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realclearworld

Who gets what? At what price? Is it worth it?

A guest post by Asombra:

A recent post taken from another blog asks "Why are some disappointed by the Pope's visit to Cuba?" and discusses what its author considers to be the three main reasons:

1) Benedict XVI is not as effective a communicator as John Paul II was
2) Benedict didn't meet with the opposition or denounce ongoing repression during his visit
3) Cardinal Ortega's actions clouded the visit even before it started

In my view, there are several other important reasons why a great many were much more than disappointed:

The pope met with Fidel Castro, his presumed wife and their three sons for 30 minutes. This was not required by protocol, since Fidel is officially retired from government. The Ladies in White, among other dissident or opposition figures, had pleaded beforehand to have even just one minute with the pope, to no avail. I have read accounts saying the pope was the one who asked to see Fidel (who came to the papal embassy for the meeting). If that is true, it makes the matter look much worse, but even if it was the other way around, there is still a serious problem. It is virtually impossible to justify this meeting, especially since it was guaranteed to offend, insult and scandalize many if not most Cubans, who see the old tyrant as the chief author of Cuba’s ruin and the suffering of millions for generations.

The official church stance, repeatedly stated by its functionaries, was that the visit was pastoral and not political, a convenient retort to the insistent calls for engagement with the opposition. However, the pope publicly condemned the US embargo (although about a week before the visit, the Vatican spokesman had said it was not foreseen that the pope would do that). One cannot have it both ways, and trying to do so is not considered reputable or respectable.

The Vatican publicly acknowledged that the pope was invited by the Castro dictatorship (meaning it wanted the visit) and that the regime essentially set the conditions, which the Vatican accepted and observed. Regardless of what the Vatican hoped or expected to gain, it still gave the regime something the latter found desirable and useful for its purposes, on the regime’s terms, which qualifies as collaboration or cooperation with it. What the Catholic Church winds up getting remains to be seen, and there is always the question of whether the price was worth it. There is no question, though, that the regime is not contemplating political change (read democracy), only economic changes necessary to maintain its "model" (read totalitarian power), as explicitly stated during the pope's stay by a high government official.

The wishes and concerns of exiled Cubans, who could freely speak their minds and did so before the papal visit took place, were effectively ignored or dismissed, as if they were irrelevant or insignificant. One could posit that the Vatican naturally went with what the Cuban Catholic hierarchy advised or wanted, but that hierarchy is headed by a highly controversial figure profoundly mistrusted by many Cubans, on and off the island, due to repeatedly dubious behavior which many suspect could be based on blackmail by the Castro apparatus, an expert at covert surveillance.

In other words, the list of negatives for the papal visit is fairly long and rather serious. Even if certain things can be said to be a matter of perspective, opinion or religious orientation (all Cubans are not Catholics, let alone committed Catholics), this visit is unquestionably questionable, on multiple levels and for multiple reasons. It does not help that the previous papal visit, by a far more esteemed pope, was and remains questionable and disappointing.

Finally, it can (and has) been said that a pope could not do in three days what Cubans have been unable to do in 53 years. Nobody doubts that. Nobody expected otherwise (though some might have with John Paul II). However, what could quite reasonably be expected is that a papal visit would do no harm and give no offense to a people sick of broken promises, dashed hopes and betrayed expectations, even if the pope could not fix or change much. Unfortunately, harm was most probably done, and offense was most certainly given. The Vatican may still believe this visit was worthwhile, but the question remains: was the papal visit supposed to satisfy the Catholic hierarchy or the Cuban people?

8 comments to Who gets what? At what price? Is it worth it?

  • Honey

    Next stop Ireland where the Pope will make a plea for the Monument to Che to be put in place.

    Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an Evil Empire and those two words became the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Words do matter when they come from world leaders.

  • [...] the human rights activists and the dissidents, bought into the embargo lie, and granted Fidel a half-hour long papal audience. By doing so, Benedict Gen. Raúl Castro, the Cuban leader, and his brother Fidel Castro were able [...]

  • pototo

    As I read earlier the pope had one thing in mind and that was to build a denomination's dynasty. He was "brave enough" to ask for Catholic schools to be allowed. His interest is the interest of "church growth". The problem is that for him it is about power.
    Roman Catholics can either let this debacle slide or use it and start protests in your local parish. If you choose to just let it go then you are this pope's accomplice.
    Take a stand, protest in front of the church, boycott the mass as well as your offering. If you don't who will? As David said before God defeated Goliath through David "Is there not a cause?"

  • pototo

    Let me be blunt....
    Which of you that consider yourselves to be Roman Catholics are planning to protest publically for a free Cuba at your local parish? If I were a Catholic I would. If this involved my church I would. You have an opportunity that others do not have. What will YOU do with it?
    If not now, when?
    If not you, who?

  • Honey

    This Pope is going back toward the worst excesses of past Popes who were more interested in numbers and less in humanity. He is undoing the best advancements of the Church in recent years toward friendship with others and against fanaticism for its own sake.

  • asombra

    Think about it: an official wave of repression, abuse and intimidation sweeps over Cuba preceding and during the papal visit. Its aims clearly include keeping those Cubans most desirous of connecting with the pope, and most invested in his church, from getting anywhere near him. This is perfectly evident and known to anyone interested in the matter, both before and during the visit, both within Cuba and abroad. This is obviously an affront to the Vatican and a heavy-handed mockery of what the papal visit is ostensibly about. And yet, this is tolerated and ignored by the RCC hierarchy, as if it wasn't real or wasn't important. Is that not capitulation, claudication, and accommodation? What are people observing this, especially Catholics, supposed to think? What?

  • pototo

    The silence is heartbreaking. What are you all afraid of?

  • Rayarena

    FOLKS, please don't forget that the Church has never been our friend. Not even Pope John Paul--the alleged anti-communist crusader--was our friend. Have you all forgotten that when he came to Miami many years ago, tens of thousands of Cuban exiles respectfully waited for hours on the streets for his entourage to pass and when it did, they waved Cuban flags and called out to him and he didn't stop to meet anyone, wave or even acknowledge anyone--and worst still, he did not meet with any Cuban exile group that asked to meet with him before hand. He completely and utterly ignored us! HAVE YOU ALL FORGOTTEN THIS?

    The Vatican simply doesn't care for us. In Pope John Paul's case, we weren't Polish. For I believe that rather than being driven by an anti-communist fervor, John Paul was driven by nationalism and love of his people. In Benedict's case, he just doesn't give a dam, he is even more far removed from Cuba than John Paul who at least was a victim of the Soviets like we were. Bemedict is only interested in supporting his man in Cuba, Jaime Ortega. He has thrown his support behind Ortega to our chagrin [but not surprise]. He is only interested in seeing the Church expand in Cuba even if this expansion is done on the broken backs and dashed hopes of Cubans.