Uncomfortable questions around humble Pope Francis
He might only have one lung but the new Pope Francis I, aka Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, shows little sign of flagging.
At just 76 he may have at least a decade to revive the church’s fortunes and reputation.
The propaganda emanating from the Vatican highlights his humility and sympathy for the poor.
But there remain uncomfortable questions about the 1973-79 period when he served as a Provincial in Argentina at the time of the murderous military junta there.
Journalists in Argentina have accused him of the sin of omission during this period and made unsubstantiated claims about failure to protect two victims of the junta.
Regardless of the adulatory warmth towards the new pontiff, he will not break with any of the basic tenets of doctrine – including the stance towards homosexuality and contraception – attitudes that this week influenced New Zealand Catholic politicians voting on gay marriage.
Pope Francis’ intellectual rigour, developed during his years within the Society of Jesuits, ensures that he avoids the language of bigotry but he will retain and nurture current dogma rather than usher in a new wave of liberal theology. He strongly opposed the Argentine government's 2010 liberal moves in this area.
Pope Francis avoided the mistake of Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, who unscientifically claimed a few weeks ago that Africa had avoided the problems of sexual abuse because of the social intolerance towards homosexuality, thereby effectively ruling out his chances as the first black pope.
But the big question vexing many conspiracy theorists is whether the new leader will fall under the thrall of the other “Black Pope” – the superior general of the Society of Jesus, currently Adolfo Nicolas of Spain.
The Jesuits have long been regarded as the church’s evangelical storm troopers, intellectual as well as cunning and operating a parallel hierarchy to the Vatican.
Such was their mischief that in 1773 Pope Clement XIV suppressed them and jailed their leader.
Now, one of their own is in the top seat.