From a young Nazi to a tacit collaborator with the Argentinean Junta

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

It appears the one Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church cannot produce a Pope with clean hands, with hands unsullied by inquisitions, mass terror and murder. As Annette Langer of Der Spiegel has recently reported, not every Argentinean celebrated Jorge Mario Bergoglio‘s election, and with good cause:

“I can’t believe it. I’m so distressed and full of anger that I don’t know what to do,” wrote the sister of deceased priest and torture victim Orlando Yorio in an e-mail to the journalist Horacio Berbitsky. “Now he’s achieved what he wanted.”

“He,” for Graciela Yorio, refers to a power-hungry man who betrayed her brother and the Hungarian Jesuit Franz Jalics to Argentina’s mililtary dictatorshop (sic). A man who did nothing to stop the two faithful from being locked up in prison for five months and tortured. “He” is Pope Francis, then still known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, provincial of the Argentine Jesuits.

The two liberation theologists were kidnapped on May 23, 1976 in a slum where they were doing ministry and social work. “Many people politically associated with the extreme right viewed our presence in the poor districts with suspicion,” recalled Jalics later in his writings. “They interprested (sic) the fact that we lived there as support of the guerrillas, and they denounced us as terrorists.”

The regime’s henchmen brought the two Jesuits to the Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA), a detention center notorious for torture. After five months they were thrown out onto a field half-naked and pumped full of drugs. The priests complained of Bergoglio to Superior General Pedro Arrupe in Rome. But they had already been expelled from the Jesuit order, allegedly due to contact with woman and “conflicts of obedience.”

Bergolio dismissed the two priests before their arrest, a fact that, when considered along with Bergolio’s conservatism, compromises and, perhaps, undermines the post facto defense of the new Pope.

Recommended: Why the Anti-Mursi Protesters are Right

In a recent article author Ahmad Shokr persuasively argued that the opponents of the Morsi dictatorship are right to oppose his government, his dictatorship and the constitution he and his allies wish to impose on Egypt. Shokr develops his critique by rejecting three common claims made by defenders of and reporters on the Morsi coup d’état. They are:

  • “The rival camps in Egypt embody a divide between Islamism and secularism.”
  • “Islamists are authentic representatives of the majority of Egyptians.”
  • “Mursi has made great strides toward civilian democracy and his downfall would mean a return to military rule.”

The first two claims are internally related. Shokr considers false the claim that most of Morsi’s opponents are secularists bent on thwarting the creation of an Egyptian state which legally expresses Islamic Law (or shari‘a). Morsi’s opponents are, according to Shokr, opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood, not political Islam as such. The differences between the sides are political, not religious. (Parenthetically, it cannot be stated as a matter of settled fact that political Islam is a kind of anti-democracy or that Islamists necessarily oppose democracy and liberalism. This belief is rapidly becoming a self-serving canard for Islam-haters, and should be rejected as a reality obscuring prejudgment). In other words, the conflict roiling Egypt is not confessional; the opponents are, in fact, Muslims.

It follows, then, that the Muslim Brotherhood are not the authentic representatives of the majority of Egyptians. Their politics does not exhaust the possible forms political Islam could have in Egypt.

That said, the origin of the current conflict ought to be obvious:

By granting himself sweeping powers and rushing to call for a December 15 referendum on the new constitution, Mursi has given Egyptians a stark choice between being ruled by an unrepresentative constitution or by a dictator. Many have refused this kind of political blackmail. Leading opposition figures, many of who were dissidents under Mubarak, have called on Mursi to revoke the decree and open the constitution drafting process to broader input. Egyptian human rights groups have almost unanimously echoed these demands. Tens of thousands who joined the protests that brought down Mubarak are back on the streets. Their fight is not for an ill-defined secularism so much as it is for political inclusion and democracy.

As Shokr points out later on, Egypt is diversely composed, and many components therein have refused to accept the dilemma Morsi wants to impose on them: Dictatorship or constitutional imposition. Egypt’s constitution ought to reflect the existence of this diversity if it wishes to avoid illegitimate government and another revolutionary spring.

Finally, it cannot be said that Morsi’s actions were meant to secure Egyptian democracy against a military apparatus wishing to directly rule the country. Nor can it be said that the Morsi government gained an electoral mandate to impose its will on the country. What can be said, according to Shokr’s analysis, is that the Muslim Brotherhood has already collaborated with the military to secure the military’s prerogatives under the constitution and to protect the military by providing a buffer zone between the military and Egyptian civil society. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi government are collaborators with institutions which pose intrinsic threats to Egyptian democracy and the rule of law.

The stakes are high, and can be encapsulated in this predicament: Will Egypt complete the transition from Mubarak’s authoritarian regime to a consolidated democracy or will it eventually — soon — produce another authoritarian regime, this one dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, its allies and the military?

As of this moment, Egypt’s military has already suggested that “disastrous consequences” (read: martial law) may result if the conflict continues. To be sure, this tacit threat benefits Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.