Pope Francis I

White smoke rose from the Vatican chimney on Wednesday: a signal to the world that the Roman Catholic Church had elected a new pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, hereafter known as Pope Francis I, was elected the 266th pontiff, the first South American and the first Jesuit to lead the Church. We’ll discuss the new pope, his background and what his selection means for Catholics in Latin America and around the world. We’ll also examine the challenges he faces, including priest shortages and sexual abuse scandals.

Guests:
Father Michael Russo, communication professor at St. Mary's College of California and a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey
John Schwaller, president of the State University of New York at Potsdam and author of "The History of the Catholic Church in Latin America"
John Balleza, pastor of St. Raphael Church in San Rafael
John Coleman, associate pastor of St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco and emeritus casassa professor in social values at Loyola Marymount University

  • Gracchus

    A new pope, therefore a new denialer of sex abuses.

    • thucy

      Your skepticism is understandable, but let’s give him a chance to fail, first.

      • srk47

        Benedict, for all his many faults,did not deny anything. He condemned child abuse by priests in clear simple language. Perhaps he did not do enough or was not able to do enough to stop the cover ups. There is much about this man that is attractive, and now as a public figure (pope or not) he will come under scrutiny and may respond in some way to show what he thinks.

        • thucy

          Bergoglio had me at “renounced private car.”

          • srk47

            Dude/dudette: It was a dang limousine and chauffeur. And he refused to live in the archbishop mansion. A good start I hope.

  • thucy

    I am sorry that the new Pope won’t satisfy everyone in SF, but I have to say that Bergoglio, a Jesuit from Latin America, is for many reasons an exciting choice. (You don’t have to be Catholic to hold the Jesuit order in high regard, or to appreciate getting the first Pope from the Americas.)

    His taking of the name “Francis” implies a renaissance of reaching out to the most impoverished, which should always be the FIRST priority of any church that claims Jesus as its Lord and Savior, as Jesus was the original radical socialist Jew.
    Granted, Bergoglio won’t be like Anthony Quinn throwing off his papal crown in “Shoes of the Fisherman” and donating the church’s fortunes to the poor in order to prevent WWIII (yes, that is the plotline of that unusual film) but at the same time, the choice does feel like a big, big shift.
    And… since he’s 76, he can make his reforms, and then… the opportunity will arise for a new Pope – next stop: Africa! The first black Pope is gonna be beautiful, baby.

    • menloman

      That’s right; Socialist Jesus was a great promoter of government ownership of the means of production.

  • lovingrose

    I am excited to see that the new Pope is from Latin America. Being a humble man who loves poor and who loves to uplift the downtrodden, he is really God’s choice. http://astraunic.com/2013/03/14/new-pope/

    • Slappy

      If he’s God’s choice, why did he have to be elected by a group of men?

      • srk47

        Perhaps god in her wisdom can make a silk purse out of a, er, ah… whatevers, Similar bunch elected John23. JPII and B16 set about undoing Vatican2. Perhaps god (again in her wisdom) has been biding her time? Consider what Jesus did with the 12 apostles who scripture does not always describe as the brightest bulbs in the cupboard.

        Think I read that Pope Frank (affectionate impulse) had some quite progressive messages for his priests, i.e., we should not be a self referential church, but get out onto the streets and serve people’s real needs.

        He may not be perfect, but neither am I! He deserves a honeymoon. Leaders often grow while in office. I hope he has a young gay niece or nephew who will come out to him and tell how the church has caused him/her so much pain and resentment!

      • thucy

        was that the holy ghost of St. George Carlin?

  • pm05

    Don’t even have to ask why no women on the panel!

    Nothing much will change, will it!

  • Matt Weems

    Is there any chance the Pope has taken his name from a St Francis other than that of Assis?

    • srk47

      No. Vatican official said it was the Assisi guy. And we should note, St. Francis was an outspoken critic of church corruption which was rife in his day.

      • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

        He also took off all his clothes in public. Let’s not assume Pope Francis will emulate him in every way . . . hope he takes the best! And leaves out the Donovan music!

  • AKDG

    Politely discussing the “election” of a new pope while ignoring the fact that it is probably the most misogynist, corrupt, and harmful cabal in the world is embarrassing Michael.

    • thucy

      I’m sure they’ll get to that, but is the Catholic church really more harmful than the military-industrial complex? Is it really more corrupt than, say, the Bush admin or, yikes, the SFPD, both of which we directly fund as taxpayers? Is it more sexist than our military, where female soldiers are routinely raped?

      • AKDG

        The “church” takes the prize on length of service alone-they’ve been doing it for thousands of years!

        • thucy

          measured by rate, the Catholic Church can’t compete with secular violence. Mao killed 70 million of his own people, Stalin killed tens of millions, Hitler in the ballpark of ten mil, unless you count invasion of Soviet Union by Nazis, which brings another 27 million casualties (20 mil civilian, 7 million military.)
          BTW, does anyone have the death toll on the 17+ Japan cities we firebombed before we ever dropped the A-bombs?

          • AKDG

            Where do you think they learned how to do it?!!

          • thucy

            Well, in the case of Hitler, they were allegedly assisted by US companies, I believe IBM provided some necessary technology. And Hitler is said to have been inspired by Ataturk’s genocide of the Armenians. Ataturk, you may recall, was a modernity-loving secular Turk. But no, Hitler did not learn genocide from the Catholic Church.

            And I hate to break the news to you, but the Catholic Church is not really even as old as you think it is. “Thousands of years?” Remember Constantine? The schism? Any of this ring a bell?

          • AKDG

            Never mind, enjoy your life with your head in the clouds (or perhaps more appropriately to the church at hand, up your a**, which they send to be into).
            Ps. “Thousands” was shorthand, I well aware of the beautiful (lol crusade anyone?) history of the catholic church.

          • aa aa

            Ataturk did not commit the genocide against Ottoman Armenians. That was Enver Pasha, Talat Pasha, Djemel Pasha and other top “Young Turk” government officials in the late Ottoman Empire 1915-16.. Ataturk (not called that at the time of the genocide ) was in the army but not in the Armenian-populated area of the Empire.. And he was NOT secular in those days, but rather self-identified as a Muslim.

          • AKDG

            Inquisition? Crusades? Any of this ring a bell? Lol, enjoy your new popey.

          • thucy

            “My” new pope? I’m not Catholic, but I do appreciate the anti-poverty work that the Church has done, the support of many priests and nuns in assisting Holocaust refugees, and I have an understanding of the potential role the Church will play in addressing big-ticket issues, particularly climate change, which will affect the poor far more than the wealthy.

          • thucy

            Inquisition? As in hundreds of years ago? Vs. Hitler, or Mao, whose youngest survivors still live among us? Crusades vs. our invasion of Iraq? Denial isn’t a river in Egypt…

          • AKDG

            Raping little boys, then covering it up, banning birth control so more impoverished children can be born, (this list is long, but I don’t have time), a ringing any bells? Yikes.
            Almost funny that you would bring up denial if it wasn’t so scary.
            I do appreciate your tone though, and hope you have a nice day.

      • Slappy

        That point is completely unrelated to the topic at hand.

        • srk47

          I disagree. Reread the topic.

      • srk47

        Human institutions, whether the church or the SFPD are just that, human. That fact does not excuse bad behavior of individuals. Can the critics admit to at least the possibility that not all churchmen/women are guilty of something? Bishop Romero was murdered for being so outspoken against the government. As I recall he was not always such a radical. It was not until his eyes were opened as a bishop that he saw the injustice of the system and then he got going in a good direction. http://tinyurl.com/7ay5kpu

        • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

          This man, sadly, is no Romero.

          • thucy

            To paraphrase Joey Heller’s line: “Who is?”

            No one is Romero, but Romero. And Romero was killed.
            Why do you think Obama is so timid on social justice issues? And why does his justice department hound down Schwartz, Kiriakou, etc? Why doesn’t he take on the drug war? Because Obama doesn’t want to be a martyr, he wants to live.
            Only MLK was MLK; Bayard Rustin made a whole series of compromises with those in power – his lust for life outweighed MLK’s tragic acceptance of martyrdom.

    • srk47

      How could you tell that it was embarrassing Michael? Worse “cabal” than North Korea and Iran and Syria? Hyperbole much? Fact or your opinion? I am no great fan of hierarchic clubs in any setting, Who or what is the “it” you refer to? Nuns teaching in classrooms, good faithful priests caring for their parishioners, non-clergy workers in the vineyards?

  • disqus_eNn8GVuYJF
  • Oscar

    Michael, just a clarification: it is not Francis I. It is just Francis. If in the future there is another Francis, he will be Francis II and this will be retroactively named Francis I.

    • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

      Yes. The way you don’t become a Sr. unless there is a Jr.

  • thucy

    kudos on guests who are willing to dissect the activity of the Church and Bergoglio under the dictatorship.
    Note on yesterday’s show with Geller: don’t know if staff had time to share that Geller’s group has been identified as a hate group by the ADL. An online commenter flagged us in the avalanche of comments – might be good as a follow-up note.

  • Bob Fry

    The best comment I saw was on Reddit: several images of scientific advances just in the last week, with the comment, “And why do we put all our attention on another old white guy?”

    OK, that out of the way, yes, good the Pope is a non-European, but what about his silence during Argentina’s dirty war?

    • srk47

      John Allen in 2005 contacted the Argentinian Human Rights organization director and asked about this charge. The director said it was slander and not at all factual.

      • thucy

        I think it’s far more complicated than either of you suggest. How do you protect the work of your nuns priests and parishioners under a dictatorship? I’m sure there were mis-steps. You don’t get to be Pope without learning complicated strategies and difficult compromises.

  • Roxanne

    Do you think Francis will be more compassionate to the nuns who have been rebuked by the Benedict for working with the poor and not adhering to doctrine?

    • srk47

      I abhor the witch hunt against nuns, but I do not recall that they were faulted for advocacy for the poor. They were suspect for being too “feminist” (as defined by old men in Rome), for not being strongly and frequently against homosexuality and abortion. That is an important distinction.

  • Another Mike

    Every Jesuit I’ve ever met studied a secular subject before getting a degree in theology. What did the Pope study?

    • thucy

      I think he was trained as a chemist.

      • srk47

        Yes.

  • thucy

    I am curious how, in this once radical town, the definition of progressive has been reduced to issues relating to gender and sexuality? Isn’t it far more progressive, even radical in this era of ostentatious materialist consumption, to focus on the poor – a group that comprises gay, straight, white, black, etc.?

    • David

      Amen. “San Francisco” is making less and less sense as a name for a city where the middle class, let alone the poor, cannot afford to live.

      • menloman

        That’s what Detroit why exists. Not a shred of gentrification.

    • menloman

      ‘Focus on the poor’ is the genteel way of saying redistribute someone else’s money. Focus on the poor gets you Greece.

      • David

        Of course. What other options could there possibly be?

    • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

      I don’t share your confidence that Pope Francis is going to emulate his namesake and devote the church to working for justice for the poor. His record when the junta was slaughtering Argentinians who advocated any kind of reform, and kidnapping and torturing their children, doesn’t suggest that he is a terribly courageous advocate for “the least of these,” at least not when Caesar pushes back.

      • thucy

        Hi Amy,
        I definitely agree with your other comment that Bergoglio is no Romero. But I think what occurred under the junta was pretty complicated, and the reality is that we may never find out.
        I think it is far too easy for you to judge, from the safety of the States, how ANYONE in Argentina survived the terror and the “disappearances”.
        Maybe the more relevant question for you and me, Amy, is this: what role did our government play in that junta?

        • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

          A good question (I was very young, but of course my government is even now supporting terrorists and dictators, for which I am partly culpable), but not exactly to the point of Wednesday’s Forum. The US government was not just named supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The man who was ought to be held to a high standard, and I think it is definitely appropriate for us to judge him, albeit with compassion and humility.

          I think if Bergoglio had stood up to the junta, he might well have been killed. Or the military would have capitulated rather than create a martyr. Either might have turned the tide in that country. Or maybe not; who can say? Leading the church is neither easy nor safe. It is not supposed to be.

          And would I have had the courage? Probably not. Romero was remarkable. So was Jesus. And so were many, many people in El Salvador and Argentina, who had much less power than the archbishop of San Salvador or the head of the Jesuits in Buenos Aires, but when required to stand up for what was right, followed Jesus. I don’t know what I would do if I lived in such a country, but I know what I ought to do if I sought, and held, a position of power there.

          • thucy

            Hi Amy,
            really thoughtful response, thanks. I disagree that US complicity is not germane; if the junta is relevant then so is the support our government provided. I also STRONGLY disagree that Bergoglio’s public denouncing of the junta would have somehow turned the tide – look what the US-supported junta did to Lambrakis in Athens, and he was far more influential in Greece than Bergoglio was in Argentina.
            It does appear (will we ever know?) that Bergoglio worked behind the scenes to free the two imprisoned priests. Perhaps his behind-the-scenes work was more useful than public displays of righteousness? We don’t know!
            I often think of Catholic Gino Bartali, who never admitted the heroic work he did to rescue Italian Jews during WWII – without support from the seemingly docile monasteries, they never would have escaped.

        • thucy

          I just want to add that I’m glad you’re sharing your skepticism. I think all human institutions are more accountable with the kind of constructive criticism you put forward. I even think people who are viciously contemptuous of the Catholic Church may play a big role in reform. But I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater – if the choice in Latin America is between re-growing the Catholic Church, or continued growth of profoundly anti-intellectual fundamentalist evangelicals and Pentecostals, THEN I WOULD GLADLY TAKE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH LED BY A JESUIT.

  • Why no discussion of spiritual significance that Pope Francis takes the name of the Catholic saint of ecological consciousness? Pope Francis noted for eschewing private car for public transport. As a trained scientist, he understands the science of environmental catastrophe. Let’s connect the dots on this, folks, the most critical issue of the day.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor