Rant on the Papal election
I predict that conservative Catholics will become experts in modern Argentine history in 3, 2, 1…. As we speak, intellectual cronies in right-wing think tanks are looking up what Peronism is, as well as names like Videla, Angelelli, Aramburu, Galtieri, etc.
Which might not be a bad thing, because that stuff is interesting. However, before people start bringing up leftist assassinations by the Montoneros, kidnappings of government officials, liberation theology priests running around with guns, etc. etc. let’s not get caught up in counterfactuals. The military junta won because it was backed by capital and the CIA: any leftist violence has to then be appropriately contextualized. Just because someone gives the bully a bloody nose, this doesn’t entitle the bully to kill that person, rape his sister, and burn his house down. Nor does it entitle that same person to cover up his crimes after the fact, and give himself immunity from prosecution in perpetuity. That is what happened in Argentina, and the Church was for the most part on the wrong side. Those who were on the right side got exiled, tortured, and murdered. There is no amount of window dressing that can cover up that fact.
I have seen right-wing Catholics make a big deal about Bergoglio riding the bus, being nice to the poor, being humble when addressing the crowds in Rome as the new Pope, etc. Look, people don’t learn a damn thing no matter how many times the same shit happens. Evil isn’t evil because it looks evil. Banksters don’t feast on the entrails of newborn babies every night, generals occupying Afghanistan and Iraq don’t torture children in their bedrooms out of sadistic pleasure, and cynical politicians don’t guffaw in villainous cartoonish laughter every time the camera is not on. In other words, you can be a nice person, and even a “holy” person, and still be evil. The Catholic Church turned this into an art form. The same hierarchs who gave alms to the poor and were ecstatic in prayer one minute were ordering assassinations and turning people over to be tortured in the next. Evil then is not a personal failing, but rather a systemic tendency which demands that in order to realize my own subjectivity and freedom, I must objectify or destroy the Other. The Catholic Church has done this and continues to do it, but this century’s villains are gays, women who don’t want to be forced to have babies, Muslims, secularists, etc. etc.
The ironic thing is that Jesus called bullshit on this stuff a couple of millennia ago, yet it has been the Catholic and other Christian churches’ sanctioned duty to forget it. It was Jesus who after all was not impressed with the Temple, the alms people piled up in it, or the triumphalist dreams of a renewed, powerful Israel: a new “shining city on a hill”. It was Jesus who was unimpressed with the young rich man’s piety, and demanded that he give up his ill-gotten wealth in order to be his follower. It was Jesus who preferred to be with the outcasts, the prostitutes, the impure, and the Gentiles rather than the sanctimonious people who clung to an inhuman Law. In other words, unlike even the more “progressive” voices in the Church today, Jesus was not interested in making the system kinder and gentler. He wanted to tear the whole thing down, and laid down his own life rather than appeal for mercy from it.
The most disappointing thing for me is how even the progressive Jesuits are going ga-ga over this guy, when they should really be raking him over the coals. After all, Jesuit priests such as Ignacio Ellacuría and five other Jesuits were gunned down in 1989 in El Salvador for their efforts to protect the poor against the mighty. Now they are excited over one of their own becoming Pope, even though for all intents and purposes he turned over two other Jesuit priests to be tortured by the military regime for months, and did not speak out when people were being tortured, raped, and “disappeared”.
Maybe the guy has changed, maybe he is contrite. I would like to think that I give people the benefit of the doubt. But he is no saint, and I don’t buy the humility bit for a second. The fact is, the system needs its Bergoglios, its Mother Teresas, its benevolent philanthropists, and its heroic soldiers to function for sheer propaganda purposes. They legitimize a system that robs the poor of a dollar to give them back ten cents. There is nothing new under the sun in that regard.
Archbishop Hélder Câmara once quipped that if he gave the poor food, they called him a saint, but when he asked why the poor had no food, they called him a communist. If that is the case, Jesus was a communist. And if the Catholic Church wants to follow Jesus in any truthful way, it would be communist as well. End of story.