[News] ‘Dirty War’ Questions for Pope Francis

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 14 11:06:43 EDT 2013

  ‘Dirty War’ Questions for Pope Francis

March 13, 2013

*Exclusive:* The U.S. “news” networks bubbled with excitement over the 
selection of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to be Pope Francis I. 
But there was silence on the obvious question that should be asked about 
any senior cleric from Argentina: What was Bergoglio doing during the 
“dirty war,” writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry (Updated March 14, 2013, to delete incorrect reference 
to Bergoglio in Guardian article)

If one wonders if the U.S. press corps has learned anything in the 
decade since the Iraq War – i.e. the need to ask tough question and show 
honest skepticism – it would appear from the early coverage of the 
election of Pope Francis I that U.S. journalists haven’t changed at all, 
even at “liberal” outlets like MSNBC.

The first question that a real reporter should ask about an Argentine 
cleric who lived through the years of grotesque repression, known as the 
“dirty war,” is what did this person do, did he stand up to the 
murderers and torturers or did he go with the flow. If the likes of 
Chris Matthews and other commentators on MSNBC had done a simple Google 
search, they would have found out enough about Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio 
to slow their bubbling enthusiasm.

Bergoglio, now the new Pope Francis I, has been identified publicly as 
an ally of Argentine’s repressive leaders during the “dirty war” when 
some 30,000 people were “disappeared” or killed, many stripped naked, 
chained together, flown out over the River Plate or the Atlantic Ocean 
and pushed sausage-like out of planes to drown.

The “disappeared” included women who were pregnant at the time of their 
arrest. In some bizarre nod to Catholic theology, they were kept alive 
only long enough to give birth before they were murdered and their 
babies were farmed out to military families, including to people 
directly involved in the murder of the babies’ mothers.

Instead of happy talk about how Bergoglio seems so humble and how he 
seems so sympathetic to the poor, there might have been a question or 
two about what he did to stop the brutal repression of poor people and 
activists who represented the interests of the poor, including 
“liberation theology” priests and nuns, during the “dirty war.”

Here, for instance, is an easily retrievable 
story from Guardian columnist Hugh O’Shauhnessy from 2011, which states:

“To the judicious and fair-minded outsider it has been clear for years 
that the upper reaches of the Argentine church contained many ‘lost 
sheep in the wilderness’, men who had communed and supported the 
unspeakably brutal Western-supported military dictatorship which seized 
power in that country in 1976 and battened on it for years.

“Not only did the generals slaughter thousands unjustly, often dropping 
them out of aeroplanes over the River Plate and selling off their orphan 
children to the highest bidder, they also murdered at least two bishops 
and many priests. Yet even the execution of other men of the cloth did 
nothing to shake the support of senior clerics, including 
representatives of the Holy See, for the criminality of their leader 
General Jorge Rafael Videla and his minions.

“As it happens, in the week before Christmas [2010] in the city of 
Córdoba Videla and some of his military and police cohorts were 
by their country’s courts of the murder of 31 people between April and 
October 1976, a small fraction of the killings they were responsible 
for. The convictions brought life sentences for some of the military.

“These were not to be served, as has often been the case in Argentina 
and neighbouring Chile, in comfy armed forces retirement homes but in 
common prisons. Unsurprisingly there was dancing in the city’s streets 
when the judge announced the sentences.

“What one did not hear from any senior member of the Argentine hierarchy 
was any expression of regret for the church’s collaboration … in these 
crimes. The extent of the church’s complicity in the dark deeds was 
excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina’s most 
notable journalists, in his book /El Silencio/ (Silence),” which 
alleges Bergoglio’s complicity in human right abuses.

The Guardian article stated: “The most shaming thing for the church is 
that in such circumstances Bergoglio’s name was allowed to go forward in 
the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would 
not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent 
of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false 

“One would have thought that the Argentine bishops would have seized the 
opportunity to call for pardon for themselves and put on sackcloth and 
ashes as the sentences were announced in Córdoba but that has not so far 
happened. … Cardinal Bergoglio has plenty of time to be measured for a 
suit of sackcloth – perhaps tailored in a suitable clerical grey.”

Now, instead of just putting forward Bergoglio’s name as a candidate for 
Pope, the College of Cardinals has actually elected him. Perhaps the 
happy-talking correspondents from the U.S. news media will see no choice 
but to join in the cover-up of what Pope Francis did during the “dirty 
war.” Otherwise, they might offend some people in power and put their 
careers in jeopardy.

In contrast to the super-upbeat tone of American TV coverage, the New 
York Times did publish a front-page analysis 
the Pope’s conservatism, citing his “vigorous” opposition to abortion, 
gay marriage and the ordination of women. The Times article by Emily 
Schmall and Larry Rohter then added:

“He was less energetic, however, when it came to standing up to 
Argentina’s military dictatorship during the 1970s as the country was 
consumed by a conflict between right and left that became known as the 
Dirty War. He has been accused of knowing about abuses and failing to do 
enough to stop them while as many as 30,000 people were disappeared, 
tortured or killed by the dictatorship.”

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