CUBAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Church in Cuba doing Castros' bidding
By CARLOS EIRE
Why is it that the Catholic Church in Cuba is working hand in hand with
the Castro dictatorship, even to the point of collaborating in the
expulsion of dissidents from the island or of posting statements on its
official website that support the current regime?
On the surface, it might seem that the church has taken a pragmatic
approach, and one with a very long history: that of lessening overt
persecution by any means possible. After all, the Catholic Church over
the centuries has often sought to compromise with secular rulers, for
one simple reason: Since it has no army, and is officially committed to
turning the other cheek, the deck is always stacked against it in
serious church-state struggles. The church knows this all too well.
Take, for instance, its experience in 17th-century Japan, where it was
totally annihilated after making serious inroads and where believers
were horribly tortured before being killed in ways that made crucifixion
seem like a light punishment. Or take the case of merry old Elizabethan
England, where Catholics were wiped out, too, after the pope
excommunicated Good Queen Bess, and where every Catholic priest captured
by the authorities was disemboweled, hung, drawn and quartered.
Given such a history, the compromising behavior of the Cuban hierarchy
shouldn't surprise anyone. But the fact is that it does shock many
Cubans, because their church doesn't seem to be turning the other cheek,
or even a blind eye: It actually seems to support the ideology and
repressive measures of the dictators. Nothing proves this more
convincingly than a document issued in 1986 by the National Cuban Church
Encounter, which, instead of calling for an end to human-rights abuses
on the island called for "reconciliation" with the Castro regime and
declared that socialism "helped us to have more regard for human beings
. . . and showed us how to give, because of justice, what we used to
give as charity." Anyone with the slightest exposure to Catholic
theology should have no trouble spotting all of the heresies crammed
into that statement.
Lately, compromising with dictators has become the hallmark of Cardinal
Jaime Ortega y Alamino. To see this first hand, simply visit the website
of the diocese of Havana, where he openly displays his commitment to
Castroite notions of "social justice," and defends the legitimacy of the
current police state. In the summer of 2010, as he brazenly engineered
the expulsion of dozens of dissidents from Cuba, the good cardinal
decreed on this website that anyone who worked to undermine the status
quo should have no voice in determining the future of Cuba. In other
words, the cardinal routinely expresses his ideological commitment to
the repressive policies of the Castro regime: all this in the name of
"egalitarianism" and "social justice."
The aims of Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to Cuba are much harder
to fathom. In the past five years, some Vatican officials have
downplayed human-rights abuses in Cuba, but the Holy Father himself
can't be held responsible for their callousness. And he most probably
has his own agenda.
Given his closeness to the late John Paul II, his dislike of liberation
theology and his own experiences as a child in Nazi Germany (a "model"
state consciously aped by the Castro brothers), he is undoubtedly
opposed to the ongoing oppression of the Cuban people. Pope Benedict may
be aiming to crack the foundations of the Castro palace through his
visit, but may be underestimating the craftiness of the brothers within
it, as well as that of his own man in Havana, Cardinal Ortega.
A recent Miami Herald article quoted a Cuba "expert": "The church is now
a partner with Raúl in the search for a more productive, more effective
system, and creating a favorable atmosphere for a transition without
This quote needs some decoding for those who have never lived in
Castro's Cuba. A better way of summing up the current situation is this:
The church wants to maintain the status quo, rather than to foster any
genuine transition. The only transition they're looking at is the
inevitable death of Fidel and Raúl, and to them "without violence" means
"without the two million exiles and without democracy."
Carlos Eire teaches church history at Yale. A longer version first
appeared on Babalublog.