Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Papal Visit to Cuba - More Republican Hypocrisy

NJ governor Chris Christie has condemned Pope Francis' visit to Cuba. The media, always excited to ask Catholic Republicans if they agree with the Pope about something that might go against the Party platform (but they never do that to the Democrats), asked Christie what he thought about the papal visit to Cuba, whereas the presidential hopeful said, "The Pope is just wrong. He is not infallible in political matters." Sen. Marco Rubio took a more tender tone, writing for CNN that he hopes the Pope's visit to Cuba will give him an opportunity to openly call for more freedom there. This is a major departure from his harsh words about Pope Benedict's visit to the island, when Rubio accused the Cuban Catholic hierarchy of "cozying up" to the Castro regime, and saying that Benedict's visit might "reinforce that arrangement." Of course, Rubio has spent a lot of time condemning Pope Francis' role in the warming of relations between the US and Cuba, but what else can we expect from the GOP?

What a lot of people don't understand is that no Pope concerns himself with the rantings of a political party. So, while the Republicans continue to want to fight wars and proxy wars around the world, and therefore is against any reconciliation with Cuba, the Pope is only concerned with the salvation of souls. These same Catholic Republicans are first in line to (rightfully) highlight St. John Paul II's critical role in the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. I wonder if these same Republicans, had they been politically active at the time, would have condemned John Paul II's visit to Communist Poland in 1979.

The Pope follows Jesus Christ, who ate and drank with sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors. God desires that all men be saved, not just American Republicans. In his homily in Revolution Square, the Pope reminded those attending that, "Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people." He says, "There is a kind of “service” which truly “serves”, yet we need to be careful not to be tempted by another kind of service, a “service” which is “self-serving”. There is a way to go about serving which is interested in only helping “my people”, “our people”. This service always leaves “your people” outside, and gives rise to a process of exclusion." His message to Cuba was clear: no more division and no more self-centeredness, but instead be open to loving your neighbor and serving them. This is a profound message in a country where your neighbor could very well turn you in to the secret police in the middle of the night.

Then the Pope visited with Fidel Castro. When asked what they talked about, the Vatican Press secretary stated that they picked up where the discussion left off during Benedict's visit to Cuba, where Castro was asking about the Church's response to scientific advancement and the supposed battle between faith and reason. Castro asked that if the pope ever returns to Cuba to please bring some books for him to read so he could learn more. Pope Francis did indeed bring books for Castro with him, including a book and two CDs of homilies from a Jesuit priest that used to be one of Castro's high school teachers -- this priest was also forced to flee Cuba during the Revolution. Quite a message to send El Comandante.

What the Church has always wanted was to be left alone when dealing with Catholic "stuff". The problem is that the secular world thinks that it has a right to tell the Church how to run her affairs: who should be ordained, who should be married, how we should administer the Sacraments, what our teachings about morality should be, who we should canonize, and apparently now who the Pope should or should not visit. And whenever the Church defends the right to run her own affairs, the secular world rolls its eyes at how mean/hateful/ignorant/sexist/obsessed the Church is about everything. The secular world needs to butt out. The Pope's visit to Cuba is an act of pastoral care and mission, just like when Saint John Paul II visited his native Poland at the height of the Cold War. To the Catholics trapped in such a hopeless and oppressive system, don't they deserve to hear the successor of St. Peter come to them and tell them that they are loved and not forgotten? That there is hope for them and their loved ones? That they are still important to some people, regardless of what American politicians might say? I think they have that right, Governor Christie and Senator Rubio.