Just days before Roman Catholic cardinals select a new pope, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against an Argentine mentioned as a possible contender, accusing him of involvement in the 1976 kidnappings of two priests.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's spokesman today called the allegation "old slander."
The complaint filed in a Buenos Aires court Friday by human rights lawyer Marcelo Parrilli accused Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, of involvement in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests by the military dictatorship, according to the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin. The complaint does not specify Bergoglio's alleged involvement.
The priests were released after five months.
"This is old slander," the Rev. Guillermo Marco, Bergoglio's spokesman, told The Associated Press in Rome. "This is the week of slander."
Under Argentine law, an accusation can be filed with a very low threshold of evidence. The court later decides whether there is cause to investigate and file charges.
The Italian newspaper Corriere dell Sera called the accusations "an infamy fueled by Bergoglio's enemies," saying Saturday that far from participating in the kidnappings, the cardinal helped win the priests' freedom. It did not detail its sources.
The accusations against Bergoglio, 68, in the kidnappings of priests Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics are not new, being detailed in a recently published book by Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky.
Marco called Verbitsky "a gentleman of dubious fame who is advertising himself to sell a book," saying the journalist was "taking advantage of this moment."
So, do we have a man who cooperated in the kidnapping of a couple of priests under his authority? Or do we have an author who is seeking to sell his book by making the most of a sensational charge in it?
And will it make any difference for the humble Cardinal who is considered a bright light among Latin American contenders for the papacy?%