I'm not a Roman Catholic, so I don't really have any stake in who the new pope is. Like others, I was astonished by the media's fixation on the conclave and 'white smoke' given the diminished authority of the church in the US and Europe. I certainly did not expect that the cardinals, every one of which was complicit in some way with the cover-up of the massive child rape epidemic among priests, would choose a pope that would take the church in a new direction - or rather the promising direction promised by Vatican II.
Pope Francis made a positive initial impression. Certainly his humility and sympathy for the poor is welcome. However, Francis will continue the church policies - hating on the gays, subjugation of women, priestly celibacy that distorts human sexuality, etc. - which have led the church on the path to perpetual crisis. More troubling was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio's role in the fascist junta which ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983.
Recent blog posts here have dealt with complicity of Germans in the Nazi dictatorship. Here too we see the contradictory role of the Roman Catholic Church. On the one hand, we have the example of Bishop Clemens August von Galen, the "Lion of Münster", who spoke out from the pulpit against the Nazi practice of euthanasia. On the other, we have Pope Pius XII, "Hilter's Pope", who stood by while millions of Jews were murdered across Europe.
Evidently Bergoglio follewed the path of Pius XII rather than von Galen in collaborating with an oppressive regime. Here is Latin American observer Colin M. Snider:
However, his election is more than a little surprising, given his past. Bergoglio was the head of the Jesuits in Argentina during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983, during which the military murdered upwards of 30,000 people (as well as kidnapping hundreds of children whose parents the regime had tortured and murdered). Unlike Catholic officials in neighboring Chile and Brazil, where priests, bishops, and even cardinals spoke out against human rights abuses and defended victims of abuses, in Argentina, the Catholic Church was openly complicit in the military regime’s repression. Bergoglio was not exempt from this involvement: military officers have testified that Bergoglio helped the Argentine military regime hide political prisoners when human rights activists visited the country. And Bergoglio himself had to testify regarding the kidnapping of two priests who he stripped of their religious licenses shortly before they were kidnapped and tortured. This isn’t just a case of Bergoglio being a member of an institution that supported a brutal regime; it’s a case of Bergoglio himself having ties, direct and indirect, to that very regime. For those who hoped for a Pope who might represent a more welcoming and open path for the Catholic Church, the selection of Bergoglio has to be a let-down.
No doubt more will come out about Pope Francis and his past. But the first impression is: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
Update: Was Borgoglio present at the torture of the two priests? Read the whole transcript.