Bergoglio complicit in Argentina's 'Dirty War?' - Tucson News Now

Accusations of complicity in Argentina's 'Dirty War' surround new pope

As a Cardinal in Argentina, Pope Francis denied any involvement with abuses by the country's dictatorship during the 1970s and 80s. (Source: CNN) As a Cardinal in Argentina, Pope Francis denied any involvement with abuses by the country's dictatorship during the 1970s and 80s. (Source: CNN)

(RNN) - After weeks of anticipation, the Catholic Church has picked a new pope. But several critics contend that during the 1970s and 80s, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the newly appointed Pope Francis, was complicit in human rights abuses carried out by Argentina's right-wing military dictatorship during a period of violence and upheaval in Argentina.

An oft-quoted source of the accusations is Argentinean journalist Horacio Verbitsky. His 2005 book, El Silencio, chronicled the role of Argentina's Catholic Church during the Dirty War, the term given to a period between 1976 and 1983 that saw as many as 30,000 people killed by Argentina's government as it sought to rid the country of leftist opponents.

According to Mexican news site, La Jornada, Verbitsky wrote that in 1976, Bergoglio gave information about the whereabouts of two Jesuit priests who were accused by the right-wing government of being leftists. They worked in slums and preached liberation theology, a form of Catholicism that harshly criticizes unjust economic conditions, according to Verbitsky.

The two priests were later found drugged and naked and at least one of them accused Bergoglio directly of giving them up to the government.

But Bergoglio denied having anything to do with the incident and in his authorized 2010 biography argued that he actively sought the priests' release, reported the Associated Press.

The biography also says Bergoglio, who was the head of Argentina's Jesuit Order during the right-wing dictatorship, often hid people the government sought to arrest.

Verbitsky's account not only contradicts the biography, but also alleges that Bergoglio helped hide members of the Argentine Navy from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, according to The Guardian.

In addition to accusations of being complicit in government kidnappings during the 1970s - considered by many Argentines to be the darkest period in their history - Bergoglio was accused of ignoring many pleas for help during the government's reign of terror.

An example of that is the De la Cuadra family, who asked for Bergoglio's help after several members of their family were kidnapped by the government, including Ana de la Cuadra, who was 5-months pregnant at the time of her kidnapping, according to the AP.

After Estela de la Cuadra gave birth in captivity, she was killed and her baby was given to another family.

The kidnapping of pregnant women and giving away of their babies to families connected with the dictatorship was a systematic practice, according to IJCentral, the public awareness arm of the International Criminal Court.

In 2010, Bergoglio claimed he did not know anything about kidnapped babies until 1985, two years after the military dictatorship had been ousted from power. But many people did not believe that claim, including the De la Cuadra family.

"How is it that Bergoglio did not know for 10 years about the kidnapping of babies?" said Estela de la Cuadra, the baby's aunt, according to Venezuelan news site TeleSur. "Why doesn't he cite it? Is it not worth saying what happened with Ana de la Cuadra?"

In general, the Catholic Church has been heavily criticized by human rights groups and the Argentinean people for not doing more during Argentina's Dirty War.

And during the past 10 years, there have been several trials held against Catholic priests who were alleged to have helped the military dictatorship carry out human rights abuses to varying degrees.

In probably the most famous case of a Catholic priest collaborating with the military dictatorship was Christian Von Wernich, who was found guilty of involvement in seven murders, 31 cases of torture, and 42 kidnappings, according to the Independent.

With the controversy surrounding the relationship between the Catholic Church and a brutal dictatorship, the accusations against Bergoglio could be seen as a reflection of a larger distrust of the country's Catholic leadership.

The church "was like a mother that did not look for her children," said Rev. Rubén Capitanio, according to the New York Times. "It did not kill anybody, but it did not save anybody, either."

That accusation has been directed at Bergoglio, as well.

"Bergoglio has a very cowardly attitude when it comes to something so terrible as the theft of babies. He says he didn't know anything about it until 1985," said de la Cuadra, according to the AP.

"He doesn't face this reality and it doesn't bother him. The question is how to save his name, save himself. But he can't keep these allegations from reaching the public. The people know how he is."

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