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FUJIAN PROVINCE, China (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is tracking how news of a priest's torture was leaked to Western media.
Bitter Winter, a China watchdog website, reported on Saturday that Chinese authorities are bearing down on a parish in Fujian province, looking for whistleblowers who leaked news of the 4-day torture of Fr. Huang Jintong to Western news outlets.
"As the Vatican-China deal of 2018 expires soon, the CCP fears that the pope will ask it to explain the incident with Fr. Huang when negotiating its renewal," a Catholic priest who requested anonymity told Bitter Winter.
The incident involving Fr. Huang gained worldwide attention. More than a dozen Chinese personnel came to his home on April 2, pried open his door, and led him away. Authorities deprived him of sleep for four days, a torture method called "exhausting an eagle." He eventually succumbed and agreed to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).
He tried to add various addenda to the document that affirmed his loyalty to Rome and to Catholic doctrine, but authorities refused to allow the additions. They also forced him to sign a statement that he hadn't been tortured.
A priest from another province contacted a woman from Fr. Huang's parish asking about his condition. Both the woman and the inquiring priest are now suspect. Cell phones of clergy familiar with the detention and torture are monitored, as are those of knowledgeable parishioners. Father Huang continues to be surveilled.
Despite the possibility of torture, some clergy want to disclose what they know about what happened to Fr. Huang. They want to keep his ordeal front and center.
"Since Fr. Huang's torture was reported, the government stopped using this method to force other priests to join the CPCA, at least for now," one unregistered clergyman explained.
Because the incident could become a bargaining chip in the renewal of the Vatican-China agreement of 2018, Communist authorities want to find the leakers. The agreement, scheduled for renewal Sept. 22, has yielded a steady drumbeat of concern since its ratification.
Only a few months before the temporary agreement was signed, defrocked former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, one of the Vatican's key Chinese negotiators, was outed as one of the most corrupt clerics in American history. The revelation undermined the credibility of the agreement.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, retired bishop of Hong Kong, began sounding the alarm almost before the ink was dry on the agreement. Zen explained his heightened concern to Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn.
"You can never compromise with a totalitarian regime because they want everything," Zen said. "Would you have encouraged St. Joseph to negotiate with Herod?"
In an interview with Church Militant, Zen detailed the three steps the Vatican has taken to accomplish what he calls "a total sellout" of the underground Chinese Church:
So the first step was that secret agreement for the selection of bishops; and then the legitimization of the seven excommunicated bishops and asking the underground legitimate bishops to step down; and then, finally, last June came out that document, the so-called pastoral guidance, encouraging people to join the Patriotic Association. Incredible — so it's a total sellout.
The CCP's newspaper, Global Times, claimed Argentine bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, also chancellor of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said: "They are going to renew it [the agreement], which means that the initial experience went well."
Despite the CCP's decades of countless acts of persecution towards Chinese Catholics, Sorondo told Vatican Insider, "[A]t this moment, those who best realize the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese."
According to experts, the CCP has been sending $2 billion annually to the Holy See since Pope Francis took office in 2013 as part of a plan for world domination. The strategy is to bribe and control Italy through the Vatican and the European Union through Italy.