"How I would like a Church that is poor and for the poor," Pope Francis told about 5,000 journalists on March 16. What he means is “paternalistic handouts that are equated with evangelization. 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,” wrote Brazilian theologian, Ivone Gebara. Nor does it solve the problem of governments which create poverty and injustice.
Mainstream and Catholic media are assuring us that the election of the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, signals a change in the Catholic Church. The change is in image, not substance.
Conscience of the growing comprehension that the Church is of, by and for the plutocracy, the cardinals elected Bergoglio because he projects an image of humility and simplicity. But like the Republican Party’s goal to change its appearance without amending its platform, the cardinals voted for a man who can put a kinder, gentler face on the Church while continuing to support their benefactors’ objectives.
Other famous Catholics have similarly hoodwinked the press and public. The new pope has much in common with media darlings Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Mother Teresa and the super-star of deception, Pope John Paul II.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley
In the run-up to this past conclave, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley was considered to be on the short list of papal candidates. He is also highly praised as a simple, humble man who cares for the poor. Both he and Bergoglio traded ecclesial palaces for modest apartments. Both eschew the bejeweled miters and sumptuous vestments of other princes of the Church.
Argentine and Boston Catholics, however, are unimpressed. “While 76 percent of Argentines call themselves Catholic today, only about 10 percent are practicing.” “Today fewer than 16 percent of Boston’s 1.8 million Catholics attend Mass weekly.”
The drop off in Boston cannot be attributed solely to the reign of Cardinal Bernard Law, famously run out of town in 2002 for aiding and abetting over a hundred priests who were known pedophiles. O’Malley replaced him in 2003 and “according to other statistics published by the Boston Archdiocese…between 2006 and 2012, Mass attendance dropped from 280,000 to 245,000 – a 12.5 percent drop in just the past 5-6 years.”
O’Malley is widely praised for cleaning up Law’s mess but “a close look at the cardinal reveals a career-long pattern of resisting disclosure of information, reinstating priests of dubious suitability, and negotiating mass settlements that are among the least generous in the history of the crisis.”
To Bergoglio’s credit, he has no record of covering up abuse and eventually came around to instructing all bishops to report sexual abuse to the police. But he has refused to meet with victims of clerical crimes and refused them compensation.
The pope protected Fr. Julio Cesar Grassi, a convicted sex offender. “Grassi was not expelled from the priesthood after the guilty verdict. Instead, Church officials led by Bergoglio commissioned a lengthy private report arguing that Grassi was innocent.”
During most of the 14 years that Bergoglio served as archbishop of Buenos Aires, rights advocates say, he did not take decisive action to protect children or act swiftly when molestation charges surfaced; nor did he extend apologies to the victims of abusive priests after their misconduct came to light.Bergoglio also protected "a military chaplain who suggested openly that, because of his progressive views on contraception, the Minister of Health of the current government should be ‘thrown into the sea,’” a method of murder infamously used by the Argentine military junta (1976-1983). Opponents were thrown out of planes and helicopters into the ocean.
The government demanded the chaplain’s resignation. Bergoglio, however, refused to comply. His preferred course of action was to wait for the priest to retire when his time came, thus demonstrating a "hands off" policy reminiscent of the decisions by many Church authorities not to take action in priest abuse cases, but to protect instead the priest and the institution.Bergoglio opposed Nestor Kirchner, elected president of Argentina from 2003 to 2007, and his widow, the current president Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, elected in 2007.
With popular backing and in clear defiance of the Church, [the Kirchners] 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. Argentina became the first nation in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriages. Fernandez's slogan became "we're going for more."In Argentina and the rest of South America “the rightwing sectors, both political and religious, will be strengthened” by Bergoglio’s papacy. “They’re already celebrating,” according to Argentine Fr. Nicolás Alessio, a priest and theologian who was suspended from the right to say Mass or administer the sacraments because of his support of Argentina’s marriage equality law which Bergoglio opposed. As has already been widely reported:
Bergoglio responded....In last year's address, he said Argentina was being harmed by demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power: a strong message in a country whose presidents have ruled by decree and left scandals unpunished.
“Let's not be naïve, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God,” Bergoglio wrote in a letter calling on followers to join a protest rally in Buenos Aires.O’Malley’s politics, like Bergoglio’s, are decidedly rightwing, too. Romneycare included coverage for abortion services yet as far as I could check, O’Malley and the U.S. bishops never launched a campaign to oppose the Republican governor’s health insurance plan. Instead, O’Malley “has said that Romney was a better friend to the Catholic Church than any other Massachusetts governor in decades,” according to a Romney website.
“We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a move by the Father of Lies [i.e. Satan] who aims to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Bergoglio went on to say that gay adoption is discriminatory to children: “At stake are the lives of many children who'll be discriminated against in being deprived of the human growth that God wanted to be given through a father and a mother.”
In 2006, Romney was a special guest of O'Malley at his elevation to cardinal including an invitation to lunch with O'Malley following the Vatican ceremony.
The Boston cardinal joined other U.S. bishops in implicitly supporting Romney for president by portraying Obama as an opponent of religious freedom.
Failing to elect Romney and get Obamacare repealed, on March 8, O’Malley sent a letter
“urging U.S. House of Representatives to support the Health Care Conscience Rights Act of 2013,” another Republican attempt to portray Obamacare as providing coverage for abortion where none exists and the president as an opponent of religious freedom.
Rather than funding massive lobbying efforts and scores of lawsuits against Obamacare in the courts, the bishops could have used the money to provide medical care for the poor.
In his letter, O’Malley wrote, "Protection for conscience rights in health care is of especially great importance to the Catholic Church, which daily contributes to the welfare of American society through a network of schools, social services, hospitals and assisted living facilities," but the cardinal himself contributes very little.
The 2011 Annual Report for the Archdiocese of Boston shows that of $39.8 million in expenses, only $0.6 million (1.6 percent) went to “health and social services.” The 2012 Annual Report showed $35.3 million in expenses but only $0.9 million (2.5 percent) for "health and social services." The rest was spent maintaining the institution.
O’Malley is dependent on big donors for his income, not the people in the pew. The 2011 Annual Report for the Archdiocese of Boston shows that of $35.6 million income, only $1.3 million came from parish collections. The 2012 budget planned for $27.8 million income of which only $0.3 million would come from the pews. The archdiocese is $140 million in debt.
So it is understandable for O’Malley to promote Opus Dei in his archdiocese. Metropolitan Boston has more than eighty colleges and universities attracting thousands of students from around the world. Opus Dei has been active in Boston since the 1950’s because it recruits members from universities to continuously replenish its supply of in-house professionals including financiers and bankers to maintain its global financial network.
O’Malley has also sponsored 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.
If he doesn't already know, Pope Francis will soon learn that Opus Dei is still funding the Church and pulling strings as they have since Pope John Paul II was elected. (I'm editing this diary to insert this link. My fault. I assumed that most readers know what Opus Dei is and we all know what happens to people who "assume.")
“Mother Teresa Humanitarian Image A 'Myth,' New Study Says” was the headline of a March 4 article at Huffington Post. According to researchers Carole Senechal of the University of Ottawa and Serge Larivee and Genevieve Chenard from the University of Montreal, “the celebrated nun had 517 missions in 100 countries at the time of her death, but that the majority of patients were not cared for properly and many were left to die…despite her access to a fortune.”
The authors asserted Mother Teresa saw beauty in the downtrodden's suffering and was far more willing to pray for them than provide practical medical care. Meanwhile, researchers say, the Vatican engaged in a PR ploy as it threw aside concerns about her suspicious financial dealings and contacts to forgo the five-year waiting period to beatify her….Larivee wrote on his school's website, “Given the parsimonious management of Mother Teresa's works, one may ask where the millions of dollars for the poorest of the poor have gone?”
I have no idea what happened to Mother Teresa’s “millions of dollars,” but I’d guess a good portion went to establishing “517 missions in 100 countries,” just as I know that much of Catholic charity gets ploughed back into building and maintaining the institution, or advancing their political agenda.
Pope Francis, on the day after his election, assured the cardinals who elected him that Catholic charity would not be like a “humanitarian NGO” helping others for no purpose other than doing good but rather his papacy would continue to use charity as a means to “confess Jesus Christ.” (He continued, "When one does not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the expression of Léon Bloy: 'He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.' When one does not confess Jesus Christ, one confesses the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon." The pope said something different to emphasize his ecumenical credentials to the world's press and other religious leaders.)
Pope Francis is reported to be close to the Comunione e Liberazion movement "sometimes speaking at its massive annual gathering in Rimini, Italy." Bergoglio also presented the books of CL's founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani, at literary fairs in Argentina.
Much like evangelical Protestantism, CL understands the central, saving event of one's life begins with a graced encounter with Christ. But unlike the Protestants, CL understands the saving agent to be the Roman Catholic Church. [Author of "Comunione e Liberazione: A Fundamentalist Idea of Power," theologian and political scientist Dario] Zadra explains: "In CL the authoritative character of the event of salvation is directly translated into the authority of the Church….If that “authoritative truth is binding on all of society,” than charity can be used to support only what the Church considers as good for that society and maintain its political agenda.
The political rhetoric and vision of the movement seem to continue a long-standing political position in the Catholic world - that of returning the Roman Catholic Church to its traditional role of political power.”
Those who are convinced that Francis' zeal for the poor and marginalized will lead him to engage the secular world without the broader agenda of “evangelizing” it ought to learn more about CL's belief that the Church's authoritative truth is binding on all of society.
Regarding “evangelizing,” the Brazilian Gebara wrote:
The highly touted commitment to evangelization as a Church priority seems instead to be a commitment to a hierarchical order in a world where the elites reign and the people applaud in great plazas, where they pray and sing and bubble over with high spirits, invoking divine blessings upon the heads of their new political-religious leaders.Pope John Paul II
Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was selected and groomed for the papacy by Opus Dei because his charismatic personality was media-ready and because, during Poland’s occupation by the Communists, Wojtyla went along to get along, never vociferously denouncing the regime. His handlers, therefore, could feel confident that neither would he challenge their power.
Neither did Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who as head of the Jesuit order in Argentina could rightfully be considered as a Church leader at the time, publicly oppose the Argentine military junta. (There is no longer any need to groom candidates for the papacy since every current cardinal was chosen by popes John Paul II or Benedict XVI specifically because they are unlikely to rock any boats.)
There are still continuing disagreements about Bergoglio’s role during the "Dirty War", but no account portrays him as an outspoken opponent of the dictatorship. Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, characterized reports of Bergoglio’s involvement as an “anti-clerical leftwing” campaign to discredit the new pope.
Pope John Paul II was exalted by the media for minor informalities as compared to the pomp and protocol of prior pontiffs. But he was a ruthless opponent of theologians, clergy, religious and laity who called for a “preferential option for the poor” by changing societal and governmental structures. By now, Wojtyla’s support of Latin American rightwing military dictators and oligarchs who killed, “disappeared", tortured and maimed hundreds of thousands of the poor and their advocates is pretty well known.
Throughout his ecclesial career, Pope Francis has shared John Paul’s opposition to those who “not only put themselves between the poor and the killers, they also mobilized their flocks to resist dispossession, learn their rights and see their struggle as part of a long history of resistance.”
John Paul II was famous for gestures which made him a super-star like kissing the tarmac after he exited the plane in countries he visited. So too, like many a politico, Pope Francis on his way to his inaugural Mass “kissed three babies held up to him by the chief of Vatican security, Domenico Gianni, and other officers” although his stopping to greet a handicapped man I'm sure was genuine.
No matter how many crowd-pleasing gestures Pope Francis makes, he will not renounce the orthodoxy of his two predecessors nor their support of plutocratic governments no matter how many people die from AIDS for lack of condoms, or women for lack of health care, or gays from persecution, or children from poverty and disease.
Two noted Vatican reporters warn us not to be fooled. Per John L. Allen Jr.:
For those tempted to draw an overly sharp distinction between Pope Francis and his predecessor, the new pope offered a clear reminder Friday that he may have a different style than Benedict XVI, but on substance, he's cut from much the same cloth....Sandro Magister, tells us:
Pope Francis will try to live up to his namesake, Francis of Assisi, as a man of the poor and of peace, but that doesn't signal any retreat from the moral and cultural positions associated with the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI....
Francis told the diplomats: "There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth."
References to universal human nature are often shorthand in Vatican discourse for defense of traditional teaching on matters such as sexuality, marriage and the family....
In the pseudo-Franciscan and pauperist mythology that in these days so many are applying to the new pope, imagination runs to a Church that would renounce power, structures, and wealth and make itself purely spiritual. But it is not for this that the saint of Assisi lived.__
Since this is the anniversary of his death, I would like to remember one Catholic leader who was a martyr for the poor and oppressed. Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was assassinated on March 24, 1980, gunned down in a hospital chapel as he was saying Mass by a death squad under the command of the Reagan/Wojtyla supported Maj. Roberto D’Aubuisson because he publicly and vociferously opposed the dictator.
What sickens me is that, purely as PR, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan is supporting the cause of sainthood for Dorothy Day, founder of Catholic Worker advocacy for the poor. Also, there is speculation that Pope Francis will promote the canonization of Romero.
Please God, let Romero and Day continue to be a saints in the hearts of the people and not become political pawns of a corrupt and criminal Church. Amen.