino had become the “visible head of the conservative sector of the Church” in Argentina. He wrote a book of collected testimonies from the founder of Opus Dei. He was appointed archbishop of La Plata in 1985 and five years later took office in Buenos Aires.

“In the political world he was considered close to President Menem.”  Like Menem, Quarracino supported an end to all investigations of the crimes of the Dirty War.


In appointing and promoting prelates, sometimes popes  confer with the civil government for political reasons and/or by treaty.

Carlos Menem, president from 1989-99, “cultivated a strong relationship with the Vatican during his ten years in office. He made strenuous efforts to strengthen that link.” (also here)

Menem “decisively influenced” Quarracino’s elevation to cardinal in 1990. The president boasted that he discussed “all the leaders of the Church” with Wojtyla.

Menem was very close to Wojtyla meeting with him six times while holding office. “The duration of these interviews became a demonstration of the importance that John Paul II gave to Menem’s visits … During his two consecutive terms, the Holy See always occupied a privileged place in Menem’s foreign policy.” In international forums, the president always aligned with the Church’s position against women’s reproductive rights.

Menem gave key positions in his government to Opus Dei members who imposed policies “pleasing to Catholic fundamentalists.”  (also here)

The president kept close ties to the pope’s Secretary of State Cardinal Sodano  through his ambassador to the Holy See, Esteban Caselli, a “close personal friend” of Sodano.  Menem, Caselli and Sodano would all intercede on behalf of Pinochet  when the former Chilean dictator was arrested in London in 1998 by request of Spain which accused the general of committing atrocities against Spanish citizens during his 1973-1983 dictatorship.

Menem “pardoned every war criminal who had been convicted and many who were facing trial.” That included General Jorge Videla and Admiral Emilio Massera who “were sentenced in 1985 to life in prison for killings, tortures and illegal arrests while the military was in power.”  Menem claimed he had consulted with Wojtyla before pardoning the leaders and the pope had told him it would help “the pacification of Argentina.”

After leaving office, Menem “was convicted at different trials for embezzlement, corruption, and arms smuggling.”

Archbishop Bergoglio

When a pope wants to guarantee his choice of successor to an (arch)bishop, he appoints a “coadjutor” bishop who has the right of succession upon the death or removal of the head of the (arch)diocese. Quarracino was ill and Bergoglio was appointed coadjutor in 1997.

Three other Argentine prelates had been mentioned as probable successors to Quarracino. “Few thought that the pope would opt for a man so close to Quarrachino as Jorge Bergoglio. [But] from a closer perspective to the political assessments, in the appointment of Bergoglio the pope produces a gesture of full support for Quarracino in whom is embodied a doctrinaire vision closer to traditional Catholic thought.”

Quarraccino died on February 28, 1998, and Bergoglio became archbishop of Buenos Aires and primate of all Argentina.

“As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, [Bergoglio] was in contact with various faithful of Opus Dei. He also is well acquainted with [the founder of Opus Dei] St. Josemaria. Some years ago, here in Rome he came to visit the sepulcher and stayed there praying for 45 minutes,” noted the current head of the prelature, Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, who twice had private meetings with Pope Francis within the first months of his pontificate.

In several Latin American countries where Catholicism is the official religion, major national holidays are celebrated in cathedrals with the Te Deum, a hymn of thanksgiving.  In the May 1998 celebration, Bergoglio presided and Menem and all the members of his cabinet attended. On the same day in Rome, Sodano celebrated mass in an Argentine church with Ambassador Caselli present, seen “as the reaffirmation of the excellent relations between the Vatican and the government of Carlos Menem.”

Cardinal Bergoglio

Bergoglio was elevated to cardinal in February 2001 by John Paul II. He vowed, among other things, as do all cardinals: “I shall try in every way to assert, uphold, preserve, increase and promote the rights, even temporal, the liberty, honor, privileges and authority of the Holy Roman Church of our Lord, the Pope and his successors.”

Nestor Kirchner was elected president in 2003. He was succeeded by his wife, Cristina Fernandez in 2007. Nestor died suddenly in October of 2010.  Cristina stood for reelection in 2011 and won. By law, she could not run again in 2015.

Like his American confreres who used “moral issues” to oppose progressive government, Bergoglio “clashed with the Kirchner administration sharply over issues of abortion, contraception and sex education.”  Kirchner called Bergoglio the “spiritual head of the political opposition” and also “castigated the Church for its willingness to accommodate the military regime during the 1970s and early 1980s.”

In 2005, the president announced that he would not attend the Te Deum held each May in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. “Months later, Bergoglio’s spokesman announced that ‘there is no relationship between the Church and the government.’” When Fernandez was president, she attended the Te Deum in cathedrals in other cities.

Fernandez’ relationship with Bergoglio was “strained due to her support for same-sex marriage and the leftism of her administration.” A week before the vote on legislation approving same-sex marriage, Bergoglio wrote a pastoral letter “harshly criticizing the initiative.” The legislation was a “’move’ by the father of lies [Satan] meant to confuse and deceive the children of God,” he wrote.

In 2012, when the Fernandez administration “pushed for mandatory sex education in schools, free distribution of contraceptives in public hospitals, and the right for transsexuals to change their official identities on demand,” Bergoglio accused the president of “demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power.”

Bergoglio’s Testimony

On April 17, 2005, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio “mentioned as a possible contender to become pope, accusing him of involvement in the 1976 kidnappings of two priests … The accusations against Bergoglio, 68, are detailed in a recent book by Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky.” Bergoglio’s spokesman called the allegation “old slander.”

The court failed to indict Bergoglio but there has been speculation whether Verbitsky’s book, The Silence: From Paul VI to Bergoglio: The Secret Relations Between the Church and the ESMA, affected the outcome of the conclave which elected Joseph Ratzinger pope on April 19, 2005. Bergoglio came in second.

Francesca Ambrogetti had presented her proposal for a book of conversations with him to the cardinal. “Bergoglio kept the proposal in his desk drawer for a long time. Then, after the 2005 conclave, he gave us the go-ahead and brought us a large folder with all his speeches and homilies, asking us to use them as material,” Ambrogetti said. She was able to convince Bergoglio to include interviews.  The book, The Jesuit: Conversations with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, was released in 2010. Bergoglio defended himself against the accusation that he was involved in the kidnappings.

Bergoglio’s “involvement” in the abduction and torture of the Jesuit priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, was first published by 1986. Witness to the Truth: The Complicity of Church and Dictatorship in Argentina by Emilio F. Mignone “exposes the ‘sinister complicity’ between the Church and the military who ‘did the dirty work of cleaning up the inside of the Church with the acquiescence of the priests.’” That is, during the collusion between the Church and the junta, bishops and superiors of religious orders were able to protect some priests and religious men and women (brothers and sisters) from being kidnapped, tortured and murdered. To rid themselves of “leftist” clergy and religious, the officials would remove their protection. At the time, high-ranking churchmen considered anyone working with the poor to be an adherent of liberation theology and a “leftist.”

Mignone’s daughter, Monica Maria, was “disappeard” along with seven other young pastoral workers by Navy commandos from the Buenos Aires shantytown known as Bajo Flores in May 1976. They had been working alongside Yorio and Jalics who were taken a week later but were later released after being tortured.

 A devout Catholic and leader among the laity, Mignone spent the next ten years searching for news about his daughter and why and how this had happened. His findings were published in his book.

By agreement with the government, priests were “licensed.” “A week before the arrest of the two priests, Archbishop Juan Carlos Aramburu had withdrawn their ministerial licenses without reason or explanation. Because of various expressions heard by Yorio in captivity, it was clear to him that the Navy interpreted Aramburu’s decision and, perhaps, some criticism from his provincial, Jorge Bergoglio, as an authorization to take action against him. Most certainly, the military had warned both Aramburu and Bergoglio of the supposed danger that Yorio posed,” according to Mignone. He thought Bergoglio’s criticism “served as part of the basis for the arrest, imprisonment and torture of the Jesuit priests.”

After taking office, Kirchner made it a government priority to pursue justice for human rights abuses committed during the Dirty War.

The following took place during the criminal trials of eighteen officers who had worked at ESMA:

Attorney Luis Zamora requested Cardinal Bergoglio’s statement after testimony before the court on 23rd September [2010] by María Elena Funes, a former detainee of ESMA [and a lay volunteer who had been kidnapped along with Yorio and Jalics and, like them, was later released]. 

Her statement informed the court that [they] were abducted on 20th May 1976 after Bergoglio removed their religious licenses to preach in Bajo Flores as well as their protection….

Cardinal Bergoglio was called as a witness by the court….

Bergoglio used his option as an “official dignitary” to refuse to testify in public. Instead, his testimony was given “in his office in the Metropolitan Curia adjacent to the cathedral.”

On Nov. 10, Bergoglio “told the judges he tried to protect the priests Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics and met twice with the former president of the military dictatorship, Jorge Videla, and two other times with the late Admiral Emilio Massera, with whom he spoke harshly, to ask them to release the priests.” Zamora said, “He was evasive. Bergoglio was not a collaborator of justice.” Furthermore, “he had 34 years to testify and did not.”

Part of the Bergoglio’s testimony follows: (Z Zamoro, B Bergoglio)

Z– Do any records exist in some archive of the Catholic Church?

B– I suppose so, but I don’t know for sure.

Z– Are those files under your control?

B– The central archive of the CEA [Conference of Argentine Bishops] is under the control of the CEA.

Z- And who supervises the CEA?

B– I do.

Z– So, could you locate it [the file]?

B– I can look for it, but not sure I can find it.

A description of the testimony can be read in English here.  A video of Bergoglio’s testimony in Spanish is here.

Bergoglio was asked to testify a second time on September 26, 2011, about the junta’s “systematic plan of appropriation of children of the disappeared,” specifically about the case of Elena de la Cuadra, who “disappeared” at ESMA. Again, Bergoglio requested the privilege of being able to testify from his own office.

The five-month pregnant Elena was kidnapped in 1977 and her father went to see Bergoglio twice asking for help. The Jesuit referred him to the Archbishop of La Plata, Mario Picchi. “Months passed before the [archbishop] came back with a written note from a colonel: It revealed that the woman had given birth in captivity to a girl who was given to a family ‘too important’ for the adoption to be reversed.”

Part of Bergoglio’s testimony follows: (I Investigator, B Bergoglio)

I – When did you learn that children were being confiscated during the dictatorship?

B – Recently … Ah, recently, some ten years ago.

I – Would that be around the year 199X?? [sic]

B – Maybe sometime around the time of the Trial of the Juntas.

I – A bit earlier then.

B – A bit earlier. Around that time, more or less, I started to find out about that.

I – … I would like to conclude by asking that we come to an agreement on the manner in which the tribunal can gain access to this valuable documentation, as it is public knowledge and widely known that the Church has much of the documentation. This is apparent in record of evidence given in various testimonies, including testimonies that have been heard here in this trial. So, before finishing this hearing, we need to come to an agreement and a determination of the most expeditious manner by which the tribunal can gain access to all of that valuable archival documentation.

President [of the Tribunal]- Ask for it, Doctor.

I – I’m wondering if there will be an agreed upon way we can find and get to see this documentation.

President – So the question is whether the gentleman testifying will permit a review of the [Church] files.

B -Yes, I have no problem with that. I will instruct the custodians of the archives to do so. In fact, we have received documentation requests regarding other trials on the same topic, and we sent what we had, whatever we had.

Bergoglio’s response that he only knew about the stolen children “around the Trial of the Juntas” (1986) was “surprising” because the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who gathered weekly in the Buena Aires plaza in front of the cathedral to demand the return of the “disappeared” children, had been active since 1977.

Neither Bergoglio nor the CEA provided any documents.

Mignone died in 1998; Yorio in 2000. Yorio’s siblings, Graciela and Rodolfo, repeated their brother’s accusation that Bergoglio had given a “green light” to their abduction as did Jalics’ siblings. Another priest present at the time, Juan Luis Moyano Walker,  confirmed that Bergoglio did not protect his priests. Jalics issued a statement that Bergoglio had not turned them over to the military, but he was silent as to whether Bergoglio had facilitated their abduction.  The only person actually present at the time who confirmed Bergoglio’s testimony as true was Alicia Olveira, a personal friend.

A series of interviews with the former junta leader, General Jorge Videla, were published in July 2012. He confirmed “he kept the country’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of  ‘disappearing’ political opponents, and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to ‘manage’ the policy.”

Church leaders had little choice but to respond. As cardinal primate, Bergoglio would have approved such an important declaration. The statement, Los Obispos de la República Argentina, 104º Asamblea Plenaria, 9 de noviembre de 2012, absolved the Church: “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.” Videla’s statement was “completely divorced from the truth of what the bishops were involved in at that time.” They also equated the “suffering” from “state terrorism” with “the death and devastation caused by guerrilla violence,” referencing the quickly-crushed left-wing opposition. The bishops conclude: “For our part, we have cooperated with the law when we have been asked for information which we have. In addition, we encourage those with information on the whereabouts of stolen children or know clandestine burial sites, to recognize their moral obligation to go to the relevant authorities.”

Pope Francis

Not one Vatican reporter predicted Cardinal Bergoglio would be elected pope in March 2013. “‘He was always in the background, mostly because of his age,’ one cardinal said. Another said in those informal [pre-conclave] talks, Bergoglio’s profile as a Jesuit known for resisting the liberalizing currents in Latin America during the 1970s was a selling point.”

When the initial reporting about the new pontiff questioned his cooperation with the junta, the Vatican press office issued a statement that the “accusations” came from “left-wing anticlerical elements to attack the Church.”

Argentines and Latin Americans also weighed in on Bergoglio’s politics.

Of the 21 nations in Latin America, 14 were governed by left-leaning parties at the time of Bergoglio’s election. Argentine historian Ernesto Semán said that the election of this “very conservative cardinal from the region might help bolster forces that are opposed to continuing this enormous change [to left-leaning governments] that’s occurring in Latin America.”

“In Argentina and on the continent, the right-wing sectors, both political and religious, will be strengthened. They’re already celebrating,” wrote Fr. Nicolás Alessio, a priest and theologian who was defrocked while Bergoglio was primate because he supported Argentina’s marriage equality law.

“Today the media are building this image of him as the humble pope,” said Andrea D’Atri, founder of the feminist organization, Bread and Roses. “In Argentina, his naming as pope has been received with the warmest enthusiasm by the rightist opposition.”

“His personal austerity, without question, has always coexisted with a strong and sustained pursuit of power, first in his religious order, then in Argentina and now the universal Church. Bergoglio is a strategist and politician,” noted Oscar Chamber, a professor at the Center for Salesian Studies in Buenos Aires and the Franciscan Theological Institute.

Brazilian Catholic nun, philosopher, and feminist theologian, Ivone Gebara:

The Catholic press does not mention his well-known criticism of liberation theology or his disdain for feminist theology….

The See of Peter and the Vatican State are positioning their pieces in the world game of chess in order to empower political projects championed by the North and its allies in the South … part of a global power project in which the forces of order are seen as being threatened by the social and cultural revolutions underway in today’s world….

[Bergoglio] will help balance the forces in the world chess game, which have been displaced a good deal in recent years by left-leaning governments in Latin America and by the struggles of many movements….

To go out into the streets and give food to the poor and pray with prisoners is somewhat humanitarian, but it does not solve the problem of social exclusion that afflicts many of the world’s countries.

Bernardo Baranco, Mexican sociologist and journalist:

The election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope raised eyebrows even in his own Society of Jesus, because for the first time in history the leader of the Catholic Church is a Jesuit…. [There are no Jesuits among the 115 cardinals eligible to vote in the next conclave.]

Assumptions should not be made about the pope because he is a Jesuit since they now have the most diverse theological and social thought and philosophical currents as exists in the secular reality….

Bergoglio is as ideologically conservative as most cardinals created by 35 years of the duo John Paul / Benedict XVI….

Some Jesuits say quietly that Bergoglio, despite being a Jesuit, is closer ideologically to Opus Dei.

Pope Francis chose Archbishop (later Cardinal) Pietro Parolin as his secretary of state. Parolin is described as a “protégé of,”  “raised by”  and “close to”  Sodano by various Vatican insiders. Pope Francis further increased Parolin’s power by appointing him to the supervisory commission of the Vatican Bank and to the important Vatican departments for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples and for the Oriental [i.e. non-Roman] Churches as well as making him a member of his Council of Cardinals.

In 2015, after Chileans protested Pope Francis’ appointment of a bishop due to his covering up dozens of clerical sexual abuse cases, the pope called them “lefties.”

Council of Cardinals

One month after his election, Bergoglio appointed a Council of Cardinals to “assist him in governing the Church.”

He chose Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, to head this council.  As “head of Opus Dei,” Rodriguez “participated actively” in the coup that overthrew the constitutional and progressive Pres. Manuel Zelaya in 2009, plunging that country into indescribable violence and poverty.

The cardinal was condemned by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who charged that Rodriguez was “an accomplice of the military dictatorship” during the coup. “You cannot be against your people and allow violence and repression in the name of supposed safety and law and the committing of serious human rights violations,” Pérez wrote.

Rodriquez has become the pope’s right-hand man, “some might say vice pope.” Rodriguez is “Francis’ point man on overhauling the papal bureaucracy.”

The pope also chose Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa for his group of top advisers. When Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998, Errazuriz said the arrest of Pinochet was a barbarity, British justice was defective and the British themselves uncivilized. (O’Shaughnessy, Pinochet: The Politics of Torture) Errazuriz “criticized human rights lawsuits in Chile against Pinochet and other officials of the former regime” as “detrimental to reconciliation and social peace.”

Other members of the Council of Cardinals include:

Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello is the only Vatican official in the group. He was nuncio to Rwanda from 1991-1995, including the 1994 genocide. The Catholic Church “was the only institution involved in all the stages of genocide [that] took more than a million lives in just a hundred days … There is no doubt that throughout the history of Rwanda, Church leaders have had ties with political power. The Church was also involved in the policy of ethnic division, which degenerated into ethnic hatred,” wrote Ndahiro Tom, a Rwandan human rights commissioner.

Australian Cardinal George Pell invited Opus Dei to become established in Melbourne in 1996 and then in Sydney after becoming archbishop of that city in 2001. “Opus Dei’s star is on the rise,” a religious affairs columnist wrote in January 2002. The reporter saw “signs of a new elitism … there is a highly select ‘in’ crowd around Pell.”

The former conservative PM, Tony Abbott, is “heavily influenced by Cardinal Pell” and regards him as his spiritual advisor.   The week before Bergoglio appointed Pell to his council, the cardinal attended a “Gala Dinner of the ultra conservative Institute of Public Affairs” where “the guest of honor and keynote speaker was Rupert Murdoch,” owner of Fox News.

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley has been in the forefront of the U.S. bishops’ attacks against Obamacare  although the cardinal led no campaign against Romneycare which provided insurance coverage for abortion as well as contraception. “Romney was a better friend to the Catholic Church than any other Massachusetts governor in decades,” declared O’Malley.

The Boston cardinal is a faithful supporter of Opus Dei, sponsoring  the canonization of the priest who “established an Opus Dei presence among students and professors at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology” between 1946 and 1956. O’Malley celebrates special masses honoring Opus Dei founder, Fr. Josemaria Escriva.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, was the invited speaker for 300 guests of Opus Dei held in the Deutsche Bank. Like O’Malley, Marx has presided at masses celebrating  Escrivá, and visited one of the worldwide network of Opus Dei centers for university students.

Plutocrats in the Vatican

Bergoglio promoted Pell to be prefect of his newly created Secretariat for the Economy and Marx as head of his Council on the Economy.

The pope appointed Opus Dei Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Peru as a member of this council. “Opus Dei has had fundamental importance by its direct involvement in the dirty business of Pres. Alberto Fujimori (1990 – 2000) and his lieutenant, Vladimiro Montesinos, both convicted and imprisoned on charges of corruption and other crimes in the country.”

Cipriani, the head of Opus Dei in Peru, was close to Fujimori and has been called “a representative of Catholic totalitarianism that allied itself with the delinquent dictatorship of Fujimori. He kept quiet about massacres and massive crimes.”

“Under his leadership, the Archdiocese of Lima became an investor in the stocks of one of the most controversial mining companies which sparked the mobilization of large-scale environmental social movement in the country … ‘We have never heard him defending a community that is confronting a mine or a company for pollution. His voice is not on the side of indigenous peoples or farming communities.’ [Cipriani] has a record of condemning LGBT, women and environmental activists.”

On May 12, 2016, Vatican Bank (or IOR, the Italian acronym for Institute of Religious Works) President Jean-Baptiste de Franssu, “expressed his regret for the IOR’s investments in fossil fuel companies, saying when [the financial markets rise again] investments will have to be made in companies that do not go against the pope’s teaching.” The IOR had presented its financial report for the 2015 fiscal year. Equity assets were 670.3 million euro and the profit was 16.5 million euro.

In 2013, Pope Francis appointed numerous laymen and hired 6 international corporations as consultants to help him manage his treasury. The firms are known for helping their clients with the “adept circumvention of regulations,” “increasing CEO pay” by “cost cutting and layoffs,” “misstating financial records before the investment bank’s collapse triggered a financial crisis in 2008,” “facilitating” the Great Recession and “gouging U.S. consumers.”

With Bergoglio in office, Banco Santander will “have a presence that is going to mean a new leading role in the Vatican.” Banco Santander is owned by the Botin family, “close to Opus Dei.” 

The pope appointed Peter Sutherland, Irish “master of the universe,” as an adviser to APSA. (The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See manages most of the estimated 15-17 billion euros in investments, commercial real estate and bank accounts owned by the Vatican.)  Sutherland is managing director and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, advisory director of Goldman Sachs Group, former chairman of BP Oil and European chairman of the Trilateral Commission. He is also on the advisory board of IESE Opus Dei‘s  flagship graduate business school.

Members of the laity appointed by Bergoglio to his Council for the Economy include:

George Yeo, former finance minister of Singapore and a Brigadier-General in the Singapore Armed Forces. Yeo is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the Hong Kong Economic Development Commission and the advisory board of IESE.

John F. Kyle retired in 2008 as vice president and treasurer of  Imperial Oil Ltd., Exxon Mobil’s Canadian subsidiary.

Pope Francis added the following laity to the board of the Vatican Bank:

Mary Ann Glendon, awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Navarre, founded in 1952 by Escrivá. Glendon was one of Mitt Romney’s advisers.

Mauricio Larrain is external director of Santander Bank Group Chile and general director of Opus Dei’s ESE Business School at Los Andes University of Chile.

Sir Michael Hintze is a hedge fund tycoon, top British Conservative party donor, and former Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse proprietary trader.

Making Saints

In the same announcement, Pope Francis recognized three priests killed in Peru by a communist guerilla group opposed to Fujimori and Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, as “martyrs of the faith” paving the way for their beatifications.  A practitioner of liberation theology, Romero was assassinated by a right-wing death squad in 1980. He is the only person who died at the hands of a right-wing movement or government so honored by the Catholic Church.

Romero has been “rehabilitated” by the Francis regime. Romero “did not want to know about liberation theology,” according to his former secretary, Msgr. Jesus Delgado. It was “those on the left” who “sentenced him to death,” he stated. Romero was close to Opus Dei, met with Escriva several times, exchanged letters with him and spent the morning of the day he was killed with his Opus Dei friends, Delgado claimed. His beatification ceremony in May 2015 was organized by Opus Dei. Six months later, Delgado was suspended by the current archbishop of El Salvador after admitting he sexually abused a girl from the age of 9 to 17 during the 1980s.

Pope Francis also approved the beatification of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, Escriva’s “best support, and a most faithful collaborator of John Paul II.” He canonized Fr. Junipero Serra whose “pious hope to convert pagan Indians into Catholic Spaniards resulted not only in the physical punishment of countless Indians, but in the death of tens of thousands of them—and, ultimately, in the eradication of their culture.”

“Holy Father, when are you going to go to Argentina?”

Pope Bergoglio promised he would produce the documents mentioned in his 2010 and 2011 testimony in April 2013April 2015, and March 2016. This last time, a Vatican spokesman said that first the records needed to be studied and agreement reached with the Argentine Bishops Conference. Then they would be released only by “specific legal questions requested by rogatory [a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance] or matters of a humanitarian nature.”

John Paul II returned to Poland, in spite of the iron curtain dividing Europe at the time, after less than eight months of pontificate.
Benedict XVI went to Germany only four months after his election to the See of Peter. It was a practically obligatory voyage, on account of World Youth Day in Cologne. In any case, after a year and a half pope Joseph Ratzinger made a visit to his birthplace, Bavaria.

On Feb. 18, 2016, a reporter asked: “Holy Father, when are you going to go to Argentina?” Bergoglio responded: “China. (laughs) To go there. I would love that. I would like to say something just about the Mexican people …”


(My thanks to Fr. Eric Hodgens for the title and idea for this blog.)

(Betty Clermont is author of The NeoCatholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America)





3 Responses

  1. Important to review, renew Bogoglio’s Argentine history. I’m sure he’d wish it totally buried. It needs resurrection. Fortunately, as pope Francis his popularity is on the wane as more details emerge for public scrutiny. He is entrenched with the political right. That was caught when he let slip a reference to the situation in Chile of Catholics protesting the bishop with a tainted past in the pedophilia scandal as “lefties.”
    And important in the article is identification with the power people Francis surrounds himself with and places in positions of power.
    I appreciated the reference Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello is the only Vatican official in the group, nuncio to Rwanda from 1991-1995, including the 1994 genocide. The Catholic Church “was the only institution involved in all the stages of genocide [that] took more than a million lives in just a hundred days …(though most account I’ve read claim 800,000 lives).
    The role of the Roman Church in Rwanda has little public attention. It is as shameful as the Roman Church’s role in Nazi Germany.

    • As always, thanks for taking the time to make a thoughtful response. I learn so much from you and take your comments to heart as to how I can do better.

  2. Thank you for this well-documented and important report. It answers many questions and raises so many more.

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