The Vatican announced today that despite the criticism of Cuba’s crackdown on dissidents, the Holy See said it will not break off relations. Castro has begun a severe crackdown on democracy-seeking dissidents, people who are using the Communist government’s own constitution to seek a referendum on democracy. But the strangest part of the story is this statement from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, the equivalent of a prime minister for the Vatican.
While Pope John Paul II is severely disappointed by the Cuban crackdown, Cardinal Sodano said: “We continue to have a lively hope—the Pope and myself—that Fidel Castro will lead his people toward democracy, respecting the progress that has been made in recent decades.”
On what basis do they have that hope? What has Castro done in the past 40 years to lead you to believe that he will lead people to democracy? What progress has been made? The few freedoms thrown to the Church before the Pope’s visit in 1998? Many of those have been revoked and the others are held over the Church’s head as a warning not to rock the boat.
The Cuban people have been kept as slaves and poverty-stricken serfs for decades by Castro’s regime. They have been imprisoned and executed for the “crime” of trying to escape the country. They have been imprisoned for wanting to practice their faith freely. You can’t open a business in the country except under the most extreme regulations and that business will exist at the whim of the government. People tout free health care and 100% literacy, but what good is free health care when the system is so corrupt there is nothing for your free doctor to prescribe you? What is the point of free education when there is not opportunity for a decent job of your choosing?
But the real point is that the Vatican seems to think that despite massive evidence to the contrary, Castro is going to suddenly wake up some day and declare free elections. I don’t discount the power of a miracle and I don’t fault the Vatican for continuing dialogue with Castro, but why pander to this false hope rather than continue with the hard line of condemning the Communists’ actions.
The Vatican even seems to be out of step with Cardinal Ortega of Havana. Last month (or was it in March?), an order of nuns opened a new convent in Havana. Castro attended the openng along with a Mexican cardinal and one from the Vatican. Castro was given an honorary medal from the religious order! Yet, Cardinal Ortega stayed away, seemingly the only one who recognized Castro as the monster he is.
Perhaps, some of it can be explained by the Italian fascination with Communism. For years, the Italian Communist party had been the only one in Europe that has ever had a hope of popular election into power and even now Castro is welcomed to Italy on every one of his visits as celebrity. Perhaps that’s rubbed off on the Italian cardinals in the Vatican.