In October 1953, Cuban Communist guerilla Fidel Castro faced charges for leading the failed attack on the Moncada barracks. He defended himself with a four-hour-long speech concluding with: “History will absolve me.” Has it? Has the Castro regime been exonerated of responsibility for its crimes? The apparatchiks have not changed. Yet President Obama announced on December 17, 2014, that he was unconditionally reversing U.S. policy toward the Communist dictatorship.
A concerted U.S. effort has since been under way to whitewash the Cuban dossier. Most recently, the administration reportedly manipulated the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report to justify upgrading the regime’s status and to create the illusion of Havana as a responsible stakeholder. Full diplomatic relations have been restored, numerous economic restrictions have been eased, and more U.S. concessions are expected. These steps, according to Secretary of State John Kerry, are rooted in a decision “to stop being the prisoners of history and to focus on the opportunities of today and tomorrow.”
With the Holy See playing an integral role in this U.S.–Cuba rapprochement, will the pontiff follow Washington’s lead and also wipe the slate clean? Will the Holy Father provide political absolution to the Havana tyranny and Communist-party leadership during his visit to Cuba? Do the elements exist that would justify forgiving their crimes?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the sacrament of forgiveness requires “contrition, confession, and satisfaction.” Contrition requires the sinner to possess deep sorrow for past offenses against God and neighbors. The sinner must be firmly committed to amend his evil ways and resolve to sin no more. In the case of Cuba, the dictatorship does not detest the more than five decades of murder, torture, arbitrary arrests of human-rights dissidents and political opponents, or infanticide using Rivanol (among other methods). Quite the opposite.
Raúl Castro’s words and deeds are boastful and strident in defense of Communism and the totalitarian system that his brother started and he continues.
Raúl Castro’s words and deeds since December 17, 2014, are boastful and strident in defense of Communism and the totalitarian system that his brother started and he continues. The Castro machinery is stained with the blood and tears of prisoners of conscience and human-rights defenders. The regime shows no remorse for past acts. In fact, it gave a hero’s welcome to a convicted Cuban spy who was complicit in the murder of innocent Americans. It still harbors wanted terrorists, killers, and other fugitives. Injuries continue. Thousands of men and women of all races, ages, and backgrounds, seeking to exercise their fundamental rights, have been beaten and arrested in just the last eight months.
#share#Turning to the other elements necessary for forgiveness, the Catechism, citing the Council of Trent, further instructs that sinners, in addition to having a contrite and humble heart, must “confess with the lips” and practice “fruitful satisfaction.” It continues: “One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm. . . . Simple justice requires as much.” The penance “must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed.” In the case of other egregious offenses committed by the Castro regime, such as confiscation of private property and goods, the Catechism references the sinner’s “return of stolen goods” and “compensation for injuries.” Saint Augustine’s maxim underscores that “the sin is not forgiven unless what has been taken away is restored.” On all fronts, whether mortal or venial sins, Cuba’s Communist leadership has not taken steps to “make amends” or “expiate.” Instead, the apparatchiks have gone to great lengths to avoid accountability, shifting the blame to their victims.
The five-plus decades of heinous crimes carried out, knowingly and willingly, by Fidel and Raúl Castro, by the regime and its party machinery, are particularly grave in nature. There is no contrition, no public acknowledgment of transgressions, no atonement. Pope Francis should not grant political absolution or forgiveness. Instead, he should remind representatives of the Havana tyranny of Proverbs 14:19: “The evil shall fall down before the good: and the wicked before the gates of the just.”
— Yleem D .S. Poblete is former chief of staff of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where served for close to two decades. She is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.