Durant les années 1970, Horacio Verbitsky fut membre des Montoneros, une organisation péroniste pour laquelle il porta les armes. En 1976, quelques mois après le coup d’état militaire, il fut inculpé avec 6 autres Montoneros pour avoir été impliqué dans la planification et l’exécution d’un attentat contre la police fédérale faisant 21 morts parmi les agents du renseignement. La procédure judiciaire sera finalement close en 2007 en raison de la loi de prescription. Dans les années 90, à la direction de Pagina 12, il contribue à révéler plusieurs affaires de corruption et de pot de vins touchant le gouvernement ou la famille du président Carlos Menem puis apporte dans les années 2000 et 2010 un soutien appuyé à la politique menée par les gouvernements de Nestor et Cristina Kirchner. Wikipedia
Les anciens Montoneros, coupables d’attentats sanglants, d’assassinats, d’enlèvements et de tortures, grouillent à la tête de l’Etat à Buenos Aires depuis la présidence des Kirchner, et l’un d’entre eux, Carlos Bettini, est même ambassadeur en Espagne. Eduardo Luis Duhalde, secrétaire aux Droits de l’homme, Miguel Bonasso, député et conseiller présidentiel, Carlos Kunkel, porte-parole de la présidence (amnistié de ses crimes en 1984 par la loi Punto final dont les militaires ont été écartés), Rafael Bielsa, ex-ministre des Affaires étrangères qui a travaillé en exil pour Pinochet, Horacio Verbitsky, conseiller présidentiel, Anibal Fernandez, chef du cabinet présidentiel, Julio Cesar Urien, capitaine de frégate auteur de tortures dans les « prisons du peuple » et du « manuel d’instruction des milices montoneras », réhabilité par Kirchner en 2006 avec paiement rétroactif de sa solde depuis 1972, et surtout Nilda Garré, ex-ministre de la Défense de Nestor Kirchner, devenue ministre de la Sécurité (police et gendarmerie) en décembre dernier sous la présidence de Cristina de Kirchner. « Comandante Teresa » dans la guérilla des Montoneros, elle a été complice de crimes, commis notamment par son mari Juan Manuel Abal Medina et le frère de celui-ci, contre le général Aramburu en 1970 et l’ex-ministre de l’Intérieur Arturo Mor Roig en 1974 (qui avait légalisé les partis politiques et contribué au retour de la démocratie en 1973 avec l’élection de Juan Peron). Quant à Carlos Bettini, impliqué dans le meurtre du capitaine Jorge Bigliardi en 1975, donc en pleine période constitutionnelle sous la présidence d’Isabel Peron, il pourrait quitter incessamment son poste d’ambassadeur à Madrid pour devenir l’éminence grise de Cristina Kirchner, son ancienne petite amie… Jacques Thomet
Chacun sait comment la junte militaire renversa le gouvernement en 1976 et écrasa ensuite sans pitié les mouvements de subversion. Ses abus de pouvoir furent légion et, en 1983, elle quitta le pouvoir dans un pays plongé dans une hyper inflation et le chaos économique. Mais l’Argentine avait vécu une autre tragédie antérieure, et pendant quelque temps après que les militaires eurent saisi le pouvoir. Ce fut une vague de carnage et de destruction déclenchée par des bandes de guérillas s’inspirant de Castro, pour tenter de prendre le pouvoir en terrorisant la nation. Leurs actions provoquèrent le chaos à l’échelle nationale, puis le coup d’Etat militaire. Pourtant, à cause de la fin honteuse de la junte militaire, les terroristes et leurs sympathisants réussirent à réécrire l’histoire en ne relatant que les seuls crimes de leur ennemi en uniforme. D’ex-membres ou membres actuels du gouvernement Kirchner, d’autres du Congrès et d’autres travaillant dans les média furent des membres bien connus d’organisations subversives. . Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Patagonian roots aside, the president’s main interest in escalating the Falklands row may be to deflect looming domestic difficulties. The government is attempting to untangle expensive state subsidies which will hurt its blue-collar base. Analysts say inflation is more than double the official figure. The government is so desperate to massage the numbers it has prohibited economic consultancy firms publishing private inflation estimates. Compounding that unease, a constitutional ban on a third term means Fernández could soon be embroiled in a fraught effort to change the constitution so she can run again. The alternative will be to watch her authority gradually ebb. « A Peronist president without the chance of re-election becomes a lame duck. Once the Malvinas issue fades back into the background, the fight of succession will come to the fore and her monolithic power could reduce her flexibility when it comes to dealing with the Peronists, » said Romer, the analyst. « Her great strength could become her greatest weakness. » Tapping semi-dormant passions over the Falklands is a largely cost-free way to consolidate her base and deter would-be successors from moving too soon. Fernández has also been emboldened by the zeitgeist: South America has discovered it can, perhaps for the first time in its history, safely challenge the old colonial powers. A « pink tide » of nationalistic leftwing governments senses the region’s time has come after centuries of marginalisation. China’s rapid rise as a trading partner has further weakened European leverage. « South America doesn’t have the respect it used to have for Europe. It feels it is on top now and is flexing its new muscles, » said a senior European diplomat. Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made a global splash railing against western bankers, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez did the same railing against western imperialism and the Falklands gave Fernández her own cause, said Romer. « She is using Malvinas to expand her visibility on the international arena. » Lucrative fishing concessions have made the Falklands wealthy, and when in 2010 four British companies announced they were going to search for an estimated 8.3bn barrels of oil in Falkland waters, it added resource nationalism to the combustible mix of history and wounded pride. London’s blunt dismissal of Argentinian concerns over financial and environmental implications aggravated Fernández all the more. Rio Gallegos remains cold and windy but nobody expects to see a new generation of conscripts tramping aboard Falkland-bound planes. Fernández is not desperate or stupid. She is simply extracting advantage from a clump of islands her compatriots consider unfinished business. And in the process becoming, for many, Argentina’s own iron lady. The Guardian
Wrapping himself in the mantle of Simon Bolivar, the revolutionary leader of the early 19th century who led the fight for independence from the Spanish empire, Chavez led his own battle to free his country and region from what he saw as the hegemony of the neo-liberal, neo-colonalist superpower north of the Gulf of Mexico. (…) His politics, a blend of socialism, populism, authoritarianism and nationalism, became known as ‘Chavismo,’ his followers were ‘Chavistas.’ His goal was what he called the ‘Bolivarian revolution.’ In foreign policy terms, that meant a dual strategy, of ‘Latin America first’ and “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” (the enemy of course being the Yanqui imperialist.) To advance this strategy, he used Venezuela’s greatest source of wealth and power, its oil. That second rule of thumb basically explained Chavez’ forays outside the Americas: his establishment of an anti-US ‘Axis of Unity’ with Iran, his support for the Gaddafi dictatorship in Libya and most recently for Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. Anti-Americanism drew Venezuela close to Moscow, and led him to denounce Israel – with whom Chavez broke off diplomatic relations after the 2008/9 war in Gaza – as a “genocidal state” and the “assassin arm of the United States.”(…) And it was over Cuba where Chavez’ impact was greatest. The billions of dollars of aid he gave the island, much in the form of heavily subsidized oil, may have been the difference between survival and collapse for the Communist regime. Over time a pattern developed, as oil-rich Venezuela under Chavez emerged as the leader of the poorer and more leftist countries of region: not just Cuba, but Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, and some Caribbean island nations. The bloc took formal economic shape in 2004 with the creation of ALBA, the ‘Alternativa Bolivariana para las Americas,’ set up to as a rival to the orthodox, free trade areas in the hemisphere. But it wasn’t just the ALBA members who didn’t want to offend Chavez: his wont to give contracts to non-US companies won him a hearing with the region’s richer countries too. By the time of his illness, however, his influence even in Latin America had waned. One reason was the decline in his physical powers. Another was the arrival of a new administration in Washington: Despite evidence that Venezuela was even abetting drugs trafficking into the US, Barack Obama struck a less confrontational note than his predecessor. For much the same reason, US relations with Brazil and Argentina have been smoother, offering Chavez less leverage. At the same time, left wing governments aligned with Venezuela have run into difficulties. And not least, the regional economic climate has changed. The appeal of ‘Chavismo’ was never greater than after the Latin American financial crises of the late 90s, culminating in Argentina’s 2001 default, seeming proof of the failure of the Western-style capitalism excoriated by Chavez. As it is, the last remotely ‘Chavista’ leader elected was Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner in 2007. The Independent
This article was amended on 14 March 2013. The original article, published in 2011, wrongly suggested that Argentinian journalist Horacio Verbitsky claimed that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio connived with the Argentinian navy to hide political prisoners on an island called El Silencio during an inspection by human rights monitors. Although Verbitsky makes other allegations about Bergoglio’s complicity in human rights abuses, he does not make this claim. The original article also wrongly described El Silencio as Bergoglio’s « holiday home ». This has been corrected. The Guardian
Rien de tout cela n’est important pour ceux qui tentent de faire de l’Argentine le prochain Venezuela. Ce qui les fâche, c’est que le père Bergoglio croyait que le marxisme (et la « théologie de la libération » qu’il avait inspirée) était antithétiques au christianisme et qu’il avait refusé de l’adopter dans les années 1970. D’où les désaccords tant avec ceux à l’intérieur de l’ordre des Jésuites de l’époque qui croyaient à la révolution qu’avec les Montoneros qui multipliaient les mutilations, enlèvements et assassinats de civils pour terroriser la population. Criminels dont un bon nombre sont toujours là aujourd’hui et n’ont toujours pas abandonné leurs rêves de révolution. Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Mr. Treviño’s site mainly went after the opposition leader for anti-Semitic remarks and his alliance with the Islamist party PAS, and even accused him of links to terrorists through the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Mr. Anwar has made anti-Semitic comments—though that’s in part to fend off domestic accusations that he’s too cozy with Zionists. He also has ties to organizations that have taken Saudi money, but the suggestion that he somehow has « ties to terrorism » is preposterous. (…) Influence-peddling has a long and sordid history in Washington, and governments that use repressive methods at home yet want to remain on friendly terms with the U.S. typically have the biggest bankrolls. It’s not unheard of for PR operators to pay less reputable journalists and think- tankers to write favorable coverage, as the Jack Abramoff case in the mid-2000s showed. The Malaysian scheme, however, is notable because it drew in respected writers such as Rachel Ehrenfeld, who has contributed to the Journal in the past and took $30,000, Claire Berlinski, who got $6,750, and Seth Mandel, an editor at Commentary magazine, who was paid $5,500. Some of the articles appeared in well-known publications such as National Review and the Washington Times. Mr. Najib’s falling popularity at home suggests his days as Prime Minister could be numbered. The irony is that he was more democratic and played a more responsible role in the region than his predecessors. Even opposition figures have quietly admitted to us that he has steered Malaysia in the right direction. That should have been more than enough for a legitimate public relations operation to work with. Resorting to underhanded tactics to undermine the opposition has only backfired for Mr. Najib, at home and abroad. The WSJ
A l’heure où, ne reculant devant aucune démagogie, la nouvelle Evita argentine (ou Chavista – merci les valises de billets de Chavez !) est en train apparemment de nous refaire le coup des Malouines …
Et que nos médias pressés se font les courroies de transmission, plus ou moins volontaires et des deux côtés de l’Atlantique ou de la Manche (voire jusqu’en Malaisie !), des campagnes de calomnie du moment …
Qui rappellera, hormis un bien solitaire WSJ derrière l’omerta politiquement correcte actuelle, que ceux qui alimentent la pompe à calomnies contre un nouveau pape ayant le tort de penser, sans compter les Malouines ou le mariage homo, que « le marxisme comme la ‘théologie de la libération’ qu’il avait inspirée sont antithétiques au christianisme » …
Sont les mêmes qui, outre les milliers de victimes commodément oubliées du terrorisme d’extrême-gauche, ont précipité le putsch militaire de 1976 et réécrivent aujourd’hui l’histoire au profit de l’actuel pouvoir argentin en place ?
Maria Anastasia O’Grady
3 janvier 2011
traduction Yves/jacqus Thomet
Des milliers de personnes ont souffert du déchaînement de la gauche qui précipita le putsch militaire de 1976.
“Ceux qui contrôlent le passé contrôlent le futur, celui qui contrôle le présent contrôle le passé.”
– Parti slogan de Big Brother, “1984,” par George Orwell
La Justice ne s’installe pas facilement partout dans le monde. Mais dans l’Argentine d’aujourd’hui, il est périlleux de seulement mentionner en public les victimes du terrorisme de la gauche du pays, sans parler de les amener à se présenter eux ou leurs proches parents survivants devant une Cour [pour témoigner]. Essayez et vous serez probablement tancé par la Gauche argentine comme un ami fasciste de l’ex-régime militaire. Les [gens] du “politiquement correct” savent que ceux qui furent brutalisés par les guérillas, que Juan Peron (ex-président) désigna une fois de “jeunesse merveilleuse”, sont censés être effacés de la mémoire nationale.
L’avocate argentine Victoria Villaruel, 35 ans, défenseur des Droits de l’Homme, s’y refuse. Elle a fondé le “Centre Argentin d’Etudes Légales du Terrorisme et de ses Victimes”, avec pour objectif de lister les milliers de crimes terroristes commis entre 1969 et 1979.
Elle pense qu’apporter la lumière sur cette sombre décennie aidera à fournir un meilleur et juste futur à tous les Argentins. Chacun sait comment la junte militaire renversa le gouvernement en 1976 et écrasa ensuite sans pitié les mouvements de subversion. Ses abus de pouvoir furent légion et, en 1983, elle quitta le pouvoir dans un pays plongé dans une hyper inflation et le chaos économique.
Mais l’Argentine avait vécu une autre tragédie antérieure, et pendant quelque temps après que les militaires eurent saisi le pouvoir. Ce fut une vague de carnage et de destruction déclenchée par des bandes de guérillas s’inspirant de Castro, pour tenter de prendre le pouvoir en terrorisant la nation. Leurs actions provoquèrent le chaos à l’échelle nationale, puis le coup d’Etat militaire. Pourtant, à cause de la fin honteuse de la junte militaire, les terroristes et leurs sympathisants réussirent à réécrire l’histoire en ne relatant que les seuls crimes de leur ennemi en uniforme. D’ex-membres ou membres actuels du gouvernement Kirchner, d’autres du Congrès et d’autres travaillant dans les média furent des membres bien connus d’organisations subversives.
Lors d’une interview à Buenos Aires en novembre 2010, Mme Villaruel m’a raconté que même les politiciens de l’opposition ne parlent pas des victimes du terrorisme car cela est devenu “tabou” de le faire. L’Etat, dit-elle, les traite comme s’ils n’étaient jamais nés.”
Le résultat est qu’une génération d’Argentins a grandi sans aucune conscience de la vraie histoire de cette époque de terreur. Mme Villaruel est de l’opinion que la “Vérité et la Justice” requiert que ces victimes soient reconnues. Son livre, “Ils s’Appelaient Les Jeunes Idéalistes”, de 2009, est un pas en avant vers ce but. Dans celui-ci, elle documente avec des photographies et des coupures de presse la dévastation que ces terroristes ont infligé à leur propre peuple. “Vaincre ou mourir”, le slogan de l’Armée Révolutionnaire du Peuple (ERP), apparaît en graffiti sur un camion dans un cliché. Ce livre comprend les photos de quelques milliers de victimes : des bébés, des adolescents, des diplomates, des businessmen, des juges, des policiers.
Les uns furent enlevés et assassinés. D’autres furent tués ou mutilés simplement parce qu’ils se trouvèrent à proximité d’une bombe qui venait d’exploser. Les mineurs (d’âge) furent enrôlés dans les armées révolutionnaires. Tous furent considérés comme du simple gibier par les rebelles qui cherchaient à refaire le monde à travers la violence. Dans cette même interview de novembre 2010, Mme Villaruel décrit le travail de son centre sur le terrorisme : consultation des archives de journaux et dialogue avec les membres des familles et les témoins quand ils y sont disposés. Beaucoup d’entre eux vivent dans la peur de représailles, dit-elle.
Elle m’a appris que le Centre est parvenu à identifier par leur nom 13.074 victimes du terrorisme. Ce sont des bilans préliminaires. Mme Villaruel est tellement soucieuse de la justesse de son travail qu’elle a fait faire un audit indépendant à deux reprises. Elle espère que les décomptes définitifs seront prêts pour le milieu de cette année 2011. Il est intéressant de noter que le nombre de procès contre la junte militaire pour abus de pouvoir totalise moins de 9.000 cas. Pendant ce temps, la justification du gouvernement Kirchner pour nier l’existence des victimes de ce terrorisme de gauche consiste à les considérer comme des victimes de crimes ordinaires, leurs auteurs étant désormais exempts de poursuites de par la loi Statut des Limitations (NDLR : sorte d’amnistie).
Mais Mme Villaruel affirme démontrer que les victimes ont été des civils attaqués par des mouvements de guérilla dans leur quête sans merci pour le pouvoir. Si ce qu’elle avance se confirme, il ne s’agirait plus en l’occurrence de Statut de Limitations, en vertu de la Convention de Genève de 1949 ratifiée par l’Argentine. Dans son étude du terrorisme des années 70, elle n’a jamais “compris les raisons pour lesquelles un groupe, s’attribuant [arbitrairement] la représentation du peuple, a décidé d’assassiner son propre peuple.
Argentines who want their country to be the next Venezuela see Francis as an obstacle.
Mary Anastasia O’Grady
March 17, 2013
Argentines celebrated last week when one of their own was chosen as the new pope. But they also suffered a loss of sorts. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a tireless advocate of the poor and outspoken critic of corruption, will no longer be on hand locally to push back against the malfeasance of the government of President Cristina Kirchner.
Argentines not aligned with the regime hope that the arrival of Francis on the world stage at least will draw attention to this issue. Heaven knows the situation is growing dire.
One might have expected a swell of pride from Argentine officialdom when the news broke that the nation has produced a man so highly esteemed around the world. Instead the Kirchner government’s pit bulls in journalism—men such as Horacio Verbitsky, a former member of the guerrilla group known as the Montoneros and now an editor at the pro-government newspaper Pagina 12—immediately began a campaign to smear the new pontiff’s character and reputation at home and in the international news media.
The calumny is not new. Former members of terrorist groups like Mr. Verbitsky, and their modern-day fellow travelers in the Argentine government, have used the same tactics for years to try to destroy their enemies—anyone who doesn’t endorse their brand of authoritarianism. In this case they allege that as the Jesuits’ provincial superior in Argentina in the late 1970s, then-Father Bergoglio had links to the military government.
This is propaganda. Mrs. Kirchner and her friends aren’t yet living in the equivalent of a totalitarian state where there is no free press to counter their lies. That day may come soon. The government is now pressuring merchants, under threat of reprisals, not to buy advertising in newspapers. The only newspapers that aren’t on track to be financially ruined by this intimidation are those that the government controls and finances through official advertising, like Mr. Verbitsky’s Pagina 12. Argentines refer to the paper as « the official gazette » because it so reliably prints the government’s line.
Intellectually honest observers with firsthand knowledge of Argentina under military rule (1976-1983) are telling a much different story than the one pushed by Mr. Verbitsky and his ilk. One of those observers is Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, winner of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize. Last week he told BBC Mundo that « there were bishops that were complicit with the dictatorship, but Bergoglio, no. » As to the charge that the priest didn’t do enough to free junta prisoners, Mr. Pérez Esquivel said: « I know personally that many bishops who asked the military government for the liberation of prisoners and priests and it was not granted. »
Former Judge Alicia Oliveira, who was herself fired by the military government and forced into hiding to avoid arrest, told the Argentine newspaper Perfil last week that during those dark days she knew Father Bergoglio well and that « he helped many people get out of the country. » In one case, she says there was a young man on the run who happened to look like the Jesuit. « He gave him his identification card and his [clergy attire] so that he could escape. »
Ms. Oliveira also told Perfil that when she was in hiding at the home of the current minister of security, Nilda Garré, the two of them « ate with Bergoglio. » As Ms. Oliveira pointed out, Ms. Garré « therefore knows all that he did. »
Graciela Fernández Meijide, a human-rights activist and former member of the national commission on the disappearance of persons, told the Argentine press last week that « of all the testimony I received, never did I receive any testimony that Bergoglio was connected to the dictatorship. »
None of this matters to those trying to turn Argentina into the next Venezuela. What embitters them is that Father Bergoglio believed that Marxism (and the related « liberation theology ») was antithetical to Christianity and refused to embrace it in the 1970s. That put him in the way of those inside the Jesuit order at the time who believed in revolution. It also put him at odds with the Montoneros, who were maiming, kidnapping and killing civilians in order to terrorize the population. Many of those criminals are still around and hold fast to their revolutionary dreams.
For them, the new pope remains a meddlesome priest. In the slums where the populist Mrs. Kirchner claims to be a champion of the poor, Francis is truly beloved because he lives the gospel. From the pulpit, with the Kirchners in the pews, he famously complained of self-absorbed politicians. He didn’t name names, but the shoe fit. Nestór Kirchner, the late president and Cristina’s husband, responded by naming him « the head of the opposition. »
As Ms. Fernández Meijide observed last week, « I have the impression that what bothers the current president is that Bergoglio would not get in line, that he denounces the continuation of extreme poverty. » That’s not the regime’s approved narrative.
Le rôle de Jorge Mario Bergoglio, le pape François, pendant la dictature militaire (1976-1983) fait l’objet de controverse depuis plusieurs années à Buenos Aires. A l’origine, le directeur du quotidien progouvernemental Pagina 12, Horacio Verbitsky, avait publié, en 2005, un livre polémique, El Silencio (non traduit), où il dénonce la complicité de l’Eglise catholique argentine avec les militaires.
Le journaliste accuse en particulier Jorge Bergoglio, qui était à l’époque responsable de la Compagnie de Jésus en Argentine, d’être impliqué dans l’enlèvement de deux jeunes prêtres jésuites qui travaillaient dans un bidonville, en 1976. Torturés pendant cinq mois, Orlando Yorio et Francisco Jalics avaient été remis en liberté et s’étaient exilés. Le premier est mort en 2000, le second vit en Allemagne. Dans un communiqué publié, vendredi 15 mars, sur le site Internet des jésuites en Allemagne, ce dernier déclare qu’il ne peut « prononcer sur le rôle du père Bergoglio dans ces événements ». Il indique aussi avoir eu « l’occasion de discuter des événements avec le père Bergoglio qui était entre-temps devenu archevêque de Buenos Aires. Nous avons ensemble célébré une messe publique (…). Je considère l’histoire comme close », a-t-il précisé.
De son côté, le porte-parole du Vatican, le Père Federico Lombardi, a dénoncé « le caractère anticlérical de ces attaques, allant jusqu’à la calomnie et la diffamation des personnes ». « La justice l’a entendu une fois et à simple titre de témoin et le père Bergoglio n’a jamais été suspecté ou accusé ». « Dans l’élaboration de la demande de pardon, Mgr Bergoglio a déploré les défaillances de l’Eglise argentine face à la dictature », souligne le Vatican.
« TALENTS D’ACTEUR »
Dans un article publié au lendemain de l’élection du pape François, M. Verbitsky, qui est également directeur du Centre d’études légales et sociales, une organisation non gouvernementale de défense des droits de l’homme, a renouvelé ses attaques, qualifiant le nouveau pontife de « populiste conservateur », qui introduira « des changements cosmétiques » au Vatican, « avec ses talents d’acteur ». Le même jour, M. Verbitsky publie un courrier électronique de Graciela Yorio dans lequel la sœur du prêtre décédé exprime « son angoisse et sa colère ». Selon elle, il aurait « laissé sans protection » les deux prêtres, adeptes de la « théologie de la libération ».
Le dictateur Jorge Rafael Videla reçoit la communion de l’évêque Octavio Derisi, en décembre 1990.
Depuis l’élection surprise d’un pape argentin, une photo montrant un prêtre de dos, donnant l’hostie à l’ancien dictateur Jorge Rafael Videla, circule sur les réseaux sociaux. Cette photo avait fait la « une » de Pagina 12, le 27 mai 2012. Aucune légende ne précisait l’identité du curé de la photo, prise en 1990, au lendemain de la sortie de prison du général Videla, gracié par l’ancien président péroniste Carlos Menem. Le photographe, travaillant pour l’AFP et le quotidien argentin Cronica, l’a identifié : l’évêque Octavio Derisi, mort en 2002.
De leur côté, deux journalistes argentins, Francesca Ambrogetti de l’agence italienne ANSA et Sergio Rubin, spécialiste des affaires religieuses du quotidien Clarin (opposition), ont publié en 2010 l’ouvrage El Jesuita (non traduit), portrait élogieux de Mgr Bergoglio. Les témoignages recueillis, en particulier d’anciennes victimes, démentent toute collaboration avec les militaires, affirmant qu’au contraire il a aidé de nombreuses victimes, dont l’avocate Alicia Oliveira. Juge au moment du coup d’Etat de 1976, elle fut persécutée par les militaires. « Il m’a sauvé la vie », dit-elle. « Il y a eu des évêques complices de la dictature militaire, mais pas Bergoglio », ajoute Adolfo Perez Esquivel, prix Nobel de la paix.
Estela de Carlotto, présidente de l’Association des mères et grands-mères de la Place de Mai, à Buenos Aires, le 15 mars. Elle reproche au pape de n’avoir jamais parlé des personnes disparues pendant la dictature argentine (1976-1983), malgré l’avénement de la démocratie dans ce pays il y a trente ans.
La présidente Cristina Kirchner a salué froidement l’élection du pape. Mais sur les réseaux sociaux, les partisans des Kirchner ont durement critiqué le choix de l’archevêque de Buenos Aires, qui entretenait des rapports tendus avec les gouvernements péronistes du président Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) et aujourd’hui celui de son épouse Cristina. Il avait coutume de centrer ses homélies sur des thèmes brûlants, des inégalités sociales jusqu’à la traite de personnes, en passant par la corruption.
Simon Romero and William Neuman
The New York Times
March 17, 2013
BUENOS AIRES — One Argentine priest is on trial in Tucumán Province on charges of working closely with torturers in a secret jail during the so-called Dirty War, urging prisoners to hand over information. Another priest was accused of taking a newborn from his mother, one of the many baby thefts from female prisoners who were “disappeared” into a system of clandestine prisons.
Another clergy member offered biblical justification for the military’s death flights, according to an account by one of the pilots anguished about dumping drugged prisoners out of aircraft and into the sea.
As he starts his papacy, Francis, until this month Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, faces his own entanglement with the Dirty War, which unfolded from 1976 to 1983. As the leader of Argentina’s Jesuits for part of that time, he has repeatedly had to dispute claims that he allowed the kidnapping of two priests in his order in 1976, accusations the Vatican is calling a defamation campaign.
Now his election as pope is focusing scrutiny on his role as the most prominent leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina, an institution that remains under withering criticism for its role in failing to publicly resist — and in various instances actively supporting — the military dictatorship during a period when as many as 30,000 people are thought to have been killed or disappeared.
This stance by Argentina’s church stands in contrast to the resistance against dictatorships by Catholic leaders elsewhere in Latin America at the time — notably in Chile and Brazil, two nations where far fewer people were killed. Even as the head of the Argentine Conference of Bishops from 2005 to 2011, Francis resisted issuing a formal apology for the church’s actions during the Dirty War, disappointing human rights campaigners.
“The combination of action and inaction by the church was instrumental in enabling the mass atrocities committed by the junta,” said Federico Finchelstein, an Argentine historian at the New School for Social Research in New York. “Those like Francis that remained in silence during the repression also played by default a central role,” he said. “It was this combination of endorsement and either strategic or willful indifference that created the proper conditions for the state killings.”
Francis, 76, has offered a complex description of his role during the dictatorship, a period officially called the Process of National Reorganization, in which the authorities installed a terrifying campaign against perceived opponents.
While refraining from public criticism of the dictatorship, Francis said in his autobiography that he pressed military officials behind the scenes to free the two priests from his order — Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics — even meeting with top military officials.
Francis also said that he hid at a Jesuit school several people persecuted by the dictatorship, and even helped one young man who resembled him to flee Argentina, via Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian border, giving him priest’s garb and his own identity documents.
The Rev. Ignacio Pérez del Viso, a Jesuit who is a longtime friend of Francis’, said that a small number of Argentine bishops spoke out against the military dictatorship. But they were clearly in the minority, he said, and others in the Argentine church, including the new pope, who was 39 at the time of the 1976 coup, adopted a far more cautious position.
“When you saw that the majority of the bishops preferred to have a dialogue with the military,” Father Pérez del Viso, 78, said, “it’s not easy to say, ‘We will do something different.’ ” He added: “Many of the bishops opted, rather than to confront the military head on, to try to intercede in private conversations for those they could save.”
“Later the bishops realized this was a mistake,” Father Pérez del Viso said. “But to see the mistake at that moment was difficult.”
Religious scholars attribute such passivity to remarkably close ideological and political links between the church and the armed forces. Some priests have even been forced to stand trial on charges of human rights abuses.
After a previous military coup in Argentina in 1930, the church forged a role as a spiritual guide for the armed forces. By the time military rule was established again in the 1970s, their operations overlapped to the point where some bishops were provided soldiers as personal servants in their palaces, and only a handful of bishops publicly condemned the dictatorship’s repression.
“Of all the national churches in Latin America, Argentina is where ties were closest between the clergy and the military,” said Kenneth P. Serbin, a historian at the University of San Diego.
This legacy presents a challenge to Francis. Last week, a judge who took part in an investigation into a clandestine prison at the Naval Mechanics School said the inquiry uncovered no evidence that Francis was involved in the kidnapping of the Jesuits. “It is totally false to say that Jorge Bergoglio handed over those priests,” the judge, Germán Castelli, was quoted as saying in the newspaper La Nación.
But doubts persist, based on the priests’ own accounts, including a 1977 report by Father Yorio to the Jesuit authorities, obtained by The New York Times, and a 1994 book by Father Jalics.
Father Yorio wrote that Francis, who was then the top Jesuit in Argentina, told them he supported their work even as he sought to undermine it, making negative reports about them to local bishops and claiming they were in the slum without his permission.
“He did nothing to defend us, and we began to question his honesty,” wrote Father Yorio, who died in 2000. Finally, without telling the two priests, Father Yorio wrote, Francis expelled them from the Jesuit order.
Three days later, hundreds of armed men descended on the slum and seized the two priests. Father Yorio was interrogated and accused of being a guerrilla. The priests were kept for five months, chained hand and foot and blindfolded, fearing they would be killed.
Finally, they were dropped off in a drugged state on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
In a statement posted on a Jesuit Web site last week, Father Jalics said he would not comment “on the role of Father Bergoglio in these events.” He said that years after the kidnapping, they celebrated a Mass together and he solemnly embraced him. “I am reconciled to the events and view them from my side as concluded,” Father Jalics wrote.
But in an interview, Father Yorio’s sister, Graciela Yorio, accused Francis of leaving the priests “totally unprotected” and making them an easy target for the military. She said that her brother and Father Jalics, whom she referred to using his name in Spanish, were in agreement about Francis’ role. “My brother was certain,” she said, “And Francisco, too, Francisco Jalics. I have no reason not to believe my brother’s word.”
Still, several prominent leftists here have defended Francis, emphasizing his openness to dialogue and austere habits. “He is questioned for not having done all he could do,” said Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a pacifist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. “But he was never an ally of the dictatorship.”
Though Francis has had to respond to doubts about his own past during the Dirty War, he has faced other issues that still haunt the church. He was head of Argentina’s bishops’ conference in 2007, when the Rev. Christian von Wernich, a former police chaplain, was found guilty of complicity in the killing and torture of political prisoners.
Even after his conviction, Father von Wernich was allowed to offer Mass to fellow prison inmates. Other priests have similarly faced charges related to abuses from the dictatorship era. And still there are other priests who have not been charged with a crime, but who face serious accusations about their connection to the armed forces.
The church has tried to account on different occasions for its actions during the dictatorship. In 2000, it apologized for its “silences” that enabled rights abuses. And last November, after the future pope’s tenure as head of the bishops’ conference had ended, the church issued another statement in response to the assertion by Jorge Videla, the former head of the military junta, that Argentine bishops had in effect collaborated with the dictatorship.
The church rejected Mr. Videla’s claim, but said it would “promote a more complete study” of the Dirty War years.
Reporting was contributed by Fabián Werner, Emily Schmall and Jonathan Gilbert from Buenos Aires; Mauricio Rabuffetti from Montevideo, Uruguay; and Nicholas Kulish from Berlin.
Accusers draw ties between Catholic church and 70s junta, saying Jorge Bergoglio failed to shield two priests
Jonathan Watts and Uki Goni in Buenos Aires
15 March 2013
A young Jorge Mario Bergoglio pictured in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Argenpress/Rex Features
Pope Francis is known in his native Argentina as a man of austere habits, long pregnant pauses in conversation and a reticence about discussing himself. For supporters, this is proof of his humility, which was further underlined for them in his first address as pope to the masses in St Peter’s Square, where he eschewed the usual jewelled crucifix in favour of a simple wooden cross.
For critics, however – and there are many in his home country – it may have more to do with allegations that he and the Roman Catholic church were guilty of the sin of omission – and perhaps worse – during the brutal military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.
Those dark years cast the longest shadow over the elevation of Jorge Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, as the new Vicar of Christ, and continues to divide a nation.
While Argentina rang with celebratory church bells at the news of the first Latin American pope, some were seized by doubt and confusion. « I can’t believe it, I don’t know what to do, I’m in so much anguish and so enraged, » wrote Graciela Yorio in an email published in the Argentine press on Thursday morning.
In 1976, her brother, Orlando Yorio, along with another Jesuit priest, Francisco Jalics, were seized by navy troops in the slums of Buenos Aires and held and tortured for five months at the ESMA camp, a navy base in the capital where 5,000 people were murdered by the military junta.
The two priests served under Bergoglio, who is accused in some quarters of abandoning them to the military after they became involved in leftist social movements.
His chief accuser is journalist Horacio Verbitsky, whose book El Silencio paints a disquieting picture of Bergoglio’s relationship with the priests who sought his protection when they felt their lives were in danger from the military because of their social work in the slums.
Verbitsky believes the then chief of the Jesuits in Argentina played a double game, aiding Yorio and Jalics while expressing concern about their activities to military officers.
But Verbitsky’s views are seen as overly simplistic by other observers of that era. « Verbitsky is not wrong, but he doesn’t understand the complexity of Bergoglio’s position back then when things were so dangerous, » said Robert Cox, a British journalist and former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald, the only newspaper in Argentina that reported the murders as they happened. « He can’t see how difficult it was to operate under those circumstances. »
But Cox, who moved to North Carolina after death threats against his family in 1979, suggests Bergoglio could have done more. « I don’t think he gave them in, » he said. « But Bergoglio didn’t protect them, he didn’t speak out. »
Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the 1980 Nobel peace prize for documenting the junta’s atrocities, takes a similar view. « Perhaps he didn’t have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship, » he told the Associated Press. « Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship. He can’t be accused of that. » The vast majority of Argentinians view the dictatorship era as appalling.
Others suggest that Bergoglio was actually a hero. Francesca Ambrogetti, co-author of The Jesuit – a flattering biography of the new pope – says Bergoglio told her he met the dictator Jose Rafael Videla and Eduardo Massera, the head of the navy which was in charge of some concentration camps, to try and intercede on behalf of the priests.
She said he took great risks to save others. « I believe he did all he could at that time, » she said. « It’s a complex issue that is very difficult to explain after so many years. »
In a 2005 interview Bergoglio himself said he moved fast to save their lives. « That same night when I heard of the kidnappings I started to move. In one of my attempts to meet Videla I found out who the military chaplain was who gave mass to Videla and convinced that priest to call in sick and I managed to be named to replace him. »
Bergoglio said that after the mass he managed to speak to Videla about the case, which would not have been an easy task at the time, given the climate of fear that reigned over these issues in Argentina then.
That era continues to polarise Argentina, where the current left-leaning government has reopened several prominent cases in the past decade. Details are murky. Few from that era can escape with entirely clear consciences. Many turned a blind eye and kept silent. Accusations of this sin of omission have been levelled at Bergoglio.
Myriam Bregman, an Argentine lawyer in the continuing trials of crimes at the ESMA death camp, says Bergoglio’s appointment to the papacy left her confused. « It gave me a feeling of amazement and impotence, » said Bregman, who took Bergoglio’s declaration regarding Jalics and Yorio in 2010.
« Bergoglio refused to come [and] testify in court, » she recalled, making use of Argentine legislation that permits ministers of the church to choose where to declare.
« He finally accepted to see us in an office alongside Buenos Aires cathedral sitting underneath a tapestry of the Virgin Mary. It was an intimidating experience, we were very uncomfortable intruding in a religious building. »
Bregman says that Bergoglio did not provide any significant information on the two priests. « He seemed reticent, I left with a bitter taste, » she said.
Estela de la Cuadra’s mother co-founded the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo activist group during the dictatorship to search for missing family members. She was at first astonished, then appalled when a friend texted the news that Bergoglio had been chosen as the new pope.
« It is unthinkable, horrifying given what I know about his history, » she said, recalling the disappearance of her sister.
The last time they saw each other was in January 1977 when they were members of leftwing groups formed among the students at La Plata University, then one of the most radical in Argentina.
Her sister, Elena, was three months pregnant and in hiding in Buenos Aires from military snatch squads that had already seized her husband. She « disappeared » a month later and was later seen by survivors in a concentration camp run by the navy.
Desperate, the family used a connection with the global head of the Jesuit order – the « black pope », Pedro Arrupe – to lobby for her release. He put them on to Bergoglio, who provided a letter of introduction to a bishop with connections to the military dictator.
The only answer that came back, said Estela, was that her sister’s baby was now « in the hands of a good family. It was irreversible. » Neither mother nor child were heard from again.
For Estela, Bergoglio did the bare minimum he had to do to keep in line with the black pope. She says the story underlines the close connections between the Catholic church and the military junta, as well as what she sees as lies and hypocrisy of a new pope who once claimed to have no knowledge of the adoptions of babies being born in concentration camps and then adopted by families close to the regime.
« I’ve testified in court that Bergoglio knew everything, that he wasn’t – despite what he says – uninvolved, » said Estela, who believes the church worked with the military to gather intelligence on the families of the missing.
She is also furious that Bergoglio refused to defrock another priest, Christian von Wernich, who was jailed for life in 2007 for seven killings, 42 abductions and 34 cases of torture, in which he told victims: « God wants to know where your friends are. »
She is now requesting classified documents from the episcopal and Vatican archives, which would shed more light on the issues.
That is unlikely to be approved in Rome, though it would – until Wednesday at least – have probably gone down well in the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The Argentine president is a staunch advocate of taking to court not only military officers responsible for the killing of thousands of young activists, but also civilians who may have played a role back then.
Fernández has an icy relationship with Bergoglio – who is seen as a conservative – and has studiously avoided him over the last years, moving out of the city every 25 May when Bergoglio gave his annual mass at Buenos Aires Cathedral.
As he has shown by rising through the ranks of the church Bergoglio is an extremely astute politician, who uses the sparseness of words and space to press home his considerable influence on government and legislature.
« He is a participant in Argentine politics, but in his own way – very low profile. More politicians pass through his office than either the opposition or the government would care to admit, » said Washington Uranga, social science professor at the University of Buenos Aires.
« People go in search of coverage, to ask him to use his influence. In other cases, he calls on them to come, but it is always in his territory. It’s always in his office. »
When Bergoglio does occasionally speak out in public, it tends to be with allusions rather than direct references to Argentina’s darkest era. When trials reopened in 2006, he suggested it was not a good idea to churn up the problems of the past, although this was seen as a comment on the rise in the number of trials.
« We are happy to reject anger and endless conflict, because we don’t believe in chaos and disorder … Wretched are those who are vindictive and spiteful, » he said in a public sermon.
Additional reporting by Sebastián Lacunza
The Catholic church was complicit in dreadful crimes in Argentina. Now it has a chance to repent
4 January 2011
Benedict XVI gave us words of great comfort and encouragement in the message he delivered on Christmas Eve.
« God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways, » the pope said. « He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us ».
If these words comforted and encouraged me they will surely have done the same for leaders of the church in Argentina, among many others. To the judicious and fair-minded outsider it has been clear for years that the upper reaches of the Argentinian church contained many « lost sheep in the wilderness », men who had communed and supported the unspeakably brutal western-supported military dictatorship that seized power in that country in 1976 and battened on it for years. Not only did the generals slaughter thousands unjustly, often dropping them out of aeroplanes over the River Plate and selling off their orphan children to the highest bidder, they also murdered at least two bishops and many priests. Yet even the execution of other men of the cloth did nothing to shake the support of senior clerics, including representatives of the Holy See, for the criminality of their leader General Jorge Rafael Videla and his minions.
As it happens, in the week before Christmas in the city of Córdoba Videla and some of his military and police cohorts were convicted by their country’s courts of the murder of 31 people between April and October 1976, a small fraction of the killings they were responsible for. The convictions brought life sentences for some of the military. These were not to be served, as has often been the case in Argentina and neighbouring Chile, in comfy armed forces retirement homes but in common prisons. Unsurprisingly there was dancing in the city’s streets when the judge announced the sentences.
What one did not hear from any senior member of the Argentinian hierarchy was any expression of regret for the church’s collaboration and in these crimes. The extent of the church’s complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina’s most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence). He recounts how the Argentinian navy hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship’s political prisoners on an island linked to senior clerics.
One would have thought that the Argentinian bishops would have seized the opportunity to call for pardon for themselves and put on sackcloth and ashes as the sentences were announced in Córdoba but that has not so far happened.
But happily Their Eminences have just been given another chance to express contrition. Next month the convicted murderer Videla will be arraigned for his part in the killing of Enrique Angelelli, bishop of the Andean diocese of La Rioja and a supporter of the cause of poorer Argentinians. He was run off the highway by a hit squad of the Videla régime and killed on 4th August 1976 shortly after Videla’s putsch.
• This article was amended on 14 March 2013. The original article, published in 2011, wrongly suggested that Argentinian journalist Horacio Verbitsky claimed that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio connived with the Argentinian navy to hide political prisoners on an island called El Silencio during an inspection by human rights monitors. Although Verbitsky makes other allegations about Bergoglio’s complicity in human rights abuses, he does not make this claim. The original article also wrongly described El Silencio as Bergoglio’s « holiday home ». This has been corrected.
Voir par ailleurs:
Over at the New York Times where hostility to all things Roman Catholic is a longstanding tradition, Frank Bruni has mixed a unique cocktail of one part sharp observation, two parts confusion about Christian teaching, a dash of schadenfreude and splash of scandal. It is, in other words, business as usual at the newspaper of record, where passionate disagreement verging into bitter resentment at the sexual teachings of the Catholic Church (that homosexuals can’t marry, heterosexuals can’t divorce, and that abortion is the willful destruction of innocent human life) is almost as widespread as hatred of the KKK.
(I say almost, noting Ross Douthat’s piece this morning. Maureen Dowd, however, proudly upholds the paper’s traditional foam-flecked hatred of Rome, with the difference that loathing and contempt for Catholic ideas is expressed in our more democratic era by the Catholic or ex-Catholic children of Eire rather than toffee nosed WASPs. In the old days, hatred of Rome was a bond in New York journalistic and intellectual circles between nativist Protestants and aspiring Jewish intellectuals remembering centuries of Catholic persecution. These days everybody is in on the Church-hating.)
For those looking to cast stones at the Vatican there is no shortage of ammunition at hand, and Bruni’s piece, entitled “The Wages of Celibacy,” gives us a full measure of Catholic woe: tortured, self-rejecting gay priests and maybe cardinals and archbishops, ‘elite’ rings of transsexual prostitutes, hints of Vatican blackmail, pedophilia and tragic isolation. (Dowd takes it closer to the bone in a column dripping with juicy innuendoes about the Pope Emeritus’ relationship with his private secretary.)
All these troubles, Bruni maintains, spring from priestly celibacy and homosexual repression. Bruni’s core message is that celibacy is a “trap,” a bad idea all round:
No matter what a person’s sexual orientation, the celibate culture runs the risk of stunting its development and turning sexual impulses into furtive, tortured gestures. It downplays a fundamental and maybe irresistible human connection. Is it any wonder that some priests try to make that connection nonetheless, in surreptitious, imprudent and occasionally destructive ways?
Now I’m no Roman Catholic and my father is a happily married Episcopal priest; after 61 plus years of marriage my parents have four children, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and over the decades their home has been a warm and welcoming place, a visible sign of God’s love for friends, family and strangers alike. It’s not for me to advise a religious body to which I don’t belong how to manage its affairs, but if I were designing a new Church of St. Mead from the ground up, I’d have no problem with married priests.
There are good arguments against a celibate priesthood, even in the special context of Roman Catholic doctrine about the nature and function of priests. It’s not, however, clear that these arguments are as strong as Bruni and many others assume. The last time I looked, college football coaches, BBC celebrities, public school teachers and scout leaders weren’t required to be celibate, but we’ve seen high profile sexual scandals in these fields—complete with coverups. Horatio Alger was a Unitarian minister when he was fired for “unnatural familiarity” with boys, and there have been some recent high profile cases of married Jewish and Protestant religious leaders involved in inappropriate sex with young people.
Human sexuality is tricky ground; many married people have from time to time resorted to exactly the kind of “furtive, tortured gestures” that Bruni thinks characterize celibacy. Few of us live up to our own sexual ideals or standards; gay or straight, single or married, drunk or sober, large numbers of human beings look back on certain incidents with sadness and regret. Not even Maureen Dowd can believe that America’s burgeoning porn industry survives on the patronage of furtive and twisted celibates alone. Celibacy, like monogamy, is a sexual ideal. Not many people live up to either ideal fully, and many fall sadly, woefully, and even horrifically short of the standards their own consciences declare.
But ideals, even unattainable ones, are often there for a reason. The Christian ideal of celibacy wasn’t invented by the Catholic hierarchy and didn’t originate as a tool to capture and repress homosexual men. Nor was it rooted in either Jewish or Roman antiquity. Caesar Augustus passed laws to penalize bachelors, and while Rome had its Vestal Virgins, they had no male counterparts. While ancient Greek culture celebrated many forms of what we today would call pedophilia, it strongly condemned adult men who engaged in passive homosexual intercourse and placed strong social pressure on men to marry women even as they continued to accost high school age boys. The closest thing to the Christian ideal of celibacy was found among some Middle Eastern cults and mystery religions, but the voluntary castration among some devotees of these cults never really caught on among the followers of Christ (Origen excepted).
The Christian ideal of celibacy comes straight from the source: Jesus, despite repeated attempts by later writers to whomp up romances with everyone from Mary Magdalene to St. John the Divine, never married. (I’m waiting for the Maureen Dowd column on Jesus the pedophile: What can we expect from a man who hung around playgrounds saying “Suffer the little children to come unto me?” Sounds pretty suspicious and, of course, he was celibate.)
Jesus’ example got a powerful boost and some theological buttressing from the life and writings of Christianity’s greatest early leader and thinker, St. Paul. So far as we know, Paul never married in the years before his conversion; certainly, he remained single during his life as the first Christian missionary.
Neither Jesus nor Paul demanded celibacy of their followers. We know that St. Peter had a mother-in-law and St. Paul said that bishops should have no more than one wife. If Jesus ever said anything about his decision to remain unmarried, the Gospels don’t report it, and his recorded teaching on marriage is largely confined to an absolute prohibition on divorce. But Paul was more forthcoming. In his first letter to the Christian community in the Greek city of Corinth, the apostle wrote that while ideally both women and men should remain unmarried, not everybody had the ability. For those who could not, ahem, contain themselves in the single life, he wrote, there was a less demanding if perhaps less noble course. “It is better to marry than to burn.”
The examples of Jesus and Paul’s celibacy have resonated since the early centuries of Christian life, but choosing the celibate life was also often mixed up with pragmatic considerations. Centuries of persecution reinforced the idea that the leaders of the Christian community, bishops and priests for whom martyrdom was in the job description, should avoid earthly entanglements. One can sympathize with their point of view. It is bad enough being fed to the lions without worrying about the hungry family you are leaving behind.
When the persecutions ended with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, Christians had a new reason to want celibate bishops and priests. The Church became one of the wealthiest institutions in the Empire, and its officials controlled great resources and had immense political power. That power only grew when the Empire fell and feudalism appeared. In an era of weak states and institutions, powerful families constantly sought to appropriate ‘common’ property; much like oligarchs pillaging state property after the fall of the Soviet Union, people sought to ‘privatize’ both church and state property when opportunities rose.
Without celibacy, clerical dynasties would surely have emerged, and lucrative offices would almost inevitably become hereditary. Even humble parish priests would try to ensure that their sons followed them in their calling and, in a period of weak institutions and little central authority, the positions and the possessions of the Church were all too likely to fall under private control. Celibacy ensured that priests had no children, or that, if they did (and there have never been many illusions in the Church about the weakness of the flesh and the powers of temptation), those children would at least be illegitimate and unable to claim a right of succession.
Even with celibacy, life in the Church got pretty corrupt. Clerics high and low struggled to make careers for their illegitimate children or their nephews (the word ‘nepotism’ comes from the Latin word for nephew); powerful families intrigued to control the more lucrative posts. But while the ban on clerical marriage didn’t necessarily make the clergy more moral, it helped assure the independence of the Church and kept its property and offices from falling completely and irrevocably into the hands of church dynasties. From this point of view the discipline of celibacy was less a means to sanctify priests than to protect the institutional integrity of the Church.
In the West today these dangers have receded, but in much of the world they remain real. Many African and Asian believers remain very poor, and priests would face overwhelming temptations to, for example, ensure that their own kids received whatever educational opportunities were on offer. A wealthy and well connected archbishop in a non-democratic developing country would have powerful reasons to make sure his kids were plugged into the power system—and also have powerful reasons to keep his mouth shut about corruption and the abuses of human rights. Moral heroes might stand up against the pressure, but not every archbishop is going to be that kind of person. A perennial problem for Rome is that it must legislate for Catholics throughout the world; a system that allowed priests to marry in rich countries but demanded celibacy of priests from poor countries would not go over well.
Even so, there are real questions about requiring celibacy of all clergy. The priesthood is a less economically and socially attractive profession today, but in past centuries (and still in many poor countries) choosing a career in the Church was the only avenue for kids without wealthy parents to get a good education or a job that didn’t involve digging ditches. A hunger for education, a desire to see the wider world, and the hope of a brilliant career are not the same things as a religious vocation, much less a divine call to the single life, but the Church insisted on a package deal. Some young people honored the bargain, many found it beyond their power or were cynics from the start.
More recently, many women faced a similar choice. For poor girls in much of Europe and North America, entry into a religious order was their only way into professional life and their only chance for a college education. As Bruni and others note, the celibate priesthood also provided an honorable exit for another group: young homosexual men. If you told your mother that you weren’t getting married because you liked guys, you got one reaction. If you said God was calling you to the priesthood, you got something else. This doesn’t require conscious hypocrisy; sexual identity and spiritual yearning are both complicated things, and young people in the throes of adolescence jump to lots of conclusions.
It seems pretty clear that many people in religious orders and the priesthood didn’t have a true calling to the celibate life, and one reason that tens of thousands of people left the orders and the priesthood after Vatican II was that in a changing world they had other options. Young Catholic women, whatever their sexual orientation, and young Catholic gay men now have more choices, and the Church seems to be finding that while there are fewer young people entering orders and the priesthood, those who come are better suited to the calling.
I don’t know that it’s fair to blame all the resulting problems on either the Church or on celibacy. One can say that it was less than fair of the Church to offer education and careers to the poor, to women and to homosexuals with such difficult conditions attached—but then nobody else was offering them anything at all. Surely some of the blame has to fall on societies and cultures that consigned whole swathes of their population to ignorance and oppression, leaving the Church to deal with the results as best it could. Within the framework of its doctrinal structures and its institutional requirements, the Church opened a door of opportunity for people who the rest of the world rejected. Surely even the Rhadamanthine judges at the New York Times can give it a few points for trying?
But many critics of the Church, and, unless I am misreading him, Bruni is one of these, don’t just think that the Church has misused the discipline of celibacy. They want to say that celibacy doesn’t even make sense as a religious ideal. One doesn’t want to judge a person’s entire world view on the basis of a single newspaper column, but Bruni seems to make the argument that celibacy is an unnatural state that involves a crippling loss of human connection. As Auden once put it: “Envy warps the virgin as she dries.”
The critique is not new; the belief that the Catholic view of celibacy leads either to futile isolation or to sexual deviance and depravity or both was one of the core arguments that the Reformers made against the Church. Lurid ‘confessions’ of nuns allegedly seduced by priests and darker rumors were widely disseminated during and after the wars of religion. As late as the 1830s a Protestant mob in Boston burned an Ursuline convent after reports of wicked goings on got into the press.
In Victorian times Protestants frequently contrasted what they saw as the healthy, masculine and extroverted nature of the Protestant clergy and its spirituality and the ‘diseased’, ‘feminine’ and introverted qualities they claimed to see among Catholics. Homophobia and anti-Catholicism ran together in 19th century England, and the Protestant cult of ‘muscular Christianity’ claiming that Jesus was an extroverted jock rather than a sensitive momma’s boy was particularly popular among the headmasters of boys’ boarding schools. In the minds of people like Charles Kingsley, tutor of the Prince of Wales, chaplain to Queen Victoria and the man whose attack prompted Cardinal Newman to write his great autobiography, suspiciously celibate Catholic priests with their crafty ways, lace gowns and aversion to marriage were exactly the sort of person one kept away from the vulnerable young.
Today the attack on celibacy, at least in elite circles, cannot base itself on overt homophobia any longer, although it was not all that long ago that the New York Times led the charge against gays and their wicked agenda. Where the Victorians attacked the celibate priesthood because they believed it sheltered homosexual men and gave them social position and power they could never otherwise have, our contemporaries attack priestly celibacy because it warps homosexual men, steeping them in self-hatred, twisting their desires, and forcing the natural healthy channel of their sexuality into at best sordid and furtive affairs and at worst leading otherwise normal gay men into the horrors of pedophilia.
Charles Kingsley would have interpreted the current avalanche of stories about pedophile priests and the rumors of gay sex rings in the Vatican as clear proof that Catholicism was rotten to the core and that a hierarchical culture resting on priestly celibacy was a big part of the problem. That is not as far from the Bruni position as either Kingsley or Bruni would like, but where Kingsley saw celibacy as tailor-made cover for insidious homosexuals and sexual predators, Bruni sees it as an instrument of homophobia and sexual repression.
From my wretchedly Anglican standpoint, I can only say that the problem seems less about celibacy as a sexual ideal than about the attempt, intrinsic to Catholicism, to embody the ideal Kingdom of God in a human institution. Priests, nuns, bishops and monks are not going to be perfect. They are going to abuse their power; they are going to misread the will of God even on those occasions when they summon up the fortitude to try to follow it. Catholics believe that even so the purposes of God are being worked out through the visible Church on earth, and that the institution, however weighed down with crooked bankers, bent priests, conniving bishops and hypocritical pedophiles really is the primary channel of grace into this fallen world, and the place par excellence where God’s perfect love meets human failure.
That Catholic approach to the institutionalization of the ineffable has led to great triumphs of the human spirit and nourished extraordinary saints down through the ages, but there is a darker side too. The attempt to bond a high and difficult sexual ideal to the routine business of running a global institution is bound to create some big problems; I wish the next pope every success in managing this great institution in tumultuous times, but I don’t have a lot of advice to offer.
There is a final point to make. It’s striking that Bruni’s discussion of celibacy omits any possible benefits that might flow from this way of life. Proponents of celibacy have often spoken of a closer union with God as both the motive and the consequence of their choice. Pastor Rick Warren tells the story of the bride who insisted that as she came down the aisle to meet her future husband the choir sing the old hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” For millions of Catholic and Orthodox monks, priests and nuns down through the centuries, that was a choice that they consciously made. They felt called to sacrifice earthly ties to deepen their relationship with God and to focus exclusively on serving him rather than tending families on earth.
Bruni doesn’t even think this idea is worth discussing; as far as I can tell, there are no ‘brides of Christ’ in his world view, only delusional and embittered old maids. The argument boils down to this: since human beings can’t be satisfied or fulfilled by relationships with God, celibacy has no point. It subtracts but it does not add. The celibate priest or nun is running away from normal human life and running toward… nothing.
Bruni is of course entitled to his opinion, and it’s one that many great scholars and philosophers have held. God either doesn’t exist or is so much in the background of things that he might as well not be there at all. Satisfaction is to be sought in the here and now; this life on earth offers all we need and in any case is all we have. Forget all this talk of mystical unions with Christ, forget the ecstasies of the saints, the Beatific Vision, the dream of fulfilling your life by picking up your cross and following Christ as closely as you can. Find an age-appropriate spouse of whatever gender works for you, and lead the rich and satisfying life of an upper middle class professional who enjoys the newspaper of record, and try not to think about old age, death, or anything else that suggests that the natural order is either incomplete or flawed.
This is a perfectly coherent point of view, but it is not very rational to suggest it to the Catholic Church. Bruni’s argument against celibacy is predicated on the disappearance of God; he is giving the Church advice on how to organize its affairs in the absence of Christ.
If Bruni is right, we shouldn’t just get rid of priestly celibacy. We should get rid of priests. We should turn our churches into art museums. Perhaps a few should stay open for the old people and the poor people and the semi-literate immigrants still bitterly clinging to their missals and their rosaries, but the Catholic Church is of value only insofar as it adds texture and color to the wonderful pageant of civilized modern life.
A lot of modern and progressive thinking people think this way in America and beyond; it’s a safe bet that the new pope, whoever he is, won’t agree.
25 septembre 2008
Un document tendant à le prouver a été présenté jeudi par l’homme d’affaires américano-vénézuélien Guido Antonini Wilson, cité comme témoin à Miami dans le procès sur le transfert illégal de 800.000 dollars du Venezuela vers l’Argentine.
Guido Antonini Wilson avait été intercepté le 4 août 2007 par la douane argentine en provenance de Caracas, avec une mallette contenant 800.000 dollars.
Selon l’accusation, il s’agissait d’argent destiné à la campagne présidentielle de la candidate Cristina Kirchner, qui a ensuite remporté les élections en octobre 2007. Mme Kirchner a nié avoir reçu des fonds provenant du Venezuela.
Guido Antonini Wilson est un témoin clé dans ce procès de trois Vénézuéliens et un Uruguayen –Moises Maionica, Franklin Duran, Carlos Kauffmann, Rodolfo Edgardo Wanseele Paciello– que les Etats-Unis soupçonnent d’avoir agi en tant qu’agents du Venezuela à Miami. Ils sont accusés d’avoir fait pression sur M. Antonini Wilson, qui avait introduit des fonds non déclarés en Argentine en août 2007, pour cacher la provenance et la destination de cet argent. Antonini Wilson a présenté un document, que lui avait remis Franklin Durán, dans lequel ce dernier détaillait les points importants concernant le supposé transfert de fonds.
« D’où vient l’argent: PDVSA (la compagnie pétrolière publique du Venezuela). A qui est-il destiné: à la campagne (de Cristina Kirchner) (…) deux mallettes (…) 6 millions de dollars… », indique notamment le document.
L’homme d’affaires américano-vénézuelien a affirmé avoir rencontré dans un hôtel le vice-président pour l’Argentine de PDVSA, Diego Uzcategui, peu de temps après avoir été appréhendé. « L’argent venait de PDVSA, ce n’était pas le mien », a-t-il expliqué. « J’ai demandé (à M. Uzcategui) pourquoi il m’avait placé dans une telle situation, et il m’a répondu: +où est le reste de l’argent ?+ Je lui ai dit: +De quoi est-ce que tu me parles ?+ Et il m’a dit: +Il y avait une autre valise avec 4,2 millions+ », avait-t-il raconté devant la cour.
M. Antonini Wilson a aussi révélé mercredi s’être entretenu à deux reprises au téléphone avec le chef des renseignements du Venezuela, Henry Rangel Silva, qui tentait de le convaincre d’occulter le scandale.
Kuala Lumpur paid American conservative journalists to smear an opposition leader.
March 8, 2013
A general election is expected next month in the Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia, and that usually means political shenanigans—abuse of national security laws, media manipulation and character assassination. After the last election in 2008, when the ruling coalition barely held on to power, public anger at such practices prompted Prime Minister Najib Razak to redraft laws and reform the electoral system. However, new revelations that his government paid American journalists to attack opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim raise questions whether those changes went far enough.
In January, conservative American blogger Joshua Treviño belatedly registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, revealing that from 2008-2011 he was paid $389,724.70, as well as a free trip to Malaysia, to provide « public relations and media consultancy » services to the Malaysian government.
These consisted of writing for a website called Malaysia Matters, now defunct, as well as channeling $130,950 to other conservative writers who wrote pro-government pieces for other newspapers and websites. When questioned in 2011 by the Politico website about whether Malaysian interests funded his activities, Mr. Treviño flatly denied it: « I was never on any ‘Malaysian entity’s payroll,’ and I resent your assumption that I was. »
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
The campaign was more targeted than the Malaysian ruling coalition’s domestic attacks on Mr. Anwar. Mr. Treviño’s site mainly went after the opposition leader for anti-Semitic remarks and his alliance with the Islamist party PAS, and even accused him of links to terrorists through the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Mr. Anwar has made anti-Semitic comments—though that’s in part to fend off domestic accusations that he’s too cozy with Zionists. He also has ties to organizations that have taken Saudi money, but the suggestion that he somehow has « ties to terrorism » is preposterous.
The site also defended an outrageous charge of sodomy brought against Mr. Anwar from 2008- 2012, and it criticized the U.S. State Department and The Wall Street Journal for taking Mr. Anwar’s side. These postings were clearly aimed at sowing doubt among other would-be Anwar defenders in the U.S., especially on the right of the U.S. political spectrum.
Mr. Treviño paid other writers who know almost nothing about Malaysia but mimicked his propaganda. The New Ledger, edited by Ben Domenech, was even more vociferous, calling Mr. Anwar a « vile anti-Semite and cowardly woman-abuser. » One posting was entitled, « Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorist money flowing to Anwar Ibrahim. » According to Mr. Treviño’s filing, he paid Mr. Domenech $36,000 for « opinion writing. » Three contributors of anti-Anwar items to the New Ledger—Rachel Motte, Christopher Badeaux and Brad Jackson—were paid $9,500, $11,000 and $24,700 respectively.
Mr. Treviño was initially paid by public relations multinational APCO Worldwide, which had a longstanding contract with the Malaysian government. APCO’s Kuala Lumpur representative through 2010, Paul Stadlen, now works in Prime Minister Najib’s office. David All, who at the time ran his own PR firm and collaborated on Malaysia Matters, also provided cash.
But from 2009-11, the Malaysian money came through Fact-Based Communications, which under the leadership of journalist John Defterios produced programs on client countries for CNN, CNBC and the BBC. After this was revealed in 2011, the three networks dropped all FBC programs, and Atlantic Media Company President Justin Smith resigned from its board.
Influence-peddling has a long and sordid history in Washington, and governments that use repressive methods at home yet want to remain on friendly terms with the U.S. typically have the biggest bankrolls. It’s not unheard of for PR operators to pay less reputable journalists and think- tankers to write favorable coverage, as the Jack Abramoff case in the mid-2000s showed.
The Malaysian scheme, however, is notable because it drew in respected writers such as Rachel Ehrenfeld, who has contributed to the Journal in the past and took $30,000, Claire Berlinski, who got $6,750, and Seth Mandel, an editor at Commentary magazine, who was paid $5,500. Some of the articles appeared in well-known publications such as National Review and the Washington Times.
Mr. Najib’s falling popularity at home suggests his days as Prime Minister could be numbered. The irony is that he was more democratic and played a more responsible role in the region than his predecessors. Even opposition figures have quietly admitted to us that he has steered Malaysia in the right direction. That should have been more than enough for a legitimate public relations operation to work with. Resorting to underhanded tactics to undermine the opposition has only backfired for Mr. Najib, at home and abroad.