By Diego Dalai
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Conclave (a closed meeting, from the Latin for “with a key”) of 115 Cardinals, that has just voted for a new Pope, was much quicker than was estimated and, surprisingly, elected Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, from Argentina, from now on, Francis I. Although Bergoglio has been one of those “eligible for the Papacy” for some time (in 2005, when Ratzinger won, Bergoglio was second, with around 40 votes), his election was not expected, especially owing to his age (76), since it was discussed that the intention was to vote in a younger Pope.
The biggest crisis of the Church in decades
The quick, surprising and historic (for the first time, there is a Latin American Pope) decision is in the context of an enormous crisis that the Catholic Church is going through. We have analyzed this more thoroughly in LVO 511, but let us recall, in a summary, that the scandals of pederasty (sexual abuses against minors) and cases of corruption and money laundering, that have jumped from 2010 until now, triggered one of the biggest crises of the Church in recent times. The disclosure of the Pope’s personal documents by his butler, Paolo Gabrieli, a top scandal that took the name of Vatileaks, and the forced resignation of the Vatican Bank Director, finally sealed the fate of Ratzinger, who found himself obliged to step aside and resign, something that had not happened for centuries.
In this context, the strongest candidates were the Italian Angelo Scola and the Brazilian Odilo Pedro Scherer. As for Scola, Archbishop of Milan, his status as an Italian did not provide him with much of a profile as a renovator. Scherer would be the first Pope from the Americas, which gave him a big advantage as a symbol of “change” for the Church, but he was widely known as part of a conservative wing of the Church in Brazil.
The first vote yielded a tie of some 30 votes for each one of the two, which, despite the fact that this first election is a “survey” of the inclinations of the Cardinals, showed the crisis that the Conclave was going through.
In this sense and bearing in mind that part of beginning to “change the image” was not greatly delaying the procedure of the election, the majority of the Cardinals made up their minds for “the replacement in record time of the visible head of a global institution with more than 1.1 billion followers and the historic movement of the center of gravity from Europe to the Americas, where, currently, 47% of Catholics reside” (El País, March 14). Bergoglio, the first Jesuit Pope in history, enjoys great respect among the ecclesiastical elite. He was appointed a Cardinal by John Paul II in 2001, and, since John Paul’s death in 2005, Bergoglio has been considered “eligible for the Papacy.” As part of the highest Catholic hierarchy, he opposes the right to abortion, marriage equality, and, as we described in another story, he has been condemned by human rights organizations and victims of state terrorism for collaborating with the dictatorship. But, at the same time, as a proven activist of that macabre institution, that is the Catholic Church, Bergoglio has the image of leading an austere, not ostentatious, life and a non-neoliberal social discourse, which turns him into a moderate conservative candidate, “upright and devoted to dialogue,” that fits in perfectly with the Pope they need, to deal with the growing disrepute that the Church has been experiencing. They are also trying to give the idea that “he is a man who does not remain silent, who says what he has to say, in front of the high government officials, or in front of anyone he needs to” (El País, March 13), in order to create some expectation that he could impose order on the sacrosanct institution, not only by dealing with the pederasts, but also by trying to reform the Vatican Bank, which is so much at the service of money laundering and other crimes, that it even made the European Union itself demand greater transparency in its operations.
Already, in his first act as Pope, he has made a symbolic decision, in this sense, by choosing the name of Francis. Although he himself did not explain it, the press and the Church itself are alluding to the figure of Francis of Assisi, known for parting with riches and being able to draw near to the poor and lead an austere life dedicated to celibacy, as an inspiration to Bergoglio.
The Church is impossible to reform
As we explained in the story in LVO 511, there is no possibility of any reform, since this institution has been an essential part of the control by the exploiting classes over the exploited classes for more than 2,000 years, and it has endured through the centuries, allied with the most reactionary regimes and governments and being responsible for innumerable wars and real genocides. An alleged “reaching out to the poor” or an “austere life, remote from corruption” are false ideas, incompatible with this institution. That was shown in the persecution of the most left-wing tendency that emerged from within the Church, Liberation Theology, that developed soon after the process of the biggest “opening up” of the Catholic Church during the period of the so-called Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
Bound by a thousand and one links to the world financial system and to the imperialist monopolies, the Catholic Church cannot be reformed. Every cosmetic change, of speech and even some prompt measure of “renewal,” will only serve to keep the essence of that reactionary institution.
March 13, 2013