All this has devastated the church's credibility, according to José Casanova, a sociologist of religion at Georgetown University's Berkley Center. The Argentine church "compromised itself by playing a role much more tied to the powers that be," Casanova said.
Unlike the nuns and priests in El Salvador, Chile, Brazil and the Dominican Republic who spoke out against dictatorship, often becoming victims to it, very few members of Argentina's church denounced the dictatorship of Gen. Jorge Videla, currently serving multiple life sentences for human rights crimes. This near-absolute silence has been interpreted since as acquiescence, and even complicity.
Perhaps for this reason, Bergoglio's efforts to present a more charismatic church fell flat.
Estela de Carlotto, the president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a human rights group formed in 1977 that focuses on identifying grandchildren born to mothers in captivity and appropriated by military families, has accused Bergoglio of being "part of the church that has obscured the country's history."
And for Argentina, that history is still unfolding.
A contingent of priests led by Eduardo de la Serna, a parish priest in San Francisco Solano and the coordinator of the Group of Priests in Option of Argentina's Poor, has demanded that the church cease giving communion to incarcerated ex-dictator Jorge Videla and publish the records of the military's Catholic confessors.
One Argentine priest is currently on trial on charges of working closely with torturers in a secret jail during the dictatorship, while another was recently accused of taking a newborn from his mother, one of the many baby thefts from female prisoners who were "disappeared."
Church and military hierarchies blurred as a priest and Navy captain was accused of using biblical verses to soothe pilots conducting the so-called "death flights," in which prisoners were drugged and dropped into the Río de la Plata and sea.
As the leader of Argentina's Jesuits for part of that time, Francis has had to testify in court cases surrounding the dictatorship's largest clandestine prison and torture center, the old Argentine Navy School of Mechanics, or ESMA, building, and in the case of the kidnapping of two priests in his order in 1976. The priests, whom Cardinal Bergoglio had dismissed from the order a week before their disappearance, were discovered five months later on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, drugged and partially nude.
The cardinal and his supporters have pushed back. His spokesman dismissed the charge that Bergoglio was involved with the priests' arrest and detention as "old slander." Bergoglio also testified in 2010 that he had met secretly with Videla and the head of the Navy, Emilio Massera, to ask for the priests' release. The following year, prosecutors called him to the witness stand to testify on the military junta's systematic kidnapping of children.