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How Pope Francis Helped An Unrepentant Terrorist Get A Presidential Pardon


On January 13, Robert González Nieves, archbishop of San Juan, revealed Pope Francis’ role in Barack Obama’s pardon of terrorist mastermind Oscar Lopez-Rivera. Speaking from the Cathedral of San Juan, Nieves announced that although the Holy Father made no public statement of his involvement, he had indeed worked behind the curtain on behalf of the unrepentant, bloody-handed Lopez-Rivera.

The archbishop was pleased to say: “I know that there have been efforts made through diplomatic channels. The pope is very aware. We are grateful to the Holy Father for his support.” Papal complicity in this politically charged act received little notice in the English-language press. It deserved more.

What matters here is the pope’s part in an ideologically motivated pardon that was opposed by law enforcement and families scarred by Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN) bombs. But first, a brief recap of the Marxist-Leninist zealots whose boss earned sympathetic attention from Rome.

This Guy Is an Unrepentant Bomber

Lopez-River’s command of FALN was never in doubt, never denied. Instead, he boasted: “I am an enemy of the United States’ government.” During the 1970s and ‘80s, FALN claimed credit for more than 100 bombings in New York, Washington, Chicago, and other cities. The lethal Fraunces Tavern bombing in 1975 is the best known and deadliest of them. The historic tavern, close to Wall Street, was a popular lunch spot in the financial district. FALN thugs took credit for having blown it up “with reactionary corporate executives inside.”

Prior to forensic use of DNA in court, no definitive physical evidence was available to support the overwhelming circumstantial case against Lopez-Rivera. (See Matthew Hennessey’s essay “A Terrorist’s Fan Base” in City Journal for a sterling synopsis of his arrest and conviction.) Guilty of six murders, scores of maimings, and millions of dollars in property damage, he was convicted for felony conspiracy and sentenced to 55 years in federal prison in 1981. (He earned an additional 15 years for attempting to escape Leavenworth in 1988.)

The penitentiary provided a stage for his crafted role as a prisoner of conscience. The Left rallied to him as an anti-colonial freedom fighter, an independence activist, and political prisoner—Puerto Rico’s Nelson Mandela.

Lopez-Rivera’s co-conspirator, explosives expert William Morales, operated a FALN bomb factory in Queens and was implicated in the Fraunces Tavern bombing. He escaped to Mexico, then fled to Cuba where he still lives, and where the movement to free Lopez-Rivera has been kept alive by Fidelistas as a symbolic slap at the United States. (Note the “Free Lopez-Rivera Now” sign next to the pope’s motorcade in Havana.)

Pope Francis Brokers Pro-Communist Political Deals

Enter Pope Francis. Readers will recall that Francis facilitated the normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba. Colluding secretly with Obama in defiance of a constitutional demand that two-thirds of Congress approve treaty terms, Francis enlisted Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, and Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington DC to help broker a kiss-off to the rule of law. Both prelates flew to Cuba with Francis in 2015 and attended Mass in Revolution Square, under a massive image of Che Guevara.

In his 40-minute heart-to-heart with Castro after Mass (“very familiar, fraternal and friendly,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi), did the subject of Lopez-Rivera come up? All we know is that the American-born Morales still remains on the FBI’s list of most-wanted domestic terrorists. Apparently, then, he was not included in the prisoner exchange that was central to Obama removing Cuba from the list of terror-sponsoring states. (The exchange contradicted the public claim of Cuban cardinal Jaime Ortega, archbishop of Havana, that no political prisoners exist in Havana.)

From Cuba, Francis flew to the United States, where he was greeted in East Harlem by Melissa Mark-Viverito, the speaker of New York’s ultra-left City Council and a devoted fan of the terrorist. A native of Puerto Rico, she dedicated the 2014 Puerto Rican Day parade to “the jailed nationalist,” and has regularly visited him in prison over several years. The speaker admitted to having visited him three times in the nine months prior to Francis’ 2015 visit.

From one of those visits she brought back a gift from the convict intended for Francis—a painting of the pope by Lopez-Rivera himself. Art therapy has its uses. She broadcast the stunt in a flurry of self-ennobling tweets picked up by Politico: “Oscar has told me he is encouraged by @Pontifex message of reconciliation, building bridges, & dialogue as a way overcoming hostilities,” Mark-Vivarito tweeted. “It was discussed and I agreed that I would attempt to present the painting as a gift to @Pontifex during his visit.”

Reconciliation. Dialogue. These are media-conscious words from a violent extremist who preferred dynamite to dialogue. And this is my favorite tweet: “@Pontifex more than gracious w/his time, his interest piqued when I shared that gift was from a prisoner I visited in jail.”

A prisoner. None in particular. Just one of the many anonymous, marginalized people whom a righteous woman meets visiting the imprisoned, a corporal work of mercy. In short, papal connivance with the commutation of Lopez-Rivera’s sentence was not spontaneous. Francis’ mercy-mongering on his behalf had been in the works more than a year.

Our Kind of Power Transcends Your Petty Boundaries

Yes, New York is a sanctuary city controlled by Democrats. Yes, the larger the Latino population, the tighter liberal Democrat control, and the more powerful Latino politicians. But the rationale goes deeper than political maneuvering and ethnic power plays. There is a kind of gnosticism at work in this pontificate that binds it to the cynical, tribal rationalizations of power traffickers like Mark-Vivarito.

She and Pope Francis view American immigration law—insofar as it concerns a chosen demographic—as invalid. In February, 2016, the City Council agenda included legislation that would give illegal aliens the right to vote in New York City’s 2017 elections for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president, and City Council. In other words, for the city’s total system of governance and financial accounting.

Doubtless, the Holy Father smiles on the initiative. Letting non-citizens vote grants power to an abstraction that enchants Francis: “the excluded,” or “the discards of society.” On the way home from Mexico a year ago, Francis said: “The word people is not a logical category, it is a mystical category.” He later tuned that remark this way: “In the sense that everything the people does is good,” it is better to say “mythical.”

Francis is not bound by rational structures: “It takes a myth to understand the people.” More antinomian than Catholic, Francis answers to a vision that, in his words, “transcends the logical proceedings of formal democracy.” The rule of law—a rational thing with its impoverished categories and dogmatic judgments—must bend for The People. It is a romance gone gray, but Francis would rejuvenate it.

For Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo—influential among European leftists for his triple status as Communist, Catholic, and gay—Francis is the leader of a global revolution, a new “communist and papal” International. In an interview that appeared in Argentina’s La Nacion on November 23, 2014, Vattimo argued that the Catholic Church itself could be understood as the last Socialist International and that Francisco, the voice of the voiceless and marginalized, is the spear carrier for “an alternative world to that of the capitalisms of the developed countries.”

That is the vision that Oscar Lopez-Rivera and kindred executioners kill for.