Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Has the (Catholic) Church Gone Soft on Communism?
First Things ^ | March 27, 2012 | William Doino Jr.

Posted on 03/27/2012 3:01:45 PM PDT by NYer

Has the Catholic Church gone soft on Communism? It seems an absurd question, given the Church’s record against it, but one might have thought as much, given some of the commentary leading up to Pope Benedict’s visit to Cuba.

A week ago, Mary Anastasia O’Grady, the respected Latin affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal, reported on the “deep frustration” of Cuba’s human-rights defenders who feel abandoned by the Church. She was followed by Senator Marco Rubio, who expressed fear that the Catholic hierarchy had “negotiated themselves a space of operation” in Cuba, “in exchange for looking the other way” regarding the regime’s crimes. National Review, usually very supportive of the papacy, posted numerous threads criticizing Benedict and the local Church for not publicly embracing Cuba’s dissidents; and one Miami Herald columnist went so far to declare: “The Cuban Church hierarchy will go down in history as siding with the oppressors, rather than the oppressed.

What’s going on here?

Part of it is the legitimate frustration toward a regime that never has received the worldwide condemnation it deserves, particularly from certain celebrities, intellectuals and even, alas, Christians. After seizing power in 1959, “Fidel Castro jailed, killed, or exiled 3,500 Catholic priests and nuns,” reports Foreign Affairs. “His regime confiscated seminaries and nationalized all Catholic properties. The first Cuban Cardinal, Manuel Arteaga y Betancourt, took refuge in the Argentinian embassy. From 1959 to 1992, Cuba was officially an atheist state.”

Despite moderating somewhat after John Paul II’s historic visit to the island in 1998, Cuba is still a grim dictatorship by any civilized standard. In its 2012 Annual Report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom detailed the country’s continuing suppression of religious liberty, and Amnesty International reports that “Cuba has intensified its harassment of dissidents and human rights activists. . . . there were 2,784 cases of human rights abuses between January and September 2011, which is 710 more than in the whole of the previous year.”

The Church’s controversial response has been to adopt a diplomatic, rather than confrontational, stance, and to look toward a post-Communist future—even though Communism remains very much alive on the island. The debate came to a boil recently when Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archbishop of Havana, frustrated by a standoff with dissidents occupying one of his church’s, asked the authorities to remove them (after winning assurance the group would not be prosecuted). The Vatican has also announced that the pontiff has no plans to meet with dissidents or their relatives during his trip (perhaps fearing it would do no good and/or lead to even more reprisals).

These are questionable judgments, and the Church should be open to “fraternal correction” from those who have fought so long and courageously for freedom in Cuba. At the same time, and in fairness, Cardinal Ortega has had much better moments. As recently as 2010, the BBC reported how the Cardinal openly compared Cuba’s socialist system to a “Stalinist-style bureaucracy,” and “also urged the Communist authorities to free all political prisoners.”

As for Benedict, he is hardly an appeaser of Communism. In fact, on the plane trip from Rome, the Pope consigned Cuban Communism to the ash heap of history (to recall Ronald Reagan’s memorable phrase), asserting: “Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality.” Reuters reported that Benedict’s comments were surprisingly blunt, noting: “The 84-year-old pontiff’s comments reflected the Church’s history of anti-Communism and were more pointed than anything his predecessor John Paul II said on his groundbreaking visit to Cuba 14 years ago.” Benedict added: “It is obvious that the Church is always on the side of freedom, on the side of freedom of conscience, of freedom of religion, and we contribute to this sense.”

Even after he made these bold comments, Ronald Radosh commented: “We do not have any evidence that the current pope will follow in the tradition of John Paul II.” But, as just noted, Benedict actually went beyond his predecessor; and Blessed John Paul surely would have applauded Benedict’s first two speeches in Cuba.

“I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be,” Benedict said upon his arrival, specifically mentioning “their sufferings…those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need.” (emphasis added).

The reference to prisoners and their families was important, for critics had predicted Benedict would not raise a word about them, but they were mistaken. The statement is “likely to be well received by political dissidents on the island as well as Cuban American exiles in the United States,” said Reuters.

There was more: the pope prayed for the future of Cuba “in the ways of justice, peace, freedom, liberty and reconciliation.” The Miami Herald noted: “The word liberty, a politically charged word, was not in the prepared remarks that had been distributed to reporters in advance of the pope’s arrival and was added by the pope apparently at the last minute.”

Sounds like something a dissident might do.

In the solemn papal mass Monday evening, Benedict, the master catechist, gave a magnificent homily on the Incarnation—tying it to the family and personal faith in Jesus Christ—and ended with an appeal for Cubans to “strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God.” It was the first such homily that many oppressed Cubans had ever heard, bringing tears to their eyes.

When critics say the Church has sold out the anti-Communist resistance for limited religious freedoms, they overlook an obvious fact: religious celebrations like the one the pope just led, which speak to the deepest parts of the human soul, are themselves massive acts of resistance against a tyrannical Communist state, and should inspire freedom-fighters everywhere.

We can debate the prudential acts of Catholic leaders toward the Castro brothers, but let us not doubt where the fundamental sympathies of the Catholic Church—and especially Pope Benedict—lie. Reporting on the papal Mass, the Herald revealed: “Politics, however, were not far away. Shortly after two white doves were released as the Mass began, a man charged the stage shouting in Spanish, ‘Down with Communism.’ He was quickly subdued, and none of it was visible to television viewers.”

He may have been physically subdued, but his spirit was alive with the power of truth. That is the power the Church represents, and why it will outlive and vanquish its persecutors in Cuba, like it has everywhere else.

William Doino Jr. is a contributor to Inside the Vatican magazine, among many other publications, and writes often about religion, history and politics. He contributed an extensive bibliography of works on Pius XII to The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII.


The Pope’s Cuba Gamble by Mary Anastasia O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2012

Will Pope Benedict XVI Stand Up for Cuba’s Oppressed People? By Ron Radosh, PJ Media, March 24, 2012

Pope Says Communism Has failed in Cuba, Urges Change by Philip Pullella, Reuters, March 23, 2012

Pope Benedict Receives Enthusiastic Welcome in Cuba by Mimi Whitefield, Kevin G. Hall and Franco Ordonez, Miami Herald, March 26, 2012

At Mass, Pope Recognizes Cubans’ Struggles, Calls Freedom a Necessity, by Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service, March 26, 2012

How the Catholic Church is Preparing for a Post-Castro Cuba

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Moral Issues; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: communism; cuba; pope

1 posted on 03/27/2012 3:01:56 PM PDT by NYer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...


2 posted on 03/27/2012 3:03:12 PM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Love Mary A O’. First paragraph gets a bump for later. I certainly think Cardinal Dolan’s rhetoric suggests that fellow travelers still exist in the Church.

3 posted on 03/27/2012 3:04:33 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand (obamacare is an oxymoron.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

As demonstrated in Poland, communism will not stand in the face of an energized Catholic population. With Benedict XVI “inside the wire” Cuba’s reconversion is not far off.

4 posted on 03/27/2012 3:16:31 PM PDT by Natural Law (If you love the Catholic Church raise your hands, if not raise your standards.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

No, I don’t think so. When JP II visited Cuba, it was Castro who backed off, not the Church. He was still a Communist dictator, but things did improve for the Cuban people.

JP II shares the credit with Ronald Reagan for bringing down the Soviet Union. His visit to Communist Poland was a critical event in that history. It was hardly a sign of his secret fondness for Communism.

If anyone in the Church can be accused of sympathy for Communism, it is the liberal dissenters—the very folks who hate Pope Benedict and accused him of being the “Panzer Pope,” a covert Nazi sympathizer.

5 posted on 03/27/2012 3:21:02 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Communism and socialism rely upon the notion that it is wrong for one person to have much while someone else has little, and encourage those who have little to covet the wealth of those who have more. Covetousness is evil, and good Christians should renounce it as such.

Further, in the Parable of the Talents, a presumably-wise master gave control over his wealth to the servant who turned ten talents into twenty, and had no sympathy for the servant who, having only started with one talent, did nothing with it. There was not even the faintest suggestion that the master should have ordered the servant who turned ten talents into twenty to give some of his talents to the one who had only the single talent.

Why do so many “religious” people fail to grasp the fact that communism and socialism are anti-Christian at their core?

6 posted on 03/27/2012 3:23:34 PM PDT by supercat (Renounce Covetousness.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

“Is the Pope Catholic ?”

7 posted on 03/27/2012 3:34:20 PM PDT by SecondAmendment (Restoring our Republic at 9.8357x10^8 FPS)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Natural Law
As demonstrated in Poland

And Spain, and probably others that are slipping my mind.

8 posted on 03/27/2012 3:49:31 PM PDT by WPaCon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Cicero

” If anyone in the Church can be accused of sympathy for Communism, it is the liberal dissenters—the very folks who hate Pope Benedict and accused him of being the “Panzer Pope,” a covert Nazi sympathizer. “ -—


Praying Catholics in earnest with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, are powerfully united now, and are in concert with the work of the Good Angels in the air in spiritual warfare against the enemy of God.

We pray for the Church militant, whose repentance will bring healing to ourselves and to our land. Thanks be to God.

9 posted on 03/27/2012 4:48:04 PM PDT by RitaOK (LET 'ER RIP, NEWT. Newt knows where all the bodies are buried, because he buried them.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: NYer

At this point the bets are that Cuban communism will fall by itself soon. It would be foolish to energize the moribund by confronting it.

10 posted on 03/27/2012 6:20:28 PM PDT by annalex (
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

The question posed in the headline is only 50 years late. Vatican bureaucrats made a secret deal with the Reds to not condemn Communism during Vatican II. In return, the Reds allowed Russian “Orthodox” bishops to attend, as I recall.

11 posted on 03/27/2012 8:27:55 PM PDT by DumbestOx ("Where is everybody?" - Enrico Fermi, 1950)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

**Has the (Catholic) Church Gone Soft on Communism?**

I don’t think so. The Pope was praying for freedom and renewal for Cuba.

That certainly doesn’t sound like Communism.

12 posted on 03/27/2012 9:26:59 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: NYer

Good change for Cuba is coming. The Pope is simply helping it to happen, thanks be to God.

13 posted on 03/28/2012 3:04:05 AM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Natural Law
Stalin himself said that putting communism on Poland was like putting a saddle on a cow....

If you can ever get a hold of the Polish comedy Sexmisja made in the 80s it is a masterful way in which the Poles mocked communism just enough to not get caught!

14 posted on 03/28/2012 3:49:32 AM PDT by Cronos (Party like it's 12 20, 2012)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: supercat
"Communism and socialism rely upon the notion that it is wrong for one person to have much while someone else has little, and encourage those who have little to covet the wealth of those who have more."

And the "social gospel" relies on the same notion.

15 posted on 03/28/2012 4:29:50 AM PDT by circlecity
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson