Advertisement

Fidel Castro, the Catholic Church and Revolution in Cuba

  • Margaret Crahan
Part of the Latin American Studies Series book series (LASS)

Abstract

In November 1959 over one million people gathered in Havana, Cuba, for a national Catholic congress. In a country long regarded as having the weakest Catholic Church in all of Latin America, the turnout was remarkable. 1 The message the organisers wanted to communicate was clear: namely, that Fidel Castro was not the only one capable of turning out massive numbers of supporters.2 A further objective of the meeting was to express Catholic support for social justice within a framework of liberal capitalism while rejecting communism.

Keywords

Religious Freedom Church Leader Socialist Society Pastoral Letter Liberal Capitalism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

NOTES

  1. 1.
    In 1960 church sources estimated that 70–75 per cent of Cubans were nominal Catholics, the lowest percentage in all Latin America. Protestants claimed three to six per cent of a total population of approximately 7 500 000. The Jewish community reportedly numbered 12 000 with most residing in Havana. Practising Catholics, defined by the Church as individuals who attended services four or more times a year, were thought to constitute only five to eight per cent of nominal Catholics. Other indices of loyalty to or involvement in the Catholic Church such as reception of the sacraments and participation in religious instructions or church groups were also low as compared to most other Latin American countries. Nevertheless, Christianity was a pervasive cultural presence, which helped mould normative values, as well as ideology. Religious appeals, as a consequence, helped mobilise some one million Cubans in late 1959 as political and social ferment grew in Cuba in the face of an increasingly radical revolution.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Claude Julien, ‘Church and State in Cuba: Development of a Conflict’, Cross Current?, XI, 2 (Spring 1961) p. 188.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mariano Errasti,‘La noche mas luminosa de la historia de Cuba’, La quincen?, V, 23–4 (diciembre de 1959) p. 55.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Alfred L. Padula, Jr., ‘The Fall of the Bourgeoisie: Cuba 1959–1961’ (Doctoral dissertation, University of New Mexico, 1974) p. 459.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Monsignor Adolfo Rodríquez,‘Discurso Inaugural de ENEC pronunciado por Mons. Adolfo Rodríguez, Presidente de la Conferencia Episcopal de Cuba, en Nombre de los Obispos Cubanos’, and ‘Breve Resena Histórica de la Evangelización en Cuba’, Encuentro Nacional Eclesial Cubano (ENEC), Documento Fina? (Miami: Instituto de Estudios Cubanos, 1987) pp. 7–19, 31; Maria Rosa Lorbés, ‘Encuentro Nacional Eclesial Cubano: una Iglesia fiel a Cristo y a su pueblo’, Pagina?, XI, 77 (mayo 1986) pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Because of space limitations and the predominance of the Catholic Church, this Chapter will focus on that institution rather than on the Protestant churches, Jewish community or Afro-Cuban religions.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    ENEC, Documento Fina?, p. 29.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    François Houtart and Andre Rousseau, The Church and Revolutio? (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1971) pp. 113–14.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    A 1957 survey of 400 rural families by Agrupación Cat#x00F3;lica revealed that 42.34 per cent had inadequate housing with only 3.26 per cent having running water and 63.97 per cent were without indoor sanita-tion. Only 7.27 per cent had electricity. Disease was endemic among the rural population with 36.10 per cent having suffered from para-sites; 13.25 per cent from typhus, 30.93 per cent from malaria, and 13.99 per cent from tuberculosis. Illiteracy was 43.09 per cent and 44.11 per cent never attended school. Only 52.1 per cent identified themselves as Catholics and over half of these (53.5 per cent) said they had never laid eyes on a priest. This latter statistic reveals the degree to which rural Cuba was unevangelised.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    In 1955 the Catholic Church had approximately 250 charitable institutions and programmes in Cuba. These included 58 hospitals and asylums. In 1987 there were 8 such institutions, which included several oldage homes and a leprosarium. Hospital facilities and asylums are now maintained by the government. ENEC, Documento Fina?, pp. 28–9; Anuario Pontificio, 1987? Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    ENEC, Documento Fina?, p. 30.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Claude Julien, ‘Church and State’, p. 187.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Padula, ‘The Fall’, pp. 441–5.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ibid., pp. 143, 453–4.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Maria Teresa Bolivar Arostegui et al?, ‘Cuban Christians and Puebla’, LADOC‘Keyhol?’ Serie?, 17 (Washington: United States Catholic Conference, 1980) p.41.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Julien, ‘Church and State,’ p. 188.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Padula, ‘The Fall’, p. 166.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    As quoted in Julien, ‘Church and State’, p. 188. For the original Spanish text of the pastoral letter, see Enrique Perez Serantes, ‘Por Dios y Por Cuba’, 16 May 1960 (Santiago), in Ismael Teste, Historia Eclesiástica de Cub?, V (Barcelona: Artes Graficas Medincelli, 1975) pp. 562–8.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Conferencia Episcopal de Cuba, ‘Carta Abierta del Episcopado al Primer Ministro’ (4 December 1960); Enrique Pérez Serantes,‘Ni Traidores, ni Parias’ (24 September 1960); ‘Roma o Moscu’ (November 1980); ‘Con Cristo o Contra Cristo’ (24 December 1960); Teste, Historia Eclesiastic?, V, pp. 603–6, 569–72, 572–7, 585–90.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Houtart and Rousseau, Church and Revolutio?, pp. 122–4; Leslie Dewart, Christianity and Revolution: The Lesson of Cub? (New York: Herder & Herder, 1963) p. 165; Padula, ‘The Fall’, pp. 491–2; Interview IH 4714111. In 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1979 and 1984, I conducted some 80 interviews of Cuban church people on the island, in Spain, and in the United States. Some interviewees in Spain requested anonymity and hence all interviews are identified by letter and number only.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Carlos Manuel de Cespedes as quoted in Antonio Benítez Rojo,‘Fresh Air Blows Through the Seminary’, LADO? ‘Keyhol?’ Serie?, 7 (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, nd) p. 53.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Mateo Jover, ‘The Cuban Church in a Revolutionary Society’, LADO?, 4, 32 (April 1974) p. 27.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Houtart and Rousseau, Church and Revolutio?, pp. 124–5.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Raimundo Garcia Franco, ‘Pastores en la U.M.A.P.: Dialogo en la U.M.A.P.’, MSS (10 February 1966) p. 108; Juan Clark, Religious Repression in Cub? (Coral Gables: University of Miami, 1985) pp. 21–3; Interviews IM 5771112; I? 4701181; IH 377221.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Cuban Christians for Socialism, ‘How Christians in Cuba See Their Future’, LADO? ‘Keyhol?’ Serie?, 7, p.77.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Jover, ‘The Cuban Church’, p. 23; El Equipo Diocesano de Jovenes de Camaguey,‘Estadística Socioreligiosa de la Diocesis de Camaguey’, MSS (1967) pp. 19–21; Jim Wallace, ‘Christians in Cuba’, Cuba Resource Center Newslette?, II?, 1 (April 1973) p. 7; Interview IM 5771112.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Antonio Benítez Rojo, ‘Fresh Air Blows Through the Seminary’, p. 4; Cuban Christians for Socialism, ‘How Christians in Cuba See Their Future’; Episcopal Conference of Cuba, ‘Pastoral Letter’, 10 April 1969, LADO? ‘Keyhol?’ Serie?, 7 (Washington: United States Catholic Conference, nd), pp. 4, 76–7, 46–9; Houtart and Rousseau, Church and Revolutio?, p. 124; Wallace, ‘Christians’, pp. 4–5; Interview IM 5771112.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    National Congress on Education and Culture, ‘Declaration, April 30, 1971’, LADO? ‘Keyhol?’ Serie?, 7, p. 51.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Constitution of the Republic of Cub? (Havana: Instituto Cubano del Libro, 1975) p. 30.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Interview IH 67328.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    José Manuel Meyares as quoted in Elmer Rodríquez, ‘Cuba: Who Said There is No Religious Freedom in Cuba?’, Prensa Latina Feature Servic?, 168 (1 May 1977) pp. 2–3.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
  33. 33.
    Center for Cuban Studies Archives, D 888, ‘Resolution on Religion: First Party Congress of the Cuban Communist Party’ (December 1975) p. 35.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Partido Comunista de Cuba, Plataforma Programática: Tésis y Resolucio? (Havana: Editorial Ciencias Sociales, 1978) pp. 100–2.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Fidel Castro, ‘There Are No Contradictions’, Granma Weekly Revie? (20 November 1977) p. 5.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Ibid, pp. 3–9.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    D. P. Noonan, Interview with Jaime Ortega Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, July 1982, xerox, np; Bolivar Arostegui, ‘Cuban Christians’, pp. 45–6; 50.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Harry Genet, ‘Cuba: The Church Finds Its Role in a Socialist State’, Christianity Toda?, 23 (21 December 1979) p. 40; Herbert Meza,‘Is There Freedom of Worship in Cuba? An Eyewitness Report’, CELE?, IV, 3 (October 1977) p. 59.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Noonan,‘Interview . . . Ortega’, np.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    John Hogan, ‘Reflections on a Visit to Cuba’, Origins: NC Documentary Servic?, 9, 7 (5 July 1979) p. 110.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Joseph B. Treaster, ‘Religion in Cuba: Castro Now Eyes It Less Coldly’, New York Time? (20 May 1985) p.4.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    William R. Long, ‘Cuba and Church - A Thaw Starts’, Los Angeles Time? (12 April 1986) p.31.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
  44. 44.
  45. 45.
    Since 1979 the Catholic Church has reported an increase in the number of baptisms, church marriages and funerals, as well as an upsurge of popular religiosity. Don Shannon, ‘Church’s Impact on Latin Affairs Helps Its Position in Cuba’, Los Angeles Time? (25 May 1986) pp. 1–28.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Long, ‘Cuba and Church’, p.31.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    United States Catholic Conference (USCC), National Catholic Office for Information, ‘Bishops See Hope for Improvement in Church-Government Relations in Cuba’ (28 January 1985) p. 1.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    ‘Statement by Delegation from Cuban Episcopal Conference’, United States Catholic Conference New? (16 September 1985) p. 3.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    ‘Moving Towards Reconciliation: Church-State Relations in Cuba’, Cuban-American Bulleti? 3, 3 (December 1985) pp. 1–2.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bishop Pedro Meurice as quoted in Eve Gilcrist, ‘Cuban Catholic Encuentro Calls for Evangelism, Dialogue’, NC News Service (27 February 1986) p. 3.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    ENEC, Documento Fina?, pp. 94–7.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Ibid., pp. 99–100.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Monsignor Jaime Ortega Alamino, ‘Homilia Pronunciado por S.E. Mons. Jaime Ortega Alamino, Arzobispo de La Habana, en el Primer Aniversario de la Celebración del Encuentro Nacional Eclesial Cubano’ (18 February 1987) Havana, Cuba, pp. 1–4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dermot Keogh 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Crahan

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations