Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pope Francis: To Hear No Evil and See No Evil Is Evil

On the flight from Santiago de Cuba to Washington, DC, Pope Francis was asked by a reporter from CNN whether he would ever meet with Cubans persecuted by the Castro regime. A reporter from Spain's El País characterized the pope as "discomfited" by the question and his answer as "evasive." In fact, his answer is highly revealing though hardly unexpected given his conduct in Cuba: a coward's verbal self-portrait and a very badly executed one. The journalists on the plane were shocked by Francis' answer because he is known for his ability to turn any critical question to his advantage. Here, however, he showed no such finesse, but reinforced the perception that "he had been very deferential to the regime of the brothers Castro while ignoring, at the same time, the repression unleashed against Cuban dissidents."

Having abandoned the sheep to tend to the wolf on his now completed first trip to Cuba, the pope addressed the question from the perspective of whether a future "encounter and dialogue" with Cuban dissidents was contemplated. He had sponsored and extolled in the highest terms the "encounter and dialogue" between the worst men in Cuba and their counterparts in the U.S. Would he agree to meet with the bravest and noblest of Cuba's sons and daughters who represent the entire dignity of the Cuban people?

Rosa Flores, CNN: Good afternoon, Holy Father. I am Rosa Flores of CNN. We understand that more than 50 dissidents were arrested outside the nunciature [in Havana] as they were trying to have a meeting with you. First, would you like to have a meeting with the dissidents, and if you had that meeting, what would you say?

"Look, I have no news that that ever happened. I can't say yes, no I can't. I don't know. Would I meet directly with them? I just don't know. Would I like to? What would be the result? These are questions to be answered in the future. I like to meet all kinds of people. I consider, first of all, that all people are children of God and have the right [to meet me]. And, secondly, that meeting other people is always rewarding. As to what may lie in the future, I don't have an answer."

The pope's sentences are halting and clipped, as if he were afraid of developing his thoughts fully because his thoughts frighten even him. He asks himself questions aloud which he then declines to answer [e.g. "Would I like to (meet them)?" and "What would be the result?"] The only thing that he appears sure of is that he shouldn't answer the question. He doesn't explain why but proceeds to suggest that he should meet with them "because they are God's children and have the right [to meet me]." Still, Francis is non-committal: is it necessary or desirable that he should meet "directly" with them? There is a Noli me tangere [Don't touch me] aspect to his reaction. Francis postpones his answer to an open-ended futurity. In a more literal translation, his answer is: "your question is futuristic" and therefore does not conform to present reality (like landing a man on Mars or ordaining women as priests).

The pope continued:

"If you want me to speak more about the dissidents, you can ask me something more concrete. For the nunciature, first, it was very clear that I was not going to give audiences because not only the dissidents asked for audiences, but also audiences [were requested] from other sectors, including from the chief of state. And, no, I am on a visit to a nation, and just that. I know that I hadn’t planned any audience with the dissidents or the others."

The pope asks for "concrete questions" when he seems incapable of giving a concrete answer. He does reveal for the first time that it was never his intention to meet with Cuba's dissidents. Apparently, he doesn't want anyone to assume that he was constrained from doing so by his hosts, which, incidentally, is exactly what happened. Half a dozen of Cuba's most prominent dissidents were invited to a meet and greet at the nuncio's palace in Havana, but were arrested by the regime on their way there. Perhaps all that Francis intended to do was wave at them from his window, but he was not even given the opportunity to do that. In fact, the Vatican was obliged to submit lists of all Cubans who had been invited to attend the pope's masses in Cuba. The regime excluded by intimidation or force all whom it deemed unacceptable. To acknowledge that every detail of his trip to Cuba was micromanaged by Castro's henchmen would have reflected badly on him and his hosts. Francis would rather seem despicable by denying any intention to meet with the dissidents than by admitting the fact that he was a willing stooge for the regime. Since he actually did grant audiences to both Raúl and Fidel Castro, it is mendacious for him to suggest that he didn't meet with the dissidents because he chose not to give an audience even to the chief of state! Even if we take him at his word, we must ask why he granted no audiences in Cuba but dozens of audiences in the U.S.

"And, secondly, from the nunciature, some people made some calls to some people who are in these groups of dissidents, where the responsibility was given to the nuncio to call them and tell them that I would greet them with pleasure outside the cathedral for the meeting with the consecrated [religious]. I would greet them when I was there, no? That did exist. Now, as no one identified themselves in their greetings, I don’t know if they were there. I said hello to the sick who were in wheelchairs. … Oops, I’m speaking Spanish. I greeted those who were in wheelchairs, but no one identified themselves as dissidents; but from the nunciature calls were made by some for a quick greeting."

Ah, the poor pope! He was willing, after all, to greet the dissidents — and "with pleasure." too —outside the doors of the Cathedral but they did not introduce themselves to him. It does not occur to the pope that the dissidents had already been arrested before he arrived at the Cathedral, or that, if any had managed to get beyond the police barricades, they would have been arrested on the spot before they had the chance to introduce themselves to him as dissidents (Castro's goons are aware of who they are and do not require introductions). The pope certainly would not have intervened on their behalf. Francis had that opportunity when dissidents were arrested in front of the popemobile after his first mass and he chose to look the other way (literally).

María Flores of CNN then asked the pope a follow-up question: What would you tell the dissidents if you had the opportunity to meet with them?

Refusing to be baited into saying anything that could be construed as compassionate, humane or Christian, Pope Francis replied:

"Oh, my daughter, I don’t know what I would say. (laughs) I would wish everyone well, but what one says comes in that moment and … You’ve got the Nobel Prize for being a reader of the future, eh?" (laughs)

Francis is not just a bad pope. He appears to be a preeminently bad man.

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