Martín Caparrós writes: This week, Habemus papam — we have a pope — became an Argentine idiom. [Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s] election underlines the assumption that the center of Catholicism is shifting to the world’s poorer regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America. And yet in his own country, the poor are migrating en masse to Pentecostal and other Christian churches that are more charismatic and less institutionally compromised than the Old Lady from Rome.
Perhaps Pope Francis’ election will reverse that shift. In fact, I dread the effect that this unexpected divine favor will have on my country. We are a society that turned to tennis once Guillermo Vilas won a Grand Slam in France; grew obsessed with basketball when Manu Ginobili made his mark in the American N.B.A.; started raving about monarchy when an Argentine-born princess married the crown prince of the Netherlands; and has persisted in doubting Jorge Luis Borges’s value because he never won the international honor of a Nobel Prize. The fact that “one of us” is now sitting on St. Peter’s throne may have a huge effect on the weight of Catholicism on our lives.
Catholicism has never excelled at letting nonbelievers live as they believe they should. The right to legal abortion, for one, will be a ruthless field of that battle: “our” pope will surely never allow his own country, where legal abortion remains severely limited, to set a bad example. Here, as everywhere, the Vatican is a main lobbying force for conservative, even reactionary, issues. An Argentine pope can bring this power to uncharted heights.
Or perhaps not. I hope I am wrong: it has often been my lot. For infallibility, please ask for el Papa Francisco.