Ladies in White

Posted on Thursday, 04.05.12

Church has 'marriage of convenience' with dictatorship

Pope Benedict XVI should never have accepted the terms and conditions
insisted upon by the Cuban dictatorship for his trip to Cuba. By
strictly following the dictatorship's conditions, the trip ended up
constituting a sad demonstration of lack of solidarity toward the
oppression of the

Cuban people.

It was inappropriate for the pope not to visit with the devoutly
Catholic "Ladies in White." It was inappropriate for him not to mention
the sacrifice of Orlando Tamayo, Wilman Villar and Laura Pollán,
recent martyrs of Cuba's struggle for .

It is common knowledge that the church's marriage of convenience with
the dictatorship was planned and guided by the collaborationist Cuban
Cardinal Ortega. But the fact that the "violently remove the peaceful
pro-democracy activists from the church!" cardinal may have

been the wedding planner, does not justify the marriage.

It seems as though history has repeated itself in Cuba. I recently
re-read Jesuit scholar Manuel Maza Miguel's masterful account of Vatican
policy toward Cuba in the 19th Century, Entre la Ideología y la
Compasión. Leo XIII, an erudite, respected pontiff, was an ally of many
just causes in his time, but he was no friend of Cuba's freedom. Maza
Miguel describes how Catholic churches were used as forts by the of
colonial in Cuba.

"How can it be explained," he asks, "that the extraordinary Leo XIII,
who showed such solidarity toward the working class, could not
understand the justice of the Cuban struggle for independence?" The
Jesuit scholar continues, "The measures taken by the Spanish
ecclesiastical and civil authorities against those who sought a new
direction for Cuba decisively limited the presence and vigor of
Catholicism in the Cuban ethos."

There are many admirable, patriotic Catholics in Cuba, and the church
will survive this difficult test of faith for Cuban Catholics. But
history cannot be separated from politics. It is not surprising that, in
contrast to many countries in Latin America and Europe, there was never
a "Christian Democratic" political party of any relevance during the
first Cuban Republic (1902-1958). I believe the Church's political
influence will be even less in the second Republic, which is fast
approaching despite the cruel lack of international solidarity the Cuban
people have had to suffer for over five decades.

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