Catholics in the media are getting all misty-eyed about the naming of Pope Francis; many of them are swooning, "Ah, named for Francis of Assisi; I love that guy." Well, for openers I am not at all sure that Francis took his name from the Saint of Assisi. I think it much more likely that he took the name of Francis Xavier:
"Francis Xavier was born in the family castle of Xavierin the Kingdom of Navarre on 7 April 1506 according to a family register. He was born to an aristocratic family of the Kingdom of Navarre, the youngest son of Juan de Jaso, privy counselor to King John III of Navarre , and Doña Maria de Azpilcueta y Aznárez, sole heiress of two noble Navarrese families. He was thus related to the great theologian and philosopher Martín de Azpilcueta."
St. Francis Xavier was no otherworldly ascetic; he was a missionary. He is said to have made more converts to Christianity than anyone other than Saint Paul himself. His missionary career took in a huge part of Asia, where he not only converted people but took great pleasure in commanding them to destroy the images of the Buddhist and Hindu gods that they had previously worshiped.
Xavier was the Founder of the Jesuit Order, of which Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, is a member. Shortly after his election to the Papacy he announced that his name would be Pope Francis I.
He will step into the scandal-plagued Catholic Church, which is treated with extreme reverence in most of the media. But Houston, we have a problem: Francis I is a primitive Christian in the extreme. In a high-level battle between the twice-elected President of Argentina and the Catholic Church there, then-Archbishop Bergoglio took the side of the most vicious and homophobic forces against granting legal rights to LGBT citizens of Argentina, attributing their behavior to "the Father of Lies," meaning Satan. If you are gay, the Archbishop thinks you are at best possessed; at worst you are a willing participant in a satanic lifestyle.
But during his tenure in Argentina, Archbishop Bergoglio was involved in political persecution and the bitter punishment of priests--particularly two individuals--who ignored his orders to cease their work among the poor. During an interview, Argentinian journalist Horacio Verbitsky mentioned three documents in particular that he had examined, which make the Archbishop culpable in the kidnapping and torture of two priests.
You will want to read the whole interview, but here is the relevant passage:
"...And the third document is a note from the same officer telling that these priests have links with subversion—that was the name that the military gave to all the people involved in opposition to the government, political or armed opposition to the military—and that he was jailed in the mechanics school of the navy, and saying that this information was provided to the officer by Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, provincial superior of the Jesuit company. This means, to my understanding, a double standard. He asked [for a] passport given to the priest in a formal note with his signature, but under the table he said the opposite and repeated the accusations that produced the kidnapping of these priests."
This is a serious accusation. It appears that Bergoglio, at the very least, used his influence as a conservative church official to punish priests who were not following his orders. According to convention, he could have ordered them into the monastery and placed them on restriction, but his actions show a man who will go to some length to place lives in jeopardy. The priests were later released, half-naked, drugged and tortured.
Now that he is Pope Francis I, Bergoglio is expected to be a "socially conservative" Pontiff, but his reputation for absolute opposition to any equal role in society for women, his rejection of reproductive rights (of course) and his disregard for the civil rights of the LGBT community are likely not only trouble for the near future of the Church--but they are also probably the things that got him elected.
His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was I suppose the only Cardinal more conservative than Bergoglio. But that is not what I really consider the ugliest aspect of this situation. What I see is the burning, smoking hypocrisy when you look at what is going on with the Pope Emeritus.
While the Vatican stalled as long as it could, avoiding the inevitable confrontation with the mushrooming scandal of sex abuse, Benedict was literally living with another man--the younger, very handsome Papal Secretary, Georg Ganswein. In an article written recently, blogger Andrew Sullivan said:
"Benedict XVI has claimed that his almost unprecedented resignation came about simply because of his physical infirmity in the face of what appears to be a growing vortex of sexual and financial scandal inside the Vatican. He said he would quietly disappear to serve the church through prayer and meditation. But we now realize he’s going nowhere. He’s staying in the Vatican’s walls, and retaining the honorific 'His Holiness.' He will keep white robes. His full title will be Pope Emeritus."
And he will live openly with Ganswein. Well, if Sullivan is right and there is "a growing" sexual and financial scandal inside the Vatican, Benedict isn't doing much to retire the controversies. Sullivan goes on:
"Are we supposed to think that’s, well, a normal arrangement? This man – clearly in some kind of love with Ratzinger (and vice versa) will now be working for the new Pope as secretary in the day and spending the nights with the Pope Emeritus. This is not the Vatican. It’s Melrose Place."
And now it seems to be Bergoglio's responsibility to direct attention to his expected efforts to root out the international scandal--but it will also clearly be his job to divert attention from the extent to which the Pope Emeritus seems to be living as a gay man.
There used to be a joke when he was elected, a spin on the old sarcastic remark, "Is the Pope Catholic?" When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected, who was a member of the Hitler Youth movement, the saying became, "Is the Pope a Nazi?"
Well, this is what I say: if they look like ducks, walk like ducks and quack like ducks, it's the Pope Emeritus and his boyfriend. How could the Catholic Church have made this gigantic misstep? Is there no Cardinal in all of the Curia who is not tarnished with bigotry, homosexuality or violence? Are they all in total agreement that women have no real place in the Church other than as vessels? Are they comfortable condemning homosexuality to the world while allowing it inside the very Vatican itself?
I have severe reservations as I listen to Catholic media commentators gush over the election of this ice cube of a Cardinal, who will resist equality in Catholicism every bit as implacably as his predecessor. More Catholics will give up on the Church.
I also point out that conservative news media go on a field day with unfounded rumors and outright lies concerning President Barack Obama, his wife and even his children, whenever they have a slow news day. The stupid denial that he was not born in Honolulu, the wild fantasies about his African father (Newt Gingrich went into fantastical detail about him being an African nationalist political figure), and the vicious blog posts have gone on nonstop since Obama's first election. My only contention about the Pope Emeritus is that I think that it is what it looks like.
And I have just one message for Andrew Sullivan: The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!
For more info: read the entire interview with Verbitsky here: