Friday, March 15, 2013

The Pope Did Not Care about "Los Desaparecidos"

"Los Desaparecidos" is the Spanish term given to the thousands of Argentinian students (and others) who "disappeared" during a military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s.

Why did they disappear?  Because they were tortured and killed by the military dictatorship of Argentina.  What did the very powerful Catholic Church do to try to stop the torture and execution of a generation of young Argentinians?  Nothing. Indeed, the Church supported the dictatorship. The members of the 'junta' (military dictators group) considered themselves to be good Catholics. (By the way, 'junta' is pronounced 'HOON-tuh' in Spanish.)

The current Pope was in Argentina at this time and unlike some other religious figures who protested against the junta and against the killings, and who were sometimes killed for their protests, he said and did very little or NOTHING.  He kept his mouth shut and kept getting promoted within the Church.  This man is now the moral leader of the Catholic Church.

In the following article you'll see that Argentinians refer to this period of time as the "dirty war."

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

Los desaparecidos - the disappeared

a dictatorship - this is when one person, or a few people, take control of a government and control the government using force, against the will of the people.  A dictatorship is the opposite of a democracy. In Argentina a military "junta" or group took control of the government and tortured and killed many innocent people.

to be tortured - this is when someone causes another person extreme pain as a punishment or as a way gain information from the person

execution - formalized killing by the government

to support - to assist, to agree with, to encourage

to protest - to say "no!" or to say that something is wrong.  A protest could also be conducted by a group of people in a public area.  Many American young people continually protested the Vietnam War.

to be promoted - to receive a higher position or job

moral, morality, ethical, ethics - to be moral or ethical is to be good, or to try to do good things; morality or ethics is the study of how to live the best possible or most humane life.

to be tied up in - to be involved in, to be a part of

a debate - a discussion in which two or more different arguments are offered

to be beyond dispute - there is no doubt; if something is beyond dispute, then it really happened

failed to confront the military junta - did not openly criticize the dictatorship or try to stop it; to confront someone is to face someone and say something to him about his immoral behavior

to kidnap - to capture or take a person, against his/her will, and to hide the person

to eliminate leftist opponents - eliminate means to get rid of; a leftist is a socialist or someone who is not conservative.  The military junta did not just kill "leftists."  The junta often killed anyone who was a critical thinker or who criticized the junta.  Many university students were killed.

an activist - someone who fights for a cause - for some goal or mission he/she believes to be right or good. A human rights activist fights to establish greater human rights, or fights for the cause of human rights.

human rights - basic rights every human being should have

an authorized biographer - this person was given permission by the Pope to write a biography about him. Therefore, this biographer will probably not be objective, but will show a bias in favor of the Pope.

to label someone - to call someone something, to consider a person to be something

thirtysomething - he was between the ages of 31 and 39

Jesuits - a group of Catholics

collective guilt - guilt that a whole group of people should share.  I disagree that all of Argentina should share this sense of guilt.  The people were often helpless - powerless.  People in high -profile positions, however, could have called on international support to help end the torture and murders.

to wrestle with something - to deal with something or address something or try to understand something which is difficult to deal with

an accomplice - someone who helps another person to commit a crime.  Again, I disagree.  I do not think most Argentinians were "accomplices."

the papal conclave - the meeting to choose the Pope

lumped together - to be put into the same category with

to be aligned with - to be in agreement with

courage - bravery, moral strength

to collaborate with - to work with.  So someone is arguing that at least the Pope didn't help the dictatorship. He was just too scared to do anything to help anyone who was being killed.

atrocities - horrible, inhumane actions

to atone for the sins - to make up for the sins; a sin is a crime against God's law for people

to conspire with - to act with someone who is doing something wrong.  Did you ever hear of a conspiracy theory?

more concerned about preserving the church's image - instead of saying: "Yes, the church acted badly.." he is trying to cover the whole situation up.

a conviction - if someone is convicted of a crime, he is found guilty of the crime

to invoke his right - he used his right

a detainee - someone who has been kidnapped

evasive answers - answers that did not answer the questions he was asked

the church endorsed the dictatorship - the church supported the dictatorship

key support - important support

a subversive - someone the government feels is trying to destroy the government

to stoop to someone else's level - if, for example, someone is lying about you, and you, then, begin lying about the other person (to get revenge), you are 'stooping' to the other person's level; you are lowering yourself and doing the same 'wrong' thing he is doing.  To stoop is to bend over or to bend down. So this Pope seems to be saying that his critics were falsely attacking him, but he did not want to attack back, so he kept silent.

to shelter someone - to give someone safety or a safe place to stay

a slum - a very poor neighborhood

a colleague - a co-worker

liberation theology movement - this was a movement of Catholic priests in South America that tried to assist poor people in their struggle against corrupt governments and rich landowners.  A priest is the primary 'worker' of the catholic Church - he wears a black shirt with a white collar. Pope John Paul 2 did not like the liberation theology movement and took measures to end it (although he was not completely successful).

clandestine - secret

paranoia - a psychological disorder in which a person feels that others are trying to hurt him/her

the paranoia of the witch hunt - this means the junta (dictatorship) was paranoid about people who might fight against it and were looking for "evil" people they could torture and kill. A 'witch hunt' is when a government looks for people to blame for social problems. The government then arrests and executes these people.

declining to endorse their work - because the current Pope would not approve of the work of these two priests, the dictatorship new it could arrest them and torture them and the Church wouldn't do anything

harrowing - scary.  The junta used to take university students on helicopter rides over the ocean and push them from the helicopters into the sea.  It looks as if they really wanted to scare these two priests, but didn't want to kill them.

blindfolded - their eyes were covered by a cloth

reluctant - if you are reluctant to do something, you do it but you don;t really want to do it

Mass - the religious service of the Catholic Church.  It looks as if Catholic priests conducted private masses for the chief or top dictator.

conservative, liberal - liberal usually means open-minded; conservative usually means not wanting to see things change.  If you are liberal you are 'left wing" if you are conservative you are "right wing"

a disposition - the way one feels toward something. If you have a good disposition toward s/o or s/t, you like someone or something.

in the middle politically - not left and not right.

in it up to their necks - deeply involved

to track cases - to follow cases

legitimacy - if something is legitimate it is "right" or good or as it is supposed to be.  This person is saying that the Catholic Church wished to find a strong moral leader, but, instead, have someone whose legitimacy or moral strength can be questioned.

a cardinal - a high ranking priest who usually runs a church organization for an entire city. A bishop is just under a cardinal.

its flock - its followers; a flock is a gathering of sheep

blamed the era's violence - the Catholic Church blamed both the junta and the people fighting against the junta for the violence of the time period.

a guerrilla - an underground fighter, someone who fights against an enemy as part of a loose collection of secret soldiers
1)  Based on what you read above, do you feel that the current Pope did enough to protest the dictatorship in his country?

2)  Do you think he supported the dictatorship? If he went to a dictator's house to save the lives of two priests, why didn't he talk to the dictator about saving thousands of other lives?  If he was conducting private masses for dictators, doesn't this show support?

3)  What do you think he should have done?

4)  Do you think the fact that this person did so little should disqualify him from the position of Pope?  Should he be Pope based on the fact that he did not openly oppose a dictatorship that was killing thousands of people in his country?


Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia two years ago :P

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