To quote a close friend of mine, “Pope Francis and Joe Biden are the Bizarro World counterparts to Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan.” Where the earlier pair dedicated themselves to defeating an evil yet Hydra-like ideological system, and triumphed in their lifetime, their successors do much to advance its principles within the free world. And it is a free world precisely because Reagan and the Pope helped liberate Eastern Europe and East Germany and collapse the empire that enslaved them. Yet the two modern leaders promulgate some of the fallen state’s worst devices, fabricating chimeras — institutional racism, climate change, wealth inequity, nativism — and coddling anti-American tyrants to divide and weaken the West, as the USSR tried its damnedest to do.
You can almost excuse Joe Biden as a desiccated liberal stooge following in the toxic Democratic progressive tradition from Woodrow Wilson through FDR and LBJ to his former boss, Barack Obama. Ceding to outrageous demands from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and begging Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro is standard operating procedure for the likes of him. But you can certainly challenge Pope Francis, whose lineage extends to much earlier — to the establishment of the Church by our Lord, Jesus Christ. “On this rock I will build my Church,” Jesus said. “And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). Unfortunately, misguided pontiffs like Pope Francis can damage it. And last week, a humble but incredibly valiant Cuban priest, Father José Conrado Rodríguez, called him out in an open letter.
Like any churchgoing Roman Catholic, I feel uncomfortable criticizing the head of my Church and descendant of Saint Peter. And I give him enormous credit for not going woke and maintaining a hard line against the infamy of abortion, much to the lamentation of the Left. But I have far less to lose than my old family friend, Father Conrado — like not just his priesthood but his life.
Conrado became a pastor in Cuba long after Castro started the island on its God-forsaken path to ruin. He has hungered for food and freedom along with his people and uplifted many from the pit of despair. Recently, he suffered the regime’s crushing of the Cuban youth uprising — partly because the wrong president was in power here — while the Pope was babbling about climate change in his luxurious Vatican dwelling. It was Francis’ silence on the plight of Cuba that led him to write the letter. The spiritual and physical courage it took to present it in public is hard for many to measure. I have translated the letter and provide some key excerpts below:
Dear Holy Father:
How do I describe the joy we felt when we learned that a brother of ours, a son of Hispanic America, had been elected Supreme Pastor of the Holy Church, successor to the Apostle Peter in Rome. Joy and admiration that kept growing with the first decisions of the new Pope.… With what enthusiasm we heard that the new Pope wanted priests “with the scent of lamb,” minus the luxuriant airs of the outside world!…
In Buenos Aires, a reporter for the Nation interviewed me to learn my opinion about the new Pope, and I told him: “Francis has many times surprised me but has never defrauded me.”
I found it amusing at first that You maintained a distance from President Donald Trump — at that time the most powerful man on Earth — but it became harder to observe the prodigious smiles for leftist dictators: Nicolás Maduro, Daniel Ortega, Evo Morales, among others.
During your visit to Cuba in 2015, it was a very disagreeable surprise that you prevented dissidents from greeting the Pope in the Nunciature of Havana, as was anticipated. The following day, though the same situation recurred in the Havana Cathedral — the Holy See remained silent and did not issue a formal and public protest about the behavior of the Cuban government, let alone its … abuse of dissidents whom the Pope wished to greet.
Recent occurrences in Nicaragua, with the jailing of Bishop Rolando Alvarez and a group of his closest collaborators, clergy and lay persons, in Matagalpa has again placed on the mantel the subject of silence before the abuses by leftist dictators. They are especially worrisome in the imprisonment of opposition candidates to the presidency, the brutal seizure of the entire social and political dissidence, and the declared religious persecution by the dictator Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo. I recall the same Chilean tune in the times of Pinochet: “What will say the Holy Father who lives in Rome, as they behead his doves?”
The friends who have helped with the counsels and suggestions to write this letter have warned me to not touch on the topic of Catholics in China and, in particular, the martyred Church confessants in that country. But the recent visit by Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, and the publication of her conclusions about the persecution of the Muslim population in China has heightened the topic of the relations of the Apostolic See with our Chinese brothers. The information … has left evidence of the brutal manner in which the Chinese government treats the Uyghur population in the Sinkiang region and alerts us about the religious persecution that has met our brothers of the underground Church. For a Pope who comes from the Society of Jesus, the conversion of China is not, nor can be, a marginal subject.
In my open letter to Fidel Castro … I indicated that using, inside and outside our country, hatred, division, violence, suspicion and enmity has been the principal cause of our past and present disgraces. Now is when we see it most clearly. The hypertrophy of the State, increasingly more powerful, left our people defenseless and silent. The absence and non-existence of freedom spaces that would allow sane criticisms and alternative criteria have surrounded us with the hazardous condition of political monopoly and social intolerance. Its fruit was hypocrisy and dissimulation, insincerity and mendacity. And the general atmosphere of intimidation affects everyone on the island.
That sort of politics has brought our economy to ruin, we have lost the sense of what things cost and — what is worse — people. The depreciation of human life is a result of violence and repression. People here no longer earn their bread with the sweat of our brow, and now live with a major dependency towards the help that others can give us. We have lived in a deceptive lie and deceived ourselves. We have done wrong, and that wrong has turned against us, over us.
We cannot leave behind the man thrown on the side of the road, like the priest and Levite did in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We must alight from the saddle, we must cleanse and heal the wounds. We have to “raise the voice and sound the alarm.” If not, we become complicit in the culpable silence.
Holiness, your interview in the Univision chain to honor the first anniversary of the popular uprising of July 11, 2021 in Cuba surprised many on the island and off it. Holy Father, the Cubans feel a distant shame for You.
How is it possible that the Pope can overlook a brutal repression against peaceful citizens who shouted at Villa Vida … and expressed their enormous yearning for liberty and justice against a government that has spent 63 years in power removing rights and crushing an entire population? The close to a thousand prisoners — the majority of them young, including some underage — who now fill the jails sound a clamor that reaches to Heaven and should move the hearts of those leading the world, and of the populations and nations of Earth. But, above all, of the Church, and its Supreme Pastor, the server of the servants of God.
With sadness, I transmit to you what a young and excellent priest told me: “Sometimes the Pope sounds to me more like an ideologue than like a prophet or a pastor.” Something more, and terrible, happened that day: The president of the nation and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba issued a call not for modernization and concordance, but for repression and violence against the complainants, at the hands of those who counted on the use and possession of arms.…
Holiness, the word of the Apostle of our independence, José Martí, is still a paradigm of justice and equality for Cubans of all tendencies. I wish to site Martí in a brilliant context: “Treacherous assassin, ingrate to God and enemy of men, is he who, on the pretext of directing the new generations, shows them an isolate cloud and absolute doctrine, and brings to the ear not the sweet platitude of love but the evangelical barbarity of hate.”
We are servers of truth, that makes us free. The prophet Jeremiah recalled how the Lord told him: “Be not afraid of them, for I shall deliver you.” In the name of Truth, I beseech You, Holiness, don’t let yourself be involved in affairs guided or inspired by principles of power or the “Reason of the State.” Don’t let yourself be cajoled or deceived by the illustrious of this world. Your place is not among them, but by the side of the people. Your logic should be that of Jesus Christ: detached from all range and category, to serve from the low and the poor. You must defend the sheep: in Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, China. Always with the oppressed, never with the oppressors.
“One cannot serve two masters.” We are humble servant of the Lord and of His people. You as Pope and I as pastor of a small portion … Only when the faithful can see that we place them before any other consideration or interest will they muster the strength to defeat defenselessness and desperation.
I totally support the posture of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, ex-prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith: “Perhaps the Church should be more free and less attached to the mundane logics of power, consequentially, more at liberty to intervene and, if necessary, to criticize those politicians who end up suppressing human rights.”
Perhaps the Vatican will heed the courageous letter, perhaps not. But the rest of Italy might. Election Sunday brought a huge victory to the right-wing coalition of new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the first woman to hold that office. Meloni is pro-family, anti-gay lobby, anti-gender ideology, anti-abortion, anti-Islamic violence, anti-open borders, anti-mass immigration. The Western elite and media are going berserk. They despise Meloni and love the Pope. But for the first time, Italy is more conservative than the Vatican. Maybe someday Cuba will be too, thanks to brave men like Father Conrado.