The Opus Dei Popes: Part 3 – Francis

The Open Tabernacle

December 30, 2023

By Betty Clermont

[Note from BA: This is a three-part series. See also: “The Opus Dei Popes: Part 1- John Paul II” and “The Opus Dei Popes: Part 2 – Benedict XVI.”]

“Wealth doesn’t just beget more wealth – it begets more power.” Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and Professor.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s path to the Chair of St. Peter is similar to that of Karol Wojtyla. While he was provincial of the Argentine Jesuits during the Dirty War, he showed his ability to be compliant by cooperating with the barbaric military junta.  Later, Bergoglio was appointed by Pope John Paul II as bishop during the administration of a president close to Opus Dei.


The Dirty War (1976-1983) shocked the conscience of the world. In the aftermath of a military coup, the junta was “brutal, sadistic, and rapacious,” wrote Marguerite Feitlowitz in her book, A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture. “Tanks roaring over farmlands, pregnant women tortured, 30,000 individuals ‘disappeared.’”

There was a “vast scale of atrocities committed … child murders, random abductions, concentration camps, mass executions, and a harrowing array of other daily war crimes,” stated Feitlowitz.

“The targets were social workers, social work students, militants, trade unionists, writers, journalists, artists and anyone suspected to be a left-wing activist,” wrote Nigel Hall, Human Rights Commissioner for the International Federation of Social Workers. “Many people, both opponents of the government as well as innocent people, were ‘disappeared’ in the middle of the night. They were taken to secret government detention centers where they were tortured and eventually killed.”

The Catholic Church was complicit with the junta. “On the eve of the March 24, 1976, coup, military leaders Jorge Videla and Ramón Agosti visited with the Archbishop of Paraná, Adolfo Tortolo, and Monsignor Victorio Bonamín. Tortolo reported, ‘General Videla adheres to the principles and morals of Christian conduct. As a military leader he is first class, as a Catholic he is extraordinarily sincere and loyal to his faith.’ Tortolo also said that when confronting subversion, the military should take on ‘hard and violent measures,’” reported Horacio Verbitsky in his book, El Silencio: De Paulo VI a Bergoglio. Las Relaciones Secretas De La Iglesia Con La Esma (The Silence: From Paul VI to Bergoglio: The Secret Relations Between the Church and the ESMA).

Marine captain Adolfo Scilingo, who led the ‘vuelos de muerte’ or death flights, was sentenced to 645 years in prison by a Spanish court. He told Verbitsky that “the Catholic hierarchy approved drugging dissidents and dropping them from planes into the Atlantic Ocean as a Christian form of death. When Scilingo felt anguished after directing these death flights, he would seek counseling from military chaplains at the ESMA.”

ESMA was the acronym for Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada (Navy Petty-Officers School of Mechanics). Raúl David Vilarino, a junior Navy officer, described what he saw in ESMA, located in the heart of Buenos Aires, the largest of Argentina’s more than 520 clandestine detention centers. “The torture chamber had electric prods, the iron wirework of a bed connected to an outlet of 220 volts, an electrode of 0 to 70 volts, chairs, presses, pointed or cutting instruments, bicycle tires filled with sand that could be used to give blows without leaving a mark and everything imaginable that could be used for torture…With pregnant women they introduced a small spoon or some other metal instrument until it touched the fetus. Then they gave the woman an electric shock of 220 volts. In a word, they electrocuted the fetus…Women especially [sufferd] burning with cigarette stubs, pulling or pinching the skin, beatings. Every kind of sexual abuse and torture, rapes, and the technique especially designed for pregnant women described above….”Advertisement

Vilarino assigned the greatest responsibility to Admiral Emilio Massera, commander-in-chief of the Navy.


While Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the Jesuit provincial of Argentina – ordained in 1969 and provincial from 1973 to 1979 – the Jesuit Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires awarded an honorary doctorate to Massera on November 25, 1977. It was “inexcusable” for Bergoglio to honor Massera, head of ESMA, “where thousands of young Argentines were tortured and murdered in a reproduction of Auschwitz,” Roberto Pizarro, Dean of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Chile wrote. For Bergoglio to have “cultivated a relationship” with Massera is a “stain” on his record for which “Argentines, the Jesuits and the two hundred billion Catholic in the world deserve an explanation,” stated Pizarro.

“Around 1974, ’75, ’76, many Jesuits and other kinds of priests started abandoning the great congregations to go live in the poor neighborhoods called misery villas,” explained Fr. Eduardo de la Serna, coordinator of Priests for the Option for the Poor. “Bergoglio was adamantly opposed to that. He became the main detractor of that movement of priests,” said de la Serna.

The part Bergoglio played in the abduction of his Jesuit priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalic, from a “misery villa” was first described by Emilio Mignone, “the most prestigious Catholic human rights advocate,” in his book, Iglesia y dictadura (Church and the Dictatorship 1986). The military “did the dirty work of cleaning up the inside of the Church” wrote Mignone. “Priests, nuns and other workers considered to be ‘leftist’ because they ‘denounced the junta’ or just by working with the poor – thereby considered as troublemakers and undesirable by their bishops – were ‘disappeared.’”

On May 14, 1976, seven youths who were doing social work in a “misery villa” or shantytown were kidnapped by Navy commandos. One of those kidnapped was Monica Maria Candelaria Mignone, Emilio Mignone’s daughter. All were taken to ESMA. None of the seven were ever seen again. Mignone’s book is based on ten years of an all-consuming investigation into his daughter’s disappearance.

The kidnapped youths had been working along with the Jesuit priests Orlando Yorio and Francsco Jalics. A week later, Yorio, Jalics and more social workers were abducted. Mignone wrote that Bergoglio, as Jesuit provincial, had criticized Yorio and Jalics. “These attacks served in part as a basis, according to Mignone, for the arrest, imprisonment and torture of the Jesuit priests between May and October 1976, when they were released.” reported Miguel Angel Villena.

Verbitsky agreed. “Bergoglio withdrew his order’s protection of the two men after they refused to quit visiting the slums, which ultimately paved the way for their capture,” he wrote in The Silence: From Paul VI to Bergoglio: The Secret Links Between the Church and the Navy Mechanics School.

After being taken to ESMA, “Yorio and Jalics were blindfolded, shackled, drugged, and threatened with electrocution …. They were freed five months later, in late October 1976, after being drugged and abandoned in an open field,” reported Sam Ferguson, a visiting fellow at the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School and a former Fulbright Scholar.

“Mignone refers to the lukewarm or complicit attitude of prelates like Bergoglio when he wrote: ‘What will history say of these shepherds who delivered their sheep to the enemy without defending them or rescuing them,’” Ferguson wrote.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, born in 1936 and after graduating college as a chemical technician, entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He made his perpetual vows in 1973 and was appointed provincial, or superior, of all Argentine Jesuits that same year, a remarkable achievement. “The previous provincial had moved swiftly to initiate Vatican II-inspired [liberal] reforms, and some vocal discontented Jesuits succeeded in having him removed.”

While Bergoglio was provincial, the Jesuit publications were “full of articles  against liberation theology.”

The superior general of the Jesuits, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, issued a decree in 1975 which “redefined the work of the Jesuits as supporting social justice.” “Arrupe was very conscious of the fact that this decree would cause endless grief to Jesuits working in Latin America at this time when fascist dictatorships prevailed in the Southern cone and in Central America … This [decree] led the Jesuits, especially in Latin America, to work in practical ways with the poor.” “As a result, more Jesuits were persecuted, tortured and forcibly disappeared in Latin America in the 1970s than priests from any other order.”

Michael Campbell-Johnston, provincial of the British Jesuits, had spent many years in El Salvador. He was assigned to make a critical visit to Argentina where there were internal Jesuit tensions about how to respond to the Dirty War. Campbell-Johnston recounts how he met with Fr. Bergoglio in 1977. “At the time,” Fr. Campbell-Johnston said, “there were an estimated 6,000 political prisoners in Argentina and another 20,000 desaparecidos, people who had been ‘disappeared.’ In some countries, the Jesuit social institutes were forced to act underground and in secrecy,” he wrote. But “our institute in Buenos Aires was able to function freely because it never criticized or opposed the government. As a result, there were justice issues it could not address or even mention.”

“This was the topic I remembered discussing at length with Fr. Bergoglio. He naturally defended the existing situation, though I tried to show him how it was out of step with our other social institutes on the continent. Our discussion was lengthy [but] we never reached an agreement,” Campbell-Johnston wrote.Advertisements THIS AD

Arrupe removed Bergoglio as provincial in 1979. When Arrupe suffered a debilitating stroke in 1981 (some attributed this to Wojtyla’s persecution of the Jesuits), he was forced to resign. “The purge of the Society of Jesus fairly converged with the elevation by John Paul II of Opus Dei to the rank of a ‘personal prelature,’” wrote Tad Szulc in his book, Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II’s 1982 decree created a “personal prelature” as an official structure of the Church for Opus Dei alone. An entirely new creation, its members no longer had to be obedient to any bishop. To this day, Opus Dei is the only organization ever granted such an exemption in the history of the Church.

The thirteen years after his dismissal as provincial is “a vacuum in Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s biography,” wrote Vatican reporter Andrea Gagliarducci. “The Province of the Company of Jesus exiled him to Germany. Arrupe was one of the strongest adversaries of Bergoglio within the Jesuits,” Gagliarducci stated. “His [later] exile in the peripheral Jesuit residence of Córdoba as a simple spiritual director” was part of his “subsequent marginalization” noted another veteran Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister.


According to 1990 data, there were 877 priests in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. Typically, (arch)diocesan priests are selected for auxiliary bishop – the first rung up the hierarchical career ladder – from those who have distinguished themselves working for the (arch)diocese. For example, a new auxiliary bishop in the U.S. Philadelphia archdiocese had been coordinator and spiritual director of the archdiocesan seminary, an auditor and had served on three boards for the archdiocese in addition to heading five parishes.

Like all Jesuits, Bergoglio had vowed to “never strive for or ambition any prelacy or dignity outside the Society.”  Nevertheless, he would become the only Jesuit to head the Buenos Aires archdiocese in its 400 year history and the only Jesuit pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

At the time he was appointed by Wojtyla as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in 1992, Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio had been assigned to the Jesuit residence of Córdoba, 435 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, and had never held any position working for the archdiocese. His official Vatican biography states, “It was Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who wanted Fr. Bergoglio as a close collaborator.”

By the mid-1980s, Quarracino had become the “visible head of the conservative sector of the Church” in Argentina. He had written a book of collected testimonies by Fr. Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei.

“In the political world, Quarracino was considered close to President Carlos Menem.” Like Menem, Quarracino supported an end to all investigations of the crimes of the Dirty War. Menem, president from 1989-99, “cultivated a strong relationship with the Vatican during his ten years in office. He made strenuous efforts to strengthen that link.” (also here

Menem gave key positions in his government to Opus Dei members who imposed policies “pleasing to Catholic fundamentalists.”  (also here) The president kept close ties to the Wojtyla’s Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano through his ambassador to the Holy See, Esteban Caselli, a “close personal friend” of Sodano.  Menem, Caselli and Sodano would all intercede on behalf of General Augusto Pinochet when the former Chilean dictator was arrested in London in 1998 by request of Spain which accused the general of committing atrocities during his 1973-1983 dictatorship.

Menem “decisively influenced” Quarracino’s elevation to cardinal in 1990. The president boasted that he discussed “all the leaders of the Church” with Wojtyla. Menem was very close to the pope meeting with him six times while holding office. “The duration of these interviews became a demonstration of the importance that John Paul II gave to Menem’s visits … During his two consecutive terms, the Holy See always occupied a privileged place in Menem’s foreign policy.” In international forums, the president always aligned with the Church’s position against women’s reproductive rights.

Menem “pardoned every war criminal who had been convicted and many who were facing trial.” That included General Jorge Videla and Admiral Emilio  Massera who were sentenced in 1985 to life in prison for killings, tortures and illegal arrests while the military was in power.  Menem claimed he had consulted with Wojtyla before pardoning the leaders and the pope had told him it would help “the pacification of Argentina.”

After leaving office, Menem “was convicted at different trials for embezzlement, corruption, and arms smuggling.”


When a pope wants to guarantee his choice of successor to an (arch)bishop, he appoints a “coadjutor” bishop who has the right of succession upon the death or removal of the head of the (arch)diocese. Quarracino was ill and Wojtyla appointed Bergoglio as coadjutor in 1997.

Three other Argentine prelates had been mentioned as probable successors to Quarracino. “Few thought that the pope would opt for a man so close to Quarrachino as Jorge Bergoglio. [But] from a closer perspective to the political assessments, in the appointment of Bergoglio the pope produces a gesture of full support for Quarracino in whom is embodied a doctrinaire vision closer to traditional Catholic thought.”

Quarraccino died on February 28, 1998. Bergoglio became Archbishop of Buenos Aires and primate of all Argentina.Advertisements THIS AD

“As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio was in contact with various faithful of Opus Dei. He also is well acquainted with [the teachings of the founder of Opus Dei] St. Josemaria Escriva. Some years ago, here in Rome the archbishop came to visit his sepulcher and stayed there praying for 45 minutes,” noted Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, appointed head of Opus Dei in 1982 when Wojtyla had established the group as a personal prelature. Echevarría Rodríguez had two private meetings with Pope Francis within the first months of his pontificate.

In several Latin American countries where Catholicism is the official religion, major national holidays are celebrated in cathedrals with the Te Deum, a hymn of thanksgiving.  In the May 1998 celebration, Bergoglio presided and Menem and all the members of his cabinet attended. On the same day in Rome, Sodano celebrated mass with Ambassador Caselli present, seen “as the reaffirmation of the excellent relations between the Vatican and the government of Carlos Menem.”

Bergoglio was elevated to cardinal in February 2001 by Pope John Paul II. He vowed, as do all cardinals: “I shall try in every way to assert, uphold, preserve, increase and promote the rights, even temporal, the liberty, honor, privileges and authority of the Holy Roman Church of our Lord, the Pope and his successors.”

Nestor Kirchner was elected president in 2003. He was succeeded by his wife, Cristina Fernandez, in 2007. Nestor died suddenly in October of 2010.  Cristina stood for reelection in 2011 and won. By law, she could not run again in 2015.

Like his American confreres who used “moral issues” to oppose progressive government, Bergoglio “clashed with the Kirchner administration sharply over issues of abortion, contraception and sex education.”  Kirchner called Bergoglio the “spiritual head of the political opposition” and also “castigated the Church for its willingness to accommodate the military regime during the 1970s and early 1980s.”

Fernandez’ relationship with Bergoglio was “strained due to her support for same-sex marriage and the leftism of her administration.” A week before the vote on legislation approving same-sex marriage, Bergoglio wrote in a pastoral letter that the legislation was a “’move’ by the father of lies [Satan] meant to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

In 2012, when the Fernandez administration “pushed for mandatory sex education in schools, free distribution of contraceptives in public hospitals, and the right for transsexuals to change their official identities on demand,” Bergoglio accused the president of “demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power.”


“When Néstor Kirchner was elected president in 2003, he revoked a previous government’s amnesty for officials from the dictatorship, and began prosecuting long dormant human-rights cases.” “His democratic, left-of-centre government also reformed the Supreme Court, making it more politically independent and better able to come to terms with the country’s past.”As a result, by 2010 “slightly more than 50 convictions” had occurred.

In the 2010 criminal trial of eighteen officers who had worked at ESMA, Maria Elena Funes, one of the workers kidnapped with Yorio and Jalics and also released, testified on September 23. She informed the court that Yorio and Jalics were abducted after Bergoglio removed his protection.

On November 8, 2010, reported:

“Cardinal Bergoglio was called as a witness by the court. Article 250 of the National Code of Criminal Procedure declares that official dignitaries ‘are not required to appear’ in the court. According to the second paragraph, the witness must ‘declare at his official residence, or by a written report,’ testify under oath. Cardinal Bergoglio, as the head of the Argentine Catholic Church, said he will provide his testimony, not in public, but before the judges of the fifth Federal Court (TOF 5) and the parties in his office in the Metropolitan Curia adjacent to the cathedral.”

Bergoglio “told the judges he tried to protect the priests Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics and met twice with the former president of the military dictatorship, Jorge Videla, and two other times with the late Admiral Emilio Massera, with whom he spoke harshly, to ask them to release the priests….”

“’He was evasive. Bergoglio was not a collaborator of justice,’ said the lawyer Luis Zamora. In his view, the prelate ‘had 34 years to testify and did not; when summoned he requested to testify in writing, and now his statement was highly significant in terms of what was [the role] of the Church in the dictatorship.’

“Zamora described [Bergoglio] during interrogation as ‘someone ostensibly reluctant, measuring word for word’ and could not provide any names of those Jesuits who saw Jalics and Yorio as ‘subversive” for their work in the villages.’

“[W]hen the priests were released they related to him what they had suffered and he was in charge of reporting to his superiors. Zamora [asked Bergoglio] to tell the court what official steps he made to his superiors in 1976 as a representative of the Jesuit order, to formally ask for the release of the kidnapped priests. Bergoglio clarified that his efforts with his superiors in the Church and the Vatican were informal (spoken) and therefore there was not any record.”

You can read Bergoglio’s testimony in Spanish here.

In a 1999 interview, conducted shortly before he died, Yorio – who had left the Jesuits – repeated what he had already said before, that he faulted Bergoglio for his kidnapping. Jalics – who remained a Jesuit – said that “in 2000, he and Cardinal Bergoglio met, celebrated Mass together, and proclaimed their reconciliation.” In a statement posted to a German Jesuit website on March 20, 2013, [a week after the election of Pope Francis] Jalics said that it is ‘wrong to claim that our capture was initiated by Fr. Bergoglio,’” noted Tom Quigley former policy advisor on Latin American, Asian, and Caribbean issues to the U.S. Catholic bishops. Jalics, however, remained silent as to whether Bergoglio facilitated their abduction.Advertisements THIS AD

It had been reported in May 1995 that the “Vatican Embassy in Buenos Aires kept a secret list of thousands of people who ‘disappeared’ during Argentina’s dirty wars of the late 1970s which it failed to make public at the time and may have since destroyed, according to Church sources… Italian Cardinal Pio Laghi, who was Papal Ambassador in Buenos Aires during the military dictatorship and later served as Papal Ambassador in the United States, confirmed last week that he knew of some 6,000 cases of people who disappeared.”

The questioning of Bergoglio on November 8, 2010, had begun with what he knew about the disappearance of Esther Balestrino de Careaga and two nuns in December 1977. Balestrino was head of the chemical analysis lab where Bergoglio had worked in 1953-54 and he considered her to be his friend. All three were tortured in ESMA and thrown alive into the sea from an airplane.

Part of the Bergoglio’s testimony about Ballestrino follows (Z Zamoro, B Bergoglio):
Z. – Do any records exist in some archive of the Catholic Church?
B. – I suppose so, but I don’t know for sure.
Z. – Are those files under your control?
B. – The central archive of the CEA (Conference of the Catholic Bishops) is under the control of the CEA
Z. – And who supervises the CEA?
B. – I do.
Z. – So, could you locate it [the file]?
B. – I can look for it, but not sure I can find it.

Bergoglio was also asked to testify by the sixth Federal Court (TOF 6) on September 26, 2011, about the junta’s “systematic plan of appropriation of children of the disappeared,” specifically about the case of Elena de la Cuadra, who was abducted and detained at ESMA. Again, Bergoglio received the privilege of being able to testify from his own office, by some accounts in writing. According to the de la Cuadra family who lost five relatives during the Dirty War, when the five-month pregnant Elena was kidnapped in 1977, they wrote the Jesuit Superior General, Pedro Arrupe, for assistance. Arrupe asked Bergoglio to help them.

Elena’s father twice went to see Bergoglio who referred him to the Archbishop of La Plata, Mario Picchi. “Months passed before the [bishop] came back with a written note from a colonel: It revealed that the woman had given birth in captivity to a girl who was given to a family ‘too important’ for the adoption to be reversed.” Elena was never seen again.

According to one observer, Bergoglio responded with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” to the majority of the 33 questions. Asked if he had met with Elena de la Cuadra’s family, he said, “I have no knowledge, but it is likely that this happened.” His response that he only knew about the stolen babies “around the time of the Trial of Juntas” (1986) was “surprising” according to the observer because the Mothers (now Grandmothers) of the Plaza de Mayo have been active since 1977. They tried desperately to locate the children who were disappeared or who were born in captivity.

Part of the testimony is as follows (I Investigator, B Bergoglio):
I – When did you learn that children were being confiscated during the dictatorship?
B – Recently … Ah, recently, some ten years ago.
I – Would that be around the year 199X?? [sic]
B – Maybe sometime around the time of the Trial of the Juntas.
I – A bit earlier then.
B – A bit earlier. Around that time, more or less, I started to find out about that.
I – We have talked at various times about documentation that could or could not be provided to the proceedings (trial/tribunal). I would like to conclude by asking that we come to an agreement on the manner in which the tribunal can gain access to this valuable documentation, as it is public knowledge and widely known that the

Church has much of the documentation. This is apparent in record of evidence given in various testimonies, including testimonies that have been heard here in this trial. So, before finishing this hearing, we need to come to an agreement and a determination of the most expeditious manner by which the tribunal can gain access to all of that valuable archival documentation.
President [of the Tribunal]- Ask for it, Doctor.
I – I’m wondering if there will be an agreed upon way we can find and get to see this documentation.
President – So the question is whether the gentleman testifying will permit a review of the [Church] files.
B -Yes, I have no problem with that. I will instruct the custodians of the archives to do so. In fact, we have received documentation requests regarding other trials on the same topic, and we sent what we had, whatever we had.

You can read Bergoglio’s testimony in Spanish here.

It wasn’t until October 2016 that, “following the authorization and recommendations of Pope Francis, the Argentine Church’s archives pertaining to the Dirty War will be made available for review,” as reported by the National Catholic Register. However, “only those who were victims, immediate family members of the disappeared or detained and, in the case of religious or clerics, only their major superiors were allowed to have access to the materials.” The archives have never been available to the public or the press.

Pope Francis gave his authorization only after it had been announced in September 2015 that the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo had successfully used DNA to identify 117 of the over 400 stolen children. As early as the 1980s, “the grandmothers had lobbied for a national genetic database that stores blood samples from grandparents and other relatives,” reported the Smithsonian Magazine.Advertisements THIS AD


In July 2012, General Jorge Videla, dictator from 1976 to 1981, was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for orchestrating the theft of babies born in captivity to women subsequently murdered by their military captors. In a series of interviews conducted in 2010 but not published until after his sentencing, Videla explained in front of the video camera, “We had to remove a large set of people who could not be brought to justice nor shot…Each disappearance can be understood as masking, the concealment of a death.” Videla said this was necessary to install a market economy.

Videla also confirmed that what Argentina’s leading investigative journalist and human rights activist, Horacio Verbitsky, had written in his book, El Silencio (The Silence), was accurate i.e. the papal ambassador, Pio Laghi, and the Argentine hierarchs were accomplices in the Dirty War against the leftists.

“A document from 1978 details a meeting between the Conferencia Episcopal Argentina (Argentine Bishops’ Conference or CEA) Executive Committee and Jorge Videla, the then de facto president. The document summarizes the discussion between Videla, Cardinal Raúl Primatesta, Archbishop of Córdoba; Vincente Zazpe, Archbishop of Santa Fe; and Cardinal Juan Aramburu, Archbishop of Buenos Aires,” wrote Piere-Louis Le Goff in his article “The Role of the Church Argentina” written for the Brown University Library.

“The report, which was written and sent to the Vatican following the meeting, was ‘surreptitiously obtained’ and published in Página/12 by Verbitsky. It confirms that at the time, the CEA and the Holy See were both fully aware of the systematic assassination of those detained by the military,” noted Le Goff.
After Videla’s interview was broadcast, Church leaders had little choice but to respond. Under Bergoglio’s leadership, the Argentine bishops’ conference issued an apology. The statement, Los Obispos de la República Argentina, 104º Asamblea Plenaria, 9 de noviembre de 2012, “acknowledged the Church’s failure to protect its flock during the 1970s.”  

Argentines were angered when the bishops put the brutality of the military junta on equal footing with a small and ineffective resistance: “We know the suffering … because of state terrorism; as we know of the death and devastation caused by guerrilla violence.”

The bishops tried to absolve the Church from any guilt referring to Videla’s charges that prelates were complicit as being “completely divorced from the truth of what the bishops were involved in at that time.”

Some Argentines responded that not only did the bishops wait far too long to apologize for the Church’s human rights failures, but they also objected to their self-righteous and inaccurate defense of the Church. “They also have yet to identify those responsible for the many human rights violations that the Church was aware of at the time.”

In December 2012, three months before Bergoglio was elected pope, a provincial tribunal denounced not only the “complicity” of the Church with the dictatorship but regretted that there also “remains…a reluctant attitude of Church authorities … to solve the crimes now being judged.”


On April 17, 2005, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio “mentioned as a possible contender to become pope, accusing him of involvement in the 1976 kidnappings of two priests.” (emphasis mine) The accusations were detailed in Verbitsky’s The Silence: From Paul VI to Bergoglio: The Secret Relations Between the Church and the ESMA. Bergoglio’s spokesman called the allegation “old slander.”

There was speculation whether Verbitsky’s book had affected the outcome of the conclave which elected Joseph Ratzinger pope on April 19, 2005, and Bergoglio had come in second.

Perhaps to counter these allegations, Argentine journalist Francesca Ambrogetti, presented her proposal to the cardinal for a book in his own words. “Bergoglio kept the proposal in his desk drawer for a long time. Then, after the 2005 conclave, he gave us [including co-author, Sergio Ruben] the go-ahead and brought us a large folder with all his speeches and homilies, asking us to use them as material,” Ambrogetti said. She convinced Bergoglio to also include interviews.

The book, The Jesuit: Conversations with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, was released in 2010. “He reveals the very image of a humble priest and inspired teacher,” according to one review. Bergoglio also defended himself against the accusation that he enabled the kidnappings. (The title was later changed to Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio: His Life in His Own Words.)

“The Vatican leaks scandal, also known as Vatileaks, beginning in 2012 initially involving leaked Vatican documents, exposing corruption,” according to Wikipedia. The scandal increased when Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, published his book in May 2012, His Holiness:The Secret Papers of Pope Benedict XVI, “consisting of confidential letters and memos between Pope Benedict and Georg Ganswein, his personal secretary, a controversial book that describes the Vatican as riven with jealousy, intrigue and factional fighting,” Wikipedia continued. 

“Vatileaks,” broke the Vatican’s code of silence. How did the Vatican react?

“Angrily and defensively. Critics say the Holy See has been far more vigorous in investigating the leaks than the patterns of corruption and influence-peddling they allege,” reported.Advertisements THIS AD

Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope in 600 years to resign from office. On Feb.11, 2013, he said that the modern world was changing so quickly and profoundly that someone of his age – he was 85 – and era was “no longer suited” to the papacy. This created a pre-conclave period unlike any other in centuries. It allowed more time for discussion on who should be elected to replace him and without the usual reservation about speaking ill of a deceased pontiff.

Since every member of the 2013 College of Cardinals had been appointed by either Benedict or his predecessor, John Paul II, on the basis of adherence to dogma and doctrine, there weren’t any important ideological differences remaining. So for many electors, selecting a new pope who could prevent the disclosure of future scandals in the curia became an issue.

“Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan had increasingly emerged as an apparent front-runner because he was seen as an Italian who could fix the Vatican, a combination that some said could attract votes,” Religion News Service and other news outlets reported.

The American cardinals arrived in Rome with their own press corps and equipment. They began daily press conferences which were a huge success seeing as how there were 5000 members of the press in pre-conclave Rome with nothing much to report. The Americans signaled their support for Bergoglio by waging a campaign to discredit Italians (i.e. Scola) as unable to prevent the Vatican’s damaging secrets from being aired.

Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, media relations director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) blogged: “An exciting day started with La Stampa, an Italian daily, running a story that violated the confidentiality of the General Congregation. It named names and reported who said what.”

Next, Sister sent an email to all media outlets that, “concern was expressed” in the daily meetings of the College of Cardinals “about leaks of confidential proceedings” reported in Italian newspapers.

On another day, Sister wrote: “The leaks at the Vatican continue…. Stopping the leaks will be one challenge in a media culture which lives on leaks. It’s just the way to do business here in Rome and has been for years. One journalist asked how they could be sure a cardinal will not leak the papal election result before the new pope comes out on the balcony.”

Sister also told the Los Angeles Times: “Our culture is to call a press conference and tell everyone.” Italy, she added, “is a land of leaks.”

George Weigel, the American theocon best remembered for giving George W. Bush the “moral” thumbs-up on invading Iraq by twisting the criteria for a “just war” to justify the president’s war crimes, wrote, “The curia is still deeply influenced by Italianate work habits and that’s problematic. If you look at the rest of this society, it doesn’t happen to be functioning very well,” he wrote about the third largest economy in the Eurozone.

John Thavis, Vatican correspondent for nearly 30 years for the Catholic News Service, the official news agency of the USCCB, wrote without any documentation that “Italian bankers who were less than honest” abused the Vatican Bank. He said most of the bank’s “murky dealings…involved Italians who have, sort of, an Italian way of doing things in the Vatican.” When an interviewer asked Thavis what he meant by “the Italian ways of doing things,” he replied: “You know, for an Italian business operation, perhaps awarding contracts to your friends in the industry is not an unusual thing.”

Did this have an effect on the cardinal-electors? They apparently sided with the Americans and elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as pope.


Bergoglio was a “well-known critic of liberation theology” (i.e. the Church should have a fundamental option for the poor) wrote Ivone Gebara, one of Latin America’s leading theologians. “In the informal [2013] pre-conclave discussions, Bergoglio’s profile as a Jesuit known for resisting the liberalizing currents in Latin America during the 1970s was a selling point,” she stated. Gebara wrote that what Bergoglio intends “for the poor” is “paternalistic handouts.”

“To go out into the streets and give food to the poor and pray with prisoners is somewhat humanitarian, but it does not solve the problem of social exclusion that afflicts many of the world’s countries. Nor does it solve the problem of governments which create poverty and injustice. In this light it becomes clear that his election was, beyond doubt, part of a geopolitical offensive involving competing interests and a balance of forces within the Catholic world,” Gerbara stated.

The day after Bergoglio’s election, Horatio Verbitsky wrote: “His biography is that of a conservative populist…adamant on doctrinal issues but with an openness to the world, especially toward the dispossessed masses….But at the same time he attempted to unify the opposition against the first government in many years which adopted a policy favorable to those groups.”

Bergoglio had been a strong opponent of the liberal progressive administrations of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner during “a decade in which Argentina lived the largest and fastest reduction of poverty and inequality,” wrote Ernesto Semán, an historian at New York University and former reporter for two Argentine newspapers

The Argentine theologian and defrocked priest because he supported same-sex marriage, Nicolás Alessio said the election of Bergoglio “is a masterstroke of Vatican diplomacy. The Catholic Church, about to sink between the financial and sexual scandals, urgently needed another ‘image’ in the face of public opinion in the world and more so in Latin America. The profile of Benedict XVI, a German, hard, rigid, an Inquisitor, failed to float the ‘barque of Peter….In Argentina and on the continent, the right-wing sectors, both political and religious, will be strengthened.” the theologian stated.

“In Argentina, his naming as pope has been received with the warmest enthusiasm by the rightist opposition,” Andrea D’Atri, founder of Bread and Roses, an Argentine human rights group, stated.Advertisements THIS AD


Bergoglio was elected on March 13, 2013. “The magnetic ‘Pope Francis Show’ continued March 16 as the newly minted pontiff met with thousands of reporters in a modernist media center flanking St. Peter’s Basilica,” USA Today reporter Marco della Cava wrote. “The new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics shares such charismatic traits not with his recently resigned predecessor, the theologian Benedict, but with the late John Paul II,” he noted.

“’I’d like a poor church, for the poor,’ Francis said, after explaining to the assembled media —­ the Vatican credentialed some 5,000 reporters from 81 countries — how he had come to settle on a papal name honoring St. Francis of Assisi, a rich man who gave away everything to work with the poor and animals,” della Cava explained. “When Pope Francis left, the applause and popping flashbulbs brought to mind a glitzy Hollywood event.”

The Italian Vatican reporter Sandro Magister warned against “the pseudo-Franciscan and pauperist mythology that in these days so many are applying to the new pope. [Their] imagination runs to a Church that would renounce power, structures, and wealth and make itself purely spiritual.”

Bergoglio was elected by a College of Cardinals composed entirely of Wojtyla and Ratzinger appointees to preserve a Vatican of, by, and for the Opus Dei plutocracy.

On March 28, Bergoglio greeted 3,000 attendees from around the world who were part of an Opus Dei program for university students. He delighted the group by quoting Opus Dei founder, Jose Maria Escrivá. The first American priest chosen by Bergoglio to co-celebrate Mass with him on April 19 was the Opus Dei Archbishop José H. Gomez. The Los Angeles prelate was accompanying a group of U.S. Latino businessmen attending a series of private meetings with Vatican officials.

On the one-month anniversary of his election, Bergoglio named eight cardinals from around the world to be his closest advisers – men who had also sworn to keep the Church’s secrets, as well as “assert, uphold, preserve, increase and promote the rights, even temporal; the liberty, the honor, privileges and authority of the Holy Roman Church.”

Bergoglio chose Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, to head his council.  As “head of Opus Dei,” Rodriguez “participated actively” in the coup that overthrew the constitutional and progressive Pres. Manuel Zelaya in 2009, plunging that country into indescribable violence and poverty.

Rodriguez Maradiaga had been condemned by Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who charged that he was “an accomplice of the military dictatorship” during the coup. “You cannot be against your people and allow violence and repression in the name of supposed safety and law and the committing of serious human rights violations,” Pérez wrote.

Rodriquez became the pope’s right-hand man, “some might say vice pope.” Rodriguez is “Francis’ point man on overhauling the papal bureaucracy.” Bergoglio also chose Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa for his group of top advisers. The cardinal was a supporter of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the brutal dictator who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990 after overthrowing the democratically-elected President Allende. “After his rise to power, Pinochet persecuted leftists, socialists, and political critics, resulting in the executions of 1,200 to 3,200 people, the internment of as many as 80,000 people, and the torture of tens of thousands,” according to Wikipedia.

When Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998, Errazuriz Ossa said the arrest of Pinochet was a barbarity, British justice was defective and the British themselves uncivilized. (O’Shaughnessy, Pinochet: The Politics of Torture) The cardinal “criticized human rights lawsuits in Chile against Pinochet and other officials of the former regime” as “detrimental to reconciliation and social peace.”

Other members of the Council of Cardinals included:

Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the only Vatican official in the group. He was Wojtyla’s ambassador to Rwanda from 1991-1995, including the 1994 genocide. The Catholic Church “was the only institution involved in all the stages of genocide [that] took more than a million lives in just a hundred days … There is no doubt that throughout the history of Rwanda, Church leaders have had ties with political power. The Church was also involved in the policy of ethnic division, which degenerated into ethnic hatred,” wrote Ndahiro Tom, a Rwandan human rights commissioner.

Australian Cardinal George Pell had invited Opus Dei to become established in Melbourne in 1996 and then in Sydney after becoming archbishop of that city in 2001. “Opus Dei’s star is on the rise,” a religious affairs columnist wrote in January 2002. The reporter saw “signs of a new elitism … there is a highly select ‘in’ crowd around Pell.”

The former conservative PM, Tony Abbott, is “heavily influenced by Cardinal Pell” and regards him as his spiritual advisor. The week before Bergoglio appointed Pell to his council, the cardinal had attended a “Gala Dinner of the ultra conservative Institute of Public Affairs” where “the guest of honor and keynote speaker was Rupert Murdoch,” owner of News Corp.

Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp, attended a January 17-18, 2016, conference along with Pope Francis’ secretary of state, foreign minister and president of the Vatican Bank. “The Global Foundation conference discussed a new governance model for the world economy.” Pell was the headliner. “If we are to truly mobilize the global economy in a sustainable fashion, it will require business, not regulators, to take a leading role,” Pell told the assembled business leaders.Advertisements THIS AD

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley had been in the forefront of the U.S. bishops’ attacks against Obamacare  although the cardinal had never criticized Romneycare which had provided insurance coverage for abortion as well as contraception. “Romney was a better friend to the Catholic Church than any other Massachusetts governor in decades,” declared O’Malley.
The Boston cardinal is a faithful supporter of Opus Dei, sponsoring the canonization of the priest who “established an Opus Dei presence among students and professors at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology” between 1946 and 1956. O’Malley celebrates special masses honoring Opus Dei founder, Fr. Josemaria Escriva.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, was the invited speaker for 300 guests of Opus Dei held in the Deutsche Bank. Like O’Malley, Marx has presided at masses celebrating Escriva, and visited one of the worldwide network of Opus Dei centers for university students.

The other two cardinals were chosen to give the appearance that the selection was “from around the world.” However, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo was never heard from again and Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India, only rarely.


Bergoglio spent the first year of his pontificate in concentrated activity making sure Vatican assets are better managed. He created four commissions, hired five international consulting firms which service the plutocracy and appointed those who, not only had financial expertise, but also could be trusted to keep secrets.

A Vatican meeting was held on June 20, 2013, by the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs which “supervises and governs the temporal goods of the administrations.” This included the Administration for the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA).

To give just a hint of APSA’s assets, “the Vatican has two Swiss bank accounts managed by APSA that hold as much as €7 BILLION,” reported Vatican expert, Edward Pentin, on July 22, 2016. “APSA handles the Vatican’s investment portfolio, some commercial real estate and “large amounts of unregistered cash in offshore accounts,” Pentin wrote. “There is a hub of corruption within APSA….Highly irregular transactions were transiting through these banks,” a reliable source told Pentin.

“APSA has 187 million euro in currencies, 32,232 ounces in bullion and 3,122 ounces of gold coins (worth 30.8 million euro) in Switzerland and England,” Italian journalist, Emiliano Fittipaldi, reported in 2014.

APSA’s investments are “hidden behind layer after layer of false fronts and holding companies,” noted John F. Pollard in his book, Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy (p 149).

Bergoglio hired international consulting firms which service the plutocracy

On the 3-month anniversary of his election, June 13, Bergoglio selected an official from McKinsey & Co. “to design that reform of the Curia  which everyone expects from Pope Francis.”

“McKinsey & Co has been associated with a number of notable scandals, including the collapse of Enron in 2001, the 2007–2008 financial crisis, and facilitating state capture in South Africa. It has also drawn controversy for involvement with Purdue Pharma, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and authoritarian regimes,” as noted in Wikipedia.

Pope Francis also hired the Promontory Financial Group, KPMG International, Ernst &Young Global Limited and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited to advise his financial institutions. “At one stage, an Italian writer jokingly suggested relocating the Vatican from Rome to New York to save all those doyens of profit the commute,” John L. Allen Jr. noted.

Promontory Financial Group paid a $15 million penalty to New York’s financial regulators in 2015, for lacking independence in its actions on behalf of a big British bank. In the past, Promontory’s actions have focused on the adept circumvention of regulations for its clients.

Ernst & Young agreed to pay $99 million to Lehman Brothers investors who accused the auditor of helping Lehman misstate its financial records before the investment bank’s collapse which triggered the financial crisis in 2008.

KPMG conducted due diligence work on Hewlett Packard’s $11.1 billion acquisition of the British software company Autonomy. In 2012 HP announced an $8.8 billion write off due to serious accounting improprieties committed by Autonomy management prior to the acquisition.

Deloitte worked on a statewide case management system for the California Judicial Council which originally had a budget of around $260 million but ended up costing almost $500 million before the project was terminated in 2012. In 2014, Booz Allen Hamilton sued Deloitte claiming the firm stole proprietary information in order to “lift out” a specialized team of Booz employees.

Other Financial Appointments

The pope created a new leading role for Banco Santander at the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs meeting on June 20, 2013.  The euro zone’s largest bank “offered its availability to place its contacts…at [the Vatican’s] disposition.” Banco Santander is owned by Spain’s Botin family, long associated with Opus Dei. (See “Banco Santander S.A.Fined $200 Million for Advice Failings,” “Banco Santander, The Epitome of Bankster Evil” and “Huge Eurobank, rated ‘Britain’s worst’ for gouging U.S. consumers.”)Advertisements THIS AD

In view of the transparency that had been forced upon the Vatican Bank by the international financial community (see Part 2: Benedict XVI) it is advantageous to have a global giant like Santander, which bills itself as having “the largest network of international banking offices,” to handle the Vatican’s more secretive banking needs.

On June 26, 2013, Pope Francis established a Pontifical Commission to do “an in-depth inquiry into the activities” of the Vatican Bank, formerly the Institute for the Works of Religion, or Istituto per le Opere di Religione in Italian (IOR). He chose Spanish Opus Dei Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, as the commission’s coordinator.

Pope Francis established the Secretariat of the Economy on Feb. 24, 2014. He appointed the Opus Dei-affiliated Cardinal Pell as its head reporting directly to him. With “authority over all economic and administrative activities within the Holy See and the Vatican City State,” this made Pell the de facto manager of the entire Vatican since he holds the purse strings.

Pell permanently relocated to Rome and resided in the “grand apartment” he had used in the past at the Australian Church’s guest house in Rome and now refurbished at a cost of “between $30 million and $85 million.”

Along with the Secretariat of the Economy, Bergoglio also created a new Council for the Economy which “will consider policies and practices and to prepare and analyze reports on the economic-administrative activities of the Holy See.” This council is comprised of eight prelates and seven laymen “reflecting various parts of the world.”

The Council for the Economy was coordinated by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, another member of Bergoglio’s Council of Cardinals. Peruvian Opus Dei Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne was appointed to the Council. Msgr. Brian E. Ferme was named Prelate Secretary of the Council for the Economy. He holds a doctorate from Oxford and was appointed secretary by his strong backer, Cardinal Pell.

Lay members included John F. Kyle, retired vice president of Imperial Oil Limited in Canada, Jochen Messemer, former partner of McKinsey & Company and George Yeo who served as Singapore’s Minister of State for Finance and serves on the advisory board of Harvard Business School and the International Advisory Board of IESE, the flagship Opus Dei graduate business school.

The Vatican Bank Board of Superintendence co-supervises the bank along with a Commission of Cardinals. The Bergoglio-appointed members included:

Mauricio Larrain, director of Santander Bank Group Chile and general director of Opus Dei’s ESE Business School at Los Andes University of Chile.

Mary Ann Glendon, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the Vatican. Glendon said in 2012, “[I]f fairness and accuracy have anything to do with it, awarding the Pulitzer Prize to the Boston Globe [for their series exposing horrendous clerical sex abuse] would be like giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Osama bin Laden.”

Sir Michael Hintze, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Australian-born hedge fund billionaire. 

Bergoglio appointed “Master of the Universe,” Peter Sutherland, to APSA’s advisory board. Sutherland was managing director and chairman of Goldman Sachs International, former chairman of BP Oil, European chairman of the Trilateral Commission, on the steering committee for the “secretive” Bilderberg Conference and member of the International Advisory Board of IESE.

Pope Francis verbally attacked the global economic system as based on a “god called money,” and urged international financiers to break down “the barriers of individualism and the slavery of profit at all cost.” Yet again and again, Bergoglio appointed those who support the plutocracy to manage the Vatican’s wealth.

Bergoglio appointed Fabio Gasperini as secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA) on June 15, 2020. He was head of Ernst & Young EMEIA Financial Services Office Advisory Banking & Capital Markets and Ernst & Young S.p.A. Italian FSO advisory services.

Fr. Juan A. Guerrero Alves, S.J., head of the Secretariat for the Economy replacing Cardinal Pell, sent a letter in July 2020 to all Vatican departments instructing them to move all their cash deposits to APSA. Guerrero said the decision was made “in a meeting led by Pope Francis,” the Catholic News Agency reported. [Pell had returned to Australia to face trial on five charges of assaulting two teenage choirboys at the cathedral when he was archbishop. He was convicted and spent 404 days in solitary confinement. His conviction was overturned and he returned to live in Rome. Pell died on Jan. 10, 2023.]

“The influence of Opus Dei is strong. Guerrero Alves is a leading exponent of Opus Dei [as is] Maximino Caballero Ledo,” appointed in August 2020 as the second-ranking position in the Secretariat, the website stated. “Rafael Garcia de La Serrana Vilaobos, another man of Opus Dei, is the director of Infrastructures and Services of the Vatican State,” the website wrote on Jan. 15, 2021.

In November 2022, Bergoglio appointed Caballero Ledo to replace Guerrero Alves as the “minister for finances” noted Vatican reporter Andrea Gagliarducci.

“Before coming to the Vatican, Caballero was vice president of international finance at Baxter Healthcare, Inc., a medical products company. From Merida, Spain, he specialized in Economics at the [Opus Dei] IESE Business School,” Gagliarducci reported.Advertisements THIS AD

In March 2023, Bergoglio appointed Caballero Ledo as a new member of the Reserved Affairs Commission in addition to his position as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. Caballero Ledo would supervise all public contracts made by the Holy See and the Vatican City State. Commission members also “control Vatican spending on specific and ‘sensitive’ issues that affect above all the security of the Pope, the Holy See and the universal Church,” explained the website.

In August 2020, Bergoglio appointed five womento serve on the Council for the Economy. “Pope Francis gives women jobs at the Vatican. But this latest move is just another fig leaf that serves to make Francis look progressive … while doing nothing to give them a voice in Church policies,” wrote Celia Viggo Wexler, author of “Catholic Women Confront Their Church: Stories of Hurt and Hope” in an opinion on the website. This “was clearly a public relations win. Media outlets have called it a ‘big shift’ and ‘a progressive step’ that marks the largest elevation of women to senior Vatican positions ever.”

The provided their backgrounds including that of

Spaniard María Concepción Osacar Garaicoechea who was Vice President of Santander.  And, as noted by Viggo Wexler, Ruth Kelly held Cabinet positions in the British government and “has been criticized by women’s rights advocates for her membership in the ultra-conservative Catholic group Opus Dei.”

Widely reported as “cleaning up” Vatican finances, Pope Francis has never appointed any forensic accountants or other specialists whose expertise is curbing unethical/illegal finance.


Despite Vladimir Putin’s hostility against the U.S. and his human rights violations, Pope Francis positioned himself as Putin’s ally early in his pontificate. Bergoglio held a peace rally for Syria on Sept. 9, 2013. The massacre of Syrian civilians had been ongoing since the day he was elected, but Bergoglio took action only after Pres. Obama proposed a limited air strike to deter the further use of chemical weapons against civilians. 

“The Vatican estimated about 100,000 took part in the Rome event, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus,” reported the Associated Press.

Putin credited Pope Francis “for stopping the military action” and “with being decisive in halting the momentum with the G8 towards supporting the initiative,” the knowledgeable website stated.

The pope “advanced a resolution that favored the interests of both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [known as the “Butcher of Damascus”] and Putin …. Putin certainly regarded [Obama’s failure in Syria] as a major victory. He immediately began to flex Moscow’s muscles in Ukraine,” wrote Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto, and a Senior Fellow at Cardus, Canada’s leading Christian think tank.  

During his trip to the U.S. in September 2015, Pope Francis had a private visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor to give his support for their lawsuit against the Obamacare provision to provide contraception coverage to employees.

In July 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals had “ruled that the Obama administration has come up with a sufficient accommodation for religious organizations like the Little Sisters: If they object to providing insurance coverage to employees who want to buy birth control, organizations can sign a two-page form stating that objection. That’s it – from there, the administration will arrange for a third-party provider to make sure the employee can get coverage. But the Little Sisters claimed that signing that piece of paper was the moral equivalent of condoning birth control,” The Atlantic reported.


Contraception was not a “moral value” worth mentioning for even the Catholic Religious Right until it was needed to obstruct the Affordable Care Act. As of October 2015, over 100 lawsuits had been filed in federal courts at enormous taxpayer expense challenging the ACA’s birth control benefit. The vast majority were brought by Catholic bishops and their affiliated institutions.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump said, “I mean, religious liberty in this country is in tremendous trouble. Whether it’s the Little Sisters of the Poor or, you know, these private businesses who are religiously motivated, they feel this Obamacare mandate, which demands contraceptive and abortifacient services, as part of insurance is intrusive ….”

Also during the same interview on Oct. 27 2016, on EWTN television – the largest religious media network in the world -Trump promised to appoint “pro-life” Supreme Court justices.

In the final days of the campaign, Trump gave another interview on EWTN. He again sympathized with the Little Sisters of the Poor. “People who are faith-based are not being accepted in our country anymore,” he told his audience. “Religious liberty” was in “tremendous trouble” and that “the biggest issue right now is the Supreme Court judges,” Trump said.

Trump’s opponent in the 2016 campaign was Hillary Clinton who had challenged Pope John Paul II about his grievous denial of women’s rights. In 1994, at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Vatican delegation head Mary Ann Glendon said promoting women’s aspirations should not come at the expense of “undermining their roles within the family.”Advertisements THIS AD

“Human rights took center stage [however] with an impassioned speech by Hillary Rodham Clinton, while the Vatican complained that the conference platform doesn’t give due credit to marriage and motherhood. “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” is the name of the speech given by Clinton and the phrase has continued to be used by the feminist movement. “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all … The great challenge of this conference is to give voice to women everywhere whose experiences go unnoticed, whose words go unheard,”  Clinton told the assembled dignitaries.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops maintained the prohibition of not endorsing candidates by name in order to maintain their tax-free status, but it was clear who the bishops were rooting for. Their video, “The Right to Religious Freedom,” released “in the lead-up to the 2016 elections” showed a clip of Hillary Clinton while a voice-over intoned that “the government is stopping us from practicing our faith.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput, at the time the eminence grise of the U.S. episcopate and other right-wing Catholics, stated in an Oct. 20 speech: “Even many people who despise what Mr. Trump stands for seem to enjoy his gift for twisting the knife in America’s leadership elite and their spirit of entitlement, embodied in the person of Hillary Clinton.” The archbishop continued that the “price of entry” into the “leadership elite” for Catholics “like Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Kennedy, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine [Clinton’s running mate]” has been the transfer “of real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new ‘Church’ of our ambitions and appetites.”

The 2016 Election

“Evangelicals helped Trump in states he was mostly going to win anyway. Catholics? Now we’re talking about Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. And that was the election.”

White Catholics voted 60% for Trump while he received only 46% of the national popular vote. Overall, Trump won the Catholic vote 52% to Hillary Clinton’s 45%.

The second highest Vatican official, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, congratulated Trump the day after the election, noting that the election “was characterized by a large turnout at the polls.” (See “Voter turnout at 20-year low in 2016.”) He praised the president-elect: “The future leader has already spoken like a leader.”

Parolin said the first issue on which the Vatican would “collaborate” with Trump was peace. The cardinal also said that “points of dialogue” between the Vatican and Trump will include “internal [domestic] subjects such as religious freedom and Catholics’ commitment and attention to the most vulnerable bands of society.”

Martin R. Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, stated: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

 “Most vulnerable” was a common phrase used in anti-abortion rhetoric.

Responding to Trump’s victory, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement that they “look forward to working with President-elect Trump to protect human life from its most vulnerable beginning, [a] commitment to domestic religious liberty, ensuring people of faith remain free to proclaim the truth about man and woman [anti-transgender dogwhistle], and the unique bond of marriage that they can form [anti-same sex marriage dogwhistle].”

In an article titled “Trump and the Vatican, a relationship to be built,” trusted  Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli wrote that, in addition to anti-abortion policies, “There could be other possible agreements with the Holy See in the less exclusionary approach with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had not only refused to criticize Putin, but was even friendly and accommodating in his remarks …. President Trump has also surrounded himself with people who do business with and are sympathetic to Russia,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) reported.

In a statement from the USCCB’s semi-annual meeting on Nov. 14, 2016, they wrote that their pro-immigration efforts would “honor and respect the laws of this nation,” even though candidate Trump had made immigration “his signature campaign issue,” Reuters reported. “Trump pledged to ramp up arrests of those living and working illegally in the country.”

At this meeting, the bishops elected Cardinal Daniel DiNardo as their president. While chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, DiNardo said that he “found the US government to be ‘coercive’ in restricting religious liberty.” After his election as USCCB president, DiNardo said “he saw opportunities for dealing with a new Trump administration on pro-life issues and ‘religious freedom’ issues, such as the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.”


The Prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Timothy Dolan began the inauguration ceremony by offering a prayer for wisdom. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington DC, had helped plan the National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral. Wuerl led the “Prayer for Our Country” and members of the Little Sisters of the Poor were in the audience.Advertisements THIS AD

White House statement on May 4, 2017: “President Trump will meet with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss cooperation between the United States and religious communities.” Trump referenced the meeting when he announced his executive order on “religious freedom.” “My first foreign trip as President of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, and then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much – Rome,” Trump said, gesturing as he spoke towards Wuerl and DiNardo who were both present at the event.

Wuerl and DiNardo had met with Trump the day before. “We had an opportunity to thank him first of all, for this executive order on ‘religious liberty’ which is so important,” Wuerl said. Trump “was also very, very, I thought, focused on this trip he’s going to take that will include a visit to the Vatican. So it was a very good meeting.” Wuerl concluded.

“There’s an expectation that the relationship between President Trump and Pope Francis will be difficult to establish [but] that is not the case at all,” Louis Bono, temporary charge d’affaires in the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, said. When the pope and Trump meet on May 24, “they’ll have the opportunity to speak frankly if there are any areas of differences [emphasis mine], but more so, to focus on those areas where we do have common ground and to identify how we can work together further,” Bono said.

On May 13, Pope Francis was asked about his upcoming meeting with Trump. He responded: “Always there are doors that are not closed …. Enter and talk about common things and go on.”


Culture Wars

Bergoglio has supported the suppression of women and LGBTQ human rights most often identified with right-wing movements, parties and governments.

Pope Francis said he “respected” the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Vatican News reported on July 4, 2022. On Nov. 26, 2020, Bergoglio repeated equating all abortions, even to save the life of the mother, as “hiring a hitman to resolve a problem.” “Any short list of classic Pope Francis remarks about abortion would have to include the 2018 speech in which he asked, using a Mafia image: ‘Is it just to resort to a contract killer to solve a problem?’ There was more: ‘Interrupting a pregnancy is like eliminating someone. Getting rid of a human being is like resorting to a contract killer to solve a problem,’” reported

 “In responding to a group of five conservative cardinals who posed critical questions about his upcoming Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis issued his replies in July,” but they weren’t made public until Oct. 2, 2023, as reported by the “On whether women are able to be ordained priests, as he has in the past, Francis referred to St. Pope John Paul II’s position ‘definitively’ affirming ‘the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women.’”

On the subject of same-sex marriage, “Francis said ‘the Church has a very clear concept on marriage: An exclusive, stable and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to begetting children,’” quoted the same report.

Pope Francis strongly opposed the distribution of contraceptives as part of the humanitarian work by the Knights of Malta in a confidential letter dated Dec. 1, 2016. His letter directed U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, his appointed patron of the Knights, to have it stopped.

Bergoglio has strongly opposed same-sex marriage since his days as primate of Argentina. In 2014, Pope Francis said that same-sex marriage is an “anthropological regression.” He also said if same-sex couples were allowed to adopt, “there could be affected children,” the National Catholic Register reported.

In 2018, Pope Francis said that “people with this deep-seated tendency [homosexuality] not be accepted into ministry,”  In addressing a group of bishops, he said “”If you have even the slightest doubt [about their homosexuality], it is better not to let them in [to the seminary].”

During a speech in Budapest on April 28, 2023, he said: “This is the baneful path taken by those forms of ‘ideological colonization’ that would cancel differences, as in the case of the so-called gender theory,” as reported by the Catholic News Agency.

Pope Francis said that transgender persons constitute the very “annihilation of man as image of God.” He compared transgender persons to “nuclear arms;” both are “a sin against God the Creator.


In addition to their mutual deference for Vladimir Putin, Bergoglio and Trump have both expressed admiration for Chinese President Xi Jinping regardless of his military aggressions and “egregious violations” of religious freedom or any other human right for the Chinese.

In a February 2016 interview, Pope Francis told Xi Jinping, “The world looks to this great wisdom of yours.” During that same in-flight press conference, the pope even went so far as to admonish other governments that “fear of the rise in China’s economic and geopolitical influence ‘is not a good counselor.’”

On April 28, 2017, Trump said in regard to Xi Jinping: “I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He is a very good man,”

Before his May 24, 2017, meeting with Pope Francis, Trump named Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as his ambassador to the Holy See as reported by the National Catholic Reporter on May 15. Calista Gingrich was a good choice for a Trump/Bergoglio alliance. Newt Gingrich was an early and constant supporter of Trump. Calista provided the Vatican with direct access to Trump. For Trump, he had trusted eyes and ears within the Vatican’s diplomatic corps described as a “prime listening post” in global affairs. Advertisements THIS AD


Democratic presidents and government officials have also had private meetings with Pope Francis. Pres. Barack Obama met with the pontiff on March 27, 2014, during “a week-long tour in Europe that has primarily focused on regional security amid recent tension with Russia,” as reported by TIME.

Pres. Joe Biden, the second Catholic president, met with Pope Francis on Oct. 30, 2021. Biden was in Rome for the Oct. 30-31 G20 summit where leaders from the world’s 20 leading economies held their first in-person G20 summit since the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden then travelled Glasgow, Scotland, for the U.N. COP26 meeting on climate change.

“Biden and Francis have met three times, all when Biden was vice president, according to the White House,” as reported by NPR. That would include meeting during Bergoglio’s trip to the U.S. in September 2015.

The Catholic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, met with Pope Francis on Oct. 9, 2021. “Pelosi is in Rome for a Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit ahead of the G20 as well as a meeting of parliamentary leaders before of the U.N. Climate Change Summit (COP20) next month in Glasgow,” Reuters reported. Pelosi also met with the pope on Jun 29, 2022, while in Rome as part of a family vacation.

The only other Biden administration official to meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican is the Catholic John Kerry on June 19, 2023. “Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry will travel to Rome, Brussels, and Paris between June 19 and June 26 to attend the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Funds’ Annual CEO Summit” as well as meet with other officials according to a State Department announcement.

The relationship between members of the Trump administration and the Vatican, however, was much closer. At least four non-Catholic members of the Trump administration met with Bergoglio or other Vatican officials.

Vice Pres. Mike Pence “held an unusually long meeting with Pope Francis” on Jan. 24, 2020, as reported by Reuters. “During their private talks, Pence and the pope discussed, among other topics, Friday’s ‘March for Life’ anti-abortion demonstration in Washington, the vice-president’s office said. Trump will become the first U.S. president to attend the annual rally,” Reuters continued. Pence “introduced the rest of the delegation to the pontiff, including U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich and her husband Newt Gingrich.”

“After meeting the pope, Pence had separate talks with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. From the Vatican, he went to meetings with Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte,” Reuters stated.

In May 2017, Pence had addressed the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians, hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Washington, D.C. “Pence honored Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Pope Francis’ ambassador to the United States, from the stage,” the Catholic News Agency reported.

In September 2017, “Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, met with Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the State Department in Washington” according to the website.

In November 2017, Vice Pres. Mike Pence met with Parolin in the White House as reported by the White House press office.

On September 30, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participated in the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See’s symposium, “Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom Through Diplomacy” according to a press release by the Vatican’s U.S. embassy. [Trump had fired Tillerson in March 2018 and replaced him with CIA Director Pompeo.]

The next day, Pompeo “met with Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher at the Vatican, and attended a reception and luncheon at the Pontifical North American College,” America’s seminary in Rome. Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops serve as the Board of Governors and alumni include most American cardinals and notable bishops. “Ambassador and Speaker Gingrich hosted a dinner in honor of Secretary and Mrs. Pompeo later that evening at Villa Richardson,” the press release noted.

As a congressman, Pompeo had voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Pompeo co-sponsored the State Marriage Defense Act that would have allowed states to not recognize same-sex marriages. He co-sponsored the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act in order to protect the tax-exempt status of nonprofit organizations with religious objections to same-sex marriage. Neither bill passed.

Kevin McCarthy, Republican Speaker of House and Trump ally, had a meeting with Pope Francis on May 4, 2023, as reported by the Holy See press office. “The Vatican shared photos of McCarthy’s private meeting with Francis, Reuters reported. McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the meeting. McCarthy had led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Jordan, Israel, and Egypt earlier in the week.”


On May 18, 2017, Trump “asked Congress to work with him to make ‘school choice’ a reality in each state.” Like so many rightwing issues, “school choice” is a euphemism for tax-payer funding of religious schools that guide their students to become GOP voters. “The president reiterated that school choice had been a campaign promise and remains an important cause for him …. The 2018 budget blueprint increases by $1.4 billion the amount available for private and public-school choice, eventually reaching an outlay of $20 billion per year,” reported the National Catholic Register.Advertisements THIS AD

A good example of Trump and the bishops’ mutual dependency was a conference call Trump had with over 600 Catholic leaders on April 25, 2020, including the prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the USCCB and Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, chair of the USCCB committee of Catholic Education and the superintendents of Catholic schools, among others.

Following Trump’s opening remarks, Dolan was the first to speak. The president called Dolan a “great friend of mine” and that he respects what the cardinal “asks for.” The cardinal said he was “honored to be the lead-off batter, and the feelings are mutual sir,” joking that the two had been on the phone so often in recent months that his mother in Missouri said “I call you more than I call her.”[emphasis mine]

Dolan thanked Trump for his “courageous insistence that the nonprofits, faith communities, and our schools be included” in the recent stimulus package.

“Many Catholic schools around the country are really scared,” the cardinal said. “Never has the outlook financially looked more bleak,” Dolan told Trump. “We need you more than ever.”

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley “urged the president to guarantee tuition assistance to families sending children to Catholic schools. “We need it now,” he said. “It has to be done in a quick way that helps them to pay tuition.”

We’ll be helping you out more than you even know,” Trump promised.

When Paul Escala, a Catholic school superintendent, told Trump “we stand with you,” Trump warned, “The other side is not in favor of [taxpayer funding of Catholic schools] … the exact opposite of what you’re wanting so I guess it’s an important thing to remember.

Trump reminded his listeners that his reelection has “never been more important for the Church.” He told them that Democrats “want abortion and they want it now and they want it to go up to the end of the ninth month and beyond.

“I hope that everyone gets out and votes and does what they have to do,” Trump said of the November election. He threatened the Catholic leaders, “You’re going to have a very different Catholic Church” if he is defeated.

The next day, Dolan “welcomed Trump [via online attendance] to his livestreamed Sunday Mass.” Dolan appeared on “Fox & Friends” on Monday. “The president has seemed particularly sensitive to the religious community,” Dolan said.  “I’m in admiration of his leadership,” even though four days earlier, “Trump had suggested the possibility of an ‘injection’ of disinfectant into a person infected with the coronavirus as a deterrent to the virus.”

After Trump held up a Bible while standing in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 1, 2020, non-Catholic religious leaders expressed anger and disgust. The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, Episcopal bishop of Washington tweeted, “I am outraged.” “Everything Trump has said and done is to inflame violence. We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us,” Budde said.

The next day, June 2, Trump made an already-scheduled visit to the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington D.C. Not one of the 273 active bishops (which includes six cardinals, 29 archbishops, 162 diocesan bishops and 76 auxiliary bishops), 46% of whom have been appointed by Pope Francis according to the National Catholic Reporter, criticized Trump.

The same publication had reported on a 2016 survey that almost half (47%) of U.S. bishops said they preferred to watch news on the Fox News channel, compared to 33% who listed CNN and only 4% who named MSNBC.


“On December 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), a $1.9 trillion tax bill favoring corporations and wealthy Americans. At its heart is a large cut in the corporate tax rate. “Corporations are literally going wild over this,” Trump said upon signing the bill.”

“Two years later, however ….budget deficits are higher due to revenue losses – which have largely been triggered by the massive corporate tax cut at the heart of the TCJA. Nevertheless, earlier this month, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told a gathering of CEOs that the Trump administration will seek to cut the corporate tax rate further if the president gains a second term in office.
as reported by the website.

“Between 1979 and 2019, the average income of the richest 0.01 percent of households, a group that today represents about 31,500 people, grew more than nine times as fast as the income of the bottom 20 percent of earners. Income disparities are now so pronounced that America’s richest 1 percent of households averaged more than 84 times as much income as the bottom 20 percent in 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office …. With average household income of $43 million, they bring in 1,807 times more income than the bottom 20 percent,” the website stated.

The 2020 Election

When the USCCB held their November 2019 meeting, the bishops said their 2020 voting guide should state, “The threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority.” Pope Francis agreed that abortion is the “preeminent” social and political issue during a Jan. 16 meeting with U.S. bishops at the beginning of the 2020 presidential election year.Advertisements THIS AD

As it turned out, the Catholic position on abortion worked to benefit the Democratic Party. “Fewer than half (40%) of registered voters say abortion will be a very important factor in their decision about who to vote for in the 2020 presidential election,” according to a report by the Pew Research Center issued on Aug. 13, 2020. But it is the Democratic Party that “holds wide advantages among voters on abortion and contraception (51% to 36% over the GOP).”

However, it was concern about the economy that was the top issue for “nearly eight-in-ten registered voters (79%)” noted the Pew researchers.

And, unlike the 2016 election, “the AP VoteCast estimates of the national Catholic vote in 2020 show an almost even split: 49% of Catholics voted for Biden and 50% for Trump.”


Archbishop José Gomez, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, had intended to issue a statement in the morning of Joe Biden’s inauguration day: “Our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”

However, Gomez was told by “the Vatican” to delay making his statement until the afternoon, as reported by The Pillar. “Some sources said there was concern in the Vatican that a statement from Gomez seen as critical of the Biden administration might seem to force the pope’s hand in his own dealings with Biden.” A statement was issued from the Vatican at midday extending Pope Francis’ “cordial good wishes and the assurance of [his] prayers” for the new president.

Early in May 2021, Archbishop Gomez “planned to draft a policy on the worthiness of pro-choice politicians [i.e. Pres. Joe Biden] to receive Communion.”

But on May 10, “Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a letter to Gomez effectively derailing those plans” reported the National Catholic Reporter. Ladaria wrote: “It would be misleading if such a statement were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics,” as quoted by the National Catholic Reporter.

Both these incidents illustrate two facts about the Vatican: there is someone (or group) setting policy other than the pope and he (or they) is concerned about the reaction of the U.S. mainstream media.  

In the latest YouGov poll of the World’s Most Admired Man, the survey of more than 42,000 people in 38 countries and territories showed Barack Obama was the world’s most admired man in 2021. Donald Trump came in at No. 13 with 2.4 percent of the vote and Pope Francis at No. 16 with 2.0 percent.

By comparison to world opinion, “six-in-ten U.S adults (63%) have a ‘very’ or ‘mostly’ favorable opinion of Pope Francis,” according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March 2021.

Bergoglio’s ranking as less admired than even Trump outside the U.S. may be due to several issues ignored by the American media.

In his entire pontificate, Pope Francis has not taken a single effective action to save our children. Rather, from the beginning, he has shown his contempt for their lives. By his words and omissions, Pope Francis has failed to reduce – and sometimes even abetted – the rape and sexual torture of children around the world.

By his words and actions, Bergoglio aided the persecution and deaths of women and LGBTQ+ persons.

By his obsequiousness to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, he added to the suffering of Ukrainians and the persecution of people of faith in China.

This is documented in my blog “Pope Francis’ Enduring and Reckless Disregard for Victims of Sexual Torture, Culture Wars and Crimes Against Humanity.”


Keeping in mind the crucial role of the U.S. media in maintaining the appearance of the Vatican’s moral rectitude, the next pope will be chosen in view of inducing their continued papal adulation.

“In case you didn’t notice, the process of choosing the next pope has begun,” Russell Shaw, a self-disclosed member of Opus Dei and noted author wrote on Sept. 19, 2023, for the National Catholic Register. “One obvious sign is the appearance in media here and there of lists of papabile – names of men, almost always cardinals, whom the journalists compiling the lists consider to have a reasonable chance of being elected pope. Personally, I have a notion that the choice could well be an Asian or African cardinal – and there are several Asians and Africans who qualify as papabile.”

It is true of every conclave that those who know who the next pope will be don’t say and those who say don’t know – which I certainly don’t. However, there is one cardinal who already exemplifies the traits needed for another PR triumph in the American media.

When Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, 66, received the Ford Family Notre Dame Award for International Development and Solidarity in March 2017, his biography was presented by the school’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies University, portions of which follow:  Advertisements THIS AD

Tagle “has been a consistent advocate for the poor and vulnerable throughout his influential career in the Church. The 32nd archbishop of Manila, he is both unpretentious and dynamic, whether commuting by bicycle or inspiring massive crowds with his exhortations.”

“The Cardinal is known for his friendly demeanor and approachable nature, preferring to be called by his nickname ‘Chito’ instead of his full title ….Media savvy, he has a large social media following, particularly on Facebook, with over half a million ‘likes,’ where he shares videos of his homilies and public talks.”

“Tagle has stood firmly against the death penalty and political corruption and worked vigorously toward a Catholic response to issues such as the refugee crisis and climate change.”

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect candidate.

Tagle, ordained in 1982, was sent to study in the U.S. In 1985 he went to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and earned a doctorate with summa cum laude in 1991 so he speaks English fluently.

Tagle was created a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2012.During the reign of Pope Francis, he was appointed President Delegate of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and named President of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of more than 160 Catholic relief organizations, in 2015.

In December 2019, Pope Francis appointed Tagle as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, one of the most significant departments in the Roman Curia. Tagle relocated to Rome. “With Tagle’s appointment came the informal title of ‘Red Pope,’ a position that commands vast resources and wide influence,” wrote Mario Alvaro Limos, features editor for Esquire Philippines.

Tagle now oversees the work of the Church in most of the dioceses in Africa, Asia and Oceania, which is around one-third of the world’s 4,000 dioceses. He also plays a central role in the selection of candidates to be bishops in the dioceses under his supervision.

In April 2020, Pope Francis promoted Tagle to cardinal-bishop, “the highest category a prelate can belong to apart from being the pope himself,” reported The 2019 and 2020 promotions “have boosted Tagle’s visibility within the Church hierarchy and have given him experience working within the Holy See bureaucracy. Those two factors help make him a possible papal contender in a future conclave despite his relatively young age,” the Associated Press stated.  

Tagle was appointed by Bergoglio as a member of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) in February 2021. It meant that Tagle had already been vetted as willing to fulfill the oath that all men take when they become cardinals: “not to reveal to anyone what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church.” The cardinal’s “new responsibilities would now include managing the Catholic Church’s assets around the world” stated the Catholic News Agency.

And so, we all will have to wait and see. If not Tagle, it will be someone similar.

Please see “The Opus Dei Popes: Part 1- John Paul II” and “The Opus Dei Popes: Part 2 – Benedict XVI.”

(Betty Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America).