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Archive for the ‘The Vatican’ Category
Posted by Charles II on July 1, 2013
Posted by Charles II on April 7, 2013
One of our commenters, Jim, provided three links on the issue of Pope Francis. Two (here and here) have to do with Cardinal Bergoglio’s sincerity in confronting the abuses of the Argentine Dirty War. The third has to do with the source of these comments, Father Campbell-Johnston.
Meanwhile, in the centrist Catholic press, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter gives a much more complimentary view of Pope Francis. Among one of the more interesting points is this:
Bishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano of Gualeguaychú, Argentina, a close friend of Bergoglio who worked under him as an auxiliary in Buenos Aires for six years…
ticked off five such challenges:
“The use of money,” meaning not just balancing the Vatican’s budget, but making sure it’s clear where institutions such as the Vatican Bank get their money and what’s done with those funds.
(On that score, [“Federico Wals, a 32-year-old layman who served as Bergoglio’s spokesperson since 2007”] predicted Francis may actually close the Vatican Bank based on his history in Buenos Aires. When Bergoglio took over in the late 1990s, Wals said, the archdiocese was a part owner of several local banks. Bergoglio quickly sold those shares and put the church’s money into private banks as a normal client.)
I think this is really the key signal as to where Bergoglio is headed. The Vatican Bank is not only the source of repeated scandal, it is the proximate means by which the Vatican can meddle in politics in other countries. I had an extended discussion off the boards with someone knowledgeable about the Vatican banking history and pointed out that there are several ways by which the Vatican can privately shift funds into countries in which it wants to meddle. Owning one’s own bank, however, provides a definite advantage, assuming that one has the assent of the U.S. and can use electronic transfers on networks that the US controls.
Posted by Charles II on March 19, 2013
In my previous post, I posed the following as one of the key questions raised by the elevation of Jorge Bergoglio to Pope.
4. Since past money-laundering by the Church has involved CIA operations to overthrow left-wing governments, is Communion and Liberation part of such an effort to overthrow the Bolivarian governments of Central and South America?
The point is that the CIA and the Church share a near-paranoid, or perhaps actually paranoid fear of Communism. Even today, Argentine Dictator Jorge Rafael Videla is shouting from his prison cell that his compatriots need to maintain the physical ability to combat the Marxism of duly elected president Cristina Kirchner. This is just a bit crazy.
Yes, Communist governments have persecuted the Church. But Communism is only one of many forces that have been pernicious to the Church. Wealth has been a far more deadly enemy. In Germany, the Church was seduced into joining the State.
Kyle Barron of NACLA has provided some historical context to help understand the question posed. In particular is the interesting note that John Paul II appointed a conservative to head the Jesuits in 1980. Rafael Videla was dictator until 1981, and dictatorship continued until 1983. Barron notes that:
The CIA was the primary instrument used to influence the church. A year-long investigation by Mother Jones magazine in 1983 revealed that after World War II the CIA “passed money to a large number of priests and bishops—some of whom became witting agents in CIA covert operations,” even creating a special unit devoted to working with the Vatican. In the 1970s the CIA began supplying information on practitioners of radical religion and sat by as 850 nuns and clergy were tortured, killed, or arrested. Its main strategy was to divide the church between progressive and conservative elements.
The CIA funded various conservative religious groups throughout Latin America, including Opus Dei members in Chile who subsequently entered into Pinochet’s administration after the 1973 coup, as well as funding the Bolivian Interior Ministry at the time it drew up and disseminated the “Banzer Plan,” which called for the persecution of progressive priests and clergy. The United States saw Liberation Theology as a threat that signaled Latin America’s move toward Marxism. The fight against progressive elements in the church was seen as another battlefront in the Cold War.
On another topic, Jim in comments, linked a Washington Post article on Cardinal Bergoglio’s dealing with sex abuse cases.
Also, there’s an interesting NCR piece by John Allen claiming to have inside information sugggests that Bergoglio was selected as “the last man standing,” an outsider who might have a shot at reforming the Vatican, and a Latin American who could shore up the Church’s standing in that region.
I think it’s pretty clear that this story will simmer for a while without anything further being resolved. Argentina as a nation, and Catholics generally, will want to give the new Pope a chance.
Posted by Charles II on March 13, 2013
Update, 3/14 (posted also as a comment at DK): Jim, in comments below, mentioned Bergoglio/Francis’s human rights record, which I didn’t get into and, in particular, Christian Federico von Wernich, a police chaplain who participated in the torture sessions of the Dirty War. The Catholic Church, to say the least, has been uncooperative with unraveling the crimes committed by the Argentine Junta.
I have been hesitant to get into this, because Bergoglio was a priest until 1989. As such, he had little decision-making power in what happened during the dictatorship (1976-83). However, he was in a senior priestly position, becoming a provincial in 1973, then rector of a seminary in 1980. He only reached a position of real power, that of Bishop in 1992. Even that was not a full bishopric as I understand it (he was an auxiliary bishop and then a titular bishop).
In 1998, he was bumped up to Archbishop and, three years later, to Cardinal–a position of real power. He therefore does bear culpability for the failure of the Church to confess its crimes in Argentina.
But now, Democracy Now has done an extended interview (here and here) of one of the journalists who has covered the story, Horacio Verbitzky, and I don’t think this story is going to go away. In addition to providing detail on the human rights abuses, Verbitsky says that he believes that Bergoglio has been elevated to do to Latin America what John Paul II did to Eastern Europe: destroy governments that have brought the progressive change that has actually led to a decline in poverty.
This is a fascinating, panoramic take on the situation. It gets above the disputed (but serious) human rights allegations that may yet end in Bergoglio being forced to resign for the good of the Church and suggests a motive for the selection of a 76-year man with one lung and a dangerously close connection to serious human rights abuses.
Now, there are alternate explanations. One is that Bergoglio comes from outside the viper’s nest of internal Vatican politics, and will clean it up. Or perhaps it’s a belated recognition by the Church of the importance of the Americas. Maybe Bergoglio’s a compromise candidate, given the cloud of scandal around Angelo Scola.
This is one thing to look to. How will Bergoglio/Francis deal with the governments of Latin America? So far, he has placed himself in opposition, declaring a Holy War (guerra de Dios) against the law that grants marriage equality to Argentinians. He espouses the primacy of the poor, but doesn’t like the State to do anything to alleviate their situation. Is he really emulating Francis of Assisi? Or Francis of Spain (1892-1975), Francisco Franco?
From a Wikileaked cable from 2005:
Based on these initial showings, the cardinals in subsequent votes are expected to shift to other candidates who reflect the Ratzinger or Martini views, but who offer better hope of garnering support from other groups. Italian Cardinals Ruini or Scola, and Argentinian Cardinal Bergolio would be suitable to the Ratzinger camp, while Milan’s Archbishop Cardinal Tettamanzi or Brazilian Cardinal Hummes could pull the support of the anti-Ratzinger groups.
…BERGOGLIO, Jorge Mario: Born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, and ordained December 13, 1969 during his theological studies at the Theological Faculty of San Miguel. Bergoglio served as Jesuit Provincial (elected leader of the order) for Argentina (1973-79) and rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel (1980-86). After completing his doctoral dissertation in Germany, Bergoglio served as a confessor and spiritual director in Cordoba. In 1992, the Pope appointed him Assistant Bishop of Buenos Aires; then in 1997, he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop (deputy archbishop with right
of succession) of Buenos Aires; ultimately becoming Archbishop on February 28, 1998. Bergoglio is the vice-President of the Argentine Bishops Conference and serves on the Vatican’s committee for the worldwide synod of bishops (a grouping of all bishops conferences). He speaks Spanish, Italian and German. Bergoglio exemplifies the virtues of the wise pastor that many electors value. Observers have praised his humility: he has been reluctant to accept honors or hold high office and commutes to work on a bus. What could count against him is his membership in the Jesuit order. Some senior prelates,
especially conservatives, are suspicious of a liberal streak in the order, perhaps most pronounced in the U.S., but also present elsewhere. Bergoglio is said to prefer life in the local Church as opposed to a bureaucratic existence in Rome’s ecclesiastical structures, but at the same time he has been willing to serve on the Vatican’s various supervisory committees. This could indicate an ability to bridge the curia/local church divide that splits the College of Cardinal Electors, making him a good compromise candidate.
But maybe not wholly without merit. Redneck Catholic:
The mass was celebrated by Jorge Cardinal Bergolio in Buenos Aries, for prostitutes, immigrants and slaves. In his homily he spoke of things that I have been disturbed by for several years. Most importantly he spoke of slavery.
Slavery is on the rise. has been for over two decades. It’s widespread, and it’s not confined to third world hell holes. It’s found in affluent, industrialized nations as well.
I guess his age made him a dark horse, which is why there’s been so little talk of him as a candidate. But he looks to me like another effort to kick the can down the road, rather than engage in real reform.
We shall see.
By the way, the correct spelling is apparently Bergoglio.
Posted by Charles II on March 12, 2013
I’ll abbreviate Communion and Liberation as C&L for reasons abundantly obvious below.
John Allen, Jr., National Catholic Reporter, from May 2012:
For a long time it was Opus Dei, and then, even before massive sex scandals exploded around their founder, it was the Legionaries of Christ. Today, at least in Italy, it now seems Communion and Liberation’s turn to be the conservative Catholic group generating the most controversy, the sexiest news headlines, and the greatest volume of conspiracy theories.
That’s likely a special source of heartburn for Pope Benedict XVI, for whom Communion and Liberation has always been his personal favorite among the new movements in the Catholic church.
[According to an unnamed Italian newspaper] businesses with ties to Communion and Liberation control assets in excess of almost $100 billion, representing five percent of Italy’s Gross Domestic Product.
John Hooper and Lizzie Davies, The Guardian:
But even as preparations for the mass were being made, Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan – and reportedly the hot favourite to be the next pope – suffered a blow.
Anti-mafia detectives swooped on homes, offices, clinics and hospitals in Lombardy, the region around Milan, and elsewhere. A statement said the dawn raids were part of an investigation into “corruption linked to tenders by, and supplies to, hospitals”.
Healthcare in Lombardy is the principal responsibility of the regional administration, which for the past 18 years has been run by Roberto Formigoni, a childhood friend of Scola and the leading political representative of the Communion and Liberation fellowship. Until recently, Scola was seen as the conservative group’s most distinguished ecclesiastical spokesman.
The regional administration headed by Formigoni – a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s party – collapsed last October amid a welter of accusations regarding alleged corruption and misconduct.
Scola, who has headed the Milan archdiocese since 2011… entered the conclave as favourite after the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that his supporters were confident he had the support of up to 50 of the 115 cardinal-electors.
It’s a complicated story, but the gist is that the Milan branch of C&L, a right-wing Catholic organization, is up to its eyeballs in criminal activity. Formigioni is the equivalent of its Bill Donohue and also the equivalent of their Tom Donohue. He’s a senior member of C&L. And C&L was so close to the last pope, i.e., Benedict, that Benedict had them running his household. And, oh by the way, Scola was C&L’s most senior spokesman until last year, when he “publicly rebuked the movement after its leader was found to have written to Pope Benedict, implicitly criticising the cardinal’s liberal predecessors in the Milan archdiocese.”
Quite a close call. If he’d waited a few more months, the Formigoni scandal would have broken.
And now for the piece d’resistance, courtesy of Bill Hoffman of NewsMax, last week:
Catholic League: Italian Cardinal Scola ‘Safe’ Choice for Pope
The Vatican should tap Italy’s Archbishop of Milan as the successor to Pope Benedict if it wants a safe bet, says Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
“If they want to play it safe, go with [Cardinal] Angelo Scola,’’ Donohue told Steve Malzberg on Newsmax’s “The Steve Malzberg Show.’’
Hoocoodanode that Scola–the favorite to become Pope– would be linked, however indirectly, to the Mafia?
Posted by Charles II on March 4, 2013
Paul Surlis, The Consortium:
Benedict, as Joseph Ratzinger, an expert at the council, explained and enthusiastically endorsed the reforming trends of the council. After each of the council’s four sessions, Dr. Ratzinger wrote a pamphlet-length account of what had transpired during the preceding session and these reflections were subsequently collected in a book, Theological Highlights of Vatican II
One of the great structural changes envisaged by the council was a transition from a centralized, monarchical papacy where one person, the pope, assisted by the curial cardinals, has absolute power over the universal church to a church that would be governed by the bishops of the entire church in union with the pope.
As part of collegiality it was intended that a synod representing the bishops of the universal church would be permanently in session and involved in church governance and would control the Curia, which would be forced to serve the pope and bishops as a civil service. However, the Curia reasserted itself after the council and now plays a dominant role in the universal Church.
A truly collegial church might well have avoided scandals…but unfortunately implementing collegiality and an independent synod of bishops is still a dead letter.
Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) made it clear at the outset of his papacy that the role of the bishops was to assist him in his ministry, not to exercise any sort of independent governance with and under him as the council envisaged.
…Cardinal Ratzinger targeted theologians for repressive surveillance, and he engendered a mood of fear and anxiety …
A burning question is why did Dr. Ratzinger turn his back on council teaching and its progressive agenda? And the answer has much to do with the student revolt of 1968 which scared Dr. Ratzinger. The great deference shown to German professors gave way to jeering and cat-calls.
Now that Benedict is retired and the search for a new pope is underway, it is time to ask what the principal concerns of a pope should be. It is clear now from stories of scandals both financial and sexual within the Curia and the Vatican that structural reform is imperative.
Collegiality needs to be implemented
Posted by Charles II on February 28, 2013
Former Dominican friar and current Episcopal priest Matthew Fox on the dysfunction in the Catholic hierarchy:
MATTHEW FOX: …Yeah, I think I’ll take the pope at his word here when he says he’s tired. I would be tired, too, if I left as much devastation in my wake as he has, first as inquisitor general under the previous pope. He brought the Inquisition back.
It’s become a viper’s nest there, obviously—the Vatican is…. It’s really sick, what’s going on, obviously—the cover-up of the pedophile priests.
So, history and cheerleading of popes, what I call papolatry, will not cover up the facts. This has been the most sordid 42 years of Catholic history since the Borgias. And as I say, I think it’s really about ending that church as we know it. I think Protestantism, too, needs a reboot. I think all of Christianity can get back more to the teachings of Jesus, a revolutionary around love and justice. That’s what it’s about. And that’s why there’s been such fierce resistance all along from the right wing. The CIA has been involved in, especially with Pope John Paul II, the decimation of liberation theology all over South America, the replacing of these heroic leaders, including bishops and cardinals, with Opus Dei cardinals and bishops, who are—well, frankly, it’s a fascist organization, Opus Dei is. It’s all about obedience. It’s not about ideas or theology. They haven’t produced one theologian in 40 years. They produce canon lawyers and people who infiltrate where the power is, whether it’s the media, the Supreme Court or the FBI, the CIA, and finance, especially in Europe.
Pope John XXIII called the [Second Vatican] council in the early ’60s,…it definitely was a reform movement, and it gave inspiration to the poor, especially in South America. And after the council, the movement of liberation theology, which had a principle of preferential option for the poor, this really took off.
And this non-hierarchical, this far more horizontal and circular approach to Christianity and to worship was a big threat, of course, to certain people in Rome, but it was even a bigger threat to the CIA. When Reagan was elected, two months later there was a meeting of his National Security Council in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss one thing: How can we destroy liberation theology in Latin America? And they concluded: We can’t destroy it, but we can divide the church. And so they went after the pope. They gave him lots and lots of cash for solidarity in Poland. And in exchange, they got the permission, if you will, the commitment on the part of the papacy, to destroy liberation theology.
And this is very much documented. It’s actually documented by Carl Bernstein, of all people, in a cover story in Time magazine…
I loved his description of nailing an updated 95 theses, ala Martin Luther, to Cardinal Bernard Law’s door in Italy (Fox did the same to Cardinal Ratzinger, but there’s a special place in my heart for Bernard Law).
Fox’s basic point, with which I agree, is that the politicization of the church is what is causing its dysfunction. Having read some of Fox’s work elsewhere, I find some of his theology kind of bizarre but, as he indicated, freedom of conscience is essential to any true belief. At any rate, it does well to remember that Catholics outside of the hierarchy have led–often heroically–many of the movements for reform, civil rights, and social justice of the 20th century, but the hierarchy has almost always served the forces of reaction, and sometimes of totalitarianism.
Posted by Charles II on February 25, 2013
Despite the seamy authoritarian side of the Catholic Church that was exposed by the sex abuse scandal, there is a lot to love about the Church. Its art represents extraordinary human spiritual exploration.
Our friend Brother John has been doing a pilgrimage to the holy sites of Italy. He has produced a terrific set of photos and posted them online:
There are more photos and commentary on his site.
Posted by Charles II on February 15, 2013
When one runs across items such as the following, one realizes that there are far worse papal candidates than Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI.
Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, 62, Honduras. Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is widely seen as a rising star in the Latin American church. He served as president of CELAM, the federation of Latin American bishops’ conferences, until 1999. A Salesian, he speaks near-perfect Italian and English (along with passable French, Portuguese, German, Latin and Greek), plays the piano, and has taken pilot training. He is ferocious on social justice issues. He was part of a small group that met German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in Cologne to hand over the Jubilee 2000 petition for debt relief. “Neoliberal capitalism carries injustice and inequality in its genetic code,” he said in 1995. However some say his rhetoric is not matched by a command of policy details. His theological training came in the post-Vatican II period. He studied at the Alfonsian Academy in Rome where he took classes from the legendary liberal moral theologian Bernard Häring, whom Rodriguez calls an “idol.” He has a reputation for being unusually open on ecumenical questions for a Latin American bishop, many of whom have little experience in religiously pluralistic settings. Rodriguez has a warm smile and a ready sense of humor.
Rodriguez Maradiaga, of course, supported the coup against Manuel Zelaya, and is the head of Opus Dei in Honduras. As the previous link makes clear, Opus Dei is fundamentally a political organization that undermines Christian teaching in order to support authoritarian governments and plutocracy. For National Catholic Reporter to gloss over this serious issue, not even mentioning the Cardemal’s support for the coup, just goes to show how much control Opus Dei exerts over conversation within the Catholic Church.
Rodriguez Maradiaga is only one of the papal candidates who is a member or supporter of Opus Dei. Among others mentioned is Cardinal Juan Cipriani Thorne. More troubling, Betty Clermont at Daily Kos explains how Opus Dei members exert control over who becomes the next Pope.
Posted by Charles II on January 27, 2013
Betty Clermont has an epic post on the nature of intramural and extramural conflicts in the Vatican. While I think that reports of the Church’s demise are just a bit premature, the main thread is that there has been a lack of accountability, particularly with regard to financial transactions. Probably the most incendiary allegation has to do with suspicions of institutional involvement of l’Istituto per le Opere di Religione (the Institute for Religious Works) in transactions in which “clergy may have acted as fronts for corrupt businessmen and the Mafia.” It looks improbable that charges will be filed, but to be unable to explain multimillion dollar transactions speaks to a disregard for the niceties.
This in turn bears on whether the Vatican is involved in promoting certain politicians/positions in the EU. What does seem clear is that the hyper-hierarchical structure at the apex of the church promotes politics at the expense of true religion. I’m sure that the Church will weather all this–it’s too important to too many people to “implode”– but it is in need of renewal.