Margarita Mooney on Pope Benedict XVI & Cuba
Date: April 23rd, 2012
We celebrate our 100th episode with returning guest Prof. Margarita Mooney discussing Pope Benedict XVI’s historic visit to Cuba. Prof. Mooney is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Faculty Fellow at the Carolina Population Center. As a Cuban-American, she has maintained a personal link to the island nation, has made several trips to Cuba and maintains contact with a variety of individuals still residing there. Our conversation begins with a general survey of the religious landscape in Cuba since the 1959 communist revolution. Prof. Mooney details how religion, and particularly the Catholic Church, was repressed by the Castro regime. Priests were imprisoned and bishops excluded from the island, serving to weaken the institutional strength of the Catholic Church, but not extinguish its presence entirely. We also discuss how communism served to create what Prof. Mooney terms “anthropological impact,” a concept that basically relates to how social relations between individuals are damaged. As we discuss later, repairing this damage was a centerpiece of Pope Benedict’s message to Cubans. The recent religious history of Cuba also covers the relative thawing between the communist regime and the Church following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Cuban government’s subsequent loss of subsidies. The need to rely upon religious institutions for help in dealing basic social services was one of the concerns here. We also talk about the importance of Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to the island in 1998. Following this discussion, Margarita summarizes the main points made by Pope Benedict XVI in his “Homily in Havana.” The issue of promoting “authetic liberty” as well as promoting virtue as a basis for creating an “authentic fatherland” were central to the pope’s message to Cubans. Prof. Mooney also notes Pope Benedict’s emphasis on marriage, an aspect of the homily overlooked by the media, and why this was such an important point of emphasis for an ailing culture in Cuba. She also notes that the pope brought up the issues of faith & reason and his concern over the relativism that has been creeping into the intellectual thought of many Western nations. We finish off the interview with Margarita’s thoughts on how the pope’s visit has affected the Cuban Catholic Church and whether it exaccerbated or healed some rifts within the institutional leadership as to how the Church must deal with the regime. It is noted that some priests have preferred a more confrontational approach while the hierarchy has urged more prudence in dealing with a regime that appears to be at an important crossroads with both Fidel and his brother Raúl entering their twighlight years. Prof. Mooney closes with some optimistic thoughts about the future of Cuba and the role that faith will play in that nation. Recorded: April 16, 2012.
Prof. Margarita Mooney’s webpage.
The Black, White and Gray blog on Patheos.com.
Direct links to Prof. Mooney’s blog postings on Cuba at Black, White, and Gray.
Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora, by Margarita Mooney.
Margarita Mooney on Religion & Haitian Immigrants.
Roger Finke on Religious Persecution.
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