As soon as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, now known as Pope Francis I, was announced earlier this afternoon, the excitement could hardly be contained.
The first pope from the Western Hemisphere! The first Francis! An advocate for the poor! A defender of human rights!
Wait. Bergoglio, a defender of human rights? The idea that anyone would characterize the new pope as having a solid record on such issues is laughable.
One needn’t look further than his staunch opposition to LGBT rights and his flagrant attacks on women to see the contempt. In the days leading up to Argentina’s legalization of same-sex marriage in July, Bergoglio labeled the push for equality “a destructive attack on God’s plan” and deemed adoption by same-sex couples a form of discrimination against children.
And then there are the issues of abortion and contraception. “A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death,” Bergoglio noted disapprovingly in a 2007 speech. Meanwhile, an astounding number of women in Argentina, women without access to or education about contraception, die annually as victims of botched abortion procedures carried out in secret.
If we do dig a little deeper into Bergoglio’s past, we find that he was accused of participating in one of the numerous human rights violations committed during Argentina’s Dirty War (which ended up resulting in 30,000 activist deaths at the hands of the military junta). The Catholic Church’s complicity has long been acknowledged, but in 2005 Bergoglio became the focus of a criminal complaint filed by a human rights lawyer accusing him of conspiring with the junta to kidnap two dissenting Jesuit priests in 1976.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the dictatorship—and outrage over the crimes committed during that period—remains a central part of the activist narrative in Argentina, heard widely at demonstrations in support of LGBT and reproductive rights. A common protest chant—“Iglesia. Basura. Vos sos la dicatura!” (Church. Garbage. You are the dictatorship!)—today became—“Bergoglio. Basura. Vos sos la dictadura.”
Habemus Papam Franciscum!
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