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Cardinals Elect a New Pope from Argentina -- Does the New Pontiff Come with a Dark Past?

The new pope is the first Latin American ever to grace the papal throne.

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News reports also describe Bergoglio as being "close to" the international right-wing group, Communion & Liberation, which is currently embroiled in several corruption scandals in Italy. (Just exactly what "close to" means is never quite explained.) C&L is said to be a favorite cause of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI; in fact, he employed four women members of C&L's Memores Domini, whose adherents pledge lifelong celibacy. 

Estimated by one Italian newspaper, according to NCR's John Allen, to have assets of more than $100 billion ("representing 5 percent of Italy's gross domestic product," Allen notes), C&L is deeply involved in Italian politics, particularly in Lombardy, say news reports. From NCR:

Robert Formigoni, the highest profile adherent of Communion and Liberation in Italian politics, now finds himself embroiled in a deepening corruption scandal. The longtime governor of the Lombardy region is at the centre of a judicial investigation into bribery for the awarding of public health contracts. He also faces charges of suspicious ties to a shady businessman now in jail on corruption charges, and of using public funds to pay for his private vacations.


Another veteran member of Communion and Liberation, Antonio Simone, has already been arrested and charged with being part of a scheme to bilk as much as $74 million from a well-known Italian health institute. According to media reports, Simone’s personal Catholic piety is the stuff of legend; apparently, during the 1990s, when he held public office as an assessor in Lombardy, he would convoke his staff for morning prayer before beginning the day’s work.

While no one has suggested that those scandals involve Bergoglio, they do shed light on the movement's involvement in secular and political life, suggesting that Bergoglio may be a bit more worldly than his humble lifestyle would suggest.

*An earlier version of this article said that Bergoglio was the first pope to come from outside Europe, which is incorrect. He's the first pope since 741 to do so. h/t TeacherKen.

**An earlier version of this article contained a long quote from a 2011 article by Hugh O'Shaughnessy in the Guardian, which the Guardian has since corrected, removing the paragraph's central allegation. Here's how the O'Shaughnessy's original allegation read, as previously quoted in AlterNet's article:

The extent of the church's complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina's most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence). He recounts how the Argentine navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American  Human Rights Commission the dictatorship's political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate. The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio's name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment.

Here's how the paragraph reads now in O'Shaughnessy's Guardian piece:

The extent of the church's complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina's most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence). He recounts how the Argentinian navy hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship's political prisoners on an island linked to senior clerics.

We regret publishing a quote that was in error.

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