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Will The Pope Absolve Fidel Castro?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Pope Benedict XVI will visit Cuba in March. Two of Italy’s top newspapers are reporting that Fidel Castro will avail himself of the visit to confess his sins and be accepted back into The Catholic Church, which excommunicated him in 1962.

“During this last period, Fidel has come closer to religion,” says Castro’s estranged daughter Alina who lives in Miami. “He has rediscovered Jesus at the end of his life. It doesn’t surprise me because dad was raised by Jesuits.”

A baptized and confirmed Catholic, but lifelong layman, I don’t claim expertise in ecclesiastical matters. But before granting absolution the Catholic Church, I’m fairly sure, still requires contrition—sincere contrition.

On his 1998 visit to Cuba, Pope John Paul II remarked that he was “reserving judgment on Che Guevara who had served the poor.” Upon greeting the Cuban ambassador to the Holy See in 2005, this same Pontiff hailed Cuba’s “gains in health care and education.” The above makes patently obvious that, on matters Cuban, the Vatican references the same media and academic sources gleefully bestowed Havana bureaus and visas by the Castro regime. Heaven knows the Vatican is not alone on this.

So if the in the Italian papers are right--and with all due respect to whomever has been tasked with hearing Fidel Castro’s confession and granting his absolution—I offer the following educational items regarding Castro’s historical record of sincerity:

"Cuban mothers let me assure you that I will solve all Cuba's problems without spilling a drop of blood." Fidel Castro broadcast that promise into a phalanx of microphones upon entering Havana on January 7, 1959. As the jubilant crowd erupted with joy, Castro continued: “Cuban mothers let me assure you that because of me you will never have to cry."

The following day, just below San Juan Hill in eastern Cuba, a bulldozer rumbled to a start, clanked into position, and pushed dirt into a huge pit with blood pooling at the bottom from the still-twitching bodies of almost a hundred men and boys who'd been machine-gunned without trial on the Castro brothers' orders. Many of the victims’ mothers, wives and mothers wept hysterically from a nearby road as their loved ones were thus buried, some still alive.

Thousands upon thousands more Cuban men and boys (along with some girls) crumpled before Castro and Che’s firing squads in the days and months and years to come.

Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King) were the last words of many of the martyrs. Catholic youth groups were among the first to mount resistance to Castro and Che Guevara’s Stalinization of Cuba. Tragically for them, in the early 60’s the Castro regime’s KGB mentors were still flush from massacring thousands of Catholic (among many other) freedom-fighters during the Polish, Ukrainian and recent Hungarian rebellions against Soviet rule. Denied U.S. help (from 90 miles away) while the Soviets (6,000 miles away) lavished their Caribbean satraps with massive firepower and 40,000 “advisors”, Cuba’s anti-Communist rebels fared no better than did those in Eastern Europe.

In the process of extinguishing the freedom-fight, Castro and Che Guevara’s regime jailed more political prisoners as a percentage of population than Stalin's and executed more people (out of a population of 6.4 million) in its first three years in power than Hitler's executed (out of a population of 65 million) in its first six. These figures come from the human rights group Freedom House and from the Black Book of Communism, authored by French scholars and translated into English by Harvard University Press, not exactly headquarters for “the vast-right wing conspiracy, “ much less of “right-wing Cuban exile crackpots!”

“The defiant yells (“Viva Cristo Rey!”—“Viva Cuba Libre!”) from the bound and staked martyrs would make the walls of La Cabana prison tremble," wrote eyewitness to the slaughter, Armando Valladares, who suffered 22 torture-filled years in Castro’s prisons and was later appointed by Ronald Reagan as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Modern history records few U.S. diplomatic tweaks as slick, or U.S. ambassadors as effective.

Given their defiance even during their last seconds alive, by mid 1961 the mere binding and blindfolding of Castro and Che's murder victims wasn't enough. The Left’s premier poster-boys began ordering that the freedom-fighter be also gagged. The shaken firing-squads demanded it. The yells were badly unnerving the trigger-pullers, you see.

So now, as Castro’s henchmen yanked the martyrs and heroes from the cells, bent their arms back, and bound their hands, two more Communist guards came into play. One grabbed the struggling victim's hair and jerked his head back, trying to steady him. The other taped his mouth shut.

Rigoberto Hernandez was 17 when Che Guevara’s henchmen dragged him from his cell, jerked his head back to gag him, and started dragging him to the stake. Little "Rigo" pleaded his innocence to the very bloody end. But his pleas were garbled and difficult to understand. His struggles while being gagged and bound to the stake were also awkward. The boy had been a janitor in a Havana high school and was mentally retarded. His single mother had pleaded his case with hysterical sobs. She had begged, beseeched and finally proven to his "prosecutors" that it was a case of mistaken identity. Her only son, a boy in such a condition, couldn't possibly have been "a CIA agent planting bombs."

"FUEGO!" The firing squad volley shattered Rigo's little bent body as he moaned and struggled awkwardly against his bounds, blindfold and gag. Remember the gallant Che Guevara's instructions to his revolutionary courts: “judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail.” And remember Harvard Law School's invitation and rollicking ovation to Fidel Castro during the very midst of this appalling bloodbath. “We greeted each other as old friends,” gushed Jimmy Carter upon visiting Fidel Castro last year.

But back to Castro’s sincerity:

“And let me be very clear—VERY clear!” stressed Fidel Castro during his delirious reception by the cream of America’s media at the National Press Club on April 17, 1959. “We are not communists! And communists will never have influence in my country!”

Just a few things to keep in mind, Vatican officials, in the event of hearing Fidel Castro’s “confession,” and accepting his “contrition.”

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