The verdict on Pope Francis I is already in. A left-wing posting site  notes in horror that a “priest on CBC says anti-gay pope who hid political prisoners on an island from human rights groups is ‘with the times,’”  that is to say Francis can’t be with the times. Another poster says, “worrying questions raised over Pope Francis and hiding of political prisoners from human rights commission,”  another way of saying  that Bergoglio was not on the “correct” side of the Argentinian civil war. The Guardian’s Hugh O’Shaughnessy puts the case more clearly and says that Francis now has a chance to make up for his “sins” in that conflict.

What one did not hear from any senior member of the Argentine 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 Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship’s political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate. The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio’s name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment

One would have thought that the Argentine 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 that is to shade the truth. As a Wikileaks State Department cable points out, the Argentinian Roman Catholic clergy was divided also; they were chaplains to both sides in the de facto civil war.  And both sides committed atrocities. If apologies are in order, they are probably in order all around. Nevertheless  Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, was, according to the State Department cable, a political opponent of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina.

(SBU) Von Wernich’s conviction and sentencing are a significant milestone in Argentina’s ongoing efforts to seek justice in the cases of major human rights violations from the 1970s. They also draw attention to the support given by Roman Catholic clergy to both sides in the Dirty War. Many on the political left allege the Church was complicit with atrocities committed by the state and believe the Church has failed to account or atone for its actions. As noted above, the Church has not yet disciplined nor defrocked Von Wernich but has sought to distance itself from the unauthorized, maverick operations of rogue priests. Nonetheless, at a time when some observers consider Roman Catholic primate Cardinal Bergoglio to be a leader of the opposition to the Kirchner administration because of his comments about social issues, the Von Wernich case could also have the effect, some believe, of undermining the Church’s (and, by extension, Cardinal Bergoglio’s) moral authority or capacity to comment on political, social or economic questions.

So in terms of the current context of Latin American politics, Bergoglio stands in a position analogous to that of John Paul II  in relationship to the politics of Eastern Europe.

He is in de facto opposition to the Left; on the wrong theological side, as far as the Guardian is concerned, of the “religious” — if that word can be used in an atheist context — debate.  In other words, he’s not a big fan of Chavez, Castro, or Kirchner.

The political divisions of the world — left wing vs right wing, sexual politics, abortions, etc — are all reflected by factions with the Roman Church and it is inevitable that the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics should be caught in the middle of things. What has shocked the Guardian is why  Francis — and not some left wing cardinal — is the new pontiff of the Roman Church.

In the Leftist narrative, Marxism and atheism, with their fellow-traveler belief systems like sexual politics and nature worship, are always the coming thing.  They are what the Church must become. Why then did the Roman Church — forever dying but never dead and increasingly Third World in character — not elect some gay-marriage friendly, left-wing, liberation-theology clergyman? God knows there are enough such candidates around.

It is because, as Walter Russell Mead points out, the liberation theologians and their adherents have weeded themselves out of the church. They have basically left the institution. What remains are those who are willing to sign up to the doctrine as it stands. The stats show that “liberation theology” is really the belief system of Catholic oldsters. The young Catholics are increasingly conservative; that is “traditional.”

As other blogs have noticed, support for female priests is at 72 percent among Catholics aged 45-64, but at 68 percent among those 18-44. Only 11 percent of older respondents oppose birth control, but that number ticks up to 15 percent among the young. Support for eliminating the requirement for priestly celibacy falls by a whopping 15 percent from the older to the younger generation. …

The reason younger respondents are more conservative than the Boomers is likely because the rise of the non-affiliated “nones” has picked off the more “liberal” Catholics among Gen Y. Boomers unhappy with the Church’s teachings often remain in the Church, but in the next generation those with more liberal instincts tend to leave the faith altogether.

In the coming decades, then, we’re likely to see a smaller, but more fervent Catholic Church. The “cultural Catholic” will increasingly become an endangered species. However, that smaller church will probably grow: Religious people have more kids, and people are drawn to communities that have strong beliefs.

The young are looking for a challenging faith, the faith of their fathers. They are not looking for a career in academia or social work.