Three decades ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger rose to fame as the architect of the Vatican’s crackdown on liberation theology in Latin America, which he saw as a dangerous baptism of Marxist class struggle. That stance made Ratzinger a hero to anti-communist stalwarts everywhere, the perfect intellectual complement to John Paul II’s muscular challenge to the Soviet empire.
Catholic hawks at the time believed that Pope Paul VI’s Ostpolitik, meaning constructive engagement with Marxism, was finally dead and buried.
Today, those folks probably feel trapped in a B-grade slasher film in which the guy with the hockey mask and chainsaw keeps springing back to life. That’s because since his election as pope, Benedict XVI has seemed less notable for his anti-communist audacity than his appetite for détente.
Benedict’s March 26-28 visit to Cuba, in which he met both the Castro brothers but none of the pro-democracy dissidents, offered the latest case in point.
One sign of the psychological dissonance: American Catholic writer William Doino posted a March 27 essay for First Things under the telling headline, “Has the Church Gone Soft on Communism?” Doino’s basic answer was no, insisting that Benedict XVI is not an appeaser, but he also suggested that church officials may require some “fraternal correction” about their soft touch on Cuba.
Others were far less polite.
“I’m exceedingly disappointed,” said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican. (Diaz-Balart comes from a distinguished Cuban family, and his aunt was Fidel Castro’s first wife.)
“[Pope Benedict] refused to meet with any members of the opposition,” Diaz-Balart told The Huffington Post. “He refused to speak out in any real way against forced abortions. He refused to speak out against the human trafficking that is sponsored by the regime. He refused to condemn the human rights violations in any meaningful way. And it cannot be said that he’s not aware of those issues … He is aware of it because a lot of us have made him aware of it.” Continue reading
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