Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Cardinal's Mass for the Pharisees

I was born and raised a Catholic, inculcated in the faith by the old style Sisters of Charity with their bonnets and pendulous rosaries and intransigent adherence to the faith. The result of which has been that I have carried around a load of Catholic guilt most of my life. But throughout it all, the Church stood before me holding up an ideal.

It didn’t matter when they themselves fell short of it. I would tell myself, the institution is human; the faith, divine. Even the sexual scandal could not shake my faith. I felt in part that they got their just desserts and in the other I thought the excessive hype was part of a liberal left agenda to effectively silence the church as a moral force on issues where the Church’s stance was inconvenient.

But the behavior of Cardinal Bertone in Cuba crystallized for me in one instant just how far it has strayed from the faith inspired by a poor Nazarene carpenter. I am indebted to Leonard Doyle for his description of the proceedings. See it was the Mass, the Mass for the invited. Left off the guest list for some reason were the Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White- the wives, the mothers, the relatives of the political prisoners the regime says do not exist. These women attend Mass weekly. The murderers and thieves that make up Cuba’s Mafia were invited, however; they had front row seats.

The ladies were initially denied entry. Then they were forced to stand in the back, a position the Cardinal’s procession somehow avoided. At a point in the Mass when the Cardinal was asking for Cuban reconciliation, they broke into religious song, causing a near fracas with the security people. Did the Cardinal avail himself of that moment to ask even in the gentlest of terms that the government, those very men sitting in front of him in their Italian suits with their trophy wives/dates/whatever, reconsider their treatment of their fellow man? No, after a moment he continued. Bestowing an embrace and a churchly cloak over one of the worst remaining band of cutthroats running a country. Did he stop and say, “I cannot continue, because this sacrifice would not be acceptable to my Lord in these circumstances?” Or did he come off the altar, walk to the back and extend his hand saying, “Come my children. The Lord said that the last will be first.” Did he seat them before the altar, as Jesus would have done?

He did none of these and in his omission rendered a mockery of the most solemn of Catholic rites. I have never been so ashamed of my church.

Read Leonard Doyle’s article here. It is a seldom seen in the media perspicacious view of Cuba as it truly is.

H/T Gusano at Babalublog

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