Vatican diplomats are on the verge of a new relationship with China, and, moreover, about to make a deal with the communist state. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Rome is capitulating to an avowed atheistic enemy of religion…
Taking advice from his boss, who encouraged everyone to “go out and make a mess!”, the highly decorated and accomplished Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo—the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences— stated after a recent visit to China that the communist state is exercising global moral leadership in the principles of Catholic social teaching and defense of human dignity.
EWTN reports that bishop Sorondo, from the Pope’s own Argentina, has said the Chinese “seek the common good… subordinate things to the common good.” He said of China, “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not have drugs. There is a positive national consciousness, they want to show that they have changed, they already accept private property.” He continued praising the Peoples’ Republic of China saying they have “defended the dignity of the human person, and in the area of climate change are assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned.*
However, as recently as October 2017 the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China criticized the country’s human-rights practices, condemning the Chinese Communist government’s continued efforts to silence dissent, criminalize activities of human-rights lawyers, control civil society, suppress religious activity, and restrict the operations of foreign media outlets, businesses, and non-governmental organizations.
The timing of Bishop Sorondo’s comments should not come as a surprise to Vatican watchers. Last week the news broke that the Vatican diplomats were on the verge of a new relationship with China, and, moreover, about to make a deal with the communist state.
For a bit of background, after the communist revolution, the Chinese Communists adopted a different policy than did the Russians. The Russian Communists were determined to eradicate religion completely. They imposed atheism on the people of Russia, ruthlessly persecuting Christians, closing monasteries, seminaries, and church schools, dynamiting cathedrals and doing everything they could forcibly to establish an atheistic state.
The Chinese Communists took a different tactic, taking a leaf out of Comrade King Henry VIII’s little red book. In 1957 they established The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. This was, in effect, the Catholic Church of China. Like the Church of England, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association is a pretend Catholic Church rejecting the authority of the pope and appointing its own bishops.
In 1988, a Vatican document barred Catholics from receiving the sacraments in the Catholic Patriotic Association, and since its establishment, there has always been an underground Catholic Church in China that has remained loyal to Rome.
After decades of loyal resistance, persecution, imprisonment, torture and even martyrdom, the reports are that the Vatican is about to submit to the Communists. Allegedly, the Vatican has approved seven bishops put forward by the atheist regime and asked two bishops of the underground church to step aside to make way for the appointments.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month on what has happened:
Last month, a delegation from the Vatican traveled to China and met Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, eighty-eight, who presides over the church in Shantou in the southern province of Guangdong.
In a meeting in Beijing, they asked Zhuang to retire in favor of a bishop appointed by the Chinese government, Huang Bingzhang, who is also a member of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, and was excommunicated by the Vatican in 2011.
Zhuang was in tears at this demand, the website reported.
Another Vatican-appointed bishop, Joseph Guo Xijin in eastern Fujian province, was also asked to downgrade himself and become assistant to a CCPA bishop, Vincent Zhan Silu, the website reported.
Rather than the Vatican approving the Catholic Patriotic Association completely, this seems to be an acceptance that the Chinese government may appoint bishops to govern the underground church. Assurances are given that the Vatican will still “have a say” in the appointment of bishops. However, given the power of a Catholic bishop in his diocese, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Rome is capitulating.
If you read the history of the Church, the interplay between the civil authorities and the pope in clerical appointments has never been far from the surface. In the Middle Ages, kings and emperors were enthusiastic about the right of appointing bishops, priests, and abbots to influential positions, and often the church made compromises, accepting the appointments made by monarchs in order to make gains elsewhere.
However, the relationship was perpetually tense, and furthermore, there is a large difference here. In the circumstances of medieval Europe, the church was accepting the appointments of a Christian ruler, and despite human frailty and failures, one could argue that the appointment was made within a Christian context with the common good of Christendom and the Church in mind.
Can this be said when the authority appointing Church officials is an avowed atheistic enemy of religion? In a recent essay for National Review, George Weigel outlined the disastrous history of the Vatican’s diplomacy with modern European totalitarian states. Utilitarian agreements with Mussolini, Hitler, and the Soviets all caved in on the Catholics. They trusted liars and atheists and thereby only played into their hands. Why should it be any different with Communist-appointed bishops in the Chinese Catholic Church?
Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong has been the most outspoken critic of the proposed concordat:
Zen has become the most vocal opponent of rapprochement between the Vatican and the Communist Party, and he reiterated those concerns in a blog post Monday.
“Is it not good to try to find mutual ground to bridge the decades-long divide between the Vatican and China?” he asked. “But can there be anything really ‘mutual’ with a totalitarian regime? Either you surrender or you accept persecution, but remaining faithful to yourself.”
Zen compared it to making a deal between Saint Joseph, husband of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and King Herod, who in the Bible ordered the execution of young male children.
“So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months,” Zen wrote.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that just at this time Bishop Sorondo has returned from China buoyant with the news that the Communists are now the world leaders in living out the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
He may be a dupe, but does he really expect everyone else to be taken in by his Chinese tour guides?
This is reminiscent of two events in European history: the American and English intelligentsia coming back from their stage-managed tours of Stalinist Russia in the 1930s, all starry-eyed about the communist utopia, and Neville Chamberlain stepping off the plane from his visit to Nazi Germany, waving that piece of paper and declaring “Peace in our time!”
It wasn’t worth the piece of paper it was printed on.
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See the EWTN report here.