Starting a Papacy, amid echoes of a ‘dirty war’

BUENOS AIRES — One Argentine priest is on trial in Tucumán Province on charges of working closely with torturers in a secret jail during the so-called Dirty War, urging prisoners to hand over information. Another priest was accused of taking a newborn from his mother, one of the many baby thefts from female prisoners who were “disappeared” into a system of clandestine prisons.
The church rejected claims by Jorge Videla, third from right, ex-head of the junta, on the role that bishops played. Net photo
The church rejected claims by Jorge Videla, third from right, ex-head of the junta, on the role that bishops played. Net photo

BUENOS AIRES — One Argentine priest is on trial in Tucumán Province on charges of working closely with torturers in a secret jail during the so-called Dirty War, urging prisoners to hand over information. Another priest was accused of taking a newborn from his mother, one of the many baby thefts from female prisoners who were “disappeared” into a system of clandestine prisons.

Another clergy member offered biblical justification for the military’s death flights, according to an account by one of the pilots anguished about dumping drugged prisoners out of aircraft and into the sea.

As he starts his papacy, Francis, until this month Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, faces his own entanglement with the Dirty War, which unfolded from 1976 to 1983. As the leader of Argentina’s Jesuits for part of that time, he has repeatedly had to dispute claims that he allowed the kidnapping of two priests in his order in 1976, accusations the Vatican is calling a defamation campaign.

Now his election as pope is focusing scrutiny on his role as the most prominent leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina, an institution that remains under withering criticism for its role in failing to publicly resist — and in various instances actively supporting — the military dictatorship during a period when as many as 30,000 people are thought to have been killed or disappeared.  This stance by Argentina’s church stands in contrast to the resistance against dictatorships by Catholic leaders elsewhere in Latin America at the time — notably in Chile and Brazil, two nations where far fewer people were killed. Even as the head of the Argentine Conference of Bishops from 2005 to 2011, Francis resisted issuing a formal apology for the church’s actions during the Dirty War, disappointing human rights campaigners.

Subscribe to The New Times E-Paper


You want to chat directly with us? Send us a message on WhatsApp at +250 788 310 999    

 

Follow The New Times on Google News