The “two popes” take turns at hearing each others’ confessions. Bergoglio tells of his failures to support fellow priests during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” during the “Process of National Reorganization” which followed the ascent to power of a military junta in the 1970s. Pope Benedict tries to reassure him about the efforts he made at that time.

Bergoglio flagellates himself: “My dear friend, where was I—where was Christ?—in all this? Was he taking tea in the presidential palace?” Later he admits: “I am a divisive figure in Argentina,” one of the few statements from the mouth of the Bergoglio character that rings completely true.

The implication of the storyline is that by underlining Bergoglio’s guilt over his failure to stand up to Argentina’s oppressive dictatorship, the movie offers a kind of balance: Both popes are shown warts-and-all. But no: The account of Bergoglio’s actions/inaction during the Dirty War are taken from the official record; the depiction of Ratzinger/Benedict is—overwhelmingly—invented.

There follows a sequence that goes beyond crimes of falsification, deceitfulness, and cheating. In the course of his “confession,” Benedict becomes agitated and starts to relate some hitherto unrevealed “sin” from his past. As he does so, his voice is drowned out as though by some kind of interference. We see his lips move; we see the shocked face of Bergoglio. When the sound comes back up, Benedict seems to be finishing some account of his negligence while Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith. It is intimated that he failed to act against a Mexican priest, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ: Marcial Maciel Degollado, a sexual abuser of boys. When he is finished, Bergoglio does something a trained priest would never do: He stands up and begins to remonstrate with the penitent who has just unburdened himself.