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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Frank Brennan SJ on the Pope, the Jesuits, and the Dirty War

UPDATE: 1/9/15 ... I'm interested in contemporary Jesuit history so it's interesting to read about the interactions between Jesuits in Argentina and Rome when Pope Francis was a bishop, both in Austen Ivereigh's book on Pope Francis, and in Jesuit Frank Brennan's response to the book. Was that interaction different than the interaction between Rome and the Jesuit of El Salvador who were murdered? Were there differences between Jesuit Superior Generals Arrupe, Kolvenbach, and Nicolás? And why did Francis/Bergoglio became a pope despite the fact that Ignatius of Loyola didn't want Jesuits to become even bishops, much less popes? This kind of stuff usually doesn't make it into the everyday news, so I'm glad Ivereigh's book has brought it up. I've added to this post Ivereigh's response to Brennan's criticisms of his book - see below.

In an earlier post I mentioned the book by Austen Ivereigh about Pope Francis (Damian Thompson had written about it and later David Gibson did as well).

Today I saw that Australian Jesuit Frank Brennan has a review of the same book at ABC Religion & Ethics - Rise of the Great Reformer: Austen Ivereigh and the Making of Pope Francis.

An interesting part of Brennan's book review touches on how Francis, then Bergoglio, interacted with other Jesuits, both in Rome and Argentina, before he was pope ... how he severed Jesuit connections to become a diocesan bishop, and also about his questionable supervision of fellow Jesuits during Argentina's Dirty War ...

[...] I take issue with Ivereigh on .... his narrow reliance on a few disgruntled Jesuits to explain the complexity of Bergoglio's relationship with the Argentine Jesuit province; his clearance of Bergoglio for failing to protect Jesuits during the dirty war without providing a coherent explanation for what occurred ....

Ivereigh also investigates at length the divisions in the Jesuits' Argentine province that culminated in Bergoglio, who became novice master soon after ordination in 1969 then provincial at the absurdly young age of 37. He followed that appointment with one as rector of the theological college near Buenos Aires and was responsible for overseeing the formation of all young Jesuits. He was then banished to Germany to pursue doctoral studies, only to return within the year and in time to meet Pope John Paul II for the first time at World Youth Day in Buenos Aires. Despite the conflicts in the Argentine province, he won a popular election among then Jesuits in 1987 to attend a Jesuit General Congregation in Rome.

While in Rome Bergoglio did not form as warm a relationship with the new superior general, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, as he had with his predecessor, Pedro Arrupe. On his return, Bergoglio could not find his niche in the Argentine province. Antonio Quarracino, who was waiting in the wings to be appointed archbishop of Buenos Aires, had told Kolvenbach that "the Argentine church has great expectations of Father Bergoglio."

Bergoglio departed Buenos Aires and ended up staying in a small guest room at the main Jesuit residence in Cordoba between June 1990 and May 1992. This was Bergoglio's real desert experience where he discerned his future. Essentially he cut contact with most Jesuits; he hardly spoke to most of those with whom he was living. He kept regular contact with key Argentine bishops. Quarracino had just been installed as the new archbishop of Buenos Aires when Bergoglio moved to Cordoba; from the outset, he was keen to have Bergoglio appointed as his coadjutor bishop. The two were in constant contact; and it came to pass.

In May 1992, the apostolic nuncio met with Bergoglio at Cordoba airport and told him that he was to be appointed as auxiliary with an announcement to be made on 20 May 1992. Bergoglio's second career as a churchman had thus begun. His time of waiting was over. He maintained social contact with his Jesuit friends but severed his relationship with the Jesuit hierarchy. Only when elected pope did Bergoglio again visit the Jesuit Curia in Rome. Kolvenbach's successor Adolfo Nicolas told the Jesuits of the world "not to allow ourselves to be swept away by distractions from the past, which may paralyse our hearts and lead us to interpret reality with values that are not inspired by the Gospel."

In telling this part of the story, Ivereigh analyses the motivations and approaches of the various Jesuit camps in the Argentine province. He lays much of the blame at the feet of those intelligent, socially reflective Jesuits who ran the Center for Social Research and Action (CIAS) of the Argentine province. He thinks this small cabal campaigned against Bergoglio because he was too weak on social justice.

I think this may be too simplistic. Bergoglio obviously had great admirers and great critics in the Jesuit province before and after serving as provincial. There were young Jesuits in formation who admired him and walked his footsteps; there were others who thought him a difficult ex-provincial who found it difficult to let go the reins of office once a provincial of a different hue was in the saddle.

Some of his critics were those who were long suspicious about his failure as provincial to protect two Jesuits, Franz "Pancho" Jalics and Oswaldo Yorio, who were "disappeared" and tortured during the dirty war. The journalist Horacio Verbitsky, who was most critical of Bergoglio in this whole affair, gained his most direct information within the Jesuits from Juan Luis Moyano, who had been director of CIAS and was later an assistant to provincial Ignacio Garcia-Mata, who also had been a director of CIAS. Ivereigh is right to conclude:

"It would be extraordinary if, in navigating the elaborate tangle of conflicting loyalties and allegiances in the province at the time, he had made no mistakes. But whatever they were, he neither betrayed the two Jesuits nor did anything to facilitate their capture."

He was, moreover, "a diligent, caring provincial trying to move them in the best direction while respecting their freedom."

There is one hypothesis that Ivereigh does not entertain, but which on all the evidence seems likely. Bergoglio was worried about the safety of his men constituting a community living in a poor area during the dirty war. Two members of this community were Jesuit theologians. What would army and police personnel think if they found out that theologians were living in such a community? They would be likely to think they were there to ferment intellectual inquiry and trouble. The priests would be suspected Marxists or liberation theologians, unsympathetic to the ruling elite in a Catholic country.

Bergoglio consulted Arrupe about the matter. Arrupe advised that the community be shut down. Bergoglio discussed the matter with the two men who said they could not in conscience leave the community. Such disobedience by a Jesuit would require action by superiors. Bergoglio decided not to dismiss the men from the society but to give them time to seek out a bishop who might be happy to take them. If he had dismissed them, no bishop would touch them. It was during this time of seeking other options that the two men were apprehended. Ivereigh is certainly right to report that "after their capture, [he] moved heaven and earth to secure their release."


Austen Ivereigh responded to Brennan's criticisms of his book - Setting the Record Straight on Pope Francis: A Reply to Frank Brennan. Here's his response to the parts I quoted above from Brennan ...

Bergoglio and the Jesuits

Father Brennan took my breath away with his claim that I narrowly relied "on a few disgruntled Jesuits to explain the complexity of Bergoglio's relationship with the Argentine Jesuit province." The Great Reformer is the first biography systematically to account for the breakdown in relations between Bergoglio and his followers and the Jesuit curia in Rome; it is the part of the book on which I expended more time and resources than any other, endlessly comparing accounts between Jesuits in Argentina and Rome.

Who are the "disgruntled" Jesuits he refers to? The only ex-Jesuits I relied upon for testimony - because almost all of his contemporaries in the 1960s later left - were those who studied with him in the 1960s. For his period as provincial and rector during the 1970s and 1980s, I list at the back of the book some 18 Jesuits I interviewed, who would be astonished to be described as "disgruntled": they are in Argentina, Chile and Rome, and include four former provincials, as well as present-day rectors, theologians and historians and college principals. They offered very different narratives about Bergoglio's time as provincial and rector; and my account is drawn from endless to-ing and fro-ing between these witnesses, honestly seeking the truth.

Does Father Brennan try to discredit them because he regards my findings as too uncomfortable to engage with? "While in Rome Bergoglio did not form as warm a relationship with the new superior general, Peter Hans Kolvenbach, as he had with his predecessor, Pedro Arrupe," says Fr Brennan eirenically, adding: "On his return, Bergoglio could not find his niche in the Argentine province." Yet the fifth chapter of The Great Reformer tells a rather more dramatic story: of Kolvenbach's intervention to unseat Bergoglio and his followers, and to install a leadership who set about dismantling Bergoglio's apostolate among the poor of San Miguel, provoking an angry response from an entire generation of younger Jesuits. Kolvenbach spurned Bergoglio on his trip to Argentina in 1988; and the former provincial was exiled to Cordoba and his followers sent abroad.

In Father Brennan's attempt to re-write these findings, he claims that Bergoglio "cut contact with most Jesuits." But not even Bergoglio's sternest critics in Argentina would agree it was Bergoglio who cut the contact: he was silenced as part of the new provincial leadership's attempt to clamp down on what they regarded as dissent.

Father Brennan believes that I am being "too simplistic" to say that "a small cabal in the Center for Social Research and Action (CIAS) campaigned against Bergoglio because he was too weak on social justice." No one among the Argentine Jesuits disputes that it was the senior CIAS intellectuals who lobbied Rome to remove Bergoglio's men from the leadership of the province, and I would be surprised if Father Brennan could claim the contrary. Yet I never say that the social justice issue was the only or main grievance, but carefully spell out their many different motives, some of which had to do with Bergoglio's decisions as provincial.

In respect of the controversy over Bergoglio's handling of the two abducted Jesuits, Father Brennan faults me for my "clearance of Bergoglio for failing to protect Jesuits during the dirty war without providing a coherent explanation for what occurred." This is odd, because my explanation is detailed and comprehensive, the most thorough to date; and Father Brennan seems to agree with my account.

He goes on to claim that there is a hypothesis that I do not entertain "but which on all the evidence seems likely". But the "hypothesis" seems to be more or less my own description of the two Jesuits refusing to leave the shanty-town community after Father Arrupe ordered them to leave. What exactly is the great explanation I have missed? That "Bergoglio was worried about the safety of his men constituting a community living in a poor area during the dirty war"? True, he was; but he never asked any Jesuit to stop working in the shanty towns in this period for their own safety; what he wanted (for reasons to do with religious life rather than security) was that at night they lived in a Jesuit residence, rather than in a base community - which is what Oswaldo Yorio and Franz Jalics refused to do.

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