Turns out Jorge Bergoglio didn’t hide political prisoners.

Oh my.  I get home from another week on the road to find that Mark Shea has been doing a little dance over at his blog.  He has apparently discovered a retraction in the Guardian story about Jorge Bergoglio implicating him in hiding political prisoners from human rights monitors.  He’s practically touching himself while asserting that atheists are incapable of changing their minds.

Well, I read the retraction and he’s right.  While the retraction was posted after my blog, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking the word of a reliable news outlet, now that I’ve read the retraction I can easily admit that Jorge Bergoglio was not complicit in that particular crime.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Mark’s tone seems to indicate that one should be ashamed to admit they’re wrong.  And it only took me getting back from a speaking tour to write this post the very next day.  Compare that to the Catholic Church which took 359 years to admit that they were wrong to consign Galileo to house arrest for the remainder of his life for contradicting the Church’s position on geocentricity (a fate that was kinder than the usual death sentence for such academics because Galileo actually knew the Pope).  So even if it took me a week to check my email, I’m beating the Catholic Church’s standard by about, well, 359 years.  Mark Shea should write blogs about how holy I am (and stop listening to Michael Voris).

Changing my mind when new facts arise is actually pretty easy for me since I’ve never made the claim that I don’t preach error (see the Pope/Catholic Church) or to follow a person who cannot make decrees in error (see Mark Shea).  When I’m wrong, I’m a regular old human being with no divine assistance trying to improve myself.  However, when you’re claiming to have a direct line to god, admitting you’re wrong has some pretty stiff consequences (unless you can get your followers to ignore all the times you were wrong).

Mark also took the time to tell us why this new Pope rocks so hard:

As archbishop of Argentina:

Due to the vast array of differences between Bergoglio and his predecessor, these are pretty ironic when compared to posts of Shea’s like “Francis and Benedict are on the Same Page” in which he argues that Bergoglio and Ratzinger are not very different at all.

{Bergoglio] did not wear bishop’s regalia

The implication here is that humility is a good thing, and that not flitting about in clothing that costs more than most vehicles is a great way to achieve that.  Compare this to Ratzinger who consistently enjoyed Gammarelli-designed, overly expensive and gaudy dress trimmed with fur and golden buckles, along with his gilded palace in which he resided for eight years with nary a chirp from Mark Shea.  Ratzinger once even made a public appearance in Gucci sunglasses.

Will Mark Shea now condemn Ratzinger?  After all, the atheist has already admitted he was wrong…

And also, let’s not think Bergoglio, who now gets to make infallible pronouncements (yup, no chance of him being wrong), can square the claim that he can make infallible pronouncements with anything that can reasonably be called humility.

[Bergoglio) used public transportation, travelling on the bus in a simple priest’s cassock

So what of Benedict and his "priceless" (the designer's word, not mine) vestments?  If you approve of both Ratzinger's opulence and Bergoglio's humble living then your allegiance is to the Catholic Church regardless of what its leaders do, not to the virtue of humility.

Lived in small apartment, not bishop’s palace

What's interesting about this comment is that it concedes that living in palaces is the norm for bishops.  This makes it pretty ironic when Mark Shea then touts humility and praises Bergoglio for living elsewhere, all while still praising the church.  I'm hearing a lot of praise for the exception, but not a lot of condemnation for the typical practice of the church.

In that apartment, he cared for an elder sickly bishop, and cooks for both of them himself

He cared for a sick person?  Does Mark Shea imagine this separates Bergoglio from other human beings?  My parents cooked and cared for my sick grandmother.  Do either of them get to be god's vicar on earth?

When your case for why Bergoglio is an exceptional human being relies on the compassion held by pretty much every human being, your consistency kinda comes into question.  Am I glad Bergoglio didn't leave the sick bishop to die?  Sure, but do you imagine that many other people would?

He wandered the slums, looking for people to catechize and baptize

Bergoglio evangelized his faith?  What a rebel.

Helped people flee Argentina’s dictatorship

This is still in question.  Virtually all the tales of Bergoglio helping people cannot be confirmed, and come directly from Bergoglio or his representatives.  In fact, one of the priests from Bergoglio's order who was taken during the Dirty War, Orlando Yorio, had this to say of Bergoglio:

Yorio later blamed Bergoglio for the imprisonment. In a 1999 interview with a respected Argentine journalist, he was quoted as saying, “I have no reason to believe [Bergoglio] did anything to free us, in fact just the opposite,” suggesting his superior had lifted his protection on the men as a punishment for their political views.

Not sure how well this syncs up with “He is not at all squeamish about attacking major political figures.”  In fact, he has been squeamish about attacking major political figures:

As the young leader of the country’s Jesuit order, Bergoglio was aware of the atrocities that were being carried out and worked quietly to save victims, according to people who knew him then. But Bergoglio, like many other clerics at the time, remained publicly silent about the abuse and did not openly confront the military leaders.

This is even with the papal immunity afforded to him under Argentinian law.  Several lesser ranked priests spoke out, but Bergoglio did not.

In 2000, he ordered all priests in Argentina to wear garments of penanceto atone for sins committed during Argentina’s military regime

This is an odd command if the Church was blameless during that time.  And what other contrition was offered for the Church’s sins during that time?  Anything financial?  Anything other than changing their clothes?

Said to be a capable administrator

This also sets him apart from Joseph Ratzinger who could not be called a competent administrator by any fair-minded individual.

In 2001, he washed and kissed the feet of 12 AIDS patients.

He washed the feet of some AIDS patients?  Um, ok?  Compare that to Ratzinger who, when speaking about the spread of AIDS in Africa, said in 2009:

I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help, the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it. The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practise self-denial, to be alongside the suffering.

Condoms increase the spread of AIDS?  It’s hard to imagine getting something so diametrically wrong.  It’s like saying unprotected sex is a great way to not have children.  That assertion undoubtedly increased the level of misery in Africa, as people who inexplicably value the Pope’s opinion obeyed.

I’ll make you a deal: when Bergoglio apologizes for the deaths that resulted from presumably infallible claims dredged from Ratzinger’s scientific ignorance, then I might mention how minimally kind it was for him to wash the feet of some AIDS patients.  However, the Catholic Church, what with that whole “god tells us how shit works” thing they’ve got going on, has never been very good at apologies or retractions.  One might think this would evoke disdain from Mark Shea (given how pissy he gets when atheists don’t get right back to him).

Oh, and tell us again, Mark, what a clear-headed, humble, good, gift-of-a-man Joseph Ratzinger was.  You know, you accuse atheists of dodging the facts to achieve their pet conclusions, but it seems to me that you can be a fan of any Pope regardless of what he does about AIDS (and no matter how inhuman they are about it).

Pretty much every reason Mark gave to admire Bergoglio is a reason to despise Joseph Ratzinger.  So, if Mark had the appeal for the facts indicative of his posturing, he should have loathed the previous Pope.  However, Shea said of Ratzinger:

I love the man and think him a great Pope, a great man, and a great saint. I hav nothing but gratitude to him and to God for giving him to us. I bless him on his way and I pray God give us a Holy Father far beyond our desserts out of the abundance of his mercy.

It’s a special kind of conceit to lavish that kind of praise on a man who protected child rapists, as if Mark doesn’t think he or almost any other person (Catholic or atheist) would have failed to do better, before rushing off to accuse others of inconsistency.  And lest you think I’m making up that part about Mark not thinking he could’ve done better, here it is straight from his mouth:

I’m grateful to the Holy Father both for his clear-headed, calm, gentle, and much-better-man-than-I-am approach to presenting the Church’s teaching to a world (and often Church) full of screaming crazies, but in a primal way, for his appreciation of his role as father. The Church has been in short supply of fathers, what with so many bishops forgetting that role in favor of bureaucrat.

Mark, had you done everything else exactly the same as Ratzinger and just managed to not prioritize shielding the rapists of children over care for their victims (and potential future victims), you would have been an infinitely superior leader.  To call that disgusting, reprehensible man “father” in any sense, or to admire him, reveals you as a pretty morally fucked human being.  And for a person who touts the virtue of faith to maintain an iron-clad allegiance to a particular conclusion, even when all available evidence points to the fact that people don’t rise from the dead or walk on water, to accuse others of having to loose a relationship with the facts is a matter of weapons grade lack of self-awareness that is not lost on me.

However, one way that Bergoglio and Ratzinger are similar is that they have both have shown coldness to the victims of child-raping priests, and have failed to expunge said priests from the Church.

Father Julio Cesar Grassi was a celebrity in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. The young, dynamic, media-savvy priest networked with wealthy Argentines to fund an array of schools, orphanages and job training programs for poor and abandoned youths, winning praise from Argentine politicians and his superior, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Grassi called his foundation Felices los Niños, “Happy Children.”

Yet in the years after Grassi’s conviction, Bergoglio—now Pope Francis—has declined to meet with the victim of the priest’s crimes or the victims of other predations by clergy under his leadership. He did not offer personal apologies or financial restitution, even in cases in which the crimes were denounced by other members of the church and the offending priests were sent to jail.

So I guess if you didn’t find that behavior troublesome in Ratzinger, you sure won’t mind with Bergoglio.

But now that I know you read the blog, Mark – how about a response to some of my earlier posts in your direction?  This might be a good place to start.

And, since you’ve had the facts pointed out to you about your inconsistency in appraising the two most recent Popes, let’s see how you react.  :)

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.