UPDATE: In researching the new pontiff’s past for a recent blog, I found the following passage from a Washington Post article particularly interesting with respect to (then Father) Jorge Bergoglio’s support for the dictatorship of General Jorge Videla, during the 1970s and 1980s. This passage deals with Bergoglio’s reluctance to participate in later judicial investigations into this dark chapter in Argentina’s history:
“Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court in trials involving torture and murder inside the feared Navy Mechanics School and the theft of babies from detainees. When he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman told the AP. ‘Bergoglio’s own statements proved church officials knew from early on that the junta was torturing and killing its citizens even as the church publicly endorsed the dictators,’ she said.”
I would say that Ms. Bregman is on pretty solid ground. That same Washington Post article, presenting both sides, quoted Bergoglio’s biographer saying, in Bergoglio’s defense (paraphrased — and this is only slightly overstated), that Father B. was not nearly as guilty of supporting the dictator as certain other parties — and that the Church had generally erred in supporting despots in the region…
This morning I came across another article supporting Ms. Bregman’s characterization of Cardinal Bergoglio’s 2010 testimony as “evasive.” The article features video from the courtroom and transcripts from Bergoglio’s questioning (translated into English). The New Republic’s Sam Ferguson, writing earlier today, presents four critical moments from the Cardinal’s testimony regarding his actions during South America’s “Dirty War.”
Regarding the charge that Bergoglio, as the senior Jesuit official in Argentina, threw to the wolves two priests under his protection — allowing them (by disavowing them) to be kidnapped and tortured for a period of months — the cardinal’s testimony is evasive. In his answers to the court, Bergoglio attributes to the “vox populi” (the “voice of the people” — you know, just the hoi polloi) both the notion that the priests in question were SUBVERSIVES and the (one would think more privileged) knowledge that they were being held in the Navy Mechanics School.
The heart of the exchange goes something like this (loosely paraphrased):
Court: Cardinal, did you know about the ugly talk, the “rumors” surrounding Fathers Yorio and Jalics, priests under your protection? That they were “zurdos” (scum-sucking leftists, cruising for a bruising)?
Bergoglio: Sure, those were the “nasty” rumors around those two. I heard them alright!
Court: WHO talked this way about them? WHO spread these rumors? Do you recall the names of ANYONE who talked this way?
Bergoglio: No, not ONE name. Not a single individual’s name comes to mind. It was just the “vox populi.”
Court: But didn’t it get your attention when people spoke this way? Wouldn’t you remember at least one specific instance of this kind of talk? The same kind of talk that had preceded the murder of Father Carlos Mugica two years earlier?
Bergoglio: Why should it stand out? It was ugly talk, but everyone knew they were zurdos.
And, moving on to the matter of the priests’ subsequent disappearance…
Court: How did you know that the priests were being held in the Navy Mechanics School, a matter of top secret intelligence?
Bergoglio: I cannot recall WHO told me that. I’m pretty sure I saw it on a bathroom wall. Vox populi…
Court: You don’t remember ANY names?
Bergoglio: Friends in high places. Anonymous friends with power — judges, generals, ministers — you know, the people whom one has to ask when one wants to know where the “subversives” are being detained this year: VOX POPULI! (Singing: Oh, WHO are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hood? Yeah, WHO are the people in your neighborhood — they’re the people that you meet, when you’re walking down the street, EACH DAYYYY!)