By Miguel Lamas*
The Pope’s visit to Chile has aroused little enthusiasm on both sides of the Andes. Voices critical of his double discourse on sexual abusing and paedophile priests are growing. «I cannot help but express the pain and shame I feel at the irreparable damage caused to children by the Church.» This was the first speech by the Pope, trying to attenuate the indignation against the Church in Chile. A cynical speech when he comes from taking part, in Rome, of the funeral of Cardinal Bernard Law, one of the great cases of aberrant priests of the Catholic Church.
The Pope’s speech responds to the main questioning of the Church in Chile. Because of the abuse of minors by priests, the Chilean Catholic Church is the most discredited in Latin America. The most notorious case was that of Fernando Karadima, found guilty in 2011. But there are 80 accused priests. And to top it all, priest Juan Barros, a member of the Karadima group, and considered an accessory, was named bishop by Pope Francis.
This is one of the main factors the Pope’s visit is lived with apathy in a large part of the Chilean population. Several surveys show only 23 percent rated this visit as «very important», a majority 50 percent said it is «little or not important». Nor did it create great expectation and mobilization of Argentines, as originally believed. The Pope and his contradictions have begun to wear down his figure.
At the end of 2017, the Pope attended the funeral of sexual abuser Cardinal Law
The reaction of Chilean victims of sexual abuse by priests gained strength after the funeral of the former archbishop of Boston (USA), Bernard Law, at St Peter’s Basilica, held on 20 December last year. On that occasion, Pope Francis offered his blessing to someone who was accused of hiding and protecting a series of sexual abuses of children in his archdiocese between 1984 and 2002, reported in the Oscar-winning film, Spotlight. After the scandal became known, Bernard Law was forced to present his resignation as archbishop of Boston, but John Paul II sent him to Rome and appointed him archpriest of Santa Maria Maggiore basilica. Law kept his position in the College of Cardinals and in the Congregation for Bishops. Pope Francis continued this protection.
The Pope’s cynicism reaches such extent that even the wife of former Chilean Christian Democrat President Eduardo Frei openly criticized him. «I do not believe him at all», said the former First Lady Marta Larraechea, according to the Chilean newspaper La Tercera. She reacted this way on her Twitter account when noticing the presence of Bishop of Osorno, Juan Barros, who is accused of having covered the crimes of paedophile Fernando Karadima, in the field mass that morning in O’Higgins Park, Santiago
This double discourse regarding the abuse of children by members of the Catholic Church, both regarding Chile and throughout the world, is also part of his general policy.
Pope Francis cultivates an image of «progressive», as critical of Trump’s most brutal imperial policies.
However, let us recall he visited Jerusalem in September and very far from solidarity with the Palestinian victims of the Zionist genocide, he took an «equidistant» position, he prayed next to the concrete wall that Israel built and isolates the West Bank, in the wall of the lamentations, and also in the museum of the Jews Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis. He said peace had to be achieved, «a gift that we have to search with patience and build by hand using small and large gestures in our daily lives». Put another way, he washed his hands like Pilate.
In Argentina, he underpins Peronism and the union bureaucracy
Towards Argentina, which he does not visit, he shows himself as against the Macri government. It is part of his «progressive» pose.
Reality is that Pope Francis (the Argentine Jorge Bergoglio), who in the 1970s was a member of the Peronist right-wing organisation Iron Guard, now takes part in Peronism by supporting trade union bureaucrats and also social-picketing organisations.
The Pope wants to be seen as encouraging the social movements. But far from encouraging them to fight, it is the opposite; he seeks to stop with «dialogue and collective reflection», any kind of deep confrontations against the anti-popular austerity plans.
In November 2016, Pope Francis convened a meeting of 170 organisations in the Vatican, in the so-called «Third World Meeting of Popular Movements». Taking an important place was the numerous Argentine delegation, in which stood out the Evita Movement, the Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy (CTEP), Juan Grabois, Neighbourhoods Standing Up, and the CCC. The organisations that went to the encounter in the Vatican insisted they were not «against Macri or any government in particular». These same people now came from Argentina, in a large delegation of hundreds, to see him in Chile.
The own leadership of the CGT (General Confederation of Labour), at the time, raised a general strike «at the request of the Church». Time and again the Church encourages «dialogue» to prevent strikes and whitewash the face of the union bureaucracy.
Francis assumed the papacy at a time of deep crisis of the Church, with a change of discourse and to a more «popular» image. However, day by day, both on paedophilia by many priests who are now covered up, as in the rights of women, as in popular rebellions, it is shown their supposed support for the poor and oppressed is just a double discourse. The Church remains the same sexist and reactionary institution that, for centuries, has been closely associated with the powerful, be they feudal, kings, or capitalists, guaranteeing their stability.
* For El Socialista, Argentina, 16 of January 2018