To global fanfare the Roman Catholic Church has appointed a Jesuit as its new CEO. This is a big deal as far as internal church politics goes. The Society of Jesus has never been entirely trusted by bulk of the Catholic hierarchy. God’s Marines have long been restricted to doing the Church’s laundry and unblocking the sink, with a little indoctrination of children on the side.
When it comes to politics Jesuits have always been at the forefront, both in support of the working class and marginalised social groups, and also in education and the promotion of orthodox Catholic teaching. They have a reputation for intellectual robustness, but are not reflective thinkers in the same way as are the Dominicans. The Jesuits are the special enforcers of Roman Catholicism.
Political activity comes naturally to the Jesuits, and, while the order spans the spectrum, its factions make common cause in their willingness to break bread with temporal power. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis (I’m sure it’s the aristocratic Basque missionary Xavier rather than the Italian hippy Assisi), knows all about power; the ascetic archbishop who until yesterday lived in a small Buenos Aires flat and cooked his own dinner was ever comfortable with it.
The Roman Catholic Church in Argentina supported the military dictatorship that ruled with great brutality from 1976 to 1983, or at least its leaders did. Many priests, religious and lay people fought against the fascists only to be abandoned by their leaders, among them Bergoglio, who was Jesuit superior in Argentina during the early years of the military junta. Questions surround Bergoglio’s role in the kidnapping of slum missionaries Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, and it is safe to say that, kindly old uncle demeanour aside, Pope Francis has more skeletons in his threadbare clóset than predecessor Benedict had in his own much grander schrank.
I have linked above to the Daily Mail, and am particularly pleased to see the Guardian, less than a day after celebrating the election of a supposedly liberal pope, re-open its file on Bergoglio’s ignominious role in Argentina’s dirty war.
Much has been said in recent hours about Bergoglio’s views on various matters. Some have labelled him progressive, but this is a bit difficult to swallow when it concerns a man who describes gay marriage as the devil’s work. Bergoglio’s views on human sexuality are as anally-retentive as they come in the Christian cult. On the BBC News channel yesterday one wag in a dog collar said yes, we have a new pope, but there will be…
“…no change on the pelvic issues.”
And probably not a lot else besides.