Thursday, October 01, 2015

Pope Francis Gave Private Audiences to All and Sundry, Except Cuban Dissidents

"​I spent a little time Wednesday night examining my conscience, as we used to say around the ol' confessional, as regards the meeting between Papa Francesco and noted civic layabout Kim Davis. This contemplation was prompted by two things: first, an e-conversation I had with someone who had been part of the papal travelling party and second, the appearance of E. J. Dionne on Lawrence O'Donnell's show on MSNBC. According to the first person, there were a great number of people during the pope's tour who were simply hustled in and out for informal private audiences. According to Dionne, the meeting between Davis and the pope was brokered by Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the papal nuncio to the United States at whose residence the pope stayed during his time in Washington, which is when the meeting took place. Together, these facts set off my Spidey Sense about Vatican chicanery.

"Before we continue, let us stipulate a few things. First of all, let us stipulate that there are more than a few members of the Church's permanent bureaucracy, both within the Clan Of The Red Beanie and without, who are not happy that this gentleman got elected Pope, and who are not happy with what he's done and said since he was. Second, let us stipulate that many members of this group are loyal to both former pope Josef Ratzinger and, through him, to the memory (and to what they perceive as the legacy) of John Paul II who, for good and ill, had a much different idea of how to wield a papacy than Papa Francesco does. Third, let us stipulate that this opposition to the current pope has been active and vocal, to say nothing of paranoid. Finally, let us stipulate that, for over 2000 years, the Vatican has been a hotbed of intrigue, betrayal, and sanctified ratfcking on a very high scale. (It also has been a hotbed of, well, hot beds, but that's neither here nor there at the moment.)"Charles P. Pierce, "Was the Pope Actually Swindled into Meeting Kim Davis?" on, October 1, 2015

Try to swallow the spoiled style, reeking with various bacteria, and consider what Mr. Pierce is actually saying. No, not that Pope Francis is an addle-brained imbecile at the mercy of Ratzinger's minions (not that we are disputing that premise). For our purposes it is far more interesting that there was allegedly a revolving door at the papal nuncio's Washington residence through which "a great number of people ... were simply hustled in and out for informal private audiences" with the pope: Kim Davis, the thrice-divorced champion of the sanctity of marriage, being just one in a long line of lay supplicants to meet with the pope and receive his blessing.

In Cuba, the only "lay supplicant" with whom the pope deigned to meet was Fidel Castro. The pope specifically excluded Cuban political prisoners and human rights activists from his sight and presence, and even admitted as much to reporters on the flight from Santiago de Cuba to Washington:

"[F]irst, 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."

His trip, Francis said, was not political and neither was he himself political. In Cuba, at least. In his address to a joint session of Congress, the mask came off: the pope confessed himself to be a political animal since his boyhood days at his grandmother's knee. And he proved that he still was when he politicized his every action in this country, seeking to impress the left while not completely alienating the right — a challenge for the most deft of politicians let alone for the most daft of popes (My God, Pierce's style is contagious!).  


The Vatican acknowledged today that “Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.”

What distinguishes a "real audience" from an unreal audience?

In any case, no Cuban was granted a "real audience" or even an "unreal audience" with the pope except Fidel Castro, and in his case the pope not only solicited the audience but  actually went to Castro's home to meet him.

As for "the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability," it was conspicuous by its absence when it came to meeting with Cubans whose last name was not Castro.

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