Surprise and amazement divided into equal parts. There wasn’t any prognostic or betting on him. The media started celebrating, skeptical yet, the election of the “Argentinean Pope.”
Then it was remembered that in the 2005 election he had been the top two among the Cardinals, after the German Ratzinger, who was pope for eight years under the name of Benedict XVI, until his recent resignation.
Then it can be understood that, far from being unknown, unforeseen or improvised, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has been for years one of the most powerful and influential men of the Catholic Church worldwide.
The Argentine Jesuit is a conservative man, who has a long history in the defense of the most reactionary positions of the Catholic Church. And essentially coincides with all the positions of his predecessor. But at the same time, coming from a Latin American country, he would show a feeling of renewal and openness in relation to the Italian, European and American curies, eroded by the economic downturn, by corruption and scandals for uncountable rapes of boys. For this and due to this he was elected Pope.
The Church at the pace of imperialism
After the terrible years of the Second World War in which the Catholic Church supported the counter-revolutionaries regimes of Mussolini and Hitler, it has lined up with a new master, the United States, promoting Christian democratic parties who fulfilled a central role in the reconstruction of capitalism in Western Europe.
Being partner of the success of the new imperialist world order during the great economic boom of the postwar era, the Catholic Church had its moment of greatest splendor with Pope John XXIII (1958-1963). Through the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII drove an orientation of openness to all Christians and a general spirit of inclusion or “ecumenism”.
The message was that everyone would have their place in the great prosperity of imperialist democracy.
The onset of the global crisis in the late sixties, in which the fall of the central economies combined with the first military defeat of the United States in Vietnam, also struck the Catholic Church.
Major scandals in the Church began to appear, in particular those related to Ambrosian Bank, where serious embezzlements were proven. At the same time, within the church currents who questioned the support of the curia to the imperialist order arose, as was the case of the Liberation Theology in Latin America.
The church hierarchy sought to reaffirm their role as the primary custody of imperialist faith, adding to the counter-revolutionary crusade headed by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the eighties. To which were also involved the Russian Mikhail Gorbachev and Deng Xiao Ping in China, responsible for implementing the capitalist restoration in the workers states ruled by Communist Parties.
The charismatic Carol Wojtyla, the Polish Pope who took the name of John Paul II, would fulfill a role of primary importance in this counter-revolutionary world front, supported by its influence on the masses of the East, particularly on the Solidarity movement in Poland and promoting Western and Christian values of imperialist democracy.
In his lengthy pontificate (1978-2005), he was a key factor in the success of the counter-revolution during this period, which can be seen, for example, by his role in the surrender of the Argentine military dictatorship in the Falklands War.
That lasted until the support for the new counter-revolutionary offensive launched by George Bush at the beginning of this century, with the military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In this period the influence of the Catholic Church in the United States has grown a lot. With its 70 million members it would become the main economic supporter of the Vatican.
Imperialist crisis, crisis in the Church
Ratzinger succeeded Wojtyla after his death in 2005, and ratified the support to Bush’s policy. But it coincided with economic distortions that began to accumulate and would lead to the major imperialist world crisis that we live in today.
Parallel to the defeats of the imperialism in Middle East (Iraq and Afghanistan) and its subsequent withdrawal from these countries and the beginning of the great financial crisis in 2007, the church began to experience a new period of economic difficulties, combined with the emergence of more and more reports of cases of pedophilia concealed by the church hierarchy in the United States and in many European countries, to which Argentina contributed with the notorious case of Father Grassi, among others.
Only in the United States the Catholic Church has spent over US$ 600 million in compensation to the families of the boys raped by priests, reducing its contribution to Rome, which led to a large deficit in the coffers of the Church. And, along with that, new cases of corruption in the Roman curia came to light.
The U.S. imperialism responded to the crisis opened by the defeat of the counter-revolutionary project of George Bush with Obama leading the necessary anti-worker adjustment. A black conservative leader and deeply committed to the corrupt Democratic machine, but presenting an image of someone sensitive to the problems of the people.
Now, the Church seeks to accommodate its own crisis with a figure like Bergoglio and, just like Obama, for being from Latin America, appears as a renovator, without thereby ceasing to be a defender of Catholic orthodoxy.
A worthy representative of the worst of the Catholic Church
The media speak of “a shepherd who always helped the poor” and a “moderate conservative who surprises by his modesty and simplicity.” Among the early greetings to new Pope were those from Obama and Raul Castro. Nicolás Maduro, Chávez substitute, said, by his turn, that he thought that the deceased “master” had helped his election from the sky. In our country, the media and other personalities like Perez Esquivel himself began working to try to hide the darkest part of his past. Both sectors, the extreme right and the self-styled progressives gave him their support. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is indeed a worthy representative of the leadership of the Argentinean Church, one of the most backward in the world.
Eight years ago, the Cardinals found in Ratzinger a man whose first antecedent was his militancy in the Hitler youth. In Bergoglio they find today a member of the Jesuit order who accompanied the summit of the church in supporting Videla’s Argentine military dictatorship. He is, furthermore, alleged to have facilitated the arrest and torture of two priests who were working in the slums. It is no coincidence that, under Bergoglio’s leadership, the church has not excommunicated Videla nor any of the genocides who were convicted in trials for the disappearances, torture, theft of babies and other crimes of the dictatorship.
In the political-social context he was allied to the Liaison Bureau’s rebellion of the powerful soybean farmers against the attempt to increase their taxes in 2008.
Moreover, in the Kirchnerist years in which he fulfills his primary role at the head of the bishops’ conference as a cardinal rule of Argentina, he was in harsh opposition to marriage between persons of the same sex: He called it a policy of the devil to destroy the traditional family. It is a campaigner against abortion and against all forms of contraception, including when used as a sanitary measure.
Inside the church he opposes the ordination of women to the clergy and in general every change in the strict macho-patriarchal regime that governs it.
Not surprisingly, in Buenos Aires, while the official media try to put the shocking news of his ascension to the papacy in the background, the media of the right-wing opposition celebrate his appointment as a triumph of their own. Close friends of Bergoglio, as Ms. Gabriela Micheti, belonging to the Front headed by the right-wing mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, became the spokeswoman for his appointment.
All this inevitably leads to the question: Why, given the need to show an image of renewal, the Cardinals resort to a nefarious character so worthy representative of the worst and most backward of the Catholic Church? The answer is that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church does not have anything else to offer.
Bergoglio is in any case one of the more “moderate”, one of the least unpresentablemembers of a corrupt and degenerate bureaucracy, committed to the imperialist interests and policies and increasingly tarnished by allegations of bank embezzlement and cover up of rape of boys.
With Bergoglio at the head of the Church and leveraging the expectations generated by his appointment, the Cardinals expect corruption in Rome to be capped a bit, that the accounts of Vatican should minimally be placed in order, that the scandal of widespread rape of boys should be better concealed. And that the Church can survive to another crisis with the lowest possible cost to maintain, as it did throughout its history, at the service of power and oppression.