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.  :)

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.

  • Besomyka

    For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t have known about the retraction so quickly without this post. I’m sure I would have come across it eventually, in some other context, but the honesty in which you present the facts of what we think and discuss about (more thinking than discussing from me, perhaps, but still..), is one of the reasons I stick around and followed you from FTB to here.

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” -Philip K. Dick

    More on topic, this Pope has thus far given me a tiny, tiny sliver of hope. There’s SO much wrong with the church, between internal coverups and their stance on sexuality and contraception, that I don’t know that there’s any amount of financial humility in the world that could balance it out.

    That’s not to say that, if he’s serious and effective about turning the church towards more charity, that it couldn’t end up better, at least, than before.

    IMO, what the church needs is humility on all fronts: intellectual, financial, sexual, epistemological, cosomological, etc.

    Of course, I’ve seen something like that advanced elsewhere, and the reply I find most correct and amusing is that what we’re advocating is that the Catholic church become the Church of England. That changing all their most oppressive, ignorant and destructive policies would, somehow, make it no longer the Catholic Church.

    Which is silly. Their beliefs and practices have changed over time, and it’s still “The Church”. The Church is not it’s beliefs, those beliefs are just a tool for enforcing what it REALLY is: a tribal social system. As long as you can keep people out, and decide who gets to be in and who gets to be in power, it’ll always been The Church, without regard to what the theological tenets are. IMHO.

    • Art Vandelay

      As humanity keeps progressing, the RCC won’t have a choice but to change it’s stance on many of it’s oppressive views because…$$$. However, the more you water down Christianity, the more it starts to look less and less like that awful book and you can’t change the book. As the gap becomes larger (and it’s already enormous), more people will realize how full of shit they really are.

  • Nox

    The catholic church still hasn’t admitted they were wrong about Galileo. In 1992 they finally pardoned Galileo for the criminal charge of contradicting church doctrine. But they have yet to admit they were wrong to arrest him.

  • Adam

    Jose Bergolio? Isn’t his first name Jorge?

    • Michael Busch

      Indeed. He is Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

      JT, could you fix the typo?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

        No! I can never admit I’m wrong! #atheistsunite
        Of course I can. Thanks for the heads up.

        • IslandBrewer

          OMG! You atheists never admit when you’re wrong are so shrill!

          • IslandBrewer

            (the strike through font failed)

        • Art Vandelay

          You should probably apologize to Mark Shea for that typo as well.

        • Michael Busch

          Your error-correction time on that one was either 5 minutes or 2 hours. Nice.

  • Rain

    Compare that to the Catholic Church which took 359 years to admit that they were wrong…

    Sounds like the Catholic church could use some lessons in humility from atheist bloggers.

    • Rain

      Thank god for atheist bloggers.

      • IslandBrewer

        Which one? … god, that is?

        • Artor

          Duh, it’s the FSM! Did you really have to ask?

  • IslandBrewer
    • IslandBrewer

      WOW! He just deleted three of my comments! And now I’m banned from commenting! Not and angry vitriolic comments, but the long ones where I had citations and links responding to another poster!

      Mark Shea, you are definitely a total fucktard. I say that with all sincerity!

      • Rain

        Wow, looks like he’s a real “hotshead”, like the lawyer guy from the Green Acres TV show.

      • Artor

        Are you surprised? You can’t maintain a bubble if you have contradictory information, politely presented with references & shit. Gotta stamp that out STAT!

      • Glodson

        Remember, it is important for us to get it right and be factual and honest. For him, not so much.

  • invivoMark

    Hey, I use public transportation, and ride the bus wearing a simple jeans and t shirt. Does Mark Shea think I’m really awesome?

    Also, WTF is up with the washing the feet of AIDS patients? Is that supposed to make them feel better about having fucking AIDS or something? Meanwhile, he’s in a position to actually do something about the spread of AIDS (y’know, rescinding that whole anti-condom thing), and not a word. As far as I’m concerned, Bergoglio is complicit in an ongoing mass genocide.

    Hey, maybe he wants to wash some more feet.

  • Glodson

    Here’s what I don’t get… the alleged past crimes were bad. As it turns out, he seems to be innocent. We got bad information, and it happens. But how does that fix the problems with his religion? It just means they aren’t as tone deaf as previously suspected.

    But my problems have not been addressed. I have no reason to believe that this current pope will do anything to fix the issues with the church. I’m glad to hear that his past isn’t as shady as I was led to believe. That’s good. He still did a poor job handling the molestation problem. That’s bad.

  • baal

    Even granting Shae all his points, “better than Ratzinger” isn’t exactly a high bar.
    I take particular exception to one of Shae’s points – Rejects liberation theology. That is a bad thing. That movement arose from the RCC in the middle of the last century and focused on social justice (good for the poor) issues. It’s telling that the RCC doesn’t support it currently.

  • Theodore Seeber

    Let me know when you print a retraction on the AIDS thing:

    Since apparently, shipping substandard condoms to encourage people who are HIV+ to have sex, only enriches condom manufacturers.

    • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      I looked carefully, but I can’t seem to find your point.

      • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        To clarify: Faulty water purification systems also kill. ZOMG ban water purification!

    • Glodson

      Did you actually read the article?

      On condoms—the public health buff’s favorite subject—religious leaders have been taking pragmatic positions. Most support the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission. In the late 1980s, a Catholic priest in Tanzania, Father Bernard Joinet, designed a prevention campaign that used images of lifeboats in a sea of AIDS, including one (rubber) boat labeled “condom.” With the support of many religious leaders and organizations, including the Islamic Medical Association of Uganda, this balanced and pragmatic message quickly diffused throughout East Africa.

      The next paragraph continues…

      Of course, support for condoms doesn’t mean that religious leaders are excitedly doling out condoms after communion. They are simply resigned to condoms as a lesser evil.

      Further, this op-ed piece is poor. It wants to play up the role of religion while neglecting that it was religion that causes many of the problems. If they cede the pragmatic side that condoms are a lesser of two evils when faced with the AIDS epidemic, that is them ceding the point that condoms are effective at slowly the rate of infection.

      Let’s see what an actual study says. Here’s one!

      By 2008, the percentage reduction in incidence owing to increased condom use was 37 per cent (95% CI: 34–41%) in the STI–HIV model and 23 per cent (95% CI: 14–34%) in the ASSA2003 model. Both models also estimated a small reduction in incidence owing to antiretroviral treatment by 2008. Increased condom use therefore appears to be the most significant factor explaining the recent South African HIV incidence decline.

      This means that condom use is effective in stopping the spread of the disease. Some religious leaders, including catholic leaders in Africa, seem to be encouraging condom use in Africa, as per your article.

      Which means that Ratzinger was wrong when he made the claim about condom use increasing the spread of AIDS. The evidence is against him, and so are the local religious leaders who see the suffering before their eyes.

    • IslandBrewer

      Oh, go back to your parish-sponsored BDSM teen fetish porn.

  • http://anthrozine.com Cubist

    Regarding papal infallibility: It’s worth noting that official Catholic dogma specifies the limits of papal infallibility. A Pope can spew any old words out of his mouth any time he feels like it, but Catholics are not automatically obligated to consider those words as Holy Truth unless the Pope pinky-swears… um… anyway, the Wikipedia page on papal infallibility lays out all the gory details, and yeah, it’s about as weird and sense-free as you might expect. Sez the all-knowing Wiki:

    the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error “when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church”.

    The doctrine of papal infallibility was formally established in 1870, and since that time, there has been exactly 1 (one) infallible-by-virtue-of-the-doctrine statement, that being Pius XII’s 1950 decree which settled the burning question of whether or not Christ’s mom died before she got to Heaven. If one can judge from the rarity of genuine instances of papal infallibility, it would appear that the whole ‘papal infallibility’ deal is something that even Catholics can’t really buy into.

    • Michael Busch

      The idea of papal infallibility is even more confused that that. In addition the declaration of the doctrine of infallibility and the 1950 Assumption decree, a number of other statement by various popes have been declared to be infallible _retroactively_. These include the 1854 declaration that Mary was born without original sin and a bunch of statements designed to squash various heresies. Such great focus on things with so little meaning…

      • Glodson

        One would think that god would be clear about how right his main man on Earth is supposed to be.

    • Azkyroth

      Of course, the Catholics don’t even slightly limit their list of claims by the Pope and Bishops Catholics MUST believe to those associated with A Certain Critical Mass Of Simon Says, so this is really just word games…

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