Monday, March 18, 2013

The "Accuser of the Brethren" puts Pope Francis in his sights

In today's first reading from the book of Daniel, the virtuous Susanna faces judgment under a situation of entrapment. There is nothing she can say that will override the testimony of the two malicious elders. It's their word against hers. Majority wins.

Pope Francis is in a somewhat analogous situation as the major media (and also some prominent Catholic media) offer wide berth to accusations against the him for his alleged indifference to justice during Argentina's "dirty wars" 40 years ago. There are fruitless allegations based on one-sided assumptions about how one "ought" to have acted in a situation that was (as even the accusers admit) "complicated" (and not "black and white"); there are also outright calumnies, claiming that Bergoglio betrayed two of his Jesuit confreres. Others will admit that while this particular charge is untrue (it was actually one of their former colleagues in the slums who surrendered the Jesuits' names under torture), Bergoglio simply did not do "enough" in a situation that called for prophetic denunciations.

No matter that in the decades since he has "delivered all his goods to feed the poor" (1 Cor 13); he "didn't do enough" when times were really hard. And hard they were: a condition of undeclared civil war in which one side had all the weapons, and citizens simply vanished overnight. Now we know that many of them were trundled into aircraft and dumped--alive--into the ocean.

Vain heroics make for good movies, but is it justifiable to look back 40 years and ask for them? Bergoglio could not have known how long the dirty war would last. But his present-day accusers seem unwilling to assume he did the best he could with the knowledge and perspective he had at the time.

What is an "adequate" response when this is not history, but a "clear and present danger"?

"Enough" is never quantifiable; by that very fact it is a standard that can never be met. And it is all too easy to accuse someone of indifference or of "not doing 'enough'" when one is not in that person's place, responsible for not only the two or three immediately imperiled members, but for each and every Jesuit in Argentina, but for the associates, students, and staff of all their institutions.

Accusations about the past do not allow for a person to move beyond the past. For his present-day accusers and those who choose to believe the worst until proven wrong (as some commenters on the Commonweal site), Pope Francis is still a 39-year-old former high school teacher ineffectively leading his Jesuit subjects in a deadly time.

But Jesus said that "by their fruits you shall know them" (Mt 7:16). Looking at Pope Francis' life since the time of the dirty wars, we see his passion for the poor and oppressed--the same passion that motivated his Jesuit confreres long ago. If--and it's a big "if"--Bergoglio had his doubts about his brother's activities in the '70's, he seems to have come around to sharing their priorities better than, probably, most of those who are so willing to accuse him of not doing "enough."


Jeff Hite said...

I know so very little about the dirty wars that I hesitate to speak at all, but I have to say that this feels like the media digging for something, any thing to say because they need to fill their papers. No one is perfect, no one has always done everything they could. We all have done things, or even not done things that we regret having done or not done. We are all human.
Thanks for the very informative post.

Melanie Jean Juneau said...

a note from P.C.Scott on my blog motherofnine9, on this subject

One of the biggest problems in this world is that the good people who stand up to the big bad guys, are often painted by them as the evil people, and the evil guys, and their minions often spend a lot of time trying to portray themselves as the saints. It is difficult to find something to believe for me as there is just too many lies being spread around all of the time.

I will hope for the best from the Pope, if he is able to travel around in public in his home country, then he must not be hated very much there by anyone and that is a pretty good vote in his favor.

Also Even if the pope did commit these crimes, it is obvious that he has been transformed just by looking at his lifestyle

Anonymous said...

I think he is a Godsend to the whole world. Grace a Dieu

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Here's another perspective, from a political angle:

Franc said...

For the Pope istallation,so many people,kings,leaders and presidents are in Rome that for security reasons the italian police closed all the area around the Vatican!