The Black Pope & That Bergoglio ImbroglioWednesday, March 13, 2013
|Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, 1955|
Photo - Life Magazine
For many who seek succor in an established religion such as the Roman Catholic Church, the idea that one can find true sanctity outside of holy orders, it is seen as a virtual impossibility.
There was a man, a Spanish priest, now a Roman Catholic saint, San Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei (Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei), who taught of another way, one that has always been there.
With a certain amount of humility Escrivá in his introduction to his seminal 999 short musings or points called The Way, writes in the Preface:
I won’t tell you anything new.
I will only stir your memory
so that some thought will arise
and strike you;
and so you will better your life
and set out along ways of prayer
and of love.
And in the end you will be
a more worthy soul.
The revolutionary teaching that Escrivá turned into the Opus Dei in 1928 was the idea that all of us are called up for holiness by a supreme entity and that we can achieve this through our ordinary life. This was not a new thing as Escrivá writes in his preface. In point 784 he further elaborates:
Give “all’ glory to God. With your will aided by grace, “squeeze” out each on of your actions, so that nothing remains in them that smacks of human pride, of self-complacency.
In 1958 on a particular day that is burned into my memory, my religion teacher at St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas, Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC, a young man of 26 with two masters, one in mathematics and the other in music told us an extraordinary thing. It was something like this, “You brush your teeth every day. It is boring. You do it automatically. But you can get more out of it, make it meaningful, important if you think, ‘I brush my teeth for the greater glory of God.”
We were all silly, pimply teenagers so we giggled and laughed. Brother Edwin looked at us seriously and told us that the Jesuit Order (I have always seen them as the US Marine Corps of the Roman Catholic Church, although far more cerebral than your normal leatherneck) had a motto, the motto of their order: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam which in that dead and ancient Latin means “For the greater glory of God.”
Brother Edwin taught us to finish our essays and homework papers with the initials A.M.D.G. As long as we kept thinking of the meaning of these initials we knew that every act of the day (when a good one!) could be dedicated to the greater glory of God and in such a way the ordinary things we did from day to day transcended themselves into more.
You do not have to think religiously to find here a link to the idea that we call pride of work. It is an idea that through the centuries has not found acceptance in societies that segregate menial work from a more intellectual one. Think of the untouchables of the Indian Subcontinent.
In this blog I will not go to the detail of telling you what my innermost beliefs are or if I necessarily agree with what I have written above. That is much too personal for me to divulge.
Brother Edwin taught us (and it has remained in me all these years) that the most misunderstood and thoroughly ignored Roman Catholic Sacrament is the one called Confirmation (celebrated very nicely in his song, Confirmation, by that doubting Yardbird of be-bop that was Charlie Parker). Confirmation makes the Roman Catholic who receives it a soldier of Christ. Not, I must interject here, one that wields a sword or gun but one who defends one’s beliefs by a thorough knowledge of them.
Knowing thoroughly about the faith I was raised on in which I can explain to you with elaborate detail the Doctrine of Transubtantiation or that the Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." This doctrine, which all Catholics must believe in on the pain of eternal damnation, was by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. He spoke “ex cathedra” from the chair of St. Peter, meaning that he was saying this dogmatically and exercising his papal infallibility.
I do believe that few of us would care or challenge such a dogmatic statement. Is it all that important?
This knowledge of religion has not only helped me understand, appreciate and love sacred art, sacred music (the music of Bach) but it has also served me well in keeping up with a dastardly nephew of mine who is an active and important member of the Argentine chapter of Escrivá’s Opus Dei.
My Argentine nephew who articled at a venerable law firm in Washington, DC has visited me many times through the years. He was always coming or going to some strange place like Hong Kong, Andorra and Palo Alto. He told me he was working on his masters. In Buenos Aires he decided the Catholic school he sent his children wasn’t Catholic enough so he started his own school.
My nephew has become very rich with an idea where a group of chosen people pool their money to buy a property, and little by little they bring in water, electricity, build a church and then build homes. The neighbourhood called a barrio cerrado (sort of a gaited community). These very Catholic neighbourhoods have been so successful that my nephew was asked by Rome to intercede with his experience to build similar communities in Philadelphia. He had just returned from Rome on this so I asked him if he had seen a cardinal. “Not one, but three,” he told me.
It didn’t take too much to figure out that Andorra, Palo Alto and Hong Kong all had Opus Dei learning centres.
Not too long ago my nephew in an idle moment in an airport decided to look at my blog of the day. By sheer coincidence I had outed him as a member of the Escriva’s organization. He was livid but finally forgave me.
In a nutshell, Opus Dei is extremely conservative and yet the idea that a religious organization in the 21st century does not need priests, nuns or monks (in great quantity as vocations have decreased hugely in most of the world) but can work effectively as a mostly lay organization is a very good point.. My nephew’s ideas to make money are practical and effective. I cannot guess or surmise what the connections between the Opus Dei and the Vatican Bank may be. Perhaps Dan Brown can write a thriller about the subject.
You may wonder what my nephew and the Opus Dei might have to do in relevance to the fact that we have an Argentine (rhymes with time and do not use Argentinian) Pope. What is spectacularly relevant is that Pope Francis happens to be a Jesuit.
The Superior General (Praepositus Generalis) of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits to you who may have slogged this far) is sometimes called the Black Pope. “Black Pope" is a derogatory nickname given to the Superior General usually by the media, and never used by the Jesuits themselves. The name comes partly from the color of the Jesuits’ cassock, worn by members of the Society, including the Superior General. He is the Black Pope because from a past concern (16th and 17th century) among Protestant European countries that the order had tremendous power and influence within the Roman Catholic Church. Consider that the Superior General is elected for life and is invested with extraordinary power over the members of the Society, higher than of a bishop over the clergy and lay people of a diocese. Adolfo Nicolás is the man in power now. So we have a Pope, a Black Pope and a Pope Emeritus. I need not go further into a preoccupation that took St Augustine to ponder about the mystery of the Holy Trinity on a sandy beach so many centuries ago.
Argentina to this day is ruled by three important spheres of influence. You have the armed forces, the wealthy and landed oligarchy and you have the Church (the Roman Catholic Church).
Argentina’s most famous patriot, General, Don José de San Martín whose army threw out the Spaniards from Argentina, helped in Chile and in Peru is buried in a side chapel to the Metropolitan Cathedral. Many say he is not buried in a more prominent place within the church because he happened to be a mason. Argentines like to tell you that another mason of note was Jorge Washington. There has never really been an extensive separation between chuch and state in Argentina.
I do believe (with no evidence) that as soon as the Masonic Order started branching into chapters that wore fezzes or glorified the moose, they lost their secret importance. I do believe (with no evidence except that Dan Brown might agree) that the New Masons are the Opus Dei.
Which bring us that as soon as Escrivá founded his organization, the Superior-General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Wlodimir Ledochowski (1866–1942), informed the Vatican he considered Opus Dei "very dangerous for the Church in Spain." He described it as having a "secretive character" and saw "signs in it of a covert inclination to dominate the world with a form of Christian Masonry."
This early connection between the Opus Dei and the Society of Jesus puts Pope Francis into an interesting position right now.
I remember very well June 14, 1955 (I was 12) when Juan Domingo Perón furious that Argentine prelates had objected to some of his decrees, sent his minions to burn churches in Buenos Aires. I recall my grandmother saying that the armed forces would not let this go by unpunished.
Until then, much as many had backed Francisco Franco in Spain, the armed forces agreed with Perón’s anti-communist stance. The Commies were far more dangerous than the fascists even in 1955 Argentina is what most thought.
The few anti-peronists in the military, who were mostly Catholic, and factions of the Church were not happy at these events. On June 16, two days after the church burning, airplanes of the Argentine Navy (the most devout of the three branches of the Argentine armed forces), with the motto Cristo vence ("Christ wins") painted on them, bombed Plaza de Mayo, killing hundreds of civilians, in the first move towards the coup d'état which would ultimately depose Perón.
Our Botox President, Cristina Kirchner, whose Peronist Party, in an amazing-to-me transformation as the contemporary Peronist movement calls itself leftist (all the way from its founder’s extreme right?) has locked horns and won against Pope Francis when he was just a Cardinal over gay marriage. Gay marriage, over the extreme opposition by my tocayo Jorge Bergoglio (I am legally Jorge Alejandro) is legal and Argentine travel agencies promote gay hotels in BA for prospective love couples.
This brings me to my final musing on the possible interesting things to come in this Bergoglio imbroglio.
I asked my nephew what he had planned for that inevitable moment when those outside his safe-walled compound climbed over. He opened his closet and pulled out a sawed off Ithaca 37 pump-action shotgun (a favourite of Argentine police). He then rummaged around and showed me a Luger. It was not your ordinary Luger but a special issue model carried by the Luftwaffe pilots. He said that he would use them as target practice on the wall-climbing interlopers.
I will wait and see how Pope Francis deals with it all. As for me, evoking those beautiful words from 1 Corinthians 11:24, "Do this in remembrance of me," I will go and brush my teeth and especially remember Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam