Is the Vatican “Surrendering to China”?

On January 31, 2018, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin gave an extensive interview to Vatican Insider in which he explains the reasons the Holy See wishes to engage the Chinese Patriotic Church in “constructive dialogue.”

Of course Parolin assures everyone that the only motive of the Holy See in this matter is “the good of the Chinese people” and “peace in the world.” Essentially, the Secretary of State says that that people who are upset about this new level of cooperation of the Holy See with the patriotic church are “too political’ in their thinking and need to look at this as a spiritual matter of “conversion, mercy, and trust.” These words are incredibly ironic given the hyper-political nature of the pontificate of Francis on every level.

Moreover, Parolin has the audacity to add that the best way to honor the numerous martyrs of the clandestine Church is to go along with the present initiative of the Holy See, because this is what God wants. Here’s the key quote:

Many Chinese Christians, when they celebrate their martyrs who have suffered unjust trials and persecutions, remember that they have been able to rely on God, even in their fragile humanity. Now, the best way to honor this testimony and make it fruitful in the present, is to entrust the present life of Catholic communities in China to the Lord Jesus. But this cannot be done in a spiritualistic and disembodied way. This is done by choosing fidelity to the Successor of Peter, with a spirit of filial obedience, even when not everything appears immediately clear and understandable. About your question, it is not a matter of wiping the slate clean, ignoring or, almost magically erasing the painful path of so many faithful and pastors, but of investing the human and spiritual capital of so many trials to build a more serene and fraternal future, with the help of God. The Spirit who has so far guarded the faith of Chinese Catholics is the same Spirit who supports them today on the new path they have embarked upon. [emphasis added]

It is noteworthy that this unilateral demand for obedience to Francis is the same argument used against those who raise any question about the validity of the teaching of Amoris Laetitia; essentially: “if you really love the Church and have always been concerned about obeying the Magisterium when previous popes issued encyclicals, you need to honor the magisterium now by obeying Pope Francis.”

The tables now have become completely turned; both the dissenters and the communists are now enforcing “orthodoxy”, while those who are faithful to Tradition and the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church are denounced as obstacles to unity. Perhaps we have more in common with the clandestine Chinese Church than we might think.

An excellent editorial published at La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana yesterday, February 1, 2018, gives outstanding insight into how outrageous this betrayal of faithful Chinese Catholics by the Holy See really is: 

The Vatican’s “Long March” Towards Surrender to China

By Riccardo Cascioli

(Translated into English by Giuseppe Pellegrino)

[Editor’s Note: The “Long March” was a military retreat undertaken by the Chinese Red Army between 1934-1936. It was a pivotal event in the rise to power of Mao Zedong.]

The news is true that two legitimate bishops have been asked by the Vatican to resign in order to make room for two bishops of the Patriotic Association. And Pope Francis knows and is involved in all the decisions made by his diplomats in China. This is what must be deduced from the one-two punch of the Holy See made in response to the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun: first with the statement of the Holy See on January 30 and then with the long interview given to Vatican Insider by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The clamorous news of the requested removal of the two legitimate bishops was first reported by Asia News and then confirmed by Cardinal Zen, who, first at Nuova BQ and then on his blog, also gave an account of his trip to Rome [during the second week of January 2018] in order to personally deliver to Pope Francis the painful letter of one of the two bishops, Bishop Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou (Guangdong Province). From his meeting with the Pope, Cardinal Zen had obtained the conviction that the Holy Father had no intention of proceeding in the direction of a total surrender to the Chinese communist regime, as the work of the Vatican diplomatic delegation in China seemed to indicate.

And now behold, right on cue, the statement of the Vatican Press Office appears to clarify that “the Pope is in constant contact with His collaborators, in particular those of the Secretariat of State, on questions regarding China, and he is continually informed by them in detail about the situation of the Catholic Church in China and about the steps of the ongoing dialogue between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which He accompanies with special solicitude.” A statement which does not hide its anger towards Cardinal Zen by aiming its acerbic closing sentence directly at him: “It therefore arouses surprise and regret that persons of the Church are affirming the contrary and thereby fueling confusion and controversy.”

No mention, however, of the story of the two bishops, an indirect confirmation of the veracity of the facts. And further reinforced by Cardinal Parolin who, after paying lip service about understanding and appreciation for the sufferings undergone by the so-called clandestine Church, confirms that this same Church must now pay the price of the normalization of diplomatic relations with the Chinese regime. One could already object to the excessively diplomatic language of the Secretary of State, who speaks with the language of Beijing (“New China” is the term used by Communist China) and, leaving behind tens of thousands of Catholics (among them bishops, priests, laity) who have been killed or imprisoned and tortured in the Laogai (the Chinese gulags), with the phrase “serious contrasts and acute sufferings”  liquidates the split of the Church due to the initiative of the Chinese regime to create a nationalist Church, separated from the Pope, with the formation of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics.

Parolin takes issue with those who use words like surrender, betrayal, compromise, which have a political flavor, while the Church, he says, acts solely for pastoral reasons: thus one needs to use another vocabulary: service, dialogue, mercy, pardon, reconciliation, etc.

No one wants to deny the good intentions of the Secretary of State, but Cardinal Parolin must also realize that, even if the motivations of the Holy See are pastoral, what the Holy See is conducting is a political-diplomatic initiative. And the term “surrender” is more than appropriate for that with which it is assisting, because the Holy See is conceding to the Chinese Communist regime the power of nominating Catholic bishops (a fact already serious in itself) without receiving anything in return, considering that the government in recent months has intensified its repression of the Catholic community and beginning today, February 1, a new regulation takes effect on religious activities which will give further reason for a crackdown.

The affair of the removal of the two bishops is even more serious because the replacements desired by the Chinese government and endorsed by the Holy See are still “not reconciled” with Rome. They are not even among those who, despite having joined the Patriotic Association, have requested in recent years to be received into communion with the universal Church. A total humiliation of Catholics who for decades have undergone great sufferings for their faithfulness to the Pope, and a source of serious confusion. Because it is then legitimate to ask oneself if, in the opinion of the Holy See, the bishops, priests, and lay people who have accepted even martyrdom in order to remain faithful to the Church were wrong to have done so.

Especially since the same Cardinal Parolin recognizes that in [the Vatican’s] relations with Beijing, “the choice of bishops is crucial,” as indeed it has always been: this is in fact the heart of the matter of the division between the Patriotic Association, controlled by the communist party, and the clandestine Church. Although since the 1990’s the Holy See has had a very open and conversant attitude towards Beijing (contrary to what Cardinal Parolin asserts), today one notes a radical change. Until now in fact the obstacle was considered to be the Patriotic Association and the claim of the communist regime to have the right to name bishops. Today instead one understands that for the Holy See the obstacle is now sadly found in the clandestine Church.

Cardinal Parolin cites the famous letter of Benedict XVI to Chinese Catholics (27 May 2007) in order to claim that the present line of diplomacy is in continuity with that of the preceding pontificates. It is true that both John Paul II and Benedict XVI clearly expressed the need for a path of reconciliation between Catholics and their desire for the normalization of relations with China; they clearly stated that the Church is not interested in a political clash and that one can and should be both Roman Catholics and good Chinese citizens, but always in the context of a clear reference to principles which cannot be ignored as well as an appreciation of the value of the suffering of the persecuted Church.

Cardinal Parolin rightly quotes the passage of the letter of Benedict XVI, where Benedict says that “the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities”; Parolin however forgets to quote the second part of Benedict’s sentence: “at the same time, though, compliance with these authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church.”  And further on, Benedict says, referring to the Patriotic Association, “The declared purpose of the afore-mentioned entities to implement ‘the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church’ is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic'”. And if this was not clear enough: “Communion and unity – let me repeat – are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church that is ‘independent’ of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”

To pretend to overcome the scandal of an “independent” Church by simply recognizing it as legitimate is not mercy, it is unconditional surrender, and it is a betrayal.

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