Pope Francis denies the dignity of the Cuban dissident

Just when you thought this Papal visit couldn’t get any more dispiriting to Cuban dissidents, it did.

The following questions were asked of Pope Francis on his plane trip leaving Cuba:

Rosa Flores, CNN: We understand that more than 50 dissidents were arrested as they were trying to have a meeting with you. First, would you like to have a meeting with the dissidents, and if you had that meeting, what would you say?

Pope Francis: Look, I don’t have any news that that has happened. I don’t have any news. Some yes, yes, no, I don’t know. I don’t know, directly. The two questions are about reading the future. Would I like this to happen? … I like to meet with all people. I consider that all people are children of God and the law. And secondly, a relationship with another person always enriches. Even though it was soothsaying, that’s my reply. I would like to meet with everyone. If you want me to speak more about the dissidents, you can ask me something more concrete.

Rosa Flores, with the follow-up later on: What would you tell them if you met with them.

Pope Francis: Oh, my daughter, I don’t know what I would say. (laughs) I would wish everyone well, but what one says comes in that moment and … You’ve got the Nobel Prize for being a reader of the future, eh? (laughs)

Given a second opportunity to give a word of encouragement to the truly dispossessed in Cuba, Pope Francis not only declines, twice, but goes out of his way to minimize their dignity, by noting four times in this brief exchange that his thoughts on the matter apply to EVERYONE.

Mission accomplished. No one can report that the Pope repudiated the dissidents, but neither can they report that Pope Francis wished to meet with the dissidents. The exchange is skillful on his part, note the playfulness at the end, it only lacks in morality.

This from a pope who recently visited a prison in Bolivia and stating that “he could not leave without visiting with them.” This from a Pope who will visit a Philadelphia prison during this U.S. visit. This from a Pope whose frequent off-hand comments have caused great confusion in the Church. And yet, at the prospect of offending the Castros, or reneging on whatever deal he made, discipline rules the day. Will this constitute his first miracle?

Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal on the politicization of the Pope Francis:

Francis’ popularity remains high, but the dangers in his current course are high. What many of his new political friends mainly seek is to have the pope “moralize” their politics. Francis’ spiritual message could not be more secondary. They won’t be with him in Philadelphia. How allowing the papacy’s core moral authority to be politicized is in the interests of the Catholic Church as an institution is difficult to see.

For those interested in following this issue, Charles Lane is a great source on Twitter.

A Politicized Pope
The battlegrounds of secular politics may undermine Francis’ moral authority.

Daniel Henninger – Sept. 23, 2015

The word “politicized” is not generally a compliment. It suggests that a nonpolitical event or subject—a natural disaster or poverty—is being used by a public figure for his own political purposes.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be hurting with the Republican electorate because many think he politicized Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012 by inviting President Obama to see its devastation. Mr. Christie rejects any such idea, but it sits there, a political casualty.

Pope Francis regards himself as not a political player. He dislikes the maneuverings of politics. Americans’ enthusiasm for Francis no doubt has much to do with the sentiment that, like Ben Carson, he is a “nonpolitician.”
Opinion Journal Video
Main Street Columnist Bill McGurn on the roots of the pontiff’s economic philosophy. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Mr. Carson, however, has recently discovered that it isn’t possible to be simultaneously in politics and above politics. Modern politics is a relentless conflict waged by parties, politicians, their networks, activists and media.

They set the rules, and it’s their self-given right to reduce what you think to a buzzword, no matter what your personal beliefs may be. It’s brutal and often unfair, but you play the political game, and that’s the way it is.

In the past week, Pope Francis has met and been photographed with Fidel and Raúl Castro in Cuba and with Barack Obama at the White House. Thursday he addresses a joint session of Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner. On Friday, he will address the United Nations General Assembly. Then on Saturday in Philadelphia, he will finally address a wholly religious event, the World Meeting of Families, which is organized by the Holy See in Rome.

The Catholic weekly newspaper Our Sunday Visitor aptly noted: “Based on the media’s coverage of the papal trip, it has been difficult to remember that Francis’ visit to the United States is centered around his commitment to come to the World Meeting and speak about the family and not immigration, the environment or globalization.”

Difficult to remember indeed. Pope Francis is becoming an aggressive public player in secular politics, from the environment to economic policy. That carries risks, not for Francis alone, but for the papacy and the institution the pope leads.

It is said widely that Francis will never allow himself to be co-opted into anyone else’s political agenda. The pope is famously his own man. But the pope has no control over whether he is co-opted into the political goals and strategies of others.

A TV commercial airing this week from NextGen Climate Action, funded by billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, unfurls frightening images of wildfires and floods and ends with Francis waving and smiling at us over the words, “With compassion and love—Pope Francis.” It’s propaganda, but legitimate propaganda by current standards.

The day before Pope Francis met with Mr. Obama, one of the president’s aides, Ben Rhodes, said: “How can we make use of the enormous platform that the pope’s visit provides to lift up the work we’re doing and demonstrate how it’s consistent with the direction that’s coming from the pope?” At the White House, Pope Francis praised Mr. Obama’s climate-change initiatives, and the president thanked the pope for supporting his policies on that and his opening to Cuba.

It is not possible to do this and be “above” politics. Everyone in politics is one of the boys, including the pope.

In Cuba, when the pope’s spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, was asked if Pope Francis knew that 50 dissidents had been arrested, he said: “I don’t have any information about this.” Embarrassing bunk is standard for the Josh Earnests of the world. It should not become so for the pope’s spokesman.

Politics today—which transforms any major public figure into a celebrity—is more fraught, divided and risky than ever. On one hand, Francis is amenable to being photographed smiling and squeezing hands with Fidel Castro, a decades-long oppressor of his nation’s Catholics. But then the Vatican objects that the pope might be photographed with a famous pro-abortion nun invited by the White House. Barack Obama plays hardball. His Justice Department had already sued the anti-abortion Little Sisters of the Poor.

In the past two years, the plight of Christians in the Middle East has gone from persecution to slaughter. Decades of Vatican diplomacy there for the world’s most at-risk Christians has produced very little. Soon there may be nothing left to protect. On Friday, the pope reportedly will address the U.N. about climate change. A jeremiad against Christian extermination would be welcome this week, too.

Francis’ popularity remains high, but the dangers in his current course are high. What many of his new political friends mainly seek is to have the pope “moralize” their politics. Francis’ spiritual message could not be more secondary. They won’t be with him in Philadelphia. How allowing the papacy’s core moral authority to be politicized is in the interests of the Catholic Church as an institution is difficult to see.

Write to henninger@wsj.com.

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
This entry was posted in Catholic Faith & Inspiration, Cuba and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Pope Francis denies the dignity of the Cuban dissident

  1. Wichi says:

    Agreed that the lack of meeting with or even referring to dissidents is baffling and hard to explain. Same as JP 2 and Benedict. So, given that, whats your theory? Serious question. That the Catholic Church supports the Casrto regime? That Francis doesn’t care( as JP 2 and Benedict didn’t care) about the oppressed? That he is/ they were scared of speaking out?

  2. To repeat my answer from the previous post – I assume the obvious tit for tat between the Vatican and Cuba – Dictators get legitimacy, Church gets more room to operate – with JP2 & Benedict – its like Nixon to China – no one could question their anti-communist credentials, we recognized the play, even if we disagreed

    But with Francis, not only is there no anti-communist background – it might go the other way in terms of empathy – combined with his behind the scene efforts re US ties – I think it fair to assume at this point that Francis has a vested interest in the Castro regime hanging onto power through the full reestablishment of US ties and transferring power to their hand-picked successor

    Dissidents represent the main obstacle in that plan – they are the only unscripted agent in the scenario until the U.S. presidential election – Francis hopes that by taking sides he is preventing a greater evil – a violent upheaval as dissidents spark a revolt – so the Vicar of Christ looks away from dissidents

    Even if that is so, Francis is the legitimate successor to the throne of Peter — but being the legitimate Pope does not preclude him having leftist sensibilities, especially for dictators who are heroes to many of his fellow Latin Americans – he seems to be doing what he can to ensure a soft landing for them

    What I really want any of our fellow-believers to give me a more logical scenario, one that addresses why the Pope is denying dissidents – many whose principle form of protest is to WALK TO MASS – while preaching about the need to care for the least among us – unreal

    • Fernando L. says:

      There won’t be a revolt in Cuba, repression is way too sophisticated. That dictatorship will fall when Raul Castro dies, but only if we can stop his son Alejandro from inheriting office, and Obama and the USA business elites from giving the Castro Mafia a hand so they can stay in power. It’s a tall order but we can always have hope.

      The pope is a Peronist with a red streak. He ignored the dissidents because he’s trying to increase business in the Latinamerican community and leftists in particular. To him Cubans are disposable. Most are atheists or engaged in Santeria. I think he’s also quite ignorant. Some of what comes out of his mouth is crazy.

      The Pope doesn’t even understand that Raul Castro wants to change the dictatorship to a neofascist model in an alliance with the Chinese (something the USA political elites seem to be too dumb to understand).

  3. Fernando re any possible revolt – the best indicator of that possibility is the lengths to which the dictatorship continually will go to squash any and all dissent.

    For the record, I don’t ascribe bad motives on the part of the Pope [“increase business, disposable, etc”] – I do see political maneuvering – I’m not even against the Pope engaging in political maneuvering – I supported and was gratified by JPII’s efforts to oppose communism – but obviously it greatly matters who the Catholic Church is willing to align themselves with – this type of collusion with the Castro regimes should be unacceptable to all Catholics

    • Fernando L. says:

      Their willingness to go through extremes to squash dissent is the reason why there won’t be a revolt. These regimes fall because they rot from the inside. For example, the USSR was undermined by Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Yeltsin was a key player, he was president of the Russian socialist republic, AND a fervent anticommunist who hid his beliefs.

      What I visualize is the emergence of a leadership which understands Raul’s neofascist dream (which he apparently thinks will be aided by the Catholic Church) will be a terrible outcome. This will be a long shot if Alejandro inherits power.

      As you know I’m not catholic but I’ve studied religion. I think those cardinals who elected Bergoglio knew he had clear Marxist/Peronist tendencies. But they also needed a charismatic figure who would help retain the Catholic following in Latinamerica, and possibly help increase its share of the Christian population around the world.

      This explains why Francis the Pope so easily tossed the Cuban people to the lions. He knows Cubans in Cuba are a mixed bag, with many atheists and odd believers. The Cuban population abroad is like you, they will grind their teeth but won’t switch to a different religion.

      What we have is a 78 year old radical red Pope backed by a college of Cardinals who wants to refresh the church. But this pope will eventually retire, his replacement will be a key factor in the way the Catholic Church will evolve in the future.

      By the way, I wrote a tongue in cheek post in my blog about theology ( I don’t intend to insult anybody, but I do like sarcasm). A relative called me and said I was over the top with a couple of posts about religion and the Pope. I guess the subject gets people very tense?

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