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.