Less noticed than references to homosexuality in Pope Francis’ widely circulated remarks to the press on the Rio-to-Rome papal airplane was this comment on developing a theology of women:
The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with house work . . . we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the church.
Pope Francis’ call for a theology of women is welcome, especially since Catholics are prone to a pop-philosophy of womanhood that runs counter to true theology. Negative examples of this can be found even in the writing of a figure as estimable as Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.
Sentences like these seem to imply that the influence of sex is one-sided: Women influence men, but men don’t influence women. The morality of men depends on the morality of women; thus if women are immoral, all is lost. Some seem to find this sentiment appealing, but it doesn’t stand up to reflection.
How a man treats a woman plainly says more about the man than the woman. A woman’s behavior doesn’t determine whether a man holds the door for her or whistles at her; the man’s intentions and desires (in short, his morals) determine it. The woman can do little to change his inclinations, as any woman who’s been on the receiving end of a catcall could tell you.
Moreover, men’s behavior affects women as much (or as little) as women’s behavior affects men. The influence is reciprocal: Each can drag the other down or inspire the other to become better. In either case, however, the greater responsibility lies with the moral actor him- or herself. Even if one man’s sins cause his wife to sin more, the wife remains an individual responsible for her own actions. The negative influence of another person does not absolve anyone from blame.
Catholic priest, sociologist, and prolific author Fr. Andrew Greeley died last night at the age of eighty-five. He had been mentioned in our pages no small number of times, sometimes in critical terms. Here’s an excerpt from what Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said about his book The Catholic Imagination (and about his career more generally) in our April 2001 issue:
From time to time I have had occasion to refer to Father Andrew Greeley, more often than not in raising a question about something he has said about matters internal to the Catholic Church. I have perhaps failed to convey my critical appreciation of aspects of Fr. Greeley’s project as a sociologist of religion. . . .
I do not know, and perhaps he is not quite sure, how many books he has published. Some are severe (others would say strident) indictments of the leadership of the Catholic Church, maintaining his reputation as, in his own words, “a loud-mouthed Irish priest.” Others are astringently academic analyses of survey research data accumulated by the National Opinion Research Center, with which he has been connected for decades. Yet others are devotional-theological reflections on dimensions of Catholic faith, such as the role of the Virgin Mary and the place of the feminine in human existence.
Now Professor of Sociology at both the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona, Greeley repeatedly asserts his dual identity as both priest and sociologist, and in the latter capacity he adamantly insists that he is a “scientist,” usually defining that term in an old-fashioned positivist manner. In fact, Andrew Greeley is a man of many parts. The parts and the resulting books do not easily fit familiar categories, as is once again evident in The Catholic Imagination. . . .
A recently released report by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians (a nonprofit group based in Austria) supplements and confirms Paul Coleman’s article in our June/July issue about discrimination against Christians in Europe.
The report documents numerous restrictions on religious freedom—related to conscientious objection, hate speech and anti-discrimination laws, education, and more—and incidents of anti-Christian vandalism and discrimination in more than thirty European countries last year.
Collectively these demonstrate (to quote Mark Movsesian’s post from this morning) how “governments [in the West] seem willing to require traditional Christians to give up their religious convictions as the price for entering the marketplace, or even doing charitable work.”
The organization’s director Dr. Gudrun Kugler answered a common objection to that claim in an address she delivered to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe:
Sometimes I get asked, how can a majority be discriminated against? Well, it is not the nominal Christian who is fully aligned to society’s mainstream, who suffers discrimination. It is those who strive to live according to the high ethical demands of Christianity, who experience a clash. Those are not the majority.
In other words, one can certainly call oneself a Christian without facing any kind of difficulty. It is not Christian identity but the freedom to preach and live out traditional Christian beliefs that is imperiled in Europe.
In an address that is hard not to read as a rebuke of the Roman Curia, Pope Francis delivered a searching reflection on pastoral ministry to a gathering of Italian bishops at St. Peter’s Basilica this evening. According to the Vatican press office, after meditating on John 21:15-19 (“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”), he said:
Even the greatest love, in fact, when it is not continuously fed, fades and goes out. Not without reason the Apostle Paul warns: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son”(Acts 20:28).
The lack of vigilance—we know—makes the pastor lukewarm; he becomes distracted, forgetful and even impatient; it seduces him with the prospect of a career, the lure of money, and the compromises with the spirit of the world; it makes him lazy, turning him into a functionary, a cleric worried more about himself, about organisations and structures, than about the true good of the People of God. He runs the risk, then, like the Apostle Peter, of denying the Lord, even if he is present to us and speaks in His name; the holiness of the hierarchy of Mother Church is obscured, making it less fertile.
Who are we, Brothers, before God? What are our challenges? We all have so many, each one of us knows his own. What is God saying to us through them? What are we relying on to overcome them?
He continued with a word of encouragement:
As it was for Peter, the insistent and heartfelt question of Jesus can leave us saddened and may leave us more aware of the weakness of our freedom, beset as it is by a thousand internal and external constraints, which often cause confusion, frustration, even disbelief.
These are certainly not the feelings and attitudes that the Lord intends to arouse; rather, the Enemy, the Devil, takes advantage of them to isolate us in bitterness, in complaints, and in discouragement.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not humiliate us or abandon us to remorse: in Him, the tenderness of the Father speaks, He who comforts and raises up; He who makes us pass from the disintegration of shame—because shame surely causes us to disintegrate—to the fabric of trust; who restores courage, recommits responsibility, and consigns us to the mission.
Pope Francis’ comments yesterday about faith, atheism, and salvation have apparently struck a chord: They made headlines and were, for a time, the second most-shared item on Reddit. In his homily on Mark 9:38-40, the pope said:
The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. “But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.” Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. . . .
The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. . . . “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: we will meet one another there.
While some news reports suggested that these remarks are a departure from the theology of Pope Benedict, in reality Francis’ predecessor had made similar attempts to reach out to non-believers.
In fact, in one homily long prior to his papacy, then-Fr. Joseph Ratzinger had answered from the Christian perspective precisely the question that Pope Francis’ homily raised (if less reverently) in somecircles of skeptics yesterday: If non-believers can go to heaven, why bother with faith at all? As Ratzinger said in that 1964 homily, the question we struggle with is not whether God can save people outside the Church (for we know that he can). Rather:
The question that torments us is . . . why, if there are so many other ways to heaven and to salvation, should it still be demanded of us that we bear, day by day, the whole burden of ecclesiastical dogma and ecclesiastical ethics? . . .
If we are raising the question of the basis and meaning of our life as Christians . . . then this can easily conceal a sidelong glance at what we suppose to be the easier and more comfortable life of other people, who will “also” get to heaven.
Speaking at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremonies yesterday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan told graduates that Mary is “not just our patroness, but our model.” He explained:
She gave God’s son a human nature; she gave the Eternal Word—God the Son, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity—flesh. . . .
Now, as you complete [your] years at this acclaimed university dedicated to her, you are asked the same pivotal question the Archangel Gabriel once posed to her: will you let God take flesh in you? Will you give God a human nature? Will He be reborn in you? . . .
Here at Notre Dame we do not strive to be like Harvard or Oxford, but like Bethlehem, Nazareth, Cana, Calvary, and the Upper Room at Pentecost . . . with Mary, as the “Word becomes flesh” in the one who called Himself “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
The full text of his address is available here (PDF).
Ruth Graham flags a funny problem in the essay that Matthew Cantirino shared yesterday: Originality has never been more valued in wedding ceremonies, and never harder to produce.
She and her fiance, “like just about every other betrothed couple in America . . . wanted our wedding to be ‘personal.’” But “the aesthetics of such a wedding . . . are practically set in stone: indie pop music, mason jars, white Christmas lights, wildflowers. And poetry.”
By the time of her wedding, she came to realize that there is no such thing as an entirely original wedding ceremony: “marriage means stepping into an ancient institution marked by hundreds of temporal particulars,” so your wedding’s dearth of originality is no shortcoming.
One blessing of getting married in the Catholic Church is this unoriginality. Besides sparing the bride and groom the burden of originality—writing their own vows, playing good but not overused music, finding meaningful yet not excessively obscure readings—the Catholic rite of marriage reminds the couple of a truth easily forgotten: Your wedding (like your marriage) is not only about you.
That the Rite of Marriage takes place the middle of the nuptial Mass, embedded between Scripture readings and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is no mistake. It situates the marriage in what is, for Catholics, its broader context: its divine origin and graces, its connection to the community, its symbolism of the covenant between God and man.
But perhaps the most counter-cultural aspect of the ceremony (since, after all, most couples find some divine or transcendental meaning in marriage) is its mention of children. During the vows, couples are asked: “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” In saying yes, the bride and groom agree together to found a new Ecclesia domestica, the domestic Church that is the family. But even that new family is not a unit unto itself; it is part of a whole community, as the community’s presence at the wedding attests.
The nuptial Mass, then, is suffused with meaning, which deepens over time as the couple matures in their marriage, settles in a community, and (God-willing) has children. Personal weddings can be nice, but I’ll take this unoriginality any day.
Commonweal has a triple feature on Thomas Nagel’s much-discussed Mind and Cosmos with contributions from philosopher Gary Gutting, biologist Kenneth R. Miller, and physicist (and First Things advisory council member) Stephen M. Barr. Here’s an excerpt from Barr’s essay:
While Nagel rejects “psychophysical reductionism,” and believes mind to be as fundamental as matter, he rejects any form of mind-matter dualism. “Outright dualism,” he says, “would abandon the hope for an integrated explanation . . . and would imply that biology has no responsibility at all for the existence of minds.”
Instead, matter and mind must be seen as parts of “a single natural order that unifies everything on the basis of a set of common elements and principles.” In his view, the evidence “favors some form of neutral monism”—the idea that there is really just one basic stuff in nature, which has both physical and mental aspects.
Nagel may be right to reject dualism, but his reasons for doing so seem weak to me.
The article is only available to non-subscribers for three days.
The jury has found Kermit Gosnell guilty on three charges of first-degree murder of babies, according to reporter J. D. Mullane, and not guilty of a fourth murder charge. (Details on those murder charges here.) Judge Jeffrey Minehart had earlier dismissed three other first-degree murder charges against Gosnell.
The verdict follows ten days of deliberations and roughly six weeks of courtroom testimony about the more than two hundred criminal charges against him.
According to background information from LifeNews, Gosnell could face the death penalty, which prosecutors are pursuing when a second jury is impaneled “to determine sentencing under the penalty phase of the trial.”Update: reports vary about whether the same jury will reconvene to decide the sentence or whether a new jury will be impaneled. Either way, the sentencing phase will begin next Tuesday, May 21.
At minimum, according to Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, Gosnell will receive three life sentences to jail. Robert George last month urged pro-lifers to request that Gosnell’s life be spared in the event of his conviction.
Gosnell’s defense attorney, according to CNN, claimed in his closing argument that “none of the infants was killed; rather . . . they were already dead as a result of Gosnell administering the drug Digoxin, which can cause abortion.”
Co-defendant Eileen O’Neill, who worked with Gosnell, was found guilty of conspiracy and theft by deception but not guilty of five other charges. Prosecutors said she “deceived patients and insurance companies by pretending to be a licensed physician and billing for those services.”
NBC reports that the twelve jury members, seven women and five men, all “said they were either pro-choice or had no opinion” about abortion. Following the verdict, J. D. Mullane reports, Gosnell attorney Jack McMahon asked that all jurors be polled; each affirmed the verdict “in [a] strong voice.”
While the prosecution had more than fifty witnesses testify, Gosnell himself never took the stand during the arguments, and McMahon “did not call either fact or character witnesses for his client.” Afterwards McMahon told reporters, “We had a chance to put out our issues, and a jury has spoken, and we respect that verdict.”
During the trial McMahon had said to jurors, “abortion—as is any surgical procedure—isn’t pretty. It’s bloody. It’s real. But you have to transcend that.”
Lengthy coverage of the trial and courtroom arguments is available from the Associated Press here.
While pro-life activists can be grateful for the conviction of Kermit Gosnell, some abortion clinics with similarly disturbing records remain fully operational.
On the pro-life side, John Finnis refutes the arguments that humans do not acquire rights until becoming conscious of themselves and that unconscious human beings cannot be harmed, and Francis J. Beckwith contests the claims that babies are merely potential persons and that the burdensomeness of a new life is morally relevant.
Charles Camosy acknowledges the similarity between unborn and newborn infants—a key point of Giubilini and Minerva’s view—but rejects the conclusion that neither group possesses a right to life. Robert P. George and Camosy then dispute whether proposing infanticideconstitutesmoral madness. View the whole issue here.
A recent inquiry from a college instructor in search of philosophical arguments on the morality of abortion inspired us to compile the below list of resources, which, though far from comprehensive, may be of use to pro-lifers. I’ve sorted the list by type of resource.
You can find more helpful resources on the blog Pro-Life Philosophy, on the blog of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, and on this page compiled by Princeton Pro-Life, all of which I used in putting together this post. And many of the people cited above have written other books or articles on abortion that I omitted here for the sake of space. Feel free to provide more suggestions in the comment box.
An art restorer at the Vatican has discovered what may be the first Western painting of Native Americans, hidden under grime in a fresco finished in 1494.
The painting is Pinturicchio’s “Christ’s Resurrection,” and the newly uncovered figures—“nude men, who are decorated with feathers and seem to be dancing”—appear in the background of the scene. Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, says they seem to be based on Columbus’ account of his first trip to the New World. More details are available in the Telegraph.
The Wall Street Journal ran a nice feature this weekend on the Clericus Cup, ”a [soccer] tournament that pits squads from 16 seminaries against each other in a battle for [Rome's] Catholic sports bragging rights—with the utmost humility, of course.”
The North American Martyrs—the team of American seminarians and priests from the Pontifical North American College—are the defending champions. Seminary rector Monsignor James Checchio explains that the squad took that name back in the 1980s because “we lost every game. But now, we’re winners, as the martyrs are.”
I suspect, though the Journal article doesn’t mention this, that the team name is also intended to recall the group of saints collectively known as the North American Martyrs (the most famous of whom is St. Isaac Jogues). From Fordham University’s capsule explanation:
The North American Martyrs were eight Jesuit missionaries commissioned to work among the Huron Native Americans during the mid-17th century.
By the late 1640’s, these brave missionaries were making progress in their labors with the Huron and they were said to have made thousands of converts during this time. Nevertheless, within Huron communities, these men of faith were not universally trusted. . . .
Between the years of 1642 and 1649, eight members of the Society of Jesus were killed in North America, after extreme torture by members of the Huron and Iroquois tribes.
We’ve already voiced concerns about the Obama administration’s use of drones and its dubious claims about the program. Last week, classified intelligence reports obtained by McClatchy belied the administration’s repeated assertions that drones rarely kill civilians, that they are only aimed at terrorists who pose an imminent threat to the U.S., and that they identify intended targets accurately.
As Micah Zenko (an expert quoted in the McClatchy story) notes at Foreign Policy, these revelations drastically undermine the legal justification for the program:
It is the most important reporting on U.S. drone strikes to date because [reporter Jonathan S.] Landay, using U.S. government assessments, plainly demonstrates that the claim repeatedly made by President Obama and his senior aides—that targeted killings are limited only to officials, members, and affiliates of al Qaeda who pose an imminent threat of attack on the U.S. homeland—is false.
Senior officials and agencies have emphasized this point over and over because it is essential to the legal foundations on which the strikes are ultimately based: the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force and the U.N. Charter’s right to self-defense.
That the government is targeting people who may or may not be terrorists (and may or may not pose any threat to the U.S.) along with any nearby civilians also complicates efforts to defend the drone program under principles of just war such as discrimination of targets, proportionality, and military necessity.
Manypro-lifershavenoted mainstream news outlets’ refusal to cover the ongoing trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Today, that observation made USA Today’s op-ed page, as Kirsten Powers writes:
A Lexis-Nexis search shows none of the news shows on the three major national television networks has mentioned the Gosnell trial in the last three months. The exception is when Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan hijacked a segment on Meet the Press meant to foment outrage over an anti-abortion rights law in some backward red state.
The Washington Post has not published original reporting on this during the trial and The New York Times saw fit to run one original story on A-17 on the trial’s first day. They’ve been silent ever since, despite headline-worthy testimony.
Let me state the obvious. This should be front page news.
She’s absolutely right, of course. But the solution for pro-life activists is not merely to complain about lack of coverage, or to share what little coverage there is, or to establish their own media outlets, however necessary all those things are. The solution is to get a job (or encourage your kids or your students to get a job) inside the mainstream media.
To be sure, working for a mainstream outlet comes with many constraints: You’ll probably be a reporter or editor rather than a columnist or editorial writer, meaning that you will not have complete independence in what topics you cover. You may be uncomfortable sharing your views with colleagues, given that journalists are more liberal than the average American.
And if you were writing a news story about abortion for a mainstream outlet, you would not be able to state forthrightly “abortion is evil.” But if there’s no pro-life journalist in the newsroom to argue that some under-reported event—the March for Life, the Kermit Gosnell trial, whatever—deserves coverage, there may not be a story at all.
The horrors continue to emerge from the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. One baby, who was likely full term, screamed after being delivered during an attempted abortion. Some women delivered their children into toilets; snipping the necks of these infants was, according to one employee, “standard procedure.”
How could Gosnell and his employees do such things? One woman explained that she called the babies “specimens,” since “it was easier to deal with mentally.” Another pleaded the Nuremberg defense, telling the jury, “I only do what I’m told to do. What I was told to do was snip their neck.”
And how did Gosnell’s clinic, which opened in 1979, get away with its crimes for so long? Because, according to the 2011 grand jury report, “the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided [in the early 1990s], for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all.” Under a new pro-choice governor, “officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions.” Though direct complaints were still supposed to be investigated, the many complaints about Gosnell were not.
As the same report points out, “even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.” And so the tragedies and absurdities of our pro-choice regime were allowed to multiply.
When Brandon Ambrosino told his English professor at Liberty University, a conservative Christian college, that he was gay, he was surprised by her reaction:
“I love you,” she said. I stopped crying for a second and looked up at her. Here was this conservative, pro-life, pro-marriage woman who taught lectures like “The Biblical Basis for Studying Literature,” and here she was kneeling down on the floor next me, rubbing my back, and going against every stereotype I’d held about Bible-believing, right-leaning, gun-slinging Christians. . . .
When people find out I underwent therapy at Jerry Falwell’s Christian college, they assume I went through something like gay reparative therapy. But that isn’t what happened. I saw two counselors at Liberty—Dr. Reeves also had me meet with Ryan, one of his grad students, once a week—and neither of them ever expressed an interest in “curing” me. Did they have an agenda? Yes. Their goal, which they were very honest about, was to help me to like myself, and to find peace with the real Brandon.
Contrast this with the experience of “Chris,” a practicing Catholic who was attracted to other men and wanted to live chastely. He received little help from his secular college:
Like many schools, Chris’ university has an LGBTQA center (an official office supporting “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, and allied” students). Had he been seeking advice on how to embrace his same-sex attractions, perform sexually as a gay man, or develop a romantic homosexual relationship, he would have been welcomed. Wanting instead help to live chastely, he found nothing. Worse than nothing, he found rejection. . . .
When he asked [the psychologist at the college's health center] for a referral to see a Catholic therapist, she all but called him crazy for refusing to give in to his nature as homosexual. In the end, his university health insurance wouldn’t cover all the cost of an outside therapist, and he obviously couldn’t turn to his parents.
At Liberty University, a gay student found love and support. At one secular college, a gay student could find that support only if he rejected traditional Christian teaching. In some instances, it seems, secular tolerance is no replacement for Christian love.
Hanna Rosin argued in the Atlantic last fall that the hook-up culture, far from harming women, is actually “an engine of female progress.” Some of the research she used to make that argument, however, does not support her thesis.
The standard analysis of the hook-up culture says (in Rosin’s words) that the sexual revolution “liberated men to act as cads” and “left [women] even more vulnerable and exploited than before.” But this analysis “downplays the unbelievable gains women have lately made” and “forgets how much those gains depend on sexual liberation”:
Single young women in their sexual prime . . . are for the first time in history more successful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture.
In a paper delivered at a Boston University School of Law conference on Rosin’s book The End of Men, from which the Atlantic article was excerpted, law professor Katharine K. Baker contests Rosin’s interpretation of the research she cites and comes to very different conclusions about the hook-up culture. From her abstract:
The Bible doesn’t simply address man as a cognitive process but as a complex image-bearer who recognizes truth not only through categorizing syllogisms but through imagination, beauty, wonder, awe. Fiction helps to shape and hone what Russell Kirk called the moral imagination.
My friend David Mills, now executive editor at First Things, wrote a brilliant article in Touchstone several years ago about the role of stories in shaping the moral imagination of children. As he pointed out, moral instruction is not simply about knowing factually what’s right and wrong (though that’s part of it); it’s about learning to feel affection toward certain virtues and revulsion toward others. A child learns to sympathize with the heroism of Jack the Giant Killer, to be repelled by the cruelty of Cinderella’s sisters and so on.
The article to which Moore refers appeared in Touchstone’s July/August 2009 issue, and it’s available on their website. In the essay, David Mills delves into several works of young adult fiction to examine the flawed lessons they convey and the cramped vision their authors present. While reflecting on those shortcomings, however, he also has more positive insights about how books can shape us. Read the whole thing here.
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Since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., became Pope Francis earlier this week, accusations have been flying about how and whether he collaborated with the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. The Guardian and the Associated Press provide overviews of the accusations.
I’m no expert on Argentine history, but a few factors seem to weigh in the pope’s favor. From another A.P. story, one prominent accusation against Bergoglio is undermined by facts that emerged just a few years ago:
One [human rights case] examined the torture of two of [Bergoglio's] Jesuit priests — Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics — who were kidnapped in 1976 from the slums where they advocated liberation theology, which is the belief that Jesus Christ’s teachings justify fights against social injustices.
Yorio accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over to the death squads by declining to tell the regime that he endorsed their work. Jalics refused to discuss it after moving into seclusion in a German monastery.
Both men were freed after Bergoglio took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action to save them, including persuading dictator Jorge Videla’s family priest to call in sick so that Bergoglio could say Mass in the junta leader’s home, where he privately appealed for mercy. His intervention likely saved their lives, but Bergoglio never shared the details until [Sergio] Rubin interviewed him for the 2010 biography.
Bergoglio told Rubin that he regularly hid people on church property during the dictatorship, and once gave his identity papers to a man with similar features, enabling him to escape across the border.
Second, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Argentine activist Adolfo Perez Esquivel—who, as an active opponent of the dictatorship, would have little reason to defend someone who aided it—has told multiple news outlets that Bergoglio “had no ties” with the dictatorship. In an interview with Reuters, he said:
“What Bergoglio tried to do was help where he could,” said Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for defending human rights during the dictatorship.
“It’s true that he didn’t do what very few bishops did in terms of defending the human rights cause, but it’s not right to accuse him of being an accomplice,” Perez Esquivel told Reuters. “Bergoglio never turned anyone in, neither was he an accomplice of the dictatorship.”
Third, a 2011 Guardiancolumn by Hugh O’Shaughnessy that accused Bergoglio and the Church in Argentina of collaborating with the dictatorship (and began circulating in the wake of Bergoglio’s election) has been revised this week to delete the most damning accusation it contained. The attack on Bergoglio was so baseless that the Guardian had to backtrack completely with this correction at the end of the column (emphasis mine):
This article was amended on 14 March 2013. The original article, published in 2011, wrongly suggested that Argentinian journalist Horacio Verbitsky claimed that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio connived with the Argentinian navy to hide political prisoners on an island called El Silencio during an inspection by human rights monitors. Although Verbitsky makes other allegations about Bergoglio’s complicity in human rights abuses, he does not make this claim. The original article also wrongly described El Silencio as Bergoglio’s “holiday home”. This has been corrected.
The Guardian’s credulity is mirrored in the online circulation of incorrectly captioned photos that claim to show Bergoglio giving Communion to dictator Jorge Videla, when in fact the priest in the photo is someone else.
It would seem, then, that we should take vitriolic accusations of the pope’s alleged collaboration with the regime with a grain of salt. Perhaps he and the Church deserve criticism for their actions during the dictatorship, but as the Guardian reversal and the deceptive photos show, some of the published denunciations are likely to prove false.
In the flood of today’s news reports and blog posts on the new pope, I enjoyed these two articles on a couple of this papacy’s big “firsts.” At the Chronicle of Higher Education, historian Philip Jenkins gives some background on Pope Francis’ native country and the situation of the Church there:
The more we examine Argentina, the more perfect Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio seems as a choice, even for the more conservative Europeans. If we imagine an Italian cardinal grumbling at being forced to look overseas for a pope, it quickly becomes clear why an Argentine would be the most attractive choice. While North Americans tend to lump Latin American countries together, Argentina is in fact distinctive.
It is by far the most European nation on its continent, and specifically the most Italian. People of Italian heritage represent a large proportion of its population, and in the late 19th century it was the favored destination of those Italian migrants who did not head to the United States. . . .
Additionally, the Argentine church faces problems that are immediately recognizable from Rome or Madrid. While the country has small Pentecostal and evangelical minorities, they are nowhere near as strong as in neighboring Brazil or Chile. Instead, the greatest challenge comes from secularism; perhaps 15 percent declare themselves nonreligious, and the great majority of self-declared Catholics practice the faith minimally, if at all. Many notional Catholics spurn the church’s attempts to intervene in the public realm.
And on CNN’s Belief Blog, Fr. James Martin, S.J., reflects on what it means to have a Jesuit pope. After mentioning Pope Francis’ spiritual formation, lengthy training, and vow of poverty, Fr. Martin makes these two points:
Jesuits are asked to be, in St. Ignatius’ Spanish tongue, disponible: available, open, free, ready to go anywhere. The Jesuit ideal is to be free enough to go where God wants you to, from the favela in Latin America to the Papal Palace in Vatican City. We are also, likewise, to be “indifferent”; that is, free enough to flourish in either place; to do anything at all that is ad majorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God.
[And] we are not supposed to be “climbers.” Now here’s a terrific irony. When Jesuit priests and brothers complete their training, they make vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and a special vow to the pope “with regard to missions”; that is, with regard to places the pope wishes to send us. But we also make an unusual promise, alone among religious orders as far as I know, not to “strive or ambition” for high office.
St. Ignatius was appalled by the clerical climbing that he saw around him in the late Renaissance, so he required us to make that unique promise against “climbing.” Sometimes, the pope will ask a Jesuit, as he did with Jorge Bergoglio, to assume the role of bishop or archbishop. But this is not the norm. Now, however, a Jesuit who had once promised not to “strive or ambition” for high office holds the highest office in the church.
We’re still reading up on the new Holy Father, but for now, here’s a bit to get you started:
Catholic Culture has an informative story on today’s events, and Thomas L. McDonald is rounding up news and reactions as they arrive. CBS and other outlets have published the full text of Pope Francis’ brief speech. Zenitreports that the new pope has already spoken with his predecessor and will meet with journalists on Saturday.
CNN confirmed with a Vatican spokesman that “the new pope took the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he is a lover of the poor” and the new pope should be known as Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I.” CNN also quotes reporter John Allen as calling the choice of name “stunning” and “precedent-shattering.” Rocco Palmo states that when Bergoglio was made a cardinal in 2001, he “urged Argentinians not to come [to Rome for the ceremony], but donate the money they’d spend to the poor.”
John Allen’s recent article and a 2002 profile by Sandro Magister detail Pope Francis’ personal simplicity, and his Wikipedia page fills in some more biographical details. He is the author of several books and the subject of a biography called El Jesuita(The Jesuit), but if Amazon is any guide, none of those are available in English. The Associated Press quotes the biographer Sergio Rubin in its story, however, and Our Sunday Visitor has announced plans to publish an English-language biography of Pope Francis by Matthew Bunson called The New Pope.
George Weigel told NBC News that the new pope is “a very brave man”:
“He will be a great defender of religion around the world.”
“The papacy has moved to the New World. The church has a new pope with a new name,” he added. “I think it speaks to the church’s commitment to the poor of the world and compassion in a world that often needs a lot of healing.”
Olga Khazan of The Atlanticsays “the humble, compassionate Bergoglio could be the right man for the job.” John Haldane shares his thoughts in “A New Pope for a New Chapter in an Old Story,” and Ross Douthat shares his on his New York Times blog.
Finally, Pope Francis’ episcopal motto was “miserando atque eligendo” (lowly and yet chosen)—which sounds like the feeling he must have as he ascends to the papacy.