Peter Marshall at the Times Literary Supplement:
To ask whether Francis is, or always has been, an advocate of liberation theology is to beg a host of questions, and to rake up the embers of numerous conflagrations in Argentina’s recent past. Ivereigh does indeed make the claim, though in a carefully qualified and calibrated way. In the course of doing so it becomes clear – though one needs to root around in the endnotes for confirmation – that his book is at least in part intended as a comprehensive refutation of an earlier biography by Paul Vallely, another British Catholic journalist, Pope Francis: Untying the knots (reviewed in the TLS, October 10, 2013). Vallely argued that there were, in effect, two different Bergoglios. The young provincial was a conservative, authoritarian figure, intent on imposing discipline and an outmoded style of pre-Vatican II spirituality on a fractious and progressive community of Argentinian Jesuits. Yet in the early 1990s, after a couple of years away from Buenos Aires in Córdoba (where he had been sent by the new provincial to prevent his interfering in the running of the order), Bergoglio underwent a dramatic change of attitudes and values. He returned to the capital as a model of humility, and a campaigning bishop of the poor.
Ivereigh regards this “conversion” narrative as a myth, one designed to allow liberal Catholics “to praise Pope Francis effusively while retaining the right to wag fingers over his supposedly dubious past”. The most serious bone of contention concerns Bergoglio’s conduct during Argentina’s so-called Dirty War, the campaign of secret abduction, torture and murder waged by the military dictatorship in power between 1976 and 1983.
That elements within the Church were, to varying degrees, complicit with the regime is beyond doubt, just as a number of priests and lay Catholics were among its victims; one courageous bishop, Enrique Angelelli, was murdered in a fake road accident.