John the Baptist: For Herod himself had sent and apprehended John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias the wife of Philip his brother, because he had married her.
Cardinal Kasper: Often pastors want to control human life. It’s clericalism. They don’t trust people and therefore don’t respect the conscience of people.
John the Baptist: For John said to Herod: It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’ s wife.
Cardinal Kasper: Of course, we have to give guidelines from the Gospel and remind people of the commandments of the Lord, but then we should trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts and in the conscience of our people.
John the Baptist: But Herod the tetrarch, when he was reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done; he added this also above all, and shut up John in prison.
Cardinal Kasper: Therefore divorced and remarried people should find a good priest confessor who accompanies them for some time and if this second, civil marriage, is solid then the path of new orientation can end with a confession and absolution. Absolution means admission to Holy Communion. Continue reading
Oh, what a picture Father Barron paints!
Grace has descended in a nice, straight line
through a whole crew of lovely British saints
to glorious Colbert. To see this sign
is to appreciate all that’s Divine.
Colbert can quote The Silmarillion
and Tolkien’s letters. What delight is mine —
for I too think Tolkien is lots of fun!
All of my prejudices are undone.
A broader mind is what I am acquiring.
Under God’s great and even-handed sun,
apologists are well and widely hiring.
Catholicism’s good, Colbert is good.
Let’s all stick up now for Planned Parenthood!
From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:
Members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that they have approved an initiative to “round out” all remaining traditionally built churches by the end of next year, USCCB secretary to the president bishop Jonathon Garner announced early this morning.
Garner also said that during the renovation, parishioners would be invited to “come together as one family by sitting around the altar,” which, he emphasized, was one of the most essential aspects of Mass participation.
“Christ did not ask the disciples to sit behind him or even in front of him during the Last Supper,” Garner said. “No, he asked them to gather around the table, as we can clearly see in Leonardo di Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper. And by having them gather together, he was able to remind them of what clearly is most important part of the Mass: awkwardly staring at the person across the other end of the church for a full hour. I’m sorry, what did I just say? I meant ‘gathering together.’ Yeah, that’s it…gathering and stuff.”
The initiative also applies to Tridentine parishes where the priest is expected to say the Mass with his back facing the congregation. When asked how the “restructuring” could be done while still preserving the integrity of the Latin Mass, Garner suggested that the women simply turn their mantillas around until they completely covered their faces.
Something for the weekend. THE STRIFE IS O’ER, THE BATTLE DONE. The words were written by that most prolific of authors, anonymous, in the 12th century. The music is from Palestrina’s Magnificat Tertii Toni. This was all brought together by William Henry Monk in 1861 to produce this glorious hymn that celebrates that for faithful Christians death has no ultimate victory.
- The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun:
- The pow’rs of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions has dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst:
- The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head:
- He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heav’n’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell:
- Lord, by the stripes which wounded You,
In us You’ve won the vict’ry too,
That we may live, and sing to You:
Do you ever get the feeling that you are living in a pontificate scripted like an old Monty Python skit? I certainly do, and I think our bruin friend at Saint Corbinian’s Bear agrees with me:
The Holy Father has sent a letter praising Francesca Pardi for a children’s book in which an egg encounters all sorts of different families, including those headed by gay penguins and lesbian rabbits. The controversial book, which was banned in Venice, touched hearts at the Vatican. According to an article in The Guardian, the letter said:
“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B Wells, a senior official at the Vatican secretariat of state.
This is what John Allen wrote in the National Catholic Reporter of the appointee of Pope Benedict:
Cables revealed as part of the Wikileaks scandal show how much diplomats rely on Wells for readings of the Vatican’s take on sensitive issues, such as the church’s sexual abuse scandals. Other players know the score, too. In 2010, when parishioners in Boston wanted to appeal the closing of nine local parishes, they consulted a couple of canon lawyers about the best way to get the pope’s attention, and the reply was to address the petition to Wells.
Wells, an American, is known as the guy whose ear you want when you want the Pope’s ear. He is not some low-level functionary.
The Bear will say this, after taking a deep breath. In all charity, obviously, this was not the doings of Pope Francis. The Vatican Secretariat of State may have its own agenda. People are always taking advantage of poor Holy Father, by shoving anti-fracking T-shirts or commiefixes into his hands, or misquoting him, or making up stories about phone calls they supposedly received from him.
This is a boilerplate letter, and the Pope probably never even saw the book. (The author apparently submitted her entire oeuvre, including seven or eight dealing with homosexual issues, along with a plaintive letter.)
How does the Bear know Pope Francis is innocent?
Because not even Pope Francis would approve of a book for young, impressionable children promoting homosexuality. Only a flat-out homosexual activist would abuse his position for such a purpose. This would constitute material assistance — through his endorsement — for a book even secular authorities found repulsive, a book that promotes homosexuality and same-sex unions to young children. “Woe to those who do; woe, woe to those who approve.”
Also, if he had, Michael Voris would have done a Vortex about it. Because if there’s one thing Michael Voris hates, it’s bishops who approve of homosexuality.
The Bear predicts that within 48 hours, we will see a retraction from the Vatican. And thus shall we know that the problem we have at Santa Marta is not a horror beyond all imagining.
UPDATE: Friday, the Vatican Press Office said: “In no way does the letter from the Secretariat of State mean to endorse behaviour and teachings not in line with the Gospel.” Oh, and it was supposed to be private. (The Bear isn’t some big shot diplomat, but if you decide to weigh in on a controversy Elton John has thrown a hissy fit about, chances are the aggrieved author is not going to keep a papal endorsement letter private. Just a hint for future reference, gentlemen.)
Well, there you go! This:
“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,”
in reference to books promoting homosexuality to children is clearly not “endorsing” their content! What do you think the Bear’s chances are of getting Msgr. Wells to issue a similar statement on behalf of the Pope regarding this blog?
“Bear, His holiness is grateful for your tireless ursine activity in the service of the Church, and the spread of genuine Bearish and Christian values.”
Nah. If the Bear were aiming at first-graders to teach them what a great thing it was for homosexuals to co-habitate and obtain children was, he might have a chance. Continue reading
“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”
My secretary and office manager Chris Bissey passed away in the early hours of this morning, age 51, ending her over two years fight against cancer. I have seen many a valiant fight against cancer in my life, including that of my mother who died at 48 on Easter Sunday 1984, but never a braver one than that fought by Chris. Throughout her ordeal her spirit was ever unbroken, she usually cheering up those around her. She was bright and optimistic, just as she had been throughout her life. She worked up until Wednesday of this week, telling the Grim Reaper that she had tasks to attend to and he could just wait until she was ready.
She worked for me for thirty years. I called her my secret weapon. If I needed a hearing scheduled and she was told that it was impossible she would get it scheduled anyway. Astonished Judges often asked me how I managed to get a hearing set before them on a date when they said no more settings. I replied that it was by black magic, black magic that went by the name of Chris Bissey. She routinely did the impossible for me, imposing order on hundreds of open files, typing up my documents, making friends among courthouse staffs and charming all who came into my office and called on the phone. It was a rare week when I did not receive at least one compliment in regard to Chris.
She was much more to me however than a secretary. She was also a good friend. Over the years we looked out for each other and helped each other through our triumphs and our tragedies. Outside of my immediate family, no person was closer to me than Chris. Continue reading
Father Z brings us this interesting factoid:
Shortly after the election of Pope Francis, the Wednesday General Audience and the Sunday Angelus made the area around San Pietro a complete madhouse. I would usually be at the Augustinianum at those times for study or for lunch with a friend and I experienced it myself.
Then, over the next couple years, I noticed that it was easier and easier to get around near San Pietro at those times. Fewer people were coming.
For the 100th general audience of Pope Francis’ pontificate, the Prefecture of the Papal Household released the average attendance of audiences from 51,6K in 2013 to 14,8K in 2015. HERE
From Sandro Magister:
In occasione della centesima udienza generale [On the occasion of the 100th general audience] del pontificato di papa Francesco, mercoledì 26 agosto, la prefettura della casa pontificia ha comunicato che a questi cento appuntamenti hanno preso parte in totale 3.147.600 persone, così distribuite anno dopo anno:
– 1.548.500 i presenti alle 30 udienze del 2013,
– 1.199.000 i presenti alle 43 udienze del 2014,
– 400.100 i presenti alle 27 udienze del 2015.
Questo significa che anno dopo anno la media dei presenti a ciascuna udienza è stata la seguente: [the average at each audience]
– 51.617 persone nel 2013,
– 27.883 persone nel 2014,
– 14.818 persone nel 2015.
Quindi ogni nuovo anno con la metà di presenze dell’anno precedente. [Each year, half the number of the year before.]
Nè le vacche magre sembrano scongiurate, visto che alla centesima udienza di mercoledì scorso è stato comunicato che sono accorsi solo “in più di diecimila”. [at the 100th there were “more than 10K”]
La foto sopra è stata scattata durante l’udienza generale di mercoledì 11 febbraio 2015, che era anche la festa della Madonna di Lourdes e la giornata del malato, con l’afflusso di delegazioni dell’Unitalsi. [Photo at the audience of 11 Feb 2015, Day of the Sick.]
Benedict’s audiences exceeded those of John Paul II at times.
The square is emptier and emptier.
And it’s not because of the general secularization.
Romans aren’t going either, so it isn’t the economic slump. Continue reading
“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
A civilization where belief in God is on the wane, is a civilization where people are merely objects and will be treated as such. The greatest thinkers of the human race have understood this. Benjamin Franklin, who was far from being an orthodox Christian, saw what the world would be like without religion in a letter dated December 13, 1757:
I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For, without the belief of a Providence that takes cognisance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion that, though your reasons are subtle, and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind spits in his own face.
But were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantage of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.
I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a great deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it? Continue reading
Or as my Father’s favorite Western, Shane, put it:
“Shane: A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”
Bishop Elect Barron has a post at Catholic News Report that rubs me the wrong way. Here is the beginning:
Just last week, Stephen Colbert gave an interview in which the depth of his Catholic faith was on pretty clear display. Discussing the trauma that he experienced as a young man-the deaths of his father and two of his brothers in a plane crash – he told the interviewer how, through the ministrations of his mother, he had learned not only to accept what had happened but actually to rejoice in it: “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was ten; that was quite an explosion…It’s that I love the thing that I wish most had not happened.”
Flummoxed, his interlocutor asked him to elaborate on the paradox. Without missing a beat, Colbert cited J.R.R. Tolkien: “What punishments of God are not gifts?” What a wonderful sermon on the salvific quality of suffering! And it was delivered, not by a priest or bishop or evangelist, but by a comedian about to take over one of the most popular television programs on late night.
Go here to read the rest. The problem that I have with this is that the Bishop-Elect fails to note that on a crucial issue, abortion, Colbert is in opposition to the Faith. Go here to see a video in which Colbert ridicules the efforts in 2011 to defund
Planned Parenthood Worse Than Murder, Inc. on the grounds that abortions make up only three percent of the business of Worse Than Murder, Inc. There are two problems with this line of argument. First, because it is morally obtuse: “Look at all the good things that Hitler did! Murdering millions of people in death camps was only a very small percentage of what the Third Reich accomplished!” The fact that Planned Parenthood is engaged in killing innocent children in utero should be repugnant to any “good Catholic”, or, indeed, any man or woman of conscience. Second, because it is a lie. Colbert got the three percent figure from Planned Parenthood talking points. The figure is ludicrous. Planned Parenthood performs thirty percent of all abortions in this country. Abortions are a major revenue generator for them. Even the pro-abort Washington Post a few weeks ago, admitted that the three percent figure is deceitful:
The 3 percent figure that Planned Parenthood uses is misleading, comparing abortion services to every other service that it provides. The organization treats each service — pregnancy test, STD test, abortion, birth control — equally. Yet there are obvious difference between a surgical (or even medical) abortion, and offering a urine (or even blood) pregnancy test. These services are not all comparable in how much they cost or how extensive the service or procedure is.
The Church has been against abortion since the time of Christ. Stephen Colbert defends the organization that promotes the ongoing murder of the most innocent among us. Go here to watch a video of his drinking game, with a drink being taken whenever Rick Santorum mentioned partial birth abortion. Continue reading
Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa brings us more about the controversies of whether Pope Francis is a Peronist and just what being a Peronist means:
There has been a great deal of discussion over the idea of a “populist” and “Peronist” Jorge Mario Bergoglio, addressed in the two most recent articles from www.chiesa:
In particular the discussion has been over the description of Peronism and its multiform expressions presented by Professor Marco Olivetti in an article published in “Avvenire” on the eve of the presidential primaries in Argentina last August 8, won with a wide margin by Daniel Scioli, the candidate of current president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner:
“Kirchnerism is the latest reincarnation of Peronism: after the original, vaguely fascistic form of Juan Domingo Perón and Evita; the free-market conservative form of the dying Perón and his third wife, Isabelita, during the 1970’s; and the neoliberal form of Carlos Menem during the 1990’s.
“It constitutes the socialistic variation, in continuity with the para-revolutionary groups that infested Argentina in the early 1970’s, and is upheld by traditional Peronist trade unionism. Its support is particularly high among persons with low incomes and little education.
“Its distinguishing mark is populism, identification with a good ‘people,’ now inflected according to the political terrain prevalent in much of Latin America, from the Venezuela of Chávez and his heirs to the Bolivia of Morales, from the Brazil of Lula and Dilma to the Ecuador of Correa, albeit with all the differences of the various cases.”
Olivetti is an expert on constitutions and political systems, and made no reference, in the article cited, to the political vision of Pope Francis.
But the most noted Italian expert on Latin America, Professor Loris Zanatta of the university of Bologna, has explicitly upheld a connection between Bergoglio and Peronist populism both in his latest book, “The Catholic nation. Church and dictatorship in the Argentina of Bergoglio” – published in Italy by Laterza and in Argentina by Editorial Sudamericana – and in this article published in the Argentine newspaper “La Nación” after the pope’s journey to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay:
Professor Olivetti has received a contentious reply from Buenos Aires, from a man with a deep understanding and appreciation of Peronsim, José Arturo Quarracino, in the message published in its entirety further below.
In addition to being a nephew and sharing the last name of the cardinal who as archbishop of Buenos Aires wanted Bergoglio as his auxiliary and snatched him out of “exile” in Córdoba, Quarracino has taught the history and evolution of political ideas at the faculty of economic sciences of the Universidad Nacional de Lomas de Zamora, and is an excellent translator of great authors like Romano Guardini, Gilbert Chesterton, Joseph Ratzinger, as well as of various articles from www.chiesa, including this one.
In replying to Olivetti he too makes no explicit reference to Bergoglio. And yet he gives a definition of Peronism that is perfectly in line with what Pope Francis has recently said in this regard.
This is what Quarracino writes:
“Peronism has always defined itself as a humanist and Christian movement, as a third philosophical and political movement next to free-market capitalism and Marxist totalitarianism. On the social, economic, and cultural level, many of its doctrinal postulates were explicitly founded on the principles of the social doctrine of the Church.”
While these are the pope’s words to Javier Cámara and Sebastián Pfaffen, authors of the book “Aquel Francisco” published last autumn in Córdoba, with regard to his interest in politics:
“In the formulation of Peronist doctrine there is a connection with the social doctrine of the Church. It must not be forgotten that Perón showed his speeches to Bishop Nicolás de Carlo of Resistencia in Chaco, so that he could look at them and tell him if they were in accord with the social doctrine of the Church.”
“Bishop de Carlo was a Peronist sympathizer, but also an excellent pastor. The one thing had nothing to do with the other. In April of 1948 Perón, from the balcony of the seminary in the central square of Resistencia, said at the end of his speech that he wanted to make one thing clear. He mentioned that they were accusing Bishop de Carlo of being a Peronist and said: ‘It is a great lie. It is Perón who is decarlista.’ De Carlo was the one who helped Perón with the social doctrine of the Church.”
Pope Bergoglio also said to the authors of “Aquel Francisco”:
“I have always been a political butterfly, always.”
And he explained:
“I come from a radical family, my uncle was a ‘radical of ’90’ [editor’s note: the party born from the revolutionary movement that overturned the ruling regime in 1890]. Then, as an adolescent, I also got a crush on the ‘zurdaje’ [editor’s note: Argentine term that indicates the left], reading books from the Communist Party that were given to me by my teacher Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, a great woman who had been secretary of the Partido revolucionario febrerista paraguayo.
“In those years the political culture was very lively. I liked to get in on everything. Between 1951 and 1952 I would wait anxiously for the arrival, three times a week, of the socialist militants who sold ‘La Vanguardia.’ And naturally I also frequented social justice groups. But I never signed up for any party.”
The “social justice groups” that Pope Francis said he frequented were precisely those of the followers of Perón, who called his own ideology “justicialista” – a blending of “justice” and “socialism” – and gave his party the name of “Partido justicialista”.
In the five pages of reminiscences that Pope Francis dedicates to politics in the book cited, there is not even one word that sounds the least bit critical of Perón, in spite of the anti-Catholic character of the end of his first presidency and the excommunication issued against him by Pius XII in 1955.
But here is Quarracino’s commentary on “true” Peronism, so similar to the political vision of Pope Francis.
A POPULAR MOVEMENT, BUT NOT POPULIST
by José Arturo Quarracino
Kirchnerism is not “the latest reincarnation of Peronism” – as Professor Marco Olivetti calls it – because it is by its nature a “subtle form of anti-Peronism,” or the “anti-Peronization of Peronism”: in fact, the content of its policies is completely opposed both to the policies historically implemented by Peronism and to its theoretical positions.
In general terms, Kirchnerism has kept alive until today the founding laws of the civic-military transformation of 1976 that turned Argentina into a neocolonial appendix of international financial power, as well as the concentration and outward projection of its economy and the role of single main export (soy) country.
For its part, historically speaking, Peronism opposed this predatory financial power, while Kirchnerism instead docilely submitted to this power and repaid with interest the plundering perpetrated from 1976 onward: more than two hundred billion dollars, with the paradox that today Argentina has a debt much higher than what it had at the beginning of Kirchnerist rule.
The ability of Kirchnerism consisted in putting into action a profoundly anti-Peronist and pro-colonialist politics, but under the disguise of Peronism. That is, in the name of Peronism it advanced a politics completely opposed to the theoretical postulates of Peronism.
Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours – and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.
CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Rorate Caeli brings us the musings of Antonio Socci, one of the keener observers of the Church in Italy on what he refers to as the Bergoglio Party:
To the courageous headline in yesterday’s “Libero” (“The Pope’s Party. The Vatican’s Political Shift”) only one idea should be added: the Bergoglio Party is one thing (which is doing harm, but will fade with him), the Catholic Church is another. The other day Matteo Salvini* rightly noted this in the polemics he had with Monsignor Galantino. Plus, the very caustic interview with Giovanni Sartori – the king of political analysts – helped clarify it all:
“To me, this Vatican that utters such nonsense is a disaster. They aren’t interested at all in the real facts and focus on very petty things”. [Note: Sartori also declared, “Galantino? To me, he seems… demented.”]
“for two years” – he says – “those in Bergoglio’s Church haven’t said a word about the extermination of Christians, the slaughter of Catholics in Africa and the rest of the world, along with the continuous persecution of the Kurds. They should focus on these issues and leave alone the things that are not of their competence”.
I cannot see how we can literally end War unless we can end Will. I cannot think that war will ever be utterly impossible; and I say so not because I am what these people call a militarist, but rather because I am a revolutionist. Absolutely to forbid fighting is to forbid what our fathers called “the sacred right of insurrection.” Against some decisions no self-respecting men can be prevented from appealing to fortune and to death.
Father Z discusses two fairly elementary points, although many Catholics get them wrong:
Criticism of the Pope can become a mortal sin if one’s criticism is filled with a hatred and vitriol that shows a lack of respect or filial love for Our Sovereign Pontiff. One must also consider to whom you show that lack of respect. If by your words and actions you harm his reputation with others unjustly, you do him and them a grave wrong. You also may be committing the sin of sacrilege.
But be careful in aiming criticism at the Pope. Be careful to whom you open your mind or reveal your attitude. Examine your conscience with brutal honesty, remembering that His Holiness has a perspective on the Church that we do not.
We should, however, avoid giving scandal. Maintain respect for the Holy Father when speaking about him to others, heed his words on faith and morals, and give him obedience when it is called for. Continue reading
Sometimes regarded as the first casualty of the Cold War, Captain John Birch died seventy years ago. Born in 1918 in India to American Baptist missionaries, he followed in his parents’ footsteps by becoming a missionary in China in 1940. After the Doolittle Raid he helped rescue some of the raiders who landed in China. He was commissioned a First Lieutenant, later promoted to Captain, in the Fourteenth Air Force. General Chennault, legendary founder of the Flying Tigers, got him to accept the commission by telling him that he could still function as a missionary in his off hours. He performed intelligence missions behind enemy lines for the Army Air Corps and the OSS. While on these missions he would conduct services for Chinese Christians. He was utterly fearless, despising both the Japanese and the Chinese Communists. He built up an extensive network of Chinese who passed along information to him about Japanese troop movements and shipping that he passed on to Chennault for bombing attacks.
On August 25, 1945, as he was leading a group of Americans, National Chinese and Koreans to liberate Allied personnel in a Japanese POW camp, he was ordered by a party of Chinese Communists, who had intercepted his group, to surrender his revolver. Birch refused and was murdered by the Communists. He was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Medal. Dead at age 27, he had led a short but eventful life. Continue reading
In an article in The Atlantic, author Paul Vallely looks at how Pope Francis changed as a result of his period of “internal exile” imposed upon him by the Jesuits:
As polarization grew between an atheist, anti-Church Left and a right wing that claimed to be acting in defense of the Church and its values, Bergoglio found that it was impossible to hold to a middle way. He cracked down on Liberation Theology inside the Jesuits. Progressives within the order accused him of de-facto collusion with the worldview of the Right, if not with its tactics. Looking back he admitted, in his first interview as pope: “I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultra-conservative.”
A titanic struggle for the soul of Catholicism ensued. Bergoglio had strong support within the Jesuits when he became provincial superior in 1973. But by the time he ended his leadership role as rector of Buenos Aires’s Jesuit seminary in 1986, those who loathed him had begun to outnumber those who loved him. By 1990, his support within the order had been eroded by his authoritarian style and his incorrigible inability, in the words of the Jesuit, Father Frank Brennan, “to let go the reins of office once a [Jesuit] provincial of a different hue was in the saddle.” Another senior Jesuit told me: “He drove people really crazy with his insistence that only he knew the right way to do things. Finally the other Jesuits said: ‘Enough.’”
By the time he was sent into exile, according to one senior Jesuit in Rome, around two-thirds of Argentina’s Jesuits had lost patience with him. In his first interview after becoming pope, Francis attributed this dynamic to his own “style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning. … I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy.” As a young priest in powerful leadership positions, Bergoglio did not have the maturity he needed to cope with the competing pressures of Jesuit factions, the Vatican, and a ruthless military dictatorship.
In response to these cleavages within the Argentine Jesuit community, Jesuit leaders in Rome eventually decided to strip Bergoglio, then 50, of all responsibility. In 1990, he was sent to Cordoba to live in the Jesuit residence, pray, and work on his doctoral thesis. But he was not permitted to say Mass in public in the Jesuit church. He could only go there to hear confessions. He was not allowed to make phone calls without permission. His letters were controlled. His supporters were told not to contact him. The ostracism from his peers was to be complete.
In Cordoba, Bergoglio turned inward. His main public spiritual engagement was hearing confessions. He spent a lot of time looking out the window and walking the streets, from the Jesuit residence to the church along a road that passed through many different areas of the city. People from all walks of life—academics, students, lawyers, and ordinary folk—visited the church for the penitential sacrament. He found his interactions with the poor particularly moving.
“Cordoba was, for Bergoglio, a place of humility and humiliation,” said Father Guillermo Marco, who was later Bergoglio’s right-hand man on public affairs in the diocese of Buenos Aires. There seems to have been more to this than learning from experience. Francis later admitted to having made “hundreds of errors” in his time as leader of Argentina’s Jesuits. Cordoba was, he revealed in his first interview as pope, “a time of great interior crisis.”
In 1992, when Bergoglio returned to Buenos Aires as auxiliary bishop, he had totally remodeled his approach to being a leader. His style became delegatory and participative. And his manner was distinctly different. He developed what became one of his best-known habits: ending all encounters by asking the other person to pray for him.
For the new Bergoglio, humility was more like an intellectual stance than a personal temperament—a tool he developed in his struggle against what he had learned were the weaknesses in his own personality, with its rigid, authoritarian, and egotistical streaks. In Cordoba, Bergoglio had had two long years to reflect on his divisive leadership of the Jesuits in Argentina, and on what he had done wrong or inadequately during the Dirty War.
But the change came from more than that: History was also a major factor. The world has shifted around him. Bergoglio’s early politics were formed in the era of the Cold War, amid the fear that atheistic, Soviet-style communism would supplant both capitalism and Catholicism in Latin America, with Cuba as its toehold. But then the Berlin Wall came down. The Soviet Union and its empire collapsed. Mainstream Catholic teaching absorbed key insights from Liberation Theology—like the idea that sin does not just reside in the bad acts of individuals but can also become embedded in unbalanced economic structures. Globalization only internationalized that injustice. And this truth was brought home to Bergoglio most forcefully during the seismic economic crisis that seized Argentina in 2001, when half the population was plunged below the poverty line. Macroeconomic solutions engineered in Washington by the International Monetary Fund ratcheted up austerity policies that made life harder for the poorest. Bergoglio began to be highly critical of the economic formulas of modern capitalism; he was particularly critical of speculative financial markets for their ability to damage the real economy. Continue reading
Americans traveling through Argentina are sometimes surprised when they come across the town of Lincoln. Founded in 1871, the name of the town was the result of a decree of the government of Argentina on August 23, 1865 which ordered that the employees of the government of Argentina observe three days of mourning for Lincoln and decreed that the next town founded be named in honor of Lincoln. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, President of Argentina from 1868-1874, was such an admirer of Lincoln, that he wrote the first biography of him in Spanish.