UPDATE 14/3: The claim that the new Pope hid political prisoners in his holiday home on behalf of the Agentinian armed forces has now been retracted. I'm still interested in what he did during the dirty war, though.
The news that the new pope apparently helped the Argentine junta hide some of the people it ‘disappeared’ sends me back to A State of Fear, Andrew Graham-Yooll’s great account of Argentina’s dirty war:
The priest was murdered sometime later. He was dragged out of his bed and shot in underclothes in a field in front of the church. Government sources let it be known that he was suspected of being a counsellor for leftists and that as a member of the Third World Priests Movement he had aided guerrillas by preaching subversion. Death in any form is undignified: the lack of dignity seems even greater when death comes in underclothes in a field full of rusty tins and hedge clippings.
Clearly, It was the wrong time to advocate a ‘preferential option for the poor’, as the saying used to go. On the other side, Graham-Yooll notes that another priest of his acquaintance, an air force chaplain, said that actions such as the above were part of the ‘crusade against evil’ that everyone should ‘pray for the government’s victory’ and that the blood shed by military death squads would ‘cleanse Argentina.’ Other priests badgered the condemned into confessing before their eventual execution after however many weeks or months of torture.
The new Pope’s actions seem to put him closer to the second camp than the first. Not knowing more, it seems unlikely to me that he was an ideological fellow traveller if only because I don’t think an ultramontane headbanger would have made it to Pope, not least because part of the politics behind his election surely involves bolstering South American Catholicism against inroads by evangelical Protestant groups. Another thing Graham-Yooll makes clear is that the way the junta went about its business was designed to terrorise the population into compliance, in which objective it largely succeeded. The future Pope Francis may have acted mainly out of fear. Anyway, he’s got some popesplaining to do.