When Christ goes bananas – a case for more explicit Church leadership in Cuba

I just read the piece that Alberto linked to in this post… and then I left a pretty lengthy comment on the article at National Catholic Register. When I was done, I figured I might as well share that comment as its own post here.

Please note: I am one of the organizers of the One Cuba campaign petitioning Pope Benedict XVI to meet with activists and others in Cuba, but the thoughts below don’t necessarily reflect the views of my fellow One Cuba organizers. I’m wearing my Babalú hat right now (which needs to be broken in anyway).

As a Catholic of Cuban descent, the way the Church deals with Cuba is painful to watch.

It’s in large part because of my Catholic faith that I understand freedom as being just as important to our fulfillment of God’s will (and our ability to become closer to Him) as any of our physical needs—and neither should be sought at the expense of the other.

It’s also why I believe that faith without works is dead.

That’s why, when faced with real problems, the Church feels compelled to offer real solutions. When there is epidemic, where is the Church? At the operating table. When there is famine, doesn’t the Church take to baking bread? And where there is war, the Church makes peace its clear objective.

But somehow, where there less tumultuous state tyranny (which is just as damaging to the spirit), the Church sometimes seems to err on the side of subtlety and stability. Where people are not free to become the authors of their own destinies (and of their own relationships with God, their families and their neighbors… that is, with the whole of the Church and the human family), the Church seems intent to take less direct approaches. If I… If we… can’t turn to the Church for clear leadership on these less tangible (but no less important)  moral imperatives… if the Church can’t stand up directly (peacefully, of course) to a tyrant who not only banned religious celebrations, but replaced them with celebrations of himself…

Well… then to whom are we supposed to turn for that leadership?

At one time, witnesses say, Fidel Castro’s regime literally directed school teachers to instruct their young students to close their eyes and pray to God for goodies. When they opened their eyes and there were none, those children were instructed to pray to Fidel. Of course, the treats appeared. It was the beginning of a long process that stripped Cuba of much of its faith. Not just in God, but in itself.

Even now, Raul is literally inserting himself into His Holiness’ Mass. Never missing an opportunity to remind the people of who he believes that island’s real “almighty” is.

And the message from the Church is one of “patience” and “reconciliation”? I understand and appreciate that the Church isn’t about to ask people to take up arms. But this is also not a system with which I or any person should be prepared to reconcile. Any and all compromise on God-given freedoms should be coming from the deniers of those freedoms, not God’s representative on Earth. And to demand anything less just doesn’t seem Christ-like.

Pope Benedict XVI could address all this with a simple meeting. That doesn’t seem too much to ask. Just him… and some of the most devout in his flock… in the same room. I’ve been racking my brain for a (good) reason a Pope wouldn’t do this tiny thing… and I’ve come up with nothing.

After all, Jesus himself went absolutely bananas—flipping over tables and generally stirring up what might be history’s holiest arroz con mango—over far less than the Cuban regime has done to offend Him.

14 thoughts on “When Christ goes bananas – a case for more explicit Church leadership in Cuba”

  1. Nicolas: Agreed. Problem with a meeting with the Damas de Blanco is that the regime won’t let them get anywhere near the pope. You’re already seeing this happening with detentions and authorities constantly watching over them over the past couple of days. I’ve lowered my expectations for this meeting to be realized, not necessarily because of the pope, but because of the regime’s restrictions.

    Don’t think his comments on the plane to Mexico denouncing Marxism weren’t a direct shot at the regime. Also, his prayer this morning to the Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre for “the needs of those deprived of freedom”, was directed at dissidents. It’s no wonder both statements were quickly replied to by the regime, because they realize this as well. Raul’s rushing of the altar to greet Pope Benedict at the end of Mass? A reminder by the dictator of who’s in charge in Cuba (hint: it ain’t God).

  2. I want to add the following even thought I have written enough about my views on this Pope over this whole week:

    I don’t want to hear what the Pope said or did not say and instead I want to focus on what the Pope did and failed to do because at the end of it that’s what it matters because deeds speak louder than words.

    The Pope should have had enough courage to stand up to the Castro brothers and precondition his visit to Cuba on the terms that he should be allowed to meet with anyone in Cuba or there would be no Pope visit, period.

    Because the Pope failed to take this stance the Castro tyrants used him for propaganda purpose and to legitimize their oppression on the people.

    It is about time for those who don’t want to acknowledge the obvious truth and that truth is that is that there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to defend Pope Benedict XVI actions during his Cuba trip.

    A couple statements to save a sorry ass face don’t make this a courageous or righteous Pope and his actions are in total complicity with the tyranny because when a man of the Pope’s stature fails to stand up for God given values then he’s acting in the Devil’s behalf and becomes his accomplice by failing to stand up for the freedom of a nation that has been oppressed for so long.

    The Pope historical role (given to him by Jesus Christ from above) has been to represent him on earth and to stand up for freedom, justice, human rights and love and peace among all human beings as described by the gospel. By failing to do so in Cuba this Pope Benedict XVI is making a mockery out the papacy and joining the company of the likes of Pius XII.

    We’re in the 21th century and Popes cannot continue playing the ostrich by ignoring abuses around the world.

  3. FreedomForCuba: We all would like Pope Benedict and other Catholic leaders to take visibly- strong stances against evil. The role of a leader such as the Pope in these visits is to inspire people with the word of the Gospel. That means you have to take a high road of sorts and stay above the crap that the regime is going to dish out. Celebrating a Mass and offering prayers in support of those who are oppressed aren’t just weak, gutless actions. They are the holiest and purest of acts that mean much more than the words and actions of a ruthless dictator. If you want to talk about complicity with the devil, focus your attention on the regime and those that actually support it. The Pope is way too intelligent and morally sound to “save face”, as you state it, and while I admire your passion…your calling of the Pope as being complicit with the regime is pure hyperbole.

    If you want to criticize anyone in the Church for complicity, it’s Cardinal Ortega since he’s closest to the people of Cuba and his job is to be responsible for them.

  4. Robert you want to follow this Pope and ignore the obvious, that your blind choice but this Pope by his actions in an ACCOMPLICE to the evils of the Castro brothers.

    Make no mistake about it and stop excusing his actions.

  5. The net result or effect of this visit was bound to be negative, which means it should not have been made. The RCC already looked bad enough as it was regarding Cuba, and I’m not just talking about Ortega. The problem goes back long before that, even if it’s gotten worse during his tenure as head of Cuba’s RCC and the Castro regime’s “partner.” It’s analogous to the problem with Spain, which long preceded Zapatero, even if his policies were especially noxious.

    As I’ve said, only so much can be expected from an octogenarian German pope, certainly less than could be expected from JP II, and we know how that turned out. No, it’s not for Benedict XVI to liberate Cuba, or for Cuban Catholic priests to take to the streets when ordinary Cubans won’t, but if the Vatican can’t or won’t do for Cuba what it did for Poland, then at least it should refrain from anything that in ANY way aids, benefits or enables Castro, Inc. Unfortunately, that has not been the case many times in the past and it is clearly not the case now.

    At a minimum, the RCC has willingly and knowingly given offense to all decent Cubans, especially Catholic ones, by effectively insulting their sensibilities with acts such as masses for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, publicly showing excessive cordiality to unquestionably evil regime figures, serving as middleman or envoy for the regime, explicitly giving the regime credit it absolutely does not deserve, being on the fence about someone like Che Guevara, lending itself to the regime’s agenda regarding the US embargo, even going as far as asking the regime to evict peaceful dissidents from churches. There are obviously other examples of exceedingly dubious RCC pronouncements and actions, but the pattern is what’s most disturbing. How many times are Cubans suppposed to give the RCC the benefit of the doubt? Did Christ give the moneychangers in the Temple that benefit?

    Regardless of what the RCC thinks or intends with respect to Cuba, it has to be judged on what it does and does not do, and what it’s doing is accepting or condoning a horrendous totalitarian tyranny based on lies, fear and force as a legitimate government. A relatively minor example, but a very telling one to me, is that JP II expressly arranged NOT to appear in public with Pinochet during his visit to Chile (even though Pinochet tricked the pope into such an appearance), yet nothing of the sort was done for either papal visit to Cuba. Are we to infer that the Vatican finds the Castro brothers less objectionable than Pinochet? Again, what are we supposed to think? Or are we simply to accept anything and everything the RCC does mindlessly and uncritically? I’m sorry, but too many things just don’t make sense, to put it kindly.

  6. Robert,

    You so called open mind is extremely good at blindly following this Pope like a sheep, even thought this Pope does not deserve such reverence because his lack of leadership regarding standing up to the Castro brothers.

    All this Pope had to do was to demand a meeting with all the opposition members (or last least with the Ladies in White) and use the acceptance of this meeting as a precondition to his visit to Cuba. Such meeting would have elevated the status of the Ladies in White in the international scene and would have legitimized their cause.

    This coward of a Pope declined all requests to meet with opposition members (such as the one publicly stated by Dr. Eire and others). Instead he is meeting with Fidel Castro today (go figure).

    Maybe you want to join the Pope in that meeting today, since you admire him so much…

  7. FreedomForCuba: There are many things I personally wished the pope could have done, such as meet with the Ladies in White (something I have expressed clearly in my blog). The pope is a pastor, not a politician, and perhaps that condition to visit Cuba was denied. Does he abandon his plans to visit Cuba or does he go ahead and by his mere presence contrast that of the regime? As tempting as it is to look at the Pope’s reasons for visiting in black and white, honestly I should have considered that there was a zero chance of Pope Benedict meeting with any dissidents, thanks to the regime. Cuba is in dire need of someone from the outside to give them a ray of light, similar to JPII back in 1998. I have to think that in light of the situation in Cuba and the condition of the Cuban Church, Pope Benedict considered a pastoral visit to be more than worth it.

    I’m sorry, but my personal faith doesn’t allow me to trash a pope who is honestly and truthfully spreading the Gospel in a place like Cuba and who stated in no uncertain terms his opposition to the regime’s values. For being in support of the Pope doing just that – I make absolutely no excuses.

    P.S. – I suppose that if Jesus would have declined to preach to, visit and eat with dishonest people, criminals, prostitutes, etc., we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Pretty ironic, huh?

  8. RATzinger is a disgusting clown in a gold top hat. He’s like a minstrel show for old Cuban Catholic grandmothers who have been conditioned to think that this fraud is infallible. He isn’t more holy than you and me and DOES NOT speak for JESUS on Earth. Jesus holds all of us equal and we are all given his mercy and grace in equal helpings.

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