Pope Francis, SJ

As the Jesuit contributor to this blog, I feel like I’m expected to say something about Pope Francis.  Needless to say, when my phone exploded with texts like “Is he a Jesuit!!!” I knew as little as anyone else.  I immediately did some research and… sure enough.  Quite exciting.  I almost felt like I had done something right myself I was getting so many congratulations.

There has already been some good commentary on this, and I can already see some elements of his behavior as pope that I would label as “Jesuit.”  But then again, they could also be labeled “Franciscan” or just “Christian.”  The way he asked the crowd for a blessing, called the pope Bishop Emeritus rather than Pope Emeritus, rode the bus home from the Vatican with the other Cardinals rather than taking the papal limo. Or washed the feet of lay men and women on Holy Thursday. And the guy cooks his own meals!  Of course, many Jesuits are know for talking social justice but not necessarily living it in their communities.  Jokes abound about Jesuit poverty.  But this guy seems to be the real deal.

I definitely like his choice of name as well.  Being a Jesuit who went to a Franciscan university, the pairing is close to my heart.  It is also a beautiful move of reconciliation, seeing as it was a Franciscan pope, Clement XIV, who suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773.  So maybe this is to be taken as a token of reconciliation — not that anyone was keeping tabs.  The taking of this name may be one of many early decisive moves to “rebuild my church,” the words from Christ from the San Damiano Cross to St. Francis.

Of course not all Jesuits are so happy . Many feel that Francis has connections to the “Dirty War” in Argentina from 1976-1983.  Even worse, they feel that as many of the criminals of that period have been brought to trial, Bergoglio has been very protective of the Church and has withheld important information.  Many of my Jesuit friends from Latin America for this reason are quite nervous — hopefully not for good reason.  In the end, let us all pray that Francis will reform the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As for now, I can’t believe we have a Jesuit pope!  I for one am quite excited.

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  • http://1catholicsalmon.wordpress.com 1catholicsalmon

    Congratulations on the ‘chosen one of your own!’ I am really excited by what I saw last night and am looking forward to this man’s witness and living out of his Catholic faith, as well as the fact that this will be shared across the globe: talked about, blogged about, televised and all the rest. Viva Papa Francisco!

  • Chris Sullivan

    I was an organiser of protests against the then Argentine dictator Videla when he visited New Zealand. From what I can tell, there does not seem to be a whole lot of substance to the media claims of Pope Francis’ role in the dirty war. No doubt there will be more digging going on into it all but suffice to say that the history of the close relationship between the wealthy, the military and the Church hierarchy in South America has not always been one we can be proud of and not one in accord with the gospel.

    Whether it is better to work behind the scenes, as Pius XII did with Hitler, or to boldly confront as Abp Romero did in El Salvador, can sometimes be a difficult call.

    The Guardian has amended their original story :

    • This article was amended on 14 March 2013. The original article, published in 2011, wrongly suggested that Argentinian journalist Horacio Verbitsky claimed that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio connived with the Argentinian navy to hide political prisoners on an island called El Silencio during an inspection by human rights monitors. Although Verbitsky makes other allegations about Bergoglio’s complicity in human rights abuses, he does not make this claim. The original article also wrongly described El Silencio as Bergoglio’s “holiday home”. This has been corrected.


    God Bless

  • Doc Fox

    The period(s) of dictatorship in Argentina have been problematic for all sorts of people. For a priest, even a bishop, to keep his mouth shut and go about his administration of parish or diocese is not extraordinary. Ask the Polish clergy who were clergy in the Soviet days. Some get along too well, some wind up in jail or dead, and some just lay low and mind the more ordinary aspects of Church waiting for a better day.
    Those of us who live in a democratic republic have no idea at all what it is like to live in a wholly different sort of state.

  • Julia Smucker

    Fr. Jim Martin’s facebook post yesterday made me laugh: “A Jesuit Pope!!!! AMDG!” In that context, AMDG looks like a Jesuit version of OMG. :-)

  • http://gravatar.com/dismasdolben dismasdolben

    Whether Pope Francis intends to be “reformist” as regards such things as papal finances and pedophile abuse scandals will be clearly indicated by how forthcoming he is in explaining his role in Argentina’s “dirty war.” He deserves the benefit of the doubt UNTIL such time as he is asked whether he allowed two ex-Jesuits to be abducted and murdered and whether he knowingly concealed information about human rights violations. However, if he persists with the secrecy and the lack of cooperation with “truth commissions,” then we’ll know that we have just another vainglorious, authoritarian pontiff on our hands, like the last one. I’m not hopeful; his Jesuit brethren in Latin America, who aren’t happy with his selection, probably know him better than Father O’Halloran does.

    • http://underachindolea.blogspot.com Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

      “Some” Jesuit brethren would be more accurate. The link below is to the Jesuit provincial of Argentina welcoming Pope Francis on behalf of Argentina and offering his prayers. The sentiments expressed by some do not speak for all.


  • cris

    dismasdolben: the two jesuits were released, they weren’t murdered.One, Jalics today has released a statement where he says he reconciled with Bergoglio longtime ago.When Bergoglio was already bishop of Buenos Aires Jalics could return in Argentina, they had a long meeting, then celebrated the mass together and during the Mass they embraced themselves in a solemn manner.
    See jesuiten.org/aktuelles. it’s the German jesuit site.

  • Kerberos

    “Many feel that Francis has connections to the “Dirty War” in Argentina from 1976-1983. Even worse, they feel that as many of the criminals of that period have been brought to trial, Bergoglio has been very protective of the Church and has withheld important information.”

    ## Feelings aside. what are the facts of the matter ? Not “feelings”, or uninformative nonsense like that – what is needed is fact, not feeling, guesswork, or some other foolishness. Does he have blood on his hands ? That BTW is a question to which one hopes the answer is a clear “No”. A bishop should be “beyond reproach”, as St. Paul says – is he ? What is said about the Argentine hierarchy here is, to put it nicely, anything but reassuring – all the more so given the mission and origin of the Church:


    Quite apart from the religious aspect of the matter, the CC needs yet another scandal as much as it needs the current crop. What the Church does not need is the election of someone with blood on his hands who is chosen because the electors don’t think tyranny and murder, and complicity in them, matter. (St. Pius V was extremely concerned for the character of the cardinals.)

  • Kerberos

    ““Some” Jesuit brethren would be more accurate…The sentiments expressed by some do not speak for all.””

    ## But are those sentiments justified, or not ? If not, why are they entertained ? The number of his critics is irrelevant to whether their criticisms are justified or not. Numbers & popularity do not make right. That the last Pope had associations with the Hitler Youth, did not help, to put it mildly. If the new Pope is not beyond reproach, that will be found out, and it will certainly be used as ammunition against the Church. The Vatican cannot afford more mis-steps – its blunders make life extremely difficult for the rest of the Church: for no-one in his senses wants to be associated with a body that seems to have a callous disregard for people’s rights and freedoms, whether in Franco’s Spain or Videla’s Argentina. The CC may have got rid of the Devil’s Advocate – instead, it now has a full-time Devil’s Advocate in public opinion, to scrutinise all its public acts.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Only because you already broached the issue of the suppression do I bring this up. I was amazed that nobody on TV or online has made the following comment. To wit: Why the name Francis?? He is a Jesuit from Latin America. He knows everybody is naturally focussing primarily on his Latinamericaness, whatever that is. In that context, how would being a jesuit be viewed historically. Well, the Jesuit Order had a few problems in Latin America. And in general never got the same “rep” as the Franciscans. The very adjective “LasCasian” in scholarship tells you all you need to know on that score. Ergo, the name Francis says– I will be LasCasian. And here’s hoping he is.

    If he doesn’t live up to that hope, then please God, let him live up to that default position of all Latin Americans, if there ever was one: Se acata pero no se cumple.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Oh, nix that! I somehow misremembered Las Casas as a Franciscan. He was a Dominican. But taking that name would not help because of the Inquisition. Anyways, good name for sure.

  • http://underachindolea.blogspot.com Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

    Good name. And he explained this morning why he took it, to represent that he wants our church to be a poor church and a church for the poor. Good choice.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Believe me, I am the last person who wants to stir up the hoary old tropes of the Jesuit complot “theory”. But when you wrote: “Needless to say, when my phone exploded with texts like “Is he a Jesuit!!!” I knew as little as anyone else. I immediately did some research and… sure enough.” — I couldn’t help thinking that, well, that was a sort of rhetorical “mental reservation” on your part. I myself already knew who this guy was, and that he was a Jesuit, as it was discussed on TV in anticipation of the conclave, in between Anderson Cooper’s impish grin for having Fr. Cutie on his program stumbling into sounding like he was actually defending Cardinal Law (pobresito! he won’t live that down easily) in the the course of making a more complex argument about systemic issues in Latin America; and a Passionist Priest looking like a confirmation a everything Cutie said in his book “Dilemma.”

    So with that kind of complexity and mischief on the part of media people like Anderson Cooper, wouldn’t a Jesuit complot be rather reassuring for its simplicity?

    And congratulations!

  • http://underachindolea.blogspot.com Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

    Well, maybe I should’ve know, but I didn’t. I was in the library writing a paper. And I’d never even heard of this guy. I expected Oullet or Scola or Schonborn or someone.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Oh, where is Abbe Barruel when you need him!