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John Paul II, Cuba & a Problem of Conscience

Armando E. Valladares

On January 8 of this year, when receiving the credentials of the new ambassador of Cuba to the Holy See, His Holiness John Paul II delivered a speech in which he grants recognition to various fundamental aspects of the Cuban revolution. The Pontiff emphasized that he "insists with the Cuban authorities" that they "maintain and develop" the "goals obtained with effort" in the area of "medical care," of "instruction at the various levels," and "of culture in its different expressions." He adds that, "assuring these conditions," Cuba establishes nothing less than "pillars of the edifice of peace," in which it is possible to enjoy "complete human advancement," including the "harmonious growth of body and of spirit."

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Castro lecturing the Pope on his 1998 visit to Cuba
A Tribute, Life Books
The praise could not be greater. Nevertheless, for the Cubans who feel in their own flesh the destructive work of the Communist revolution in their fatherland, that papal deference proves to be difficult if not impossible to justify, even when considered under the aspect of the formulas of diplomatic courtesy. How from a bad tree can there be born good fruits (Matt. 7:18)?

Health, education, and culture, the contrary of representing achievements, have come to be used from the beginning of the revolution as instruments of Communist indoctrination and of mental, psychological, and even religious control of the population. Medical doctors and professors are trained to comply with that work of jailers of the human conscience. It is this, and nothing else, that has been the goal of the dictatorship that for 46 years has carried out an implacable internal embargo against the Cuban people, the opposite of achieving a goal of peace or the harmonious growth of the human personality.

John Paul II recognition extends to what he qualifies "a spirit of solidarity" among Cubans, which would be manifested in the "shipment of personnel and material resources" to other peoples on the occasion of "natural calamities, conflicts or poverty."

Nevertheless, it is this, unfortunately, that has been the very terrain of Communist internationalism, which placed Cuba in the sad role of an exporter of conflicts in Latin America and Africa, stirring up guerrilla warfare that contributed to provoking bloody calamities worse than those of nature and sinking whole peoples into misery. For Cuba, the internationalist anti-missionary model is the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla Ernesto Ché Guevara, who went as far as to affirm that "hatred" is the driving force capable of transforming the revolutionary into "an effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machine." For this reason, the papal allusion to the "spirit of solidarity" cannot fail to produce consternation.

In subsequent paragraphs, in a courteous manner, John Paul II hints at his uneasiness in face of the absence of an environment of "genuine religious liberty" for the works of the Cuban Church, a requirement proper to "every pluralistic society." Nevertheless, believing that it is possible to surpass "disagreements" and even "any difference" among "those who share the Faith and those who do not profess it" (that is to say, not only but mainly between Catholics and Communists), he suggests the path of an "extensive and constructive dialogue."

In reality, in almost 50 years of revolution among those who do not profess the Faith, clearly the top leaders of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), we have seen a methodically studied commitment to ravage and suffocate Cuban Catholics, continuing the satanic order to create apostates and not martyrs launched in the University of Havana by Fidel Castro himself. The implicit papal lament confirms that the situation of asphyxiation of Catholics did not change, despite the almost seven years that have elapsed since the historic trip of the Pontiff to Cuba (January 21-25, 1998), which raised so many hopes inside and outside the island prison. In these conditions, one does not see how, at the present moment for Cuba, to carry forward a constructive dialogue with those who maintain their anti-religious policy, imprisoning people for the mere fact of their disagreement with that policy, and without giving the smallest sign of rectifying the situation.

Regarding the official text in Spanish of the papal allocution, published on the web site of the Holy See, one could raise other questions that for a son of the Church, extremely respectful of the Papacy, cause pain and even tear at one’s soul. I have preferred, for this reason, to limit myself to commenting on that which is indispensable. In any case, for Cuban Catholics who are opposed to Communism as being "intrinsically evil," following the traditional Magisterium of the Church, this papal allocution places them at an unprecedented spiritual crossroads in the history of our Country.

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In 1967, the papal nuncio in Cuba receives Castro & asks the US to lift the economic embargo (ICI, May 15, 1967)
It is not the first time that I find myself, as an obligation of conscience, publishing commentaries, without fail filial, regarding the diplomatic relations of high figures of the Church with the Communist State. Such commentaries are presented as an obligation of conscience of one of the Catholic faithful, a Cuban and political prisoner for 22 years, whose faith was enlivened on hearing the cries of young Catholic martyrs who died on the "thick wall" of the sinister jail of La Cabaña proclaiming "Long live Christ the King!" and "Down with Communism!"

I transmit here some of those texts [ published in the Diario de las Américas of Miami on the dates indicated] regarding such a painful theme. Reading them, one observes an enigmatic continuity of the politics of the extended hand on the part of the highest figures of the Church toward the tyrant of the Caribbean. This extends back to the era in which Archbishop Agostino Casaroli, then-secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, visited Cuba and affirmed that the Catholics of the island were happy: "Fraudulenta ‘política religiosa’ del dictador Castro" ["Fraudulent ‘religious policy’ of the dictator Castro], November 16, 1996 (date of the arrival of the dictator Castro in Rome).

The articles continue:
• "Con el comunismo cubano, un ‘diálogo franco’ imposible" ["With Cuban Communism, an impossible ‘frank dialogue’"] March 4, 1998;
• "Sí, el régimen comunista persiguió y persigue a los católicos cubanos", [Yes, the communist state has pursued and pursues the Cuban Catholics], August 9, 1998 (on the eve of the papal trip to Cuba);
• "ONU: representante vaticano favorece dictadura castrista" ["The UN: Vatican representative favors the Castro dictatorship"], October 26, 2000;
• "El pedido de perdón que no hubo: la colaboración eclesiástica con el comunismo" ["The request for pardon that didn’t happen: the ecclesiastical collaboration with Communism"], March 22, 2000;
• "Cardenal Sodano y Fidel Castro: el Pastor sale en auxilio del lobo" ["Cardinal Sodano and Fidel Castro: the Shepherd leaves to help the wolf], March 11, 2003;
• "El drama cubano y el silencio vaticano" ["The Cuban drama and the Vatican silence"], April 25, 2003.

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This article was first published in the Diario Las Américas, Miami (FL), January 15, 2005

Armando Valladares, a former Cuban political prisoner,
was U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva
during the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Contact him at:

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