Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro, may God have mercy on him

The news of the day is that the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died peacefully in Cuba at the ripe old age of 90. Castro was a man who, during and in the immediate aftermath of his guerilla war against the U.S.-backed and undoubtedly corrupt right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista, generated much hope among his people. He had the opportunity to be their liberator, a truly heroic person. But Castro took a pass on being a true liberator of his people, choosing instead that warmed-over Leninism known as Stalinism and spent the rest of his life, at least until he grew too weak to rule, brutally dashing the hopes and aspirations of the vast majority of the Cuban people. It's easy to forget that Castro did not publicly declare that he was a Communist and ally himself with the Soviet Union until after the success of his revolution.

Along with Andrew Roberts, writing for Great Britain's Spectator, and in the wake of certain responses to news of Castro's death, like that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Great Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbin, who called Castro "a champion of social justice," I find myself asking, "Why are left-wing dictators always treated with more reverential respect when they die than right-wing ones, even on the Right? The deaths of dictators like Franco, Pinochet, Somoza are rightly noted with their history of human rights abuses front and centre, but the same treatment is not meted out to left-wing dictators who were just as monstrously cruel to people who opposed their regimes."

Unsurprisingly, the response of President Obama, which was quite measured, and that of President-elect Trump, which was quite blunt, could not be more different. In comments he made to the press about Fidel Castro's death, President Obama said something about history being the judge of Castro and his legacy.

I do think President Obama made the right choice to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and begin to ramp down the U.S. embargo. However, during Castro's prime, I think the embargo was a good idea. Otherwise, we would've been enabling another dictatorship. When it comes to Latin America, the United States badly needs to examine its conscience and seek to make amends. I'll give Castro this, he outsmarted the CIA for many years, which, if written and published accounts are to be believed, wasn't that difficult in the '60s and '70s. That was a sad era that was brought to an end by the Church Committee hearings in the U.S. Senate.

Fidel Castro no doubt during one his boring, hours-long discourses (Getty)

In these final hours of the last day of this Year of Grace, liturgically approaching the end of time, it bears noting that "history" will not be Fidel Castro's, or anyone else's, final judge. The judgment of history, as important as it is, is a human judgment. Christ will judge Fidel Castro, just as He will judge you and me when He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead. I pray that God has mercy on Castro, I truly do. I sincerely hope that he repented before his passing. God is merciful. I pray this for a number of reasons, among which is my realization that on judgment day, I, too, will need God's mercy. My plan for my defense on that great and terrible day is to prostrate myself before the Judge, who is also my Savior (in Hebrew, my go'el), and say what I hope will be a perfect enough Act of Contrition.

In my post for the First Sunday of Advent I already cited Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical letter Spe salvi, which is on the theological virtue of hope. Hope is far and away the least understood of the three theological virtues, which are called "theological" because, unlike the natural virtues, these can only be obtained as gifts from God. During his pontificate Benedict XVI issued two encyclicals: Deus caritas est, on the theological virtue of love, and Spe salvi. It fell to Pope Francis to complete the series, which he did by promulgating Lumen fidei, on the theological virtue of faith. This last in the series, it is generally acknowledged, was largely composed by Pope Benedict prior to his resignation and added to in parts by Pope Francis prior to its formal promulgation. In the spirit of bringing our faith to bear on reality, on what really happens in the world, I cite the forty-fourth paragraph of Spe salvi more fully:
To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope (cf. Eph 2:12). Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so. The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. Is it not also a frightening image? I would say: it is an image that evokes responsibility, an image, therefore, of that fear of which Saint Hilary spoke when he said that all our fear has its place in love. God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoevsky, for example, was right to protest against this kind of Heaven and this kind of grace in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened

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