Pope Francis waves to a D.C. crowd in 2015. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

The March 13 news article “Francis’s first 10 years as pope bring about modest change” focused on hot-button issues, including sexuality and the role of women in the church, while glossing over the pope’s distressingly laissez-faire approach to international human rights and religious liberty, particularly in the region where he was born.

For years, the Catholic Church was a voice of conscience against oppression from both the left and the right. John Paul II was stalwart in condemning Soviet excesses during the Cold War, while in the 1970s and 1980s one far-right Latin American dictator after another found himself and his backers in the crosshairs of active and persistent church condemnation. Thankfully, right-wing dictators across the region have gone, but those from the left remain, including in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, and trends elsewhere, such as in Bolivia, are concerning.

Amid growing pressure, the pope finally condemned Nicaraguan abuses against the church this month, with leaders and laypeople alike facing escalating regime intimidation. But the approach has otherwise been one of accommodation, and dictators in the hemisphere have had little to fear — to say nothing of, for example, China.

Unwillingness to call out ongoing abuses of certain odious regimes is a blind spot that has sapped the strength and clouded the hope of those in the region and elsewhere who had counted on the first Latin American pope to be a voice for the voiceless, including those who happen to live under the oppression of the authoritarian political left. After the first 10 years of his papacy, a course correction is warranted.

Eric Farnsworth, McLean

The writer is vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.

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