Friday, March 15, 2013

About the Dirty War: Totally Unsolicited Advice to Pope Francis from a Totally Unimportant Catholic

An in-between-chores posting, after someone just contacted me to say that the discussion of Francis's story vis-a-vis the dirty war in Argentina (about which I maintain we still don't have all the details--and I am willing to listen carefully and suspend judgment until they are disclosed) was major news everywhere today:

If I were Pope Francis, here's what I'd do immediately in response:

I'd make a public announcement apologizing for the role many top leaders of the Argentine church took during the dirty war, and I'd say that I myself may not have represented gospel values as clearly and unambiguously as I'd have liked. I'd ask people to understand the complexities of the situation. 
But I'd also take some responsibility for my shortcomings and say that, as pope, I'm committed to healing some very deep wounds inflicted by the junta and the complicity of top Catholic leaders in its indefensible actions. I'd also ask forgiveness of the many human beings deeply hurt by decisions Catholic leaders made during the dirty war, and I'd state decisively that I want to close that book of history, with such forgiveness, and make a new departure for the church as its top pastoral leader, when it comes to serving the poor.

And I'd do all of this knowing full well that, in making these statements, I'd be implicitly criticizing my two predecessors who were to a great degree responsible for destroying the liberation theology movement and placing the church on the side of dictatorships in Latin America and the corporate elites of Europe and North America. 

And for those who want to remind me of my own complicity in the injustices that took place in Latin America in those years and continue to be enacted there: yes. But please don't tell me I don't understand the complexity of systems of injustice and how they enmesh people.

I had to begin at least trying to understand such systems, and my own complicity in them, during the Civil Rights movement in the American South, as I grew up. And that movement taught me the real danger of taking public stands for rights and justice when long-held beliefs and entrenched systems of injustice are challenged.

I want my church's response to such injustice to be real and serious. As a member of my church, I don't intend to whitewash the record of my church leaders vis-a-vis liberationist movements for justice in Latin America.

And it's precisely because I want Pope Francis to be a real departure from business as usual that I will keep pushing against diversionary and mystagogical games that try to whitewash all of this.

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