12/04/13 - Progreso Weekly (Miami) - Vicar prefers socialism to 'neoliberalism'
The Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Havana, Monsignor
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y García-Menocal, has gone on record saying that
he prefers "a more participative and democratic socialism" for Cuba, rather
than the "neoliberalism" sought by some.
The prelate gave that opinion and made other significant statements during
a lecture on Nov. 23 at the Félix Varela Cultural Center in Havana devoted
to the legacy of the 19th-Century priest and independence leader for whom
the Center is named. The lecture was published by the Archdiocese's
magazine "Lay Space."
Some Cubans, De Céspedes said, "wish to improve the present socialist
project, to make it more effective toward the attainment of the greatest
possible well-being of all Cubans."
Others "believe that any socialist project has been disqualified by recent
history and, following that line of socio-political thinking, will actively
seek a transition to a liberal society, with a neocapitalist slant."
"It seems to me that both those roads can be consistent with a Varelian
vision of man, of national society and international society, so long as
they exclude, as Father Varela did, any form of annexationism," De Céspedes
went on, alluding to the concern of many that Cuba might be annexed or
absorbed by the United States.
"Let us remember [Varela's] literal expression in that regard: 'Cuba must
be as much of an island in terms of politics as it is in terms of
geography,'" the prelate said. The concept may be Utopian, he said, "but,
in any case, I share it. [...] the latter road, neoliberalism, is not what
I wish for House Cuba; rather, the former, a more participative and
democratic socialism, to which apparently the current changes - in a slow
process of realization - wish to lead us."
"The current changes" is a reference to the ongoing actualization or
updating of the social and economic guidelines set by the Cuban government.
Some in the Church find it "a slow process." (Read "Church Official Wants
Faster Reforms" in Progreso Weekly, Nov. 26.)
To this end, the Catholic Church has a role as facilitator of dialogue
between the government and the people, De Céspedes implies.
"We are summoned to dialogue, a form of brotherly love in a pluralistic
society such as ours, in the face of any form of religious or social
conflict," he says. "The best contribution the Catholic Church can offer
the Cuban nation is the exposition and testimony of the Catholic truth
about God, man and the world in which man lives and develops."
Many Cubans "experience a transitory impossibility to build a society in
accordance to their vision of it," the Vicar says, likely alluding to the
dissidents. "They feel uncomfortable in the contemporary Cuban society,
which is socialist in movement. They would like another type of
socio-political and economic organization for it and for the moment don't
see a way to immediately realize their project. That leads them to social
apathy or geographic distancing," a euphemism for emigration.
If Varela were alive, De Céspedes says, perhaps addressing the dissidents,
he would consider "doing something positive in the bosom of his Church and
his people, along the lines of his project, within the real framework of
today's Cuban society and always in an attitude of dialogue that does not
ignore 'the others.'"
Varela would wonder "what he might sow, knowing that probably he might be
unable to reap." He would "make whatever good contributions are possible,
with realism (which doesn't mean sterile conformity) and simultaneously
with a broad vision that's all-encompassing and anointed with the hope for
a better future."
Elsewhere in his lecture, De Céspedes explores other areas of Cuban society
with a critical eye. About the educational system, he says:
"In Cuba today, 'general' and humanistic formation is extremely poor. [...]
Among us, a young graduate from pre-university school, barely has an
elementary knowledge of Spanish grammar, geography, foreign languages,
history of Cuba and world history and literature. Knows nothing about
classic languages, logic, philosophy, artistic appreciation (music, fine
arts, etc.) and very little about civic and legal principles, etc."
High-school youths "acquire an acceptable knowledge of exact sciences and
technology," but if they take up technical courses in college "they'll not
be fed any general culture or humanities. They become that tide of
university-educated professionals [...] who are incapable of reading a good
book, have not learned to think properly with their own heads or know how
to express themselves correctly, who have never seen a good concert or an
opera or ballet, who are not interested in a play, cannot tell good cinema
from bad, and cannot place a personage in his historical context, etc."
Teachers are much to blame, De Céspedes says.
"Lamentably, we continue to have many teachers who are poorly trained about
the subject they teach, who are simplistic and authoritarian repeaters and
demand a passive attitude from the student." Such educators "cannot arouse
interest [in the student] or help develop their understanding. [...] We
should never overlook the student's active participation in the classroom."
Havana-born Monsignor De Céspedes, 77, holds doctorates in Law and
Philology from the University of Havana and Theology from Gregorian
University in Rome. He has been dean of the St. Charles and St. Ambrose
Seminary in Havana and secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of
Cuba. At present, he is parish priest of the church of St. Augustine in
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