Cubans are not typically known for a deficient combative disposition. Watching exiled welterweight champions Luis Manuel Rodriguez and Benny Kid Pared, or Florentino Fernandez (renowned for his left) would make me immensely proud as an exiled child in New York watching the fights on TV with my late father. Those were the early 1960’s – early exile.
Then too there is that terrible memory of awaiting news about Benny Kid Pared, after his last duel with Emile Griffith. Apparently he had provoked Mr. Griffith ire prior to their duel, for which Griffith should have demanded an apology, if he believed he deserved one. Instead, in the last round of the fight he kept pounding on Pared after the latter’s guard had come totally down and his back was against the ropes. The referee was behind Griffith’s back and unfortunately stopped the fight seconds too late. Pared would never recover.
Benny Kid Pared Vs. Emile Griffith
Last round and Last Fight
Cubans can obviously be bullies too. In 1960, “milicianos”, responding to the emerging Castro dictatorship’s wholesale seizure of Cubans’ parental rights wanted to force my thirteen and fifteen year old sisters to be educated by them at the other end of the archipelago. My parents refused to go along. Exile until death was the result for my father and grandparents.
More recently we have the death of dissident Wilfredo Soto, three days after an alleged secret brutal beating by Castro’s political police. Apparently he too had provoked the ire of the ones accused of assassinating him, but only because he innocently asserted his intrinsic rights.
Four months before Mr. Soto’s death, Guillermo Fariñas had reported online through Cubanacan (FCP) that Mr. Soto had been placed under house arrest to prevent him and Ramón Arboláez from participating in a dissident meeting on February 4. Mr. Arbolaez was threatened with having “his” home taken away and being left on the streets with his wife and children. Both had their national identification cards seized and when they were returned on February 7, they were reportedly threatened with imprisonment should they persist with dissident activities.
Mr. Soto persisted and it is nine days since he was detained while participating in a non violent protest and informing Mario Lleonart, a protestant pastor whom he spoke to frequently, of having been severely beaten by Cuba’s political police.
It is now six days since his death.
At Mr. Soto’s funeral the pastor confessed the outrage he felt and how he prayed. Then he went further.
He explained that the problem is an “old one” and began to read from the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis about Cain’s murder of Abel. He pointed to how the book depicts God’s outrage, quoting it:
“‘Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?’ He answered, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The LORD then said: ‘What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! …'”
Then he told the few that were gathered how Mr. Soto’s blood also cried out to God.
Yet, he reasoned, that it was the system and not anyone in particular who was to blame. The system, he clarified, failed because it is there to uphold peace and order and not to promote violence. (Excuse me, pastor. But don’t you think you went too far on this one? When has the system not been violent since 1959? Structures of sin do not eliminate personal sin or responsibility. The system was created and is kept in place by one man and his brother.)
The pastor’s attack on the system was swiftly followed by an unprecedented call on the (political?) police to disobey calls to violence and to defend the people that they should be protecting.
The pastor further proclaimed that “Wifredo’s blood has not been shed in vain…and that it announces a Cuba that is about to arrive.”
Then he accused someone (it is unclear who he refers to) of responding to God just like Cain and boldly concluding that the Cuban regime is cursed and has signed its own death sentence.
That did not stop him from asking for forgiveness towards Mr. Soto’s personal aggressors and calling for national reconciliation.
Pastor Speaking at Wilfredo Soto’s Funeral
Agreed. One can forgive even those who are not sorry. In the Catholic Church one is taught that forgiveness is fundamentally an act of will inspired by Christ (who died for our sins), not necessarily connected to a good feeling. The victim’s feeling may even be quite the opposite. The Catholic Catechism hence teaches (par 1851):
“…the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.”
But for there to be national reconciliation there must also be recognition of the truth, and repentance. Placing any ideology above existential truth leads people to disagree about what is true and about what it is necessary to repent for.
Existential truth has been revealed by God most perfectly in and through Christ. Catholics understand that the Church’s Magisterium, inspired by the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus Christ, leads us to all truth. Anyone’s opinions are therefore simply wrong, in part or completely, when they are not consistent with the Church’s teaching. If the Catholic Church teaches that something is a sin, that is what it is, whether one agrees or not. That is what we Catholics believe because we believe Christ founded the Church and is present.
Consistent with the authority it received from Christ and his teachings, the Catholic Church Catechism (par 982) tells us:
There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. “There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest.