French journalist Bertrand de la Grange has precisely identified the problem with the Catholic Church's new "self-appointed" role in Cuba.
He argues that instead of facilitating a political dialogue between the Castro regime and the Cuban people, the Church has decided to take the place of dissidents.
Frankly, this shouldn't come as a surprise, for -- repression aside -- both the Castro regime and the Catholic Church are essentially non-democratic, non-representative entities.
Here are some excerpts from de la Grange's opinion piece, "The Opportunism of the Church":
[Fidel's] successor is looking for a dialogue with the Catholic Church so that it can help resolve, without any cost to the regime, the problem of political prisoners. This extended hand has all the signs of being a scheme to win time, while the Vatican has decided to play along with the hope of gaining some future benefit for the Cuban Catholic Church [...]
The Bishops can't do anything to solve [Cuba's] economic crisis. However, they feel they have the moral authority to extend a hand to Raul in the crisis that stemmed from the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, pursuant to his long hunger strike, and by the current three-month hunger strike of Guillermo Farinas, who has survived due to successive perfusions. Both Zapata and Farinas have sacrificed themselves to obtain the release of political prisoners, specially 26 that are in poor health.
Faced with almost unanimous condemnation from the international community and letters of protest from artists, movie stars and intellectuals, including many from the left, the Castro regime has finally gotten the message and is looking for an exit strategy from this mess. However, in order not give the impression of succumbing to the pressure of dissidents, Raul will "bequeath" some prisoners to the Archbishop of Havana, like his brother did in the past to his friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez or to former Presidents Felipe Gonzalez [of Spain] and Francois Mitterrand [of France]. It's a hypocritical and cowardly gesture that reveals the Castro brother's absolute inability to undertake any act of generosity.
It's difficult to criticize any gesture that can result in the release of some political prisoners, who are condemned to long terms in inhumane conditions for having dissented against a totalitarian regime. And that's how many view this, both inside and outside Cuba. However, it's symptomatic that one of the most respected voices of the Cuban opposition, Oswaldo Paya, has denounced this dialogue as marginalizing the dissidence. And Paya is no atheist, he is a militant Catholic, who founded the Christian Liberation Movement twenty years ago and has maintained close relations with the Church.
Paya regrets that "some clergy have assumed the role as sole interlocutors with the Government," for they are "practicing the same conditions of exclusion" imposed by the regime [...]
Amen to that.
Please note that during last weekend's visit to Cuba by the Vatican's Foreign Minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, refused to meet with any dissidents.
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