Dr. Carlos Eire: The Catholic Church’s long history of compromise — A Babalú Exclusive

In a Babalú exclusive, Yale professor and our good friend Dr. Carlos Eire analyzes a recent article in the Miami Herald by Juan Tamayo regarding the Catholic Church in Cuba and how it has learned to coexist with the brutal and murderous Castro dictatorship:


The Catholic Church’s long history of compromise

By Dr. Carlos Eire:

https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/276967_145958538833197_67649731_n.jpgThe Church has a long, long history of compromising with secular rulers because in its 2000 years of existence it has learned, over and over again, that whenever it goes up against secular rulers, it loses way too much. Since the church has no army, it can’t ever win against rulers with armies.

Case in point: Japan, 17th century. The church and thousands of recent converts, totally wiped out. Not a single one left, and all horribly tortured before being killed. They actually found ways of making crucifixion more horrifying. Another case: England, 16th-17th century: Catholics were wiped out after the pope excommunicated Queen Elizabeth. And every single priest captured by the English authorities went through this: first, they were hung by the neck, till they passed out; then, as soon as they regained consciousness, they were disemboweled; then they were tied by their arms and legs to four horses and ripped apart; then they were chopped up, and their heads stuck on a pike in some public location.

So, there is a long history of compromise and collaboration. Just a few examples:

The church could do nothing to stop our lovely ancestors from wiping out the native population of Cuba. Hatuey summed it up when he was asked to convert: if the Spanish went to heaven, then he’d prefer to go to hell.

It took the church way too long to condemn slavery, too.

The church could do nothing to stop the fascists in Italy or Germany. In Italy, it actually joined hands with Mussolini. In Germany, it remained silent. In Spain, it became a tool of Franco.

I’m not passing judgment, just making observations.

The behavior of the Cuban hierarchy doesn’t surprise me: it’s following an ancient pattern. Does it turn the other cheek, or a blind eye? I think it’s both, at once. The church tries to avoid violence at all costs, along with its destruction; sometimes, the costs are extraordinarily high for those who are the victims of violence and oppression. But, then, again, the Catholic Church has an ancient tradition that teaches that suffering is good for the soul, and martyrdom comes in many shapes and forms.

There are the saints, like Father Maximillian Kolbe, sent to Auschwitz for being too outspoken, who volunteered to take the place of a man condemned to death, and willingly suffered martyrdom by starvation.

But then there are genuine cretins who go a step further and cuddle tyrants simply because they love to rub shoulders with even bigger cretins. I would put Cardinal Ortega y Alamino in this category. He’s ideologically committed to the aims of communism. No doubt about it. And he seems to be working for the continuation of a weird hybrid: a one-party totalitarian state where the church is allowed to function and to beg for scraps from the rest of the world. All in the name of egalitarianism and liberation theology.

Benedict XVI — what’s his game? Hard to say. I think he is every bit as clever and as ethically pure as John Paul II, and that he is hoping to put a few more cracks in the foundation of Raul’s palace. But I think he underestimates the craftiness of the Castro brothers, and their close relationship with the devil. And he is surrounded by men at the Vatican who are even more clueless. He is a very old man, after all, and probably depends on others to fill him in on loose threads like Cuba. I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude towards his visit. He may actually pull off something remarkable. Then, again, he might make things worse for Cubans. You can never tell when the other party in the equation has the surname Castro.

By the way, my comment about the Castros and the devil is not to be taken metaphorically. I think the devil is real, and that Fidel and Raul work for him, and have his protection. If it were not so, would Cuba be the only instance in the history of communism where the church has become partners with the state?

On the Miami Herald article, the nit-picking professor can point out three things:

1. A giant error: “hostilities broke out one day before the Bay of Pigs assault in 1961, when Castro declared his revolution would follow the socialist path to communism.”

No way….. hostilities broke out long before that.

2. “Church leaders and activists began to come out of their shell in 1986, with a document issued at the end of a week-long gathering known as the National Cuban Church Encounter. Although it defended many of the church’s past policies, the document urged reconciliation and declared that socialism “helped us to have more regard for human beings … and showed us how to give, because of justice, what we used to give as charity.”

This is true. The Cuban church at some point sold out to liberation theology and chose to overlook many of the church’s other teachings on justice and fairness and actually twist the meaning of “justice” completely.

3. This is also true, but needs to be decoded: “The church is now a partner with Raúl in the search for a more productive, more effective system,” said Clark, “and creating a favorable atmosphere for a transition without violence.”

My decoding ring tells me: The church wants to maintain the status quo, rather than to foster any genuine transition. As far as I can tell, the only transition they’re looking at is the death of Fidel and Raul. “Without violence” means “without the exiles returning and without genuine democracy.”



24 thoughts on “Dr. Carlos Eire: The Catholic Church’s long history of compromise — A Babalú Exclusive

  1. So the question is, what do self-respecting Cubans do about such an organization? How can any Cuban with an iota of dignity accept Ortega’s machinations?

  2. Asombra, the only choice for those on the island is to be Protestant until the Catholic church redeems itself.

  3. The only Protestants needed in Cuba are the people needed to protest and revolt against the Castro tyranny…

  4. Thanks Alberto! I absolutely needed to read this today.

    “I think the devil is real, and that Fidel and Raul work for him, and have his protection.”

    I think Dr. Eire hit it on the nail, and sadly I wonder if it will take the second coming of Christ to undo what the Castro’s have done. Not that we should sit around and wait for Judgement Day, but when “Christians” side with Castro, then Cuba desperately needs Christ.

  5. “I think the devil is real, and that Fidel and Raul work for him, and have his protection.”

    As I gotten older this is the only answer I can find to why Fidel and Raul Castro have lasted so long in power. The son-of-bitches must have a pact with the Devil…

  6. “I think the devil is real, and that Fidel and Raul work for him, and have his protection.”

    And this is an IVY LEAGUE Professor talking! He works in on of the most rigidly (despite what they say) conformist (to the Leftist Gods) of professions.

    “If only we could feed him to the lions!” his peers must be thinking.

    Hasn’t the professor ever heard of “going along to get along?”


  7. Is there any other teacher of history and religion who speaks with such authority and eloquence giving us simple truths the way Professor Eire does?
    I would bet not.

  8. Humberto,

    I had the honor and the pleasure to meet Dr. Eire at last year’s Cuba Nostalgia and he told me that he doesn’t care what his peers think about him because he tells it like it is.

  9. Or….the castro bros have some nice footage of ortega in a “compromising” situation and he has to do their bidding, at the same time throwing Cubans under the bus to save his own ass.

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  11. The Cuban church at some point sold out to liberation theology and chose to overlook many of the church’s other teachings on justice and fairness and actually twist the meaning of “justice” completely.

    Bingo. And not just in Cuba. The Catholic Church has been littered with liberation-theology types since the 1960s. Only recently has the Church started to rediscover some of its true voice and roots, thanks in large part to Blessed John Paul II. Unfortunately, in Cuba it’s still the same BS under Cardinal Ortega. At least we can look at Venezuela and see how the Catholic leadership there has responded to Chavez.

    The Church will outlast the castros. After all, it outlasted the Roman Empire (talk about martyrdom) and the “Dark Ages”. The only problem is that in Cuba the church hierarchy is so corrupt that it will take several generations for the Catholic Church to be a major factor in civil society. I truly hope I’m dead wrong here, because Cuba needs the message of hope and love that only the Catholic Church in its purest and authentic form can deliver.

    • “The Church will outlast the castros. After all, it outlasted the Roman Empire (talk about martyrdom) and the ‘Dark Ages.'”

      You’ve got it exactly backwards, Robert: the Roman Empire became Holy Mother Church…

  12. Yeah, the devil is all over the details in this one. When Jesus was here, there were those who became believers but decided not to identify with Him for fear and self-preservation (John 12); as Jesus described them, they loved the praise of men more than the approval of God. And so with other examples in the new testament: when faith costs you something, you may decide to fold rather than pay the price. It is the reason churches as organizations, and people of faith as individuals, don’t take a stand when they should; we count the cost and refuse to pay it. It’s much easier to go with the flow and than against it. Problem is, the high tag price is at the end of the road.

  13. The question is what is the Cuban exile Catholic community in South Florida doing? How can the largest Catholic group in Dade County not have sway in their diocese? How can we have a Church hierarchy in South Florida that does as it pleases with Cuba and therefore doesn’t represent us? The Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski doesn’t even sit down to talk to exiles. Can you imagine the Archbishop of Los Angeles not talking to Mexican Americans and actively opposing the “Dream Act,” and supporting tough immigration laws? It wouldn’t happen. Expect hell to freeze over first.

    We don’t have power inside Cuba, but we have in Miami, and yet, we don’t have power there either in key institutions. We really need to be introspective and figure out why. I think its because we’re disorganized. Cuban exiles are not institution builders, and therefore, we don’t have a vocal, proactive institutional opposition to people like Wenski.

  14. I suspect Wenski’s mission includes softening up, pacifying or neutralizing “those people” as much as possible, so as to provide Ortega and his “work” in Cuba as much cover as possible. It wouldn’t “fit” for the RCC in South Florida to be the antithesis of the RCC in Cuba. Although his early career was focused on the Haitian community in Florida, Wenski’s formal interactions with the Cuban Catholic hierarchy date back to 1996; he’s made numerous trips to the island since then. It would seem evident that he is hardly the ideal choice for his post in an area rife with Cuban exiles, but that presumes a commitment to the interests and aspirations of said exiles, which is hardly evident. However, active Cuban-American Catholics in South Florida have a responsibility they have not met and are not meeting. They should have made it very clear by now that Wenski’s position regarding Cuba is unacceptably insensitive, not to say frankly disrespectful and offensive. The catch, of course, is that the problem is not Wenski per se; he’s not a free agent or an independent player, but rather what the system apparently wants and promotes.

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