Wednesday Catholics around the world celebrated the election of their new pope, Pope Francis I. He was not a forerunner in the contest, but it was later revealed he was runner-up when Pope Benedict XVI was selected as pope.The celebrations got underway but the joyful voices had hardly been raised before a character assassination of the new pope began.
Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the choice of his contemporaries. Aged 76 he was one of oldest candidates. This indicates that the Roman Catholic church is not planning any radical changes. He is known for his anti-gay marriage stance and being a conservative catholic. He is portrayed by supporters of the church as a humble man, a Jesuit, who has spurned the trappings of his office. In Buenos Aires he rode on public transport, did not live in the religious palaces available to him. On the surface he seems a warm, kind man so what are the allegations against him?
They date back to the so-called Dirty War, when Argentina was ruled by dictators. The BBC reports that the Vatican is denying that the former Cardinal failed to speak out against the regime, which was only ousted when it attacked the Falkland Islands. Argentinian human rights activists claim that Bergoglio was mostly silent. Argentinians vanished without trace. He allegedly knew about the disappearances though he denies this.
"There has never been a credible, concrete accusation against him," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi. "Anti-clerical left-wing elements that are used to attack the Church" are responsible for the allegations, said Lombardi.
The allegations have been public knowledge for years. Those who claim they should have been highlighted before conclave, as they may have resulted in a different choice of pope, are naive. The 115 cardinals who elected Pope Francis I will all have "baggage" and know of each others failings.
They lived in the real world, at least for part of their lives. Before high office in the Vatican they will have faced various challenges. Some will have proved themselves brave individuals speaking out against wrongdoing and facing personal attacks in doing so. Others will not.
That is not unusual for the church. If it was the Nazis brutal attack on Jews would have failed at the first hurdle.
Some will also argue that politics and religion do not go hand in hand. Most of us shy away from the church's involvement in earthly political matters. We play the hypocritical card. After all the liberal amongst us condemn religious representatives, such as the Pope, if he speaks out against gay marriage or abortion. We now choose to condemn him for something that happened years ago and would have meant his interference in the politics of Argentina.
What is noticeable is that many of those throwing accusations at Pope Francis I are in the USA. The country that propped up the vile administrations in Argentina during the dirty wars. Of course America believed its actions were right and proper in order to
prevent a communist takeover. Anything goes to stop communism, if you are American it seems.
CNN reports "In 1976, during Argentina's dictatorship, the navy kidnapped priests Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics. Some have accused Francis, then provincial superor for the Society of Jesus, of not doing enough to assert his influence and free them. They were found five months later. The incident led to rumors and allegations that Francis was complicit in the dictatorship's appalling atrocity -- that he didn't do enough to expose it and perhaps was even partly responsible for the priests' prolonged detention, said Jim Nicholson, a former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See". Really, Mr Nicholson and what was America doing at the time, as they were active in Argentina?
This means there is no condemnation online or elsewhere of America and its antics during the dirty wars. You know games like the ones that country played in Afghanistan, Libya, Cuba and is now playing in Syria.
The UK is no better. Maggie Thatcher was proud to call herself a friend of General Pinochet and allow him sanctuary in Britain under her protection.
Search around online for information and you soon find information such as the following on Wikipedia Spanish: " Operación Cóndor, also known as Plan Cóndor, Portuguese: Operação Condor) was a campaign of political repression and terror involving assassination and intelligence operations officially implemented in 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America. The program aimed to eradicate communist or Soviet influence and ideas and to control active or potential opposition movements against the participating governments. Due to its clandestine nature, the precise number of deaths directly attributable to Operation Condor is highly disputed. Some estimates are that at least 60,000 deaths can be attributed to Condor, and possibly more. Condor's key members were the governments in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. The United States provided technical support and supplied military aid to the participants until at least 1978, with Ecuador and Peru joining later in more peripheral roles.
So why is Pope Francis I being vilified? Did he act inappropriately? If the answer is yes. was it a step too far? Are the allegations more about the fight between the right and the left, now that Argentina has a leftist government? Are they generated by liberals who fear the new pope will be too hardline, especially on issues such as abortion or gay marriage.
In truth is it a case that America will only be happy if their long and powerful arm reaches the Vatican and they hold the leading hand there too? Perhaps it is American guilt.
The truth will be that there are intricate reasons for the attempted character assassination of Pope Francis I, and most will be self-serving, such as media reports.