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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 15, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 11
Meet the new Pope, mostly same as the old Pope
Section One
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Meet the new Pope, mostly same as the old Pope

Why the LGBT community shouldn't expect changes under Francis

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

By choosing the papal name Francis, after the popular St. Francis of Assisi, Jorge Mario Bergoglio clearly intended to indicate that his papacy would be different from that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. But the two popes are much more alike than not.

There are cosmetic differences: Francis is affable and humble, where Benedict was fussy and authoritarian. Francis chose to wear the simplest white cassock and his old pewter crucifix, while Benedict liked fancy dress. Francis has the common touch, while Benedict was cerebral and distant.

Both popes, however, were protégés of John Paul II and allies in his campaign to make the Catholic Church a right-wing political force.

OPPOSED MARRIAGE LAW
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio fiercely opposed the marriage equality law introduced by the Argentine government in 2010. In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he went so far as to call the proposed law Satanic.

'Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God,' Bergoglio wrote. 'We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.'

He has also asserted that adoption by same-sex couples is a form of discrimination against children, earning a rebuke from Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who said the his tone was reminiscent of 'medieval times and the Inquisition.'

'At stake are the lives of many children who are discriminated against in advance by depriving them of human growth that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother,' he wrote at the time. 'At stake is a total rejection of God, engraved in our hearts as well.'

COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY
This position was not merely an accommodation of the well-known anti-Gay bias of then-Cardinal Bergoglio's boss, Pope Benedict, but a logical outcome of his own long-held views on church doctrine.

Unlike many Latin American Jesuits, Bergoglio was always hostile to 'liberation theology' - the premise that Christians have a moral obligation to fight for the poor and marginalized against the interests of the rich and powerful.

Bergoglio served as 'provincial,' or supervisor, of the Jesuits in Argentina from 1973 through 1979, during the second Perón regime and the return of military dictatorship. He has been accused by investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky of cooperating with the dictatorship to arrest two Jesuit priests who refused to obey his orders to stop their work with the urban poor in the slims of Buenos Aires. The priests were ultimately rescued after being drugged and tortured by government forces.

Bergoglio maintains to this day that he negotiated with the military government for their release, but his fellow Jesuits seem to have blamed him for the incident, and he was shunted into academic work.

A RISING STAR
In 1981, Pope John Paul II engineered a coup in the Jesuit order, installing one of his own protégés as leader in preference to the liberal priest who had been nominated by the Jesuits themselves. After this, Bergoglio's career revived. In 1992 he was named a bishop, and in 2001 he became a cardinal. In 2005 he was reported to be the runner-up to Benedict in the election for a successor to John Paul II.

As a cardinal, Bergoglio was said to be close to the right-wing political group Communion and Liberation, a group also endorsed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

First organized as a student group in the late 1960s, Communion and Liberation was supposed to offer a Catholic alternative to the leftist student movement sweeping Europe and the Americas. Later it began to intervene in Italian politics, much to the dismay of many bishops who supported the rival Catholic Action group.

Communion and Liberation was notably at odds with the late Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan, also a Jesuit, but one with more progressive views than Bergoglio, who was Martini's successor as Archbishop of Milan. Cardinal Angelo Scola, who had been considered a frontrunner to succeed Benedict XVI, is a close ally of Communion and Liberation.

Unfortunately for Scola, some of the lay members of the group have also been implicated in racketeering in Milan, leading the Italian anti-Mafia squad to raid the cardinal's offices just hours before the conclave was to begin.

Although Benedict's household was run by nuns who were reportedly all Communion and Liberation members, the group is said to be hostile to the 'old guard' Cardinals close to the former pope, like Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Dean of the College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano.

How each faction stands now may be revealed in the next few days, as the new Pope Francis begins to appoint the principal officers who will assist him in managing the church.

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