Hagiographies of Jorge Mario Bergoglio may soon obliterate what was written before the media created Pope Francis Superstar. This is an effort to preserve this information along with some background as to what took place during the Argentine dictatorship and why.
Bergoglio was head of the Argentine Jesuits from 1973 to 1979. The Latin American Catholic Church was in a period of transition. A conference of bishops meeting in Medellin, Colombia, had issued a statement calling on Catholics to support the poor not just with charity but also through activism to change the underlying political, social and cultural causes of poverty. It was called “Liberation” theology based on the work of theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez.
Bergoglio opposed the priests under his authority who joined “base communities” to support the oppressed and work for their liberation. When the superior general of the worldwide Society of Jesus, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, directed the members of his order to dedicate themselves to this movement, it put Bergoglio at odds with majority of Jesuits.
At the same time, extremely brutal military dictatorships – with the collaboration of the U.S., Popes Paul VI and John Paul II and their hierarchs – tortured and killed thousands upon thousands of those thought to be an opponent under the pretext of “anti-communism.” By granting Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, a member of the Argentine junta (1976-1983), an honorary doctorate from a Jesuit university, Bergoglio was signaling where he stood politically. After he was dismissed by Arrupe, for the next dozen years Bergoglio was assigned to low level positions within the Argentine Jesuits.
Although Jesuits vow to “never strive or ambition, not even indirectly, to be chosen or promoted to any prelacy or dignity in or outside the Society,” Bergoglio was chosen by John Paul II to be the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and elevated to cardinal.
In 2012, a former leader of the junta, General Jorge Videla, made a statement in front of a video camera acknowledging the active collaboration of the Argentine hierarchy in the Dirty War. The Argentine bishops, headed by their cardinal primate Bergoglio, responded by denying the truth of Videla’s declaration and equating the barbarity of the dictatorship, responsible for the torture and deaths of an estimated 30,000 Argentines, with the leftist guerrilla opposition.