Papal Imbroglio

Argentina Beats Brazil in
the Vatican World Cup Final

In the end, it was as predictable as always: Jorge Mario Bergoglio beat Brazilian Odilo Scherer, who shares the same background of Latin America’s bloody military dictatorships of the 1960s and 70s, and became the first non-European pope. No African came close.
The church quickly picked the cardinal with the slightly better conservative credentials, as it was well aware that it could not afford any uncertainty about its choice to fester. Thus Francis I will rule at least until the next scandal calls for another early retirement.
Immediately, along with all the sponsored joy in Roma and throughout the world, those who survived Argentina’s cruel Dirty War, waged by the successive military juntas against their political opponents, have protested the choice, mentioning Bergoglio’s possible role during those dark times.
And at least one well-documented instance has been invoked: the kidnapping of Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, two Jesuit priests, in May of 1976, by paramilitary forces of the regime. They reappeared five months later, drugged and seminude, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
According to Horacio Verbitsky, a journalist who published an account of the episode in his ‘The Silence,’ Yorio accused Bergoglio, then a Society of Jesus official, in Argentina, of having refused to properly protect the priests, who were persecuted by the Junta for their work among the poor living in slum communities.
The generals, who ruled Argentina with an iron fist during the period, neither acknowledged their imprisonment, nor the reasons for it, naturally. Yorio passed away in 2000, and the case would be destined to become a footnote, if Bergoglio hadn’t now risen to the top position of the Catholic church. Then again, as pope, it’s even more unlikely that he’d have to defend his actions.
A SCHOOL OF INTOLERANCE
He offered his version of the events to his biographer, Sergio Rubin, portraying himself not as the facilitator, but as the liberator of the two priests from their harrowing experience. He told Rubin that he personally interceded on their behalf with the dictator of du jour, the infamous Jorge Villela, who then, completely out of character, granted the priests mercy.
But Bergoglio, as Francis I, may not need to deny the other, perhaps more relevant, charge against him: that of being a homophobic, who’s Continue reading

Helping Themselves

Brazilian Preachers Amass Their
Wealth & Followers by the Millions

They hold court to thousands every week, performing original songs in elaborated sets, just like any pop star. They routinely land on Forbes’s wealthiest lists, while their core audience is part of Brazil’s lowest income bracket. They were never known for civil liberties, though.
But despite protests, an evangelical preacher became the head of a rights commission at Brazil’s lower house. Since the 1970s, so-called messianic cults have thrived in the country. But no one expected these new multimillionaires to get so much political power so fast.
The issue has a particular tenor to it, since the rise of charismatic religions coincided with a decline of Catholicism in Brazil, and even a modest increase in the number of those who do not identify with any denomination. Specially now that a Brazilian bishop is considered a pope contender.
He’s a long shot, of course, even if Brazil has the biggest number of Catholics in the world. The problem is, Dom Odilio Scherer may be in tune with the Vatican, but is out of step with the majority, the only segment of the church capable of competing with the rise of the evangelicals.
Rome apparently turns its nose at Padre Marcelo Rossi, for example, a former personal trainer who became one of the wealthiest and most popular Catholic priests in Brazil, and who regularly sings and performs dance routines in front of 25,000 worshipers at his megachurch in São Paulo.
Like him, there are few others who also belt out songs, while ‘donning cowboy hats and crooning country tunes at Mass,’ and even publish Continue reading