The selection of the Argentinean Jorge Bergoglio as pope is consistent with the Catholic Church’s support for far right wing ideologies, whether of the European or American variety. As the cardinal of Buenos Aires during Argentina’s notorious “Dirty War,” Bergoglio was accused of supporting the dictatorship and aiding in the capture and torture of left wing priests that opposed the regime. While Bergoglio denies these charges the awful truth remains that Bergoglio in particular and the Church in general did little to stop the brutal reign of the generals between 1976 and 1983, a rule that resulted in over 30,000 Argentines either dead or “disappeared.”
Catholic Church support for right wing governments goes back to the first decades of the 20th century and the rise of fascism in Europe. During this time the Church signed treaties with both Italy under Mussolini and Germany under Hitler. The “Lateran Treaty” of 1929 established the independent nation of the Vatican and normalized relations between Italy and the Church, while the “Concordat” in 1933 between Germany and the Vatican did the same for relations between the Vatican and Nazi Germany. When the “Concordat” was formally enacted Hitler was reported to have said “now we can go after the Jews.”
Much to their shame, the Church was silent on the brutality of the fascist regimes of the 1930s and 1940s and instead listed the Soviet Union, Republican Spain and Mexico as the three most dangerous governments in the world—this at a time when Hitler and Mussolini ruled Europe!
While the Church was silent on the excesses of European fascism, the opposite was true when it came to European communism. Pope John Paul II was noted for his open contempt for the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Silent on the subject of fascism, the Vatican had a lot of things to say—all negative—about communism.
The future pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, was a member of Hitler Youth and, by his own admission, very conservative. While Ratzinger should not be condemned for decisions made by his parents, the reality is that Ratzinger came from a very wealthy, conservative, and pro-Nazi family.
As for the new pope, Bergoglio was the cardinal of Buenos Aires during the “Dirty War” from 1976 to 1983, and while there is some question as to whether he supported the military regime it is clear that he did little to stop the slaughter that killed an estimated 30,000 Argentineans.
For well over a century the Catholic Church has embraced “corporatism,” an ideology also embraced by the fascist movement. When my mother was a child the sisters at her Catholic school in New Orleans sung the praises of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, a fascist, because he was, according to the good sisters, getting rid of the communists.
“Liberation Theology,” which sought to address the plight of the poor from a left wing perspective, has long been purged from the Church; what is left is an arch conservative ideology which is homophobic, anti-women, and, dare I say, fascist. Decades after the Holocaust and the Dirty War, the Catholic Church has yet to face up to its own dark role in these horrors. The appointment of Bergoglio will do nothing to address this issue which has been so long swept under one of those dusty carpets that adorn the halls of Vatican City.