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What Pope Francis Means for Latin America

Jorge Mario Bergoglio has fought both poverty and radical leftism.

by
Jaime Daremblum

Bio

March 20, 2013 - 2:01 am

Liberation theology is a radical, pseudo-Marxist school of Catholic social thought that first emerged in Latin America during the mid–20th century. On March 5, one of its strongest advocates died in Venezuela. Eight days later, one of its strongest critics was named pope. Each event could represent a watershed moment for Latin America.

The late Hugo Chávez frequently clashed with Venezuela’s top Catholic authorities, who broadly opposed his efforts to create a socialist dictatorship in their overwhelmingly Catholic country. In 2005, for example, Archbishop Baltazar Porras of Mérida, who was then serving as head of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, said that Chávez and his allies in the priesthood were trying to “debilitate the Church” by promoting liberation theology. Eighteen months later, during his January 2007 inauguration ceremony in Caracas, Chávez called Jesus Christ “the greatest socialist of history.” In 2010, he responded to criticism from Venezuela’s Catholic bishops by thundering, “You all can dress like cardinals and bishops but you belong to the devil. You are the defenders of the most corrupt interests.”

Venezuela is not the only Latin America nation where left-wing autocrats have butted heads with the Church. During the 1980s, Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas espoused liberation theology to help justify their dictatorial, Soviet-backed rule in Nicaragua. More recently, it has contributed to the socialist policies of Bolivian president Evo Morales, who in 2006 appointed a liberation theologian as his deputy interior minister and also denounced his country’s Catholic leadership as “an instrument of the oligarchs.”

Meanwhile, in Ecuador, Chávez acolyte Rafael Correa claims to have drawn inspiration from Leonidas Proaño, a prominent Catholic priest and liberation theologian who died in 1988. Predictably, Correa’s authoritarian governance and efforts to undermine the Church have led to conflicts with Catholic officials. In 2008, he said that certain bishops wanted “to leave [Ecuador] in the darkness in which it has always existed,” and he urged young Ecuadoreans to resist being taught by them.

The death of Chávez has deprived Correa and Morales of their ideological mentor. With any luck, says the Economist, it will also “help break the deadlock that has stalled Latin American integration.” Indeed, now that Venezuela has lost its charismatic demagogue, it will be harder for government officials to camouflage the disastrous effects of Chavismo, such as 22 percent inflation, enormous capital flight, crumbling infrastructure, the world’s second-highest murder rate, an elected autocracy, and a demolition of civil liberties. Therefore, it will be harder for other Latin American populists to implement the Chávez model.

While Venezuela’s petro-dictator was trampling democracy and confiscating private property, center-left governments in Brazil, Peru, and other countries were demonstrating a better formula for fighting poverty — one that combines economic freedom and democratic stability with generous social programs.

That is where Pope Francis comes in. During his many years as a bishop and a cardinal in Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio built a reputation as a humble, unassuming man with a deep passion for helping the poor. He spoke out against laissez-faire capitalism, but also against the sort of radical leftism practiced by President Cristina Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor, who preceded her in Argentina’s highest office. In 2006, when Néstor Kirchner was still president, Bergoglio declared, “Power is born of confidence, not with manipulation, intimidation, or with arrogance” — an obvious dig at the government. (The first President Kirchner reportedly called Bergoglio the “spiritual head of the political opposition.”) He has always been a staunch opponent of liberation theology.

Now that the 76-year-old Bergoglio has become pope, he is a global symbol with a powerful megaphone. Thus, he can play a much bigger role in Latin America’s ongoing debate over poverty reduction. Bergoglio has said that he would like to see “a poor Church, for the poor.” Hopefully, his words and actions will persuade Latin Americans that liberation theology and other radical creeds are the wrong answer to social inequality. Hopefully, his stature and visibility will bolster Catholic leaders in countries where democracy and human rights are under siege.

Bergoglio ascended to the papacy at a time when the global demographics of the Church are shifting. There are now 483 million Catholics living in Latin America, compared with only 277 million in Europe, which means that Latin America is home to more than 41 percent of Catholics while Europe is home to fewer than 24 percent. And yet, the Catholic Church has been steadily losing adherents in Latin America, as it competes with evangelical-Protestant faiths and also with rising secularism.

The growth of Pentecostalism has been particularly notable in Brazil. Between 1970 and 2010, the proportion of Brazilians identifying as Catholic dropped from 90 percent to 65 percent. In Latin America as a whole, Catholics’ population share declined from 81 percent in 1996 to 70 percent in 2010, with Protestants growing from 4 percent of the population to 13 percent.

As Baylor University scholar Philip Jenkins points out, secularism is much more widespread in some Latin American countries than in others. For example, Uruguay is by far the most secular country in the region — a remarkable 40 percent of Uruguayans have no religious affiliation at all. (Not surprisingly, Uruguay also has, by Latin American standards, relatively liberal abortion laws — along with same-sex civil unions and gay adoption — and it may soon legalize gay marriage.) By contrast, writes Jenkins, countries such as Chile and Colombia are still rather conservative.

By concentrating his efforts on the poor, Pope Francis is hoping to make the Church seem more relevant to the lives of young Latin Americans. Known to affectionate Argentines as a “slum pope” for his work in some of the bleakest, most dangerous parts of Buenos Aires, he has reminded us what a real champion of the poor looks like. Though a profoundly conservative man, he has the potential to be a transformative figure, both for the Catholic Church in general and for Latin America in particular.

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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All Comments   (6)
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Historically, The Catholic Church, has had intertwining political/social and economic ties with Imperial power, Dictatorships and Communist overlords in every Latin American nation.Argentinian past peccadillos merely expose this ceeding of "religiosity" for "economic" preferential treatments and "sweetheart deals!"
Cardinal Sherer of Brazil was another "notable/quotable" as was Brasilia's Aziz. Both presided over the worst history of corruption, moral depravity and out-and-out ceeding of everything religious of the Catholic church to Progressive (governmental) New Left Activists in action throughout all of Brazil.If the Vatican City has financial woes and problems, imagine the Catholics strangle hold on everything real estate in the city of Rio de Janeiro.See, Imperial Brazil ceeded to the Catholic church huge swaths of land during settling of the city(and country). Today, every building sits atop a parcel of real estate owned by "The Curia of Rio de Janeiro." Corruption reigns supreme in the halls of catholicism in Brazil and these holier than thou Cardlnals and Archbishops are directly involved in financial fraud.The fall of Catholicism in Latin America is directly related to the "fall from grace" of its religious leaders. Anybody hear about the "Gay-Kits" approved for Brazil's school age children?Church leaders just stood by and watched!!!!Bet the same happened in Argentina!!!So much for "caring for the Poor!"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Like Syria and Egypt Argentine after 1945 was flooded with German nazi's like dr. Mengele, Erich Priebke, Adolf Eichmann etc. with help of the Roman Catholic Church and operation Odessa. On November 10th 2010 Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was interrogated on his role in the 30.000 murders under the Jorge Videla regime.
Just a short time ago the soon (april 30th) reyes catholic Maxima Zorreguieta from Argentine and married to the silly Prince Willem Alex of Orange of the Netherlands paid a substantial sum of tax payers money to then cardinal Bergoglio.
The father of Maxima - Jorge Zorreguieta - is under investigation for his role as Argentine minister of agriculture under Jorge Videla in the 30.000 murders as well.
The Argentine town Bariloche is as early as the 1920s of the twentieth century a center of fascist and national socialist activities been mainly due to a concentration of German immigrants.
The family of Zorreguieta (Maxima Zorreguieta spouse to Willem Alexander van Amsberg of Orange will soon be King of the Netherlands) ) had their winter holidays in their own cottage in Barioche. Maxima went there with Willem-Alexander for skiing in 1999 when she acquainted Willem Alexander to her Zorreguieta family. Former nazi party member Prince Bernhard (grand father of Willem Alexander) stayed also once a while in (San Carlos de) Bariloche.

In 2008 W-A of O and Maxima Zorreguieta bought a country house in the surroundings of Bariloche. Martin Zorreguieta, the brother of Maxima has a restaurant in Bariloche.
Catholic Maxima Zorreguieta W-A von Amsberg of Orange where present at the Vatican.
A 2005 lawsuit accused Jorge Bergoglio of being connected to the 1976 kidnappings of two Jesuit priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics. The lawsuit was filed after the publication of Verbitsky’s book, The Silence: From Paul VI to Bergoglio: The Secret Relations Between the Church and the ESMA. ESMA refers to the former navy school that was turned into a detention center where people were tortured by the military dictatorship.
http://www.latinorebels.com/2013/03/15/video-democracy-now-explores-pope-francis-past-with-argentine-journalists/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Like Syria and Egypt Argentine after 1945 was flooded with German nazi's like dr. Mengele, Erich Priebke, Adolf Eichmann etc. with help of the Roman Catholic Church and operation Odessa. On November 10th 2010 Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was interrogated on his role in the 30.000 murders under the Jorge Videla regime.
Just a short time ago the soon (april 30th) reyes catholic Maxima Zorreguieta from Argentine and married to the silly Prince Willem Alex of Orange of the Netherlands paid a substantial sum of tax payers money to then cardinal Bergoglio.
The father of Maxima - Jorge Zorreguieta - is under investigation for his role as Argentine minister of agriculture under Jorge Videla in the 30.000 murders as well.
The Argentine town Bariloche is as early as the 1920s of the twentieth century a center of fascist and national socialist activities been mainly due to a concentration of German immigrants.
The family of Zorreguieta (Maxima Zorreguieta spouse to Willem Alexander van Amsberg of Orange will soon be King of the Netherlands) ) had their winter holidays in their own cottage in Barioche. Maxima went there with Willem-Alexander for skiing in 1999 when she acquainted Willem Alexander to her Zorreguieta family. Former nazi party member Prince Bernhard (grand father of Willem Alexander) stayed also once a while in (San Carlos de) Bariloche.

In 2008 W-A of O and Maxima Zorreguieta bought a country house in the surroundings of Bariloche. Martin Zorreguieta, the brother of Maxima has a restaurant in Bariloche.
Catholic Maxima Zorreguieta W-A von Amsberg of Orange where present at the Vatican.
A 2005 lawsuit accused Jorge Bergoglio of being connected to the 1976 kidnappings of two Jesuit priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics. The lawsuit was filed after the publication of Verbitsky’s book, The Silence: From Paul VI to Bergoglio: The Secret Relations Between the Church and the ESMA. ESMA refers to the former navy school that was turned into a detention center where people were tortured by the military dictatorship.
http://www.latinorebels.com/2013/03/15/video-democracy-now-explores-pope-francis-past-with-argentine-journalists/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He is a social democrat in the paternalist Catholic Church mold, the same as the latinos flooding our borders and disrespecting our sovereignty, whom will vote for the Welfare State.

That is what he means for the world.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is a very evil Pope in one specific way. Bergoglio loves islam. It's no wonder the largest mosque in South America was build by the Saudi King right on Bergoglio's front porch.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I never heard of Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he was elected pope, but I was confident that God would ensure that His Church would choose the right pope. He certainly has!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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