Dark Cloud in Francis' Past: The Dirty War

Critics accuse Bergoglio of working with military junta

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 14, 2013 9:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – Although responses to Pope Francis have been chiefly positive, one dark stain in church history is raising serious questions about the new pope—the church's role during the dictatorship in Argentina, reports the Guardian. The church backed the dictatorship during its rule from 1976 to 1983, urging its followers to be patriotic and support the regime, too, even as thousands of people were abducted and murdered by the government, including many progressive priests. As the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina from 1973 to 1979, Jorge Bergoglio was part of the church hierarchy and has been accused of working with the dictatorship.

In 2005, Bergoglio was accused in a lawsuit of withdrawing church protection from two anti-government priests, leading to their incarceration under brutal conditions in 1976, reports the New York Times. Bergoglio has called the allegation "slander" and claimed he worked behind the scenes to help the priests, but he has twice refused to testify in court about what his role had been. "I still have many doubts about his role regarding the Jesuits who went missing under the dictatorship," says the leader of a group of left-wing priests. Others praise Bergoglio for his role in the "monumental task" of healing the church's black eye after the war: "If he can restore the credibility of the church (in Argentina)," says one expert, "he can handle the scandals that have befallen the church worldwide.

In this 2008 photo, Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio -- now Pope Francis -- travels on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In this 2008 photo, Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio -- now Pope Francis -- travels on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   (AP Photo/Pablo Leguizamon)
Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio -- now Pope Francis -- gives a mass outside San Cayetano church in Buenos Aires, Friday Aug.7, 2009.
Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio -- now Pope Francis -- gives a mass outside San Cayetano church in Buenos Aires, Friday Aug.7, 2009.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
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