To Isolate and Marginalize: Obama takes Cue from Castro
by Christian Tappe
Next week, Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba in an effort to repair relations between the country and the Church. Perhaps he should pay a visit to the United States as well.
As the Papal visit draws near, there is cautiously brimming hope that the Church will be able to make further strides in Cuba. There have even been whispers of the impending conversion (or reversion) of Fidel Castro, who was excommunicated in 1962.
Such is the state of a country that has actively rejected and persecuted the Church for fifty years.
There is, to be sure, a real and vicious persecution of the Church in Cuba, but it wasn’t always so egregious, or at least it didn’t seem that way at the beginning of Castro’s regime. American Catholics would do well to take note.
A 1960 article by London Observer correspondent George Sherman (here printed in the August 6, 1960, edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) details Fidel Castro’s strategy for the Church just a year after he became Prime Minister:
To isolate rather than destroy. To allow worship…and nothing else. Sound familiar? It should.
President Obama began using the term “freedom to worship” in his speech at Fort Hood in 2009, less than a year into his presidency. And he and his administration have notably continued to use this language—as opposed to “freedom of religion”—a significant difference in terms.
Furthermore, unless the new HHS mandate changes, many Catholic hospitals (and possibly colleges) will either have to compromise the very beliefs that make them Catholic hospitals (or colleges) or shut down. Or serve only Catholics, thus accomplishing a major step toward Catholic “isolation.”
In his piece from fifty years ago, Sherman noted, significantly: “Priests are the first to admit that large sections of the population have little religious training.” In other words, Castro pounced when the Church was already weak. Many so-called Catholics likely didn’t notice any changes. They likely agreed with Castro over the Church on certain policies. And the faithful? Well the faithful, recognizing their reduced numbers and the potential dangers the Castro regime brought, were concerned . . . yet happy they were “allowed” to worship.
And, just like that, the Catholic Church in Cuba was reduced to a bunch of harmless, pious old church ladies. Catholics could still worship, sure. But the hospitals, orphanages, schools, etc. that were run by the Church were taken over by the state. Soon after, Christians were barred from participating in government.
The Church in America is weak. Secularism has been chipping away at it for decades. (This of course is true, but sidesteps the unpleasant task of identifying the real villains within the Church who destroyed the liturgy, doctrine and discipline.) In recent years, many Catholic orphanages have closed after being cut off from public funds because they would not promote abortion, contraception, and the like. And we already know the precarious state of Catholic hospitals and colleges.
Sherman’s observation was dire, terrifying, and prescient . . . and it still applies today. Perhaps the Church is stronger now in the United States than it was then in Cuba, but not exponentially so (and this only if measured by organization-- for the faith is undoubtedly weaker). The Church here is indeed struggling. The bishops, led by Cardinal Dolan, have spoken out, but then again, as Sherman tells us, two of the leading archbishops in Cuba “demonstrated publicly against Soviet influence.”
For the Obama administration, just like in Castro’s fledgling Cuba, it is merely a matter of tactics. How to isolate the Church without inciting a riot. [...]
Modern liberalism relies on a secular society, and a Church that is active in the world throws a wrench into the liberal plan. Castro recognized this and moved to “isolate” Catholics and Catholicism, allowing them to worship, but nothing more. Christians were barred from participating in politics. Christmas was even cancelled.
Now, in a series of moves eerily similar, if not in actual implementation then in spirit, to those of the Castro regime, Catholics in America are facing the same isolation that Cuban Catholics experienced fifty years ago. It started slowly and somewhat innocuously. A token acknowledgment of the “freedom to worship,” or some such meaningless phrase, and then it came quickly and relentlessly. A weak Church subsumed and subjugated by a powerful government (the vaunted "fruits of Vatican II"). And the people were powerless against it.
It won’t move as quickly as it did in Cuba (I respectfully disagree; when the action comes, you will see tissue-thin resistance and all is weakness)—the American political process doesn’t allow for such swift action—but it can still happen fast (remember, the HHS mandate, promulgated by executive fiat will go into effect in August). And there could be some more resistance considering that the Church is a bit stronger here than it was in Cuba in 1960, but not much.
And where Castro attacked the Catholic Church, Obama and other liberals aren’t targeting the Church per se…just its tenants, members, and institutions, while including other Christians in the mix.
But make no mistake. This is happening. It’s the blueprint. Certain aspects of the design have changed over the years, but it is largely the same: Isolate, and then marginalize. And it works. Today, though 60 percent of Cubans are Catholic, only about 5 percent go to Mass.
We Catholics need to fight back, and we need to fight back now. If we don’t, we risk suffering a fate similar to Cuban Catholics.
A recent piece in USA Today discussing the bishops’ latest rejection of the HHS mandate noted what the bishops did not say: they did not accuse the Obama administration of “waging a war on religion” or acknowledge that Republicans have abandoned the cause. And, significantly, “There is no talk of civil disobedience or canceling health insurance . . . if they do not get their way.”
At the end of his piece in 1960, Sherman quoted a prominent (and downtrodden) member of Catholic Action: “Nothing can be done without force, and we do not have that force.”
We have the benefit of history. We cannot make the same mistake. We cannot sit back, hoping for the best, putting our faith in politicians. We must strike back—all of us—with the full force of God and His Church.
Before it’s too late.