The Corner

Like Henry In the Snows of Canossa

I see via Marc Thiessen that Fidel Castro may be looking to convert to Catholicism as part of the Pope’s upcoming visit (I suppose the correct term would be “return to the church”). (My apologies if this was covered in the Corner while I was gone). Apparently Castro is concerned with the fate of his eternal soul. Better late than never, I suppose.

Marc writes at the end of his post:

In 1994, Castro declared he “would rather die than abandon the revolution.” Perhaps as he finally nears death, he has reconsidered. If he truly has, we will know it not by some announcement during the Pope’s visit, but rather by what happens after the Pope departs Cuba. If Castro orders the Cuban gulags emptied; disbands his network of “committees in defense of the revolution” which police neighborhoods and orchestrate “acts of repudiation” against dissidents and their families; shuts down his brutal ministry of the interior and ceases the arbitrary arrest and detention of his political opponents; allows freedom of speech, assembly, and religion, and, ultimately, democratic elections,  then—and only then—will we know that Fidel Castro has truly converted.

This is all well and good, but I think Marc misses an important part of the story. If Castro really does seek to rejoin the Church, shouldn’t Pope Benedict make Castro do significant penance for all of his crimes? My understanding is that the Church usually expects true criminals to get right with the law as well,  if they are seeking forgiveness from the Church. Maybe that would mean demanding Castro present himself to the World Court or some such? I don’t know how that would work.

But surely, the Pope should demand more than a private confession of sin from a man responsible for so much pain, death and spiritual torment? Indeed, for decades Castro persecuted Catholics and demanded atheism of party members, which has got to be up there on the list of Catholic sins. Why not have him spend some time in his own gulag? Or demand he set sea on a raft and try to make it to America? Or, like Henry in the snows of Canossa, publicly beg the Pope for forgiveness?

Obviously, I am no Catholic and the Church will do what the Church will do. But from a very friendly outsider’s perspective, I think Benedict should demand acts over words and public words over private ones.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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