TAG | Roman Catholicism
Tim Carney, the influential columnist at the D.C. Examiner, writes as if libertarians have been AWOL or worse when it comes to defending religious liberty from the incursions of the modern liberal-bureaucratic state. I try to set him straight in a new post at Cato at Liberty. More: Carney responds; Jordan Bloom, The American Conservative, Rick Esenberg. [cross-posted from Overlawyered]
Of course religious liberty should be a two-way (multi-way?) street. Just as unbelievers should be committed to upholding the religious liberty of the Catholic Church, so, as Andrew Stuttaford reminds us, it would be nice to feel confident that the Catholic Church was equally committed to upholding ours.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan on Friday helped kick off a national campaign opposing President Obama’s health care mandates and other government policies that Roman Catholic leaders say threaten their religious freedom…
The bishops timed the two-week campaign of prayer, fasting and letter-writing to begin on a feast day commemorating two 16th-century Catholic saints executed for their religious beliefs — SS. John Fisher and Thomas More. The campaign will conclude on the Fourth of July.
Well, so long as Dolan is clear that what he is doing is fighting for the religious freedom of Roman Catholic leaders (to use the NYT‘s probably unintentionally accurate phraseology), fair enough. For neither More nor Fisher were in favor of religious freedom for those with whom they disagreed. Fisher (then the Archbishop of Canterbury) saw to the burning of Thomas Hitton, the man widely seen as England’s first protestant martyr. As for the proto-totalitarian More, he was when England’s Lord Chancellor, as I noted here, a savage ideological enforcer, quite pleased, for example, to support the burning alive (“the short fyre…[prior to] ye fyre eurlasting”, as he so charmingly put it) of heretics.
The following (I’ve linked to it before) is an extract from the largely sympathetic biography of More by the British writer (and Roman Catholic) Peter Ackroyd:
[More] epitomized, in modern terms, the apparatus of the state using its power to crush those attempting to subvert it. His opponents were genuinely following their consciences, while More considered them the harbinger of the devil’s reign on earth. How could there be moderation in any confrontation between them? He was, in large part, successful; he managed to check the more open expression of heretical opinion and thereby prevented it from being accepted piece by piece or gradually condoned. He also disrupted the community of ‘newe men’ in Antwerp and helped to diminish the flow of banned books into England.
By linking his current campaign to men like More and Fisher, Dolan reveals more than he perhaps might like about what he understands by the word ‘freedom’.
Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien is at it again:
One of Britain’s most prominent religious figures, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has accused David Cameron of immoral behaviour and of favouring rich City financiers over those struggling on lower incomes.
O’Brien, Scotland’s most senior Roman Catholic authority, said: “The poor have suffered tremendously from the financial disasters of recent years and nothing, really, has been done by the very rich people to help them.
Amongst his suggestions:
O’Brien called for Cameron to introduce a Robin Hood or financial transaction tax on City dealings. “My message to David Cameron, as the head of our government, is to seriously think again about this Robin Hood tax, the tax to help the poor by taking a little bit from the rich,” he told the BBC.
Last year Cameron and the chancellor, George Osborne, led Europe-wide efforts to stop France and Germany introducing just such a tax, arguing that it would be uniquely damaging to UK interests.
In a BBC1 Scotland interview, O’Brien said it was immoral “just to ignore” those suffering as a result of the credit crunch.
“When I say poor, I don’t mean [only] the abject poverty we see sometimes in our streets. I mean people who would have considered themselves reasonably well-off.
“People who have saved for their pensions and now realise their pension funds are no more…”
Of course, amongst those hit by such a tax would be, uh, savers.
As O’Brien probably knows.
The Wall Street Journal reports on the Pope’s visit to Cuba here.
One incident at the start of the papal visit left little doubt as to the state of political freedom in Cuba. Before an outdoor mass in Cuba’s second city of Santiago, an unidentified man yelled anti-government slogans before being bundled off by security agents.
Video of the incident showed him being escorted out from the crowd and accosted by an apparent first aid worker wearing a white T-shirt with a large red cross.
The Vatican confirmed the incident, but said it had no further information.
Cuban dissident groups expressed concern for the young man’s safety and urged the government to release him unharmed. “Until now, we’ve been unable to locate the whereabouts of this man who protested peacefully and was assaulted … and beat violently,” said a statement by Elizardo Sánchez, who leads a group that tracks detentions
I may be wrong, but I cannot see that sort of thing happening in the course of John Paul II’s visits to Communist Poland.
And then this:
On his way to Mexico last week, the pope bluntly criticized Cuba’s official orthodoxy, saying Marxism “no longer corresponds to reality.”
No longer? When did it ever?
But on the island itself, the pope’s message has focused heavily on spiritual matters, and his potential criticisms of Cuba’s regime have been oblique and open to interpretation.
Again, contrast the behavior of John Paul II when, as Pope, he returned on a number of occasions to a homeland still under Communist rule. The code that he used to criticize the regime was easy to translate and sometimes it wasn’t even (really)code.
See, for example, this description of the Pope’s words at a mass held at Solidarity’s Gdansk birthplace:
The highlight of the 1987 visit was John Paul’s homily during his “Mass for the working people” in Gdansk-Zaspa (the district of Gdansk where Lech Walesa lived). In this homily, delivered on “Solidarity’s” and Walesa’s home turf, John Paul II spoke openly to delirious applause: “There cannot be a struggle more powerful than solidarity. There cannot be an agenda for struggle above the agenda of solidarity”. (Note the characteristic ambiguity: solidarity or “Solidarity”? Is he speaking religion or politics? Is he talking about moral or political struggle?) After an interval of deafening applause, he added the most famous words of this visit, which also rank among the most famous of all his words: “That’s exactly what I want to talk about, so let the Pope speak, since he wants to speak about you, and in some sense for you”. In his visits to post-communist Poland in the 1990s, John Paul referred to these words several times as expressing one of his main missions during his earlier visits: to give voice to the silenced nation, to speak what they could not and to speak in their name to those who would not talk with them, as well as to the world at large
To be fair, the Roman Catholic Church was much more of a national symbol in Poland (even if we exclude the extraordinary impact on a captive nation of seeing one of their own being made Pope) than it is in Cuba today, and, to be no less fair, this current Pope may yet surprise his hosts in Havana.
Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that, when it comes to confronting a dictatorship, Ratzinger is more Glemp than Wojtyła.
HAVANA — Cuba released 70 members of the dissident Ladies in White group detained during the weekend but warned them not to attend activities related to next week’s visit of Pope Benedict, the group’s leader told Reuters on Monday.
The women, known in Spanish as the “Damas de Blanco,” were freed without charges after being arrested in three separate incidents on Saturday and Sunday when they attempted to march in Havana.
Leader Berta Soler, who was detained twice during the weekend, said in a phone interview she was released on Sunday night and given the warning about the pope, who will come to Cuba March 26-28 and give two public masses.
“They said we couldn’t participate in the masses when the pope comes, neither in Santiago nor in Havana,” Soler said.
“They are mistaken because who is going to prohibit us from being close to Christ, being close to God, to the pope who is represents Christ on earth?” she said.
The Pope should extend these heroines a very specific, very public, invitation to attend.
Soler has said her group would like to meet briefly with the pope to discuss human rights in Cuba but Roman Catholic Church authorities said last week a visit with dissidents was not on the schedule.
The EU’s hierarchy has long had a distinctly feeble (and sometimes worse than that) approach towards the Cuban dictatorship. Agreeing to meet Cuba’s dissidents (and welcoming them to those masses), will give Benedict XVI, a frequent critic of what he sees as the lack of moral foundations underpinning the EU, an ideal opportunity to show how his approach differs from that of the oligarchs of Brussels.
More important, it would be a massive signal of support to the people of Cuba, a nation that has lived under tyranny for far, far too long.
Via the Miami Herald, more on the Pope’s upcoming visit to Cuba:
Nearly 750 Cuban activists have signed a letter to Pope Benedict XVI warning that his planned visit to Cuba will “send a message to the oppressors that they can continue” to abuse Catholic opponents, dissidents reported Thursday.
“We would be very happy to receive you in our country, if the message of faith, love and hope that you could bring us also would serve to halt the repression against those who want to go to church,” the letter said.
It did not directly urge the pontiff to cancel his planned March 26-28 visit to Havana and Santiago de Cuba, but added, “May the Holy Trinity illuminate your mind so that you can make a correct decision.”
The letter was the latest word from those Cuban dissidents who are concerned that the pontiff’s visit will only legitimize Raúl Castro’s government and do little or nothing to improve human rights on the communist-ruled island…
Among the signers were some of Cuba’s best-known dissidents, such as Roque, Guillermo Fariñas, Sara Martha Fonseca, Vladimiro Roca, Jorge Luis “Antunez” García Pérez and his wife, Iris Tamara Perez Aguilar. Other dissidents have cautiously welcomed the papal visit as a ray of hope for the Cuban people and the Catholic church. Not signing the letter were Catholic activists Oswaldo Payá and Dagoberto Valdés, Ladies in White leader Bertha Soler and her husband, former political prisoner Angel Moya, and dissident Oscar Elias Biscet. Roque said that she has been asking for an interview with the Vatican’s diplomatic envoy in Havana, Msgr. Bruno Musaro, for the past month to hand over the letter but has received no reply.
The letter argued that since abuses against Catholics only increased after the papal visit was announced, Benedict’s presence in Cuba “would be like sending a message to the oppressors that they can continue to do whatever they want, that the church will allow it.”
It cited three cases in which government-organized mobs harassed or threatened dissidents who had gathered in churches, including one Feb. 19 in which the archbishop of Santiago de Cuba had to intervene to protect 14 Ladies in White surrounded at the Our Lady of Charity shrine in El Cobre.
“One should add that on top of all that, some of the faithful are visited by the political police between Friday and Saturday of each week, to be warned that they will not be allowed to attend mass — and indeed they are arrested on Sunday,” the letter added.
Over at the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O’Grady piles on:
Cuban dissidents had hoped the pope’s visit would help them expose the twisted jailors who run the island prison. So what are we to make of the fact that the pontiff will not be meeting with any of the island’s Christian human-rights advocates? These communicants have endured unspeakable acts of state terror to be witnesses to the faith. They have earned papal recognition. Disappointment doesn’t begin to describe their dashed hopes….
Berta Soler—Mr. Moya’s wife and the spokeswoman for the Ladies in White, who since 2003 have withstood beatings, arrests and harassment by the regime to attend Mass as a group and protest political imprisonments—has gone even further. She delivered, through the papal nuncio in Havana, a formal request from the Ladies to see the pope, “even for one minute.”
Numerous other Christians on the island have made similar requests…Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s office told the Ladies in White that the pope’s schedule is too tight…
…In case all this is not enough to destroy Cuban confidence in the pope as an ally, the government newspaper Granma said this in an editorial last week: “We are sure that His Holiness will affectionately treasure the memory of this Caribbean Island, which values his visit as a manifestation of trust and a renewed expression of the excellent and uninterrupted relations between the Holy See and Cuba.”
All Cubans know that the “revolution” persecuted the faithful. They were sent before firing squads or to the dungeons, Catholic schools and churches were shuttered, and the island was declared an atheist paradise.
But now Fidel is reminding Cubans that relations were never broken with Rome and he is claiming that all the while he has gotten on fabulously with the pope. Will Pope Benedict, who is by no means a Castro sympathizer, allow the regime to get away with this?
Not if he insists on meeting some of Cuba’s heroic dissidents. A few fine words on freedom are not enough. Not at this point.
Cuban authorities detained a prominent dissident and dozens of her colleagues early Sunday, then rounded up more activists while they staged a weekly protest march through Havana just days before a visit by Pope Benedict XVI. Police took away Bertha Soler and three dozen supporters of the Ladies in White dissident group hours before they were to take part in a regular march down Quinta Avenida in the leafy Miramar neighborhood of Havana.
“They were arrested,” said Angel Moya, Soler’s husband and a former political prisoner himself. Soler was also detained briefly Saturday evening, he said.
About 30 other Ladies supporters did make it to the march, which began peacefully, but state security agents moved in when the Ladies tried to extend the protest into streets they don’t normally enter. All were escorted onto a bus belonging to state security. By Sunday evening, many had been released and some driven back to their homes, though Soler was apparently still being held. The Ladies in White formed in 2003, shortly after authorities jailed 75 intellectuals, activists and social commentators in a notorious crackdown on dissent, sentencing them to long prison terms. All have since been freed, and many have gone into exile.
Cuba has cleared its jails of most political prisoners, but human rights groups say the government of President Raul Castro has stepped up short-term detentions and other forms of harassment against the island’s tiny opposition. Cuba denies it holds any political prisoners, and says the dissidents are nothing more than common criminals and mercenaries paid by Washington to stir up trouble. It scoffs at criticism of its human rights record by the West, saying its Marxist system provides citizens with free health care and education, and many other subsidies, while capitalist countries are plagued by poverty.
“Cuba denies it holds any political prisoners.” The Big Lie is alive and well.
It is to be hoped that the Pope makes sure that he sees some of the extraordinarily brave Ladies in White. I’m pretty sure that his predecessor, John Paul II, would have insisted. And while the Pope is on the island, he might also have a word with Cuba’s Cardinal Ortega:
The detentions came just over a week before a March 26-28 visit by Benedict, who is likely to encourage the government to adopt increased religious, political and human rights during his tour, at least privately. It also comes days after Cuban Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega asked police to remove a group of 13 opposition members who had occupied a church in Central Havana for two days.
While the church won assurances that the group members would not be prosecuted, the church-sanctioned raid and its hardline stance throughout the standoff was derided by many dissidents, even those who had opposed the initial occupation.
While many praise Ortega for mediating the release of political prisoners in 2010 and occasionally speaking out in favor of greater economic and political freedom on this Communist-run island, others say he has not done enough. They say Thursday’s decision to call in police to remove dissidents from the Church of Charity demonstrates Ortega’s lack of sympathy. Sunday’s events will likely provide more fodder for those critics.
Elizardo Sanchez, who monitors human rights on the island and acts as a de facto spokesman for the opposition, expressed astonishment at the posture of Ortega, whom he has often praised in the past.
“I can’t get over my astonishment over what has happened in these last few days,” Sanchez told The Associated Press. “The cardinal is acting like the first two of the three wise monkeys,” who could neither see evil nor hear it.
Even as members of the Ladies in White were being detained, Ortega was performing Mass at the grand Cathedral in Old Havana. His sermon inside the baroque, stone edifice before several hundred worshippers did not mention the week’s drama, nor did he say anything about human rights in general.
Cuban dissidents who had occupied a church in Havana to demand an audience with Pope Benedict when he visits later this month, have been evicted. The group of 13 want the Pope to press Cuba’s communist government on issues such as the release of political prisoners and an end to repression.
The protesters were removed from the Church of Charity in central Havana late on Thursday at the request of the city’s cardinal.
The Pope is due in Cuba on 26 March.
“Cardinal Jaime Ortega addressed the competent authorities to invite the occupiers to abandon the sanctuary,” Roman Catholic Church spokesman Orlando Marquez said in a statement.
The dissidents were removed without resistance, it added.
The group of eight women and five men had entered the church on Tuesday night, occupying an area off-limits to worshippers.
Pope Benedict has not announced any plans to meet Cuban dissidents during his trip.
His trip will begin in the eastern city of Santiago, where he will meet Cuban President Raul Castro.
During his time on the island, he will also visit the shrine of the Virgin of Caridad del Cobre and travel to Havana, where he will say mass in the main plaza.
Britain’s coalition government intends to legalize same-sex marriage. That a high-ranking Roman Catholic priest is opposed to these plans is neither surprise nor drama, but Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien could, I think, have used better words than these to attack them:
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic church in Scotland…accused the coalition of trying to “redefine reality”.
Those in glass houses…
Amy Sullivan grumbles in the Atlantic:
Without the work of women like Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, and Sister Simone Campbell of the Catholic social justice group NETWORK, there would be no health reform and therefore no contraception coverage mandate to argue over — not just for the employees of Catholic hospitals and universities, but for the estimated 24 million other women who will benefit from this aspect of the law.
So, yes, a little gratitude from women’s health advocates and other liberals would be appropriate. Instead, when these Catholic sisters and others asked for some flexibility with regard to the mandate, the advocates pooh-poohed as irrelevant their concerns about religious liberty and insisted that “the bishops” were the only ones who had a problem with contraception coverage.
Well, cry me a a river.The likes of these “Catholic sisters” were happy to work for Obamacare to be imposed on the country (fair enough, that’s all part of the democratic process), but now that that law has gone through, what is good enough for everyone else is not, it seems, acceptable to them. Apparently these sensitive souls want the legislation they supported to be applied in a way that takes account of their particular ideological sensitivities.
Everyone else can just go hang.