Later this month, Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba. The visit has caused quite a stir in the Cuban-American community. It tears at us because we are mostly conservative Catholics as well as anti-Castro. Those of us who support a tough line by the U.S. on the regime, opt not to travel to the island for the Mass or any other reason really. Old school? Maybe. Most people who travel to the island do so for family reasons. The rest, mostly political voyeurism. If I wanted to see misery and suffering close-up, there is no need to travel thousands of miles. Read about “One Cuba” – it sums it up well.
If I could travel to Cuba and spend unlimited time with opposition leaders, without landing in prison, I would go to Cuba and would encourage others to do so. But as it stands today, no freedom loving, anti-Castro person or group is allowed to visit. In the off chance you are granted a visa, you will likely end up in prison like U.S. citizen Alan Gross. Travel to the Cuban gulag is the regime’s cash cow. It is the new sugar trade. It not only gives the regime much-needed commerce, but also give it a patina of legitimacy. Until there is a transition government in place, travel to Cuba remains a political mortal sin.
We cannot ask more of Catholic church leaders than we ask of our government. And our government has been very weak on the Cuba regime the past few years. Despite our statutorily robust economic sanctions, we rarely enforce them as intended. Trade has reached all-time highs since 1959. It is only growing – with both Democratic and Republican support. Unlike the U.S., the Vatican does not have the ways and means to enforce a tough line on the regime, not even if it wanted to. The regime would have removed the little that remained of it after it murdered priests and other religious at the start of the so called Revolution of 1959. By the way, even the Protestant leaders in Cuba are feeling the heat these days.
I am glad that the pope is heading to Cuba. The Cuban people need spiritual nourishment. The life of an ordinary Cuban is a very hard one. One hopes that the more rational minds of the Vatican state, the political side of the church, will use good judgment and not allow the more liberal factions led by their Secretary of State to use this trip to provide the regime a platform to cleanse its political crimes. Yet, as former Pope John Paul II and this current pope have acknowledged through the years, even within the church evil is present. The pope will sort it all out, hopefully, by not granting the regime any political concessions whatsoever to the Castro brothers. However, no matter the outcome of the politics of this trip, it will not be substantially outweighed by the spiritual benefits afforded the people of Cuba. They need this visit.