New pope, same as the last pope

Pope Benedict and Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the one-two finishers in 2005, meet again at the Vatican in 2007.

Reuters photo

Then-Pope Palpatine is shown with then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) in 2007. The new pope, who is Italian, only technically is Latin American.

When I saw the initial headline that the newly minted pope is from Argentina, I thought: Yes! They picked a pope from Latin America!

But only technically did they.

When I saw the new pope’s birth name — Jorge Mario Bergoglio (he’s going by Pope Francis) — I thought, Wait a minute: Bergoglio doesn’t sound Spanish

Indeed, his entry on Wikipedia says that the 76-year-old Pope Francis was born in Buenos Aires in 1936 to Italian parents.

I was hoping for a native Latin American pope, but that was too much to hope for, apparently. We very apparently got yet another pope whose blood is that of the European white man. And as though we haven’t had enough Italian popes.

With his having been born and raised in Argentina, I’m not saying that the new pope isn’t acculturated as an Argentinian (he speaks Spanish as well as Italian, for instance), but let’s not be fooled into thinking that the Catholick church finally picked its first pope of color. It has not.

The Catholick church gets to say that it picked its “first Latin American pope” when, in fact, the Eurocentric church picked a guy with white European blood who only was born in Latin America.

That doesn’t count, in my book.

And I have to wonder if that’s why Bergoglio was picked: because of his appeal as a twofer. He could be called “the first Latin American pope,” on a technicality, but at the same time his selection did not break the looong chain of white-male popes.

Of course, no woman may head the Catholick church, so that’s discrimination against at least half of the human population, so maybe I’m splitting hairs here with the race thing.

Speaking of women, Pope Francis, although he looks like he’s a lot nicer than Pope Palpatine ever looked —

(indeed, in the photo above he kind of looks like Woody Allen playing a cardinal) —  toes the Catholick church’s lines on the issues of abortion (no), contraception (n0) and same-sex marriage (hell no).

Indeed, the former Cardinal Bergoglio had come in at second place when Pope Palpatine was selected in 2005.

Expect no significant changes in the backasswards Catholick church, which I would say changes at a glacial pace, but since the glaciers are all melting, I’ll say at a geological (as in “geological time”) pace.


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6 responses to “New pope, same as the last pope

  1. It’s important that Popes wear the same hat size, so the process can’t tolerate a lot of variation. I guess.

    • Robert

      Hee hee. They apparently don’t wear the same dress size, though, because I saw, from the video of the new pope being introduced from the balcony at the Vatican, that Pope Francis, unlike Pope Palpatine, is a BIG girl! Francis got back! (Gay blogger Joe Jervis remarked today that “Pope Francis” is Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s “drag name.” Ha…)

  2. Leo

    I agree with your sentiment, but thought you might like to know that Argentina is one of the whitest countries in Latin America. Spaniards are just as white as Italians (I’m Spanish-American, and I’m as white as they come), and it happens that they mostly displaced rather than interbred with indigenous Argentines. So I won’t even give the Church the credit of pretending to choose a non-white pope.

    • Robert

      Thank you for that information.

      Race is a tricky business. While Italians are widely considered in the U.S. to be white, as are others who are not Anglo (Greeks, Semitic peoples [Jews and Arabs], et. al.), in the U.S., Spaniards, although they are light-skinned and obviously are European, are considered to be “Hispanic” or the like. They’re usually not called white.

      So, to me, to say that an Italian guy represents Latin America would be kinda like if I, a white (Anglo) guy, had been born, say, in Africa, and then became pope. In the technical sense, yes, I would be African, but would I REALLY represent most Africans? Of course not.

      Since most Latin Americans are not Italian, I cannot see how Pope Francis represents Latin America, except technically.

      Pope Francis might be more representative of Argentina than of Latin America as a whole, but this whole meme that he’s our first Latin American pope pisses me off.

      Today the subject line of the daily e-mail that I receive from The New York Times, for example, is: “New Pope Shifts Church’s Center of Gravity Away From Europe.”

      Again, that’s bullshit. The new pope is Italian, and, as I noted, the plurality if not the majority of past popes have been Italian, so I don’t see this as a huge change. We’ve yet to have a non-white pope, to my knowledge.

  3. Sloppy Joe

    Just like Leo, I agree with the spirit of your comment, and I’m a little saddened by the fact you did not understand -or chose not to- what he explained to you.

    The Argentines, like the majority of Latin Americans, are overwhelmingly of European descent. I am Argentinian and my four grandfathers/mothers were Spaniards. Quite simply, when the Spaniard conquistadores arrived here, they had no use for the natives and killed them all, either with weapons or with diseases. It’s not something to be proud of in the least -it’s historic fact, that’s all.

    How about the rest of Latin America? Except for regions where the natives had some economic value to the conquistadores, they were also just exterminated. Native Brazilians (conquered by Portugal, not Spain), Chileans, Uruguayans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Ecuadorians, Paraguayans, all wiped off and replaced with Europeans. The exceptions were today’s Mexico and parts of Central America (Aztec influence zone) and Peru / Bolivia (Incan influence zone) where the Spaniards found mines and resources to rob and therefore spared most of the locals so they could work as slaves (predictably they did wipe off the military and the clergy). As of today, those regions have a significant incidence of native blood -although they are much more mixed with Europeans than Anglos with native North Americans.

    So to expect a “native Latin American” from Argentina, be it a Pope, a soccer player or a lesbian leader, it’s a sign of regular American lack of ability to understand other cultures.

    • Robert

      Get over yourself. I know that Latin America is a mix of natives and descendants of Europeans. Duh.

      To a large degree this comes down to symantics. Yes, technically, anyone born in Latin America is a “Latin American.” However, again, had I, a white man, been born in South Africa and then become pope, to call me the “first African pope” technically would be correct but would be quite misleading if we say that I’m the “first African pope” if we mean this as evidence that black Africans have a greater degree of equality within the Vatican now.

      The new pope is, in my eyes, essentially European, and certainly is not representative of the majority of the Latin Americans (Mexican Americans and Mexicans) whom I see on a daily basis here in California. (Here in California and in the rest of the U.S., Italians are considered to be white, except perhaps by white supremacists, who exclude certain European groups from their own narrow definition of whiteness.)

      To a large degree, it comes down to skin color, and we still live in a world in which brown-skinned peoples are discriminated against. We still have a white pope, and I don’t buy that he is representative of the brown-skinned peoples of Latin America.

      Anyway, I’m not the only one to bring the question up. Most won’t bring it up because it’s politically incorrect. Fuck that shit.

      The Associated Press actually tackled this topic last month in a piece titled “New Pope Revives Question: What Is a ‘Latino’?”

      The link is here:

      The AP posted this after I posted this blog piece. In the AP piece, one ACTUAL Latino says of the new pope: “His parents are Italian… Just because he is born in Argentina does not make him Latino at all.” This quoted Latino’s definition of “Latino” is that one must have Spanish blood in his or her background, and that definition seems accurate to me.

      It’s a valid viewpoint, so, as much as I love to engage in American-bashing myself, you can dispense with your smug, holier-than-thou American-bashing in this case, amigo.

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