The ontological deflection

When it comes to allegations about his complicity in Argentina’s dirty wars, Pope Francis may not be served well by his own staff.

The New York Times reports:

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said there had “never been a credible accusation against him” relating to the period in the 1970s when he was the superior of the Jesuit order in Argentina.

Indeed, “there have been many declarations of how much he did for many people to protect them from the military dictatorship,” Father Lombardi said in a statement at a news conference.

“The accusations belong to the use of a historical-social analysis of facts for many years by the anticlerical left to attack the church and must be rejected decisively.”

This is a standard public relations deflection: don’t directly address the content of the criticism, but instead treat it as an expression of the identity of a critic who is supposedly hostile to the identity of those being attacked.

We are being attacked because of who we are — not because of how we act.

As soon as any criticism gets framed in this way, it is transformed from criticism into hatred. People who criticize Israel do so because they hate Jews. Critics of Pope Francis hate clerics — and so the ontological deflection turns. The critic gets smeared; the target is turned into an innocent victim.

The fact that this particular story about Cardinal Bergoglio’s alleged complicity in the imprisonment and torture of two Jesuits priests, Franz Jalics and Orlando Yorio, has continued to churn for so many years, suggests that it has yet to be fully told.

The facts may not be clear cut because differences in accounts may hinge on differences of opinion about how to deal with the junta. Still, the new pope might do better by putting aside the shield created by the often self-serving defenders of the papacy and instead telling his own story.

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1 thought on “The ontological deflection

  1. BillVZ

    my apology for such a late comment:

    “A pope who is a genuine expression of humility and who exerts a significant influence on the lives of about 20% of the people on this planet, has great potential as a force for good- however the new pope might do better by putting aside the shield created by the often self-serving defenders of the papacy and instead telling his own story.”

    While the media, pundits and journalists have frenzied over the incidents during the tragic times of political/ military rein in South America countries 40 years ago and Pope Francis’s place within them- just what do we the public or even them the accusers know of those times? I recommend an opinion post by WaPo.s Eugene Robinson to receive a glimpse of those times and Pope Francis’s role during them.
    Now that Bergoglio is Pope Francis, his record and recollections of nearly 40 years ago are important not so much because of what he did or did not do but because of what lessons he did or did not learn. He disapproved, surely. He did what he could. But by his own admission, he didn’t try to change the world .Now he has more than the duty to lead 1.2 billion Catholics. He also has a chance to atone. Eugene Robinson, Washington Post Writers

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