A Dictator, a Cardinal and the Pope Walk into a Bar…

Sorry, I lured you in with a fake joke!
Pope Benedict was in the US last week, turned 81 while he was here, and delivered a very pro-peace message. (Of course, he’s the Pope, what other message would he have?) I have to admit, since Cardinal Bertone’s cozying up to raúl, I haven’t really been interested in any papal news, and for the record, I’m Catholic. He also addressed the sex scandal, intending to heal the old wounds caused by decades of pedophilia by priests. Now, not only am I Catholic, I attended twelve years of Catholic school. Not really noteworthy except that four priests at my high school, teachers of either my husband’s or mine, are pedophiles, (what fun to see them in the newspaper!) and one was my parish priest. So this topic has made me angrier than most of my Catholic friends and for that reason I was terribly disillusioned with Pope John Paul II, because the documents released stated that the orders to keep the scandal in Philadelphia quiet came from the top.
Pope Benedict addressed the scandal in homilies and speeches and then met with victims of abuse in Washington, D.C. and pledged to help in any way he could. Some Catholics think it is too little too late, but for me, it was better than nothing, and about time it was addressed. His words cannot undo the trauma but it is a step in the right direction. He also went to a synagogue (the first Pope to do this in the US) to try to establish good will with the Jewish community. Pope Benedict called for the war on terror to be waged while respecting human dignity, and end to “sectarian hatred,” and prejudice.
So because he addressed the scandal, I was feeling a little warmer towards the Pope. And then he said this in a speech at the White House:

“Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.”

That seemed like an anti-war shot against President Bush, but that was to be expected. But what he said conflicts with the Vatican’s view of the castro regime and how it embraces it instead of denouncing it.
A recap of some of Cardinal Bertone’s comments on Cuba:
–“Cuba is proof that dialogue, if it is sincere, always gives fruits.”
–Fidel castro “so successfully” encouraged relations between Havana and Rome .
–Castro “has grown respect for religion” and “appreciation for the Church.”
–The Holy See “has made advances to move the United States to eliminate this blockade.”

If the Vatican truly believes that political leaders must be guided by truth and need to have moral principles, how can the Pope reconcile that with any of the pro-castro comments that Betrone made in Cuba? Cardinal Betrone had an opportunity to address the incarceration of prisoners of conscience in Cuba and barely made mention of them, and then only as he left to board his plane. I am curious to know what moral principles the castro regime exhibits and how it has avoided a scolding from the Cardinal and the Vatican for not being leaders guided by truth. (“No prisoner has been tortured in Cuba,” is one of my favorite “truths.”) How exactly are moral principles used to make decisions in Cuba when the castros have neither morals nor principles?
Yet Pope Benedict said in his White House speech:

“Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in Eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows time and again that ‘‘in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation,’’ and a democracy without values can lose its very soul.”

He invoked the name of Pope John Paul II to demonstrate a point about totalitarianism, but the totalitarian regime in Cuba has not warranted any condemnation, only a visit by Cardinal Betrone documented by photos of smiling faces like this:
Maybe eight years or so ago if this had happened I would have been so happy to hear that the Pope was taking steps, albeit tiny ones, to address the sex scandal and its victims, that I would not have even thought about the contradictions between his words and his representative’s words in Cuba. But it’s not eight years ago. I’m still bent about the priests (only one of the four was defrocked since he solicited a cop at a bar, the rest were told to retire after they had been moved from place to place) and I care about Cuba and the lack of rights of the Cuban people. More so, I am disappointed that someone of such visibility like the Vatican’s Secretary of State, would take an opportunity to call attention to the plight of the people and the prisoners and waste it; instead choosing to condemn the embargo as if it were the greatest of all the evils that have befallen the Cuban people.
And if I had any doubt that Cardinal Bertone and the Pope have impressed the castro brothers, fidel or his blogging ghost praised the Pope’s speech for “contradicting Bush” in his “Reflexiones” in Granma today.

“The Pope visited universities, a Catholic cultural centre built just for the occasion; he met with representatives from hundreds of Catholic schools and universities across the huge country. The leader of the empire did not dare ask the Vatican State for “a new constitution and free elections” like he has dreamed up for Cuba.
As the leader of a Church, at a time when a war has been unleashed by the United States against the Muslims, his message was ecumenical and favorable to peace.
He met with representatives of religions whose churches hold influence over billions of people. Jewish leaders received him warmly. Of course, they idealized the capitalist system of the United States. One of the rabbis from Miami said that 90 percent of Jews in Cuba had moved to that city; he should have made it clear that it didn’t happen because we were persecuting them or because they were granted U.S. visas, but because they opted for the right to travel legally as offered by the Revolution and, just like many Cubans from other ethnic groups, they were in search of material advantages which they had not been able to attain in colonial Cuba.”

(emphasis mine)
It’s a scary to think that castro considers the Pope one of his allies against the United States.

4 thoughts on “A Dictator, a Cardinal and the Pope Walk into a Bar…”

  1. Claudia,
    That’s a great analysis. It’s not surprising to me that “castro’s blogging ghost” considers the Pope his ally against the USA, because that’s PRECISELY what he is. Even the late Pope John Paul did more harm than good with his visit to Cuba, because it gave Castro a patina of legitimacy as well as castro apologists the opportunity to say that fidel was making reforms. Most importantly, John Paul’s condemnation of the embargo was repeated ad nauseam by the world press which is exactly what castro wanted. I’m sure that the pope’s condemnation of the embargo was negotiated before his visit as one of the conditions for the visit and he went along with it.
    If John Paul who was the victim of communism and knew how diabolical that system is turned a blind eye to Cuba’s suffering, this one is not going to do any different.
    The Church has never been our friend. During the Cuban War of Independence over a hundred years ago, they sided with Spain. So if anything they have been consistent.
    We can’t expect anything different from the Vatican.

  2. Sadly that is quite true, John Paul 11 didn’t take tea with Jaruselski. He provided support
    to Solidarity; the counterpart to the dissident
    movement today. Walesa, however, was made of stronger stuff than most members of the Cuban
    dissident community; with some notable exceptions.
    He didn’t regard the U.S. government as an the adversary, expect it to abide by “Marquis of Queensberry” rules; re interrogations of
    terrorists. Benedict talks a good game; re the
    Regensberg lecture; but Sheik Buraik of Saudi
    Arabia, raises him a good game. The novel the
    Messenger, suggests a disturbing end game of all
    sermonizing in Jiddah.

  3. If that photo isn’t a vile obscenity, I don’t know what is. Protocol my ass. It absolutely reeks, along with the whole Bertone visit and his various statements, which would be incredible if they weren’t so consistent with longstanding Vatican policy regarding Cuba. There’s no excuse for this kind of getting in bed with indisputable evil. Except hypocrisy, of course, or worse.
    The Vatican has nothing to say to me about anything until it formally and officially apologizes to the Cuban people and clearly changes its ways. And I don’t mean an Obama-style pseudo-apology like the one for the Rev. Wright business. I don’t mean “We’re sorry if Cubans were offended because they misunderstood our intentions,” or some such sophistry. I mean an admission of guilt and a real apology, for a START.

Comments are closed.