HONG KONG (ChurchMilitant.com) - A newly published letter shows Cdl. Joseph Zen, the leading voice for persecuted Catholics in China, imploring the College of Cardinals to denounce the agreement the Vatican signed with China's communist government.
The letter, dated Sept. 27, 2019, and only now made public, is preceded by an earlier letter presented to Pope Francis on July 1 in which the cardinal expressed his concerns about the Sino-Vatican deal, formalized in a "pastoral document."
Zen begins the September letter to his fellow bishops saying, "I believe that the problem that I am presenting concerns not only the Church in China, but the entire Church, and we cardinals have the grave responsibility to help the Holy Father in guiding the Church."
Cardinal Zen confirmed on his website of his trip to Rome and that he delivered a letter to Pope Francis in which the cardinal laid out his concerns — nine dubia — regarding the Vatican deal with China, and how he was kept waiting to see the pontiff. The cardinal said he was able to eventually submit his letter to the pope, with the pope assuring him that "he would look into it." This was on July 10, 2019.
After receiving no reponse from the pope, Cdl. Zen wrote the September letter to his brother cardinals begging them "not to sit idly by" as the Church in China is "murdered."
The letter reveals Zen insisting that "we cardinals have the grave responsibility of helping the Holy Father guide the Church."
Zen writes of the schism he sees inherent in the Vatican-China deal:
Now, based on my analysis of the Document of the Holy See (June 28, 2019) "Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China," it is absolutely clear that it encourages the faithful in China to enter into a schismatic Church (independent of the Pope and under the orders of the Communist Party).
"I have good reason to believe (and I hope that one day I will be able to prove it with archival documents)," Zen continues, "that the accord that has been signed is the same one that Pope Benedict had, at the time, refused to sign."
The details of the negotiation in the Sino-Vatican deal have not been made public and are kept by Cdl. Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.
Concerned Catholic observers are beginning to see in the pope's lack of response to Zen's letter a replay of the pope's lack of response to Cdl. Raymond Burke and the other dubia authors, and perhaps a growing pattern in this pontificate.
They also see Cdl. Zen's appeal, first to the pope and then to his brother bishops, as fitting the advice laid out in the Gospel of Matthew (18:15–17):
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Critics of the pastoral document are posing new questions in light of the release of Cdl. Zen's letter. One question is what the Vatican received in exchange for the deal. As one Church Militant source said: "Cdl. Zen and others seem to be asking what the Vatican could have possibly gained at the price of the blood and tears of the Underground Church in China. It is clear the Chinese got everything they had sought after. What did the Church get in return?"
Another question revolves around the fact that the Sino-Vatican deal was negotiated, in large part, by former cardinal and accused pederast Theodore McCarrick, who had close ties to the communist Church in China. Critics have wondered what McCarrick did to fall into Pope Francis' good graces, leading him to restore him after Pope Benedict had restricted his movements and public appearances several years before.