Monday, March 26, 2012

Speaking out against evil

Posted on Sunday, 03.25.12

The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Speaking out against evil

OUR OPINION: Regime's affronts to the people of Cuba challenge pontiff's
goodwill mission
By The Miami Herald Editorial

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Cuba on Monday at a moment when the grim
reality of living under a dictatorship threatens to overshadow the
evangelical nature of his mission. The pope is expected to bring a
constructive message about the need for change to a land whose people
long for relief, but the Castro regime has already responded with an
abundantly clear message of its own: Not interested!

• Amnesty International reports that Cuba maintains a "permanent
campaign of harassment" against those demanding respect for civil and
political rights. Only the tactics have changed, from long-term
detentions to a churning of dissidents, rights activists and independent

• Around the same time, a shocking video smuggled out of the infamous
Combinado del Este prison showed inmates, many accused only of
"political" crimes, existing under sub-human conditions. The video
offers more evidence that Cuba's rulers routinely deny basic human
rights to all.

• The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom declared that
"serious religious freedom violations continue in Cuba despite some

The violations include government "interference in church affairs" and
controls on "religious belief and practices through surveillance and
legal restrictions."

And there's more.

The Ladies in White, whose weekly procession after Mass is widely seen
as an attempt to create a tiny space for dissidents, have been told that
their silent form of opposition will no longer be tolerated. Evidently,
their very existence is unacceptable to the state because it gives
dramatic evidence of the discontent raging beneath the enforced surface
of calm.

The pope is an agent of spiritual renewal. His presence will be welcomed
by multitudes of ordinary Cubans who live in fear of the dictatorship
and see his moral authority as an antidote to evil.

He cannot afford to ignore these affronts to the dignity of the Cuban
people that have been a grim precursor to his visit.

The government's abrupt removal of protestors who occupied a Havana
church to demand human and civil rights last week put the church in an
awkward position. In most countries, church authorities patiently wait
out the protestors rather than calling the police to invade the
sanctuary. But Cardinal Jaime Ortega, by his own account, asked
authorities to "invite" the protestors to leave. They were promptly,
forcibly ejected by a government goon squad.

A modest improvement in relations between the church and the regime has
occurred under Cardinal Ortega. He facilitated the release of more than
120 political prisoners in 2010-2011, but the way the church went about
it — pressing prisoners to leave their country for Spain, which is what
the regime wanted — put the church on the wrong side of history.

The pope must make it clear that the church will never forsake its
mission of defending the downtrodden. In Cuba, it has an obligation to
stand up for the rights of dissidents. No improvement in church/state
relations is worth an accommodation that calls the church's moral
authority into question.

It is unfair to burden the pontiff with expectations that no one can
possibly fulfill about changing the nature of the Cuban regime. But it's
worth recalling the words of Pope John Paul II on his first visit to
Haiti. Appalled by inhuman oppression and moved by the hope he observed
in the face of ordinary Haitians, he declared forthrightly: "Something
must change here."

So it should be in Cuba.

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