Fleming Rutledge is a preacher and teacher known throughout the US, Canada, and parts of the UK. She is the author of eight books, all from Eerdmans Publishing. Her most recent book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, is the product of the work of a lifetime and is being described as a new classic on the subject.
One of the first women to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, she served for fourteen years on the clergy staff at Grace Church on Lower Broadway at Tenth Street, New York City.
Fleming and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2009 and have two daughters and two grandchildren. She is a native of Franklin, Virginia.
Ruminations: March 2013
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Jorge Mario Bergoglio: Pope Francis I and Latin American politics
Yesterday I saw the much-praised Spanish-language movie called, simply, NO. It’s about the nonviolent NO campaign in
(For background, watch the splendid PBS three-part documentary A Force More Powerful. The NO campaign is one of seven successful 20th century non-violent movements covered in the film—along with Gandhi, the civil rights movement, the Danes in World War II, the Solidarity movement in Poland, the end of apartheid, the Philippine revolution)
The priests and bishops of the Chilean Roman Catholic Church conducted themselves well during the Pinochet years. For ten years, “the Catholic Church was the only institution bold enough to confront the régime…In Chile, the poor and persecuted have found solace in the church from the first days of military rule a decade ago” (The New York Times 11/20/83). During the régime of Pinochet, Pope John Paul II, famous for his courage in the political theater, visited
No one watched the coverage of the papal election more avidly than I. Having been in
Seriously, my very next thought was: he’s from
The stakes here are somewhat personal for me. The greatest Pauline (letters of St. Paul) scholar of the second half of the twentieth century was Ernst Käsemann, who powerfully influenced many of the biblical theologians in the “apocalyptic school” that I have written about several times before on this website. I had the honor of meeting him when he visited Union Theological Seminary. Käsemann’s daughter Elisabeth went to
(A not so-incidental note: Rather extraordinarily, a capsule history of the Dirty War and its 30,000+ victims appeared in one of the same issues of the New York Times that covered the papal election. It is in the obituary for Jose Alfredo Martinez de Hoz, the economic minister during the dictatorship, who was under arrest for human rights abuses at the time of his death a few days ago. Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/world/americas/jose-alfredo-martinez-de-hoz-argentine-official-during-dictatorship-dies-at-87.html?_r=0
As I write, there is a growing media storm about Father Jorge, as he modestly liked to be called even when he became a cardinal. The
Silence, as we know from the terrible history of the 20th century, means complicity. A Jesuit who is a friend of the new Pope Francis is quoted as saying that only a small number of Argentine bishops spoke out against the military dictatorship. Most remained silent. A few pulled strings and worked relationships behind the scenes to extricate individual prisoners, with lack of success in most cases. “Later on,” said the Jesuit, “the bishops realized this [their public silence] was a mistake.”
(Cardinal Bergoglio finally managed to extricate the two Jesuits, who after being abused for four months were dumped half-naked and drugged by the roadside. However, the sister of one of them still bitterly blames him for what happened to her brother. The other one has made gestures of forgiveness toward Bergoglio, but the minimal nature of this reconciliation does not suggest a wholehearted exculpation. Further information can be found at http://news.yahoo.com/bergoglio-okd-slain-priest-sainthood-cases-153552078.html) but the reports change hourly.
By far the most important voice in support of the new pope is that of Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, the Argentinean winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1980), whom I have long admired. (He met with Jimmy Carter at Grace Church in
Much has been made of the new pope’s lack of interest in papal fashion. Imagine the disappointment of the proud Italian artisan who made magnificent red loafers in several sizes only to be told that the old black shoes would do! People seem mesmerized by Francis’ paying his own hotel bill, riding the bus, and sitting at table on the same level as the other cardinals. These symbolic actions are not unimportant, but they may be more style than substance. There is a type of person who wins hearts because he wants to believe in the good of everyone but at the same time turns a blind eye to injustice and cruelty. And moreover, is it not a confused scale of importance when a Christian leader says publicly (as Bergoglio did in 2010) that same-sex marriage is the work of the devil, and yet did not raise his voice against the state-sanctioned torture and murder of political prisoners? The 1983 New York Times article notes that in Chile, Cardinal Raúl Silva Enríquez “urged priests to denounce arrests, disappearances, and cases of abuse and torture that came to their attention…Cardinal Silva Enriquez was a constant thorn in the Government’s side.”
Pope Francis I is already showing signs of pragmatism. He did some maneuvering, a couple of years ago in secular Argentina, trying to give some room to same-sex marriage supporters. One of my correspondents reminded me that Jesuits are known for bold moves. If he is able to do the impossible and reform the Curia, it will be a mighty deed for which posterity and all Christendom will thank and remember him. But one could wish that Cardinal Bergoglio had been a thorn in the side of the Argentine junta. Remember Elijah, whom King Ahab dreaded: “When King Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is it you, O troubler of
About those drugged bodies thrown from planes: the same 3/18/13 New York Times front-page article reports:
Martin Hengel of the University of Tübingen dedicated his book Crucifixion to Elisabeth Käsemann. Read the story of her terrible ordeal and death here:
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