Chinese Catholics sacrificed on altar of diplomacy
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BEIJING (ChurchMilitant.com) - China is waging war on the Faith, and in spite of a recent Vatican agreement to recognize seven bishops of the Communist-approved, schismatic "Patriotic Catholic" church, Beijing's campaign of oppression is accelerating.
Authorities are attacking the underground Catholic Church by burning Bibles, forcing churches to remove crosses and icons, shuttering shrines and pilgrimage sites and arbitrarily arresting faithful clerics.
Since the Communist takeover in 1949, the state has held an antagonistic posture toward all religions, but under the rule of President Xi Jinping, persecution has reached a crescendo.
In 2015, party leaders coined the term "sinicization" to press religious leaders to fuse the Faith with Communist ideology, and today the government controls state-sanctioned churches' staff, publications and finances, routinely injects Communist propaganda into priests' homilies and is preparing to supplant Holy Scripture with a sinicized "Chinese Christian Bible."
The Holy See has had no formal relationship with China since 1951, shortly after the Communist takeover of the country. Church officials assert that their initiative, conceived early in Francis' papacy, is aimed at healing that rift.
But in the face of the worst persecution since the catastrophic Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), Rome's decision to cozy up to the Communists is increasingly mystifying.
Faithful Chinese Catholics fear they will be sacrificed on the altar of diplomacy. Among the most vocal opponents of the accord is Cdl. Joseph Zen, archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong. Cardinal Zen has warned Vatican officials, "You're putting wolves before your flock, and they are going to make a massacre."
China expert Steven Mosher, head of the Population Research Institute, agrees. Earlier this year, he told Church Militant: "The officially atheistic Chinese Communist Party ... wants to stamp out all religious belief and all religious behavior in China."
"They want to end all that — their goal is the imposition of atheism on everyone in China," Mosher added. "That's why on Feb. 1 they put in new regulations preventing Catholics or Christians from bringing their own children 18 years old and younger to Catholic Mass or to home church meetings. They want to stamp out religion by preventing it from being transmitted to the next generation."
Likewise, Chen Guangcheng, a leading Chinese human rights activist, has repeatedly blasted the Rome's compromise with Beijing.
Earlier this year Chen, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, warned: "I was born and raised in China under the communist despotism. I personally experienced the brutal torture and persecution that the atheists of the Communist Party committed against dissidents."
"They have no fear of God or any moral bottom line," he noted, adding: "They have committed innumerable murders with a total disregard for human life for the sole purpose of maintaining their reign."
In an article last month titled "A Pact with a Thief, a Deal with the Devil: The Vatican's Pending Agreement with China," Chen reiterated his criticism.
"I have known and worked with countless individuals in China who have been persecuted for their beliefs," he wrote. "It has thus been with intense shock and dismay that I have watched the Vatican's rapprochement with China take shape."
I am sure that the active members of underground churches in China who have persevered against crippling persecution for so long can only feel betrayed.
"The fact that the Vatican sees these terms as an acceptable basis for reconciliation with a brutal dictatorial regime is a slap in the face to millions of Catholics and other faithful religious people in China who have suffered real persecution under the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]," he continued.
"Clearly, the agreement is a blatantly political move designed only to serve the CCP's interests," he said. "Not only does the action of the CCP selecting Catholic bishops represent a major decline for the Vatican, but it is the equivalent of bowing before evil, of selling God to the devil."
I am sure that the active members of underground churches in China who have persevered against crippling persecution for so long can only feel betrayed. They must certainly feel that the Vatican is growing further from God and closer to the superficial human world of vice — closer to a Communist Party that is responsible for the deaths of over four hundred million unborn children and hundreds of millions of Chinese people. Can this actually represent the will of the heavens?
Beijing's efforts to suppress the Faith are so egregious that even secular organizations — including groups fundamentally opposed to Catholic doctrine — are voicing dismay at the accord.
In an interview with The Atlanticthis week, Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, warned: "Watching a major world faith come to an agreement with an authoritarian government that's notorious for repressing religious freedom and to effectively cede some authority to that government sets a very worrying precedent."
"The pope has effectively given Xi Jinping a stamp of approval when the latter's hostility to religious freedom couldn't be clearer," said Richardson.
Those on the ground in China, especially the priests of the underground Church — prime targets of the Communist government — have little confidence that the Vatican agreement will ease repression.
In September, a host of faithful clerics gathered quietly to discuss how they would proceed in the wake of the accord. The priests decided unanimously that, for the time being, they cannot join the state-sanctioned church.
"If we are to become official, we will act together; in other words, if the pope wants us to be open, we will be open together; otherwise, we will together keep in the state of being underground," said one. "Will the government give us greater freedom after we become official? ... Has the government changed?"
Clearly, it hasn't. Since the signing of the provisional accord in September, government agents have begun descending on parishes to force underground clerics to join the "Patriotic Church" or face being declared illegal. Two Marian shrines — Our Lady of Bliss in Guizhou province and Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Shanxi province — have been destroyed. Bishop Shao Zhumin, the Vatican-appointed ordinary of the eastern city of Wenzhou, disappeared a month ago into police custody.
Three months after the signing of the provisional accord, it is increasingly clear that Cdl. Zen's assessment was prophetic: by compromising with the Communist dictatorship, the Vatican is committing an "act of suicide" in China.