As I still try to make sense of the pope’s visit to Cuba and its effects on the island, a comment by long-time blogger and blogroll member Dean Esmay at Babalu Blog clearly expresses the sentiments I attempted to portray in my long post last night as well as in comments left at Babalu Blog. Dean’s comments to Dr. Carlos Eire’s solid and thoughtful post bears repeating here in its entirety.
If you’re in a hurry and want the reader’s-digest version, here’s the last sentence which summarizes the reason the pope’s visit was still important and worthwhile even if he didn’t meet with dissidents:
I could bold the entire comment for emphasis, but this last line is something we should write down on a sticky note and place on our foreheads, bathroom mirrors, car dashboards and PC monitors at work and home because truer words have never been expressed.
I am afraid I cannot agree with you on this. There is more here than you would appear to think.
If you look at the Vatican’s policies over the last few years, the last few decades, the last century or two at least, one thing is fairly consistent: they almost always avoid criticizing specific political leaders.
A friend of mine I’m chatting with now about this makes a potent observation: “[A]s memory serves, didn’t John Paul II help to bring down Communism without having preached against it when he held mass in Communist Poland?” I believe that more than that, he never once criticized the Soviet Union, or Communism by name, or any Polish or Soviet leader. He merely stood for the values the Church itself stands for: freedom of conscience and the rights of all individuals, and freedom in Christ. Those rights just happen to run smack up against Communist ideology and won’t budge before them.
You wished Benedict to criticize Castro in particular? He would not, any more than the Bishops in America would deny Teddy Kenedy a Catholic funeral despite is lifetime pro-abortion stance. Remember, there is no sin that is unforgivable in Catholic theology, no one beyond redemption–not even Fidel or Raul. That may not be a popular view here, but it -is- Catholic teaching.
“Hate the sin, not the sinner” isn’t just a slogan.
Furthermore, the scriptures are very clear that Christians are to obey those set in government authority above them, even if they are pagan or otherwise unbelieving governing authorities–except when those authorities demand they do things that go directly against Christian teaching. But even then to resist with humility, and nonviolently, whenever possible.
Here I quote Benedict in his homily to the Cubans, whose quiet words are, in their simple truth, a devastating rebuke to the Castro regime that needs no underscoring:
In today’s first reading [from Deuteronomy], the three young men persecuted by the Babylonian king preferred to face death by fire rather than betray their conscience and their faith. They experienced the strength to “give thanks, glorify and praise God” in the conviction that the Lord of the universe and of history would not abandon them to death and annihilation. Truly, God never abandons his children, he never forgets them. He is above us and is able to save us by his power. At the same time, he is near to his people, and through his Son Jesus Christ he has wished to make his dwelling place among us in.
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:31). In this text from today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the Son of God the Father, the Saviour, the one who alone can show us the truth and give genuine freedom. His teaching provokes resistance and disquiet among his hearers, and he accuses them of seeking to kill him, alluding to the supreme sacrifice of the Cross, already imminent. Even so, he exhorts them to believe, to keep his word, so as to know the truth which redeems and dignifies.
The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, however, prefer shortcuts, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), proclaiming that man is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of skepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. They, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.
On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, “Crucify him!” (cf. Jn 19:6). Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each human being has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.
The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory (cf. Col 1:27). To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world. It must be said with joy that in Cuba steps have been taken to enable the Church to carry out her essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly. Nonetheless, this must continue forwards, and I wish to encourage the country’s Government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole.
There is no need to “read between the lines” to find a “hidden message.” It is there in plain sight. Christians in Cuba, despite their persecution, are not abandoned by God, and all must and should acknowledge basic human freedom. These teachings are not compatible with the Castro regime, and if people are allowed to embrace them, and to say them aloud without fear, the regime cannot stand much longer.
In the way of humility, meekness, an nonviolence that are the default requirement for all Christians except in the most extraordinary circumstances, the Pope delivered a quiet and devastating blow to the regime, and the more the regime allows things like this to be said openly, the more it weakens itself.
If you were looking for a Pope to spout angry denunciations, you’re in the wrong Church. Not only would he have not been invited in the first place, but likely Christians there would be persecuted all the more anyway.
Allowing plain truth to be spoken, quietly but firmly, is more revolutionary for Cubans in Cuba than any angry denunciation could be.