Exclusive Interview: Dr. Steven Mosher

News: Video Reports
by Martina Moyski  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 10, 2020   

Catholic sociologist reflects on China, the Vatican, abortion, faith

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CLEVELAND (ChurchMilitant.com) - Following his speech at the Bringing America Back to Life (BABL) convention outside Cleveland, Ohio on March 6, Dr. Steven Mosher, China expert, pro-life advocate and president of Population Research Institute (PRI), gave an interview to Church Militant.

Dr. Mosher talked about his onsite research into China's one-child policy in 1979, his advice to Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin about the dangers of signing the China-Vatican Agreement, President Trump's handling of trade negotiations with China and China's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

He also talked about how the almost full-term Chinese babies he saw aborted during his stay in China — in a manifestation of redemptive suffering — were responsible for his salvation and conversion from a pro-abortion atheist to a pro-life, practicing Catholic.



Church Militant: Could you tell Church Militant viewers just a bit about your research on China's one-child policy in 1979?

Dr. Mosher: In 1979, I became the first American social scientist allowed to do fieldwork in the People's Republic of China. I was part of the initial wave of American scholars who went into this country, which had been hidden behind a Bamboo Curtain for 30 years, beginning with the communist takeover in 1949 and ending, really, in December 1978.

We had virtually no contact — in a scholarly sense — with China. Nixon had visited China. Kissinger had visited China. There were a few delegations, but no American researchers had really been allowed to stay there for any length of time and see what things were like on the ground. So I was very excited to be in that first wave. I was the only social scientist in that group.

One-child policy propaganda poster

There were 50 of us altogether. The other 49 were chemical engineers. They were nuclear physicists. They were historians. They were linguists. I was the only social scientist. Why was that? Well, China was eager to pick the brains of the engineers and the physicists and the chemists to try to catch up to the United States in technology. They were not eager to have an American social scientist picking the brains of the Chinese people about what life was like under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

I arrived in China in March of 1979. I was there for the next year. And after awhile, you know, I was able to get rid of my communist minders for the first few weeks. There were a couple of communist officials who followed me everywhere and who wanted to sit in on every interview. And, you know, that would be the death of truth because everyone's afraid to talk if they're talking in front of a communist official. Either that or they simply tell lies about how good things are under communism.

But when I got them alone after we made friends in the evening with a glass of rice wine, they would open up about their lives. And one of the things they told me is that life had been better in 1949, before the communists came, than life was in 1979, 30 years later.

So 30 years without progress — imagine that. Another thing they told me was that the Communist Party was the big landlords — that, yes, the landlords and rich peasants had sometimes taken advantage of the poor peasants. But things were pretty much running even, on an even keel, then. But now, of course, the big landlord, the Communist Party, had control of all the land, and everybody had to work like serfs in the commune following party orders.

CM: What were you expecting to find in China in 1979 when you visited as a young graduate Stanford student?

Dr. Mosher: I was not expecting to find that nearly everybody in China was unhappy with the Chinese Communist Party. Of course, the local officials were quite happy because they were wined and dined at the people's expense. They have had a good life. But the ordinary people had suffered under communism. They had suffered during the land reform, where many of their friends were killed — taken out to a local hill and summarily executed because they were members of the Nationalist Party or they had been members of the local militia, or they had simply owned a little more land than the average. They had suffered during the anti-rightist campaigns of the late 1950s. Under the Cultural Revolution, there had been tremendous persecution, and they were suffering under the one-child policy which began when I was in China. It began when I was in China.

I remember as if it were yesterday, March 8th of 1980, because that was the evening that the local Communist Party secretary, whose name was Secretary He — Secretary He came over to my house. I had a home in the village I had built for myself — it cost four thousand dollars. I gave it to the village family I was staying with after I left, as a way of saying thank you to them. But he came over to my house waving a document. He said, "This document just came down from the Communist Party leaders in Guangdong Province. I thought you'd like to see it." Secretary He and I were on very good terms, you see, and I did want to see all the communist documents, Communist Party documents, I could get my hands on.

We're going to go door to door and we're going to find out which women are pregnant with illegal children. ... And if they're pregnant with an illegal child ... we will tell them that they must get an abortion."

But this document was eye-opening because this document said there are too many babies being born in Guangdong Province. The birth rate is too high, and we must reduce the number of babies born in 1980. The population increase in Guangdong province cannot increase more than 1% in 1980. No woman can be permitted to have more children than the state allows.

And as I read the document, I said to myself, how can you possibly stop the birth rate — lower the birth rate in 1980? It's already March. All of the babies that are going to be born in 1980, are already conceived. It takes nine months from conception to birth. He said, "Oh, it's very simple. We're going to go door to door and we're going to find out which women are pregnant with illegal children — a second child or a third child or a fourth child. And if they're pregnant with an illegal child, we're going to order them to attend study sessions at which we will tell them that they must get an abortion."

CM: How could the Vatican make such an agreement with a country that has been so obviously abusive of human rights in the ways that you're talking about? It's a bit perplexing, I think, for a lot of Catholics.

Dr. Mosher: I think the Sino-Vatican agreement has been an historic mistake of the secretary of state of the Vatican, Cdl. [Pietro] Parolin. I counseled Cdl. Parolin at his invitation on the advisability of signing the agreement before it was signed. And I told him this. I said, the Chinese, if they sign this agreement — and he told me they've just been waiting for some time for the Chinese side to come over and sign the agreement.

I said, if China does sign this agreement, they will violate it before the ink is dry on the paper. Number one, they will use it against the Catholic Church in China, not just the underground Church. They'll use it against the patriotic church as well, arguing that the Vatican is ordering them to be good citizens, good followers of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, and that they must obey the Vatican.

Cdl. Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State

So I told him they will be using the borrowed authority of the Vatican to enforce Communist Party rule and the walls will close in on the Catholic Church in China. Cardinal Parolin said that at this point we're only waiting. The agreement has already been negotiated. We're only waiting for the Chinese side to come over and sign it.

Now, we know that it was and is a secret agreement. That's another downfall of the agreement because the very secrecy of the agreement means that the Chinese Catholics who are having to live under the terms of this agreement have no idea what those terms are. Yes, they have no idea other than what the Chinese Communist Party tells them. They have no idea what the Holy Father has actually agreed to in signing this document. So you will know how successful the document has been by its fruits, right?

What was the Vatican hoping to get out of this document? It was hoping to get an agreement under which the Communist Party would propose candidates for the bishopric for empty sees that the pope would then have the choice of affirming or rejecting. Now, that hasn't happened. We're a year and a half into the agreement, and that hasn't happened even once.

What has happened is this: Even before the agreement was signed, two legitimate bishops were deposed at the request of the Chinese Communist Party. So that's a concession on the part of the Vatican. Before the agreement was even signed, seven illicitly ordained bishops — illicitly ordained by the Chinese Communist Party — were recognized as valid bishops, licit bishops, by the Holy Father. That was a unilateral concession by the Vatican. What has the Church gotten in return? We know that the Vatican had identified perhaps 40 candidates in the underground Church and in the patriotic church to become bishops. The Chinese Communist Party has not advanced a single one of those people to be confirmed by the pope.

So if the Vatican was expecting that the Chinese Communist Party would play fair, if it would be a level playing field, if they would reciprocate in any way, that idea has gone by the wayside because none of the Vatican's hoped-for-candidates to become bishops have actually been advanced by the party. And that's the way it's supposed to work. The party advances a candidate and then the pope affirms it — hasn't happened even once. On September 22nd this year, the two-year provisional agreement will expire. The best thing that could happen is that the two-year provisional agreement just be allowed to go quietly to its grave before it sends thousands of Catholics to their graves.

CM: I think many Catholics are still wondering what more the Vatican is getting out of this deal. Why were they so amenable to it?

Dr. Mosher: The Vatican is getting nothing out of this. The other thing that I told Cdl. Parolin was that in 2018, February 1st of 2018, new regulations governing religious activity in China came into force. And I said these new regulations are very significant because they move control of all religious activity in China, not just Catholics but Protestants and Muslims and Buddhists and you name it — Tibetan Buddhists. They move control from the government to the party.

That's a very bad thing to happen because the government Bureau of Religious Affairs just wanted to make sure that everybody obeyed the laws, right? The Communist Party wants to stamp out religion entirely. It is an officially atheistic party. It has control of the religious groups in China now directly under its United Front Department. It is infiltrating all of these religious groups. It is closing down religious churches. It is tearing down churches. It is turning churches into propaganda platforms for the Chinese Communist Party. That is what the United Front Department of the Chinese Communist Party does, I told Cdl. Parolin. And that is what it will do now because they're in charge of the churches.

But it gets worse. It gets worse because on February 1st of 2019, just last year, the instructions for how to actually carry out these new regulations governing religious activity came into force. And they say everybody who engages in any sort of religious activity must register with the government. If you can't register with the government, if you're not registered with the government, you are ipso facto illegal. And we will arrest you and punish you. So you have to register with the government or you can't exist.

They're installing video cameras in every church in China so that people in the local police station can watch in real-time what is said and listen in. ... The walls are closing in.

Secondly, after you register with the government, you have to advise the local Department of Religious Affairs about all of your religious affairs — all of your Masses, all of the administration of the sacraments, all of your church services — everything you do. You have to advise the Department of Religious Affairs in advance, in advance and get permission. So you can't hold a Mass without letting the Department of Religious Affairs know that you're holding a religious service. So what? So they can send somebody to the Mass or to the sermon or to whatever activity it is to watch over it.

They're installing video cameras in every church in China so that people in the local police station can watch in real-time what is said and listen in. And if anything is said that they regard as subversive, then they will close down that church, and they will arrest that pastor or priest. The walls are closing in.

And you can only conduct religious activities within the walls of the churches. Everything outside the walls of the church is like going to someone's house and blessing the house. Can't do that — that's forbidden. Holding a summer school — that's forbidden. Hold your catechism class — you can't do that. No one under the age of 18 is allowed in church.

So if the Vatican thought that the patriotic church was some kind of safe refuge for underground Catholics, that, yes, you may not like the fact that you have signed an agreement and formally join the patriotic church, which is schismatic, but go ahead, do it because it's a safe place for you to worship. No, it isn't.

CM: You've mentioned Cdl. Parolin, but what about former Cdl. McCarrick's role in negotiating the agreement?

Dr. Mosher: I think the deal was negotiated years ago — years ago. We know that Cdl. McCarrick made several trips to China before Pope Francis and after Pope Francis became pope. We know that and we know that he was involved in negotiating this secret deal between the Vatican and China. Can you imagine a worse person to negotiate a deal like this, someone who is more compromised and more easily compromised by who knows what happened in China? Who knows what sort of inducements they offered to Cdl. McCarrick?

Cdl. Theodore McCarrick (AFP/Thomas COEX)

But he was fêted by — he was celebrated by — the Chinese Communist Party. He was treated like a visiting dignitary. He was the first Catholic prelate ever to be interviewed, and his interview [was] published in The Global Times. So to the extent that he had a hand in this deal, we know at the outset that it was tainted.

So the Vatican now says Cdl. [Giovanni Battista] Re — that the deal was negotiated years ago, and it was approved by Pope Benedict XVI and that even St. Pope John Paul II would have approved this deal. Wrong on both counts.

Pope John Paul II was an opponent of and a critic of Ostpolitik. He did not like the compromises that the Church had to make. He was the one who went to the public square in Kraków and told a million Catholic Poles, "Be not afraid." He didn't tell them to be a good citizen in Poland, obey the Communist Party first, and then you could be a good Catholic second. He didn't say what the Vatican is effectively telling underground Catholics in China. He told them to be not afraid. And what was he saying? Don't be afraid of the government. God's on our side. You know, stand up for your rights. And we know what happened after that.

And then, of course, the idea that Pope Benedict XVI was ready to sign this deal. Well, that can't be true, because if Pope Benedict had been ready to sign the deal, the deal was already negotiated. He could have signed it, but he didn't. So why didn't he? Obviously, because he didn't approve of the deal. I think Cdl. Zen is absolutely correct when he said Pope Benedict refused to sign this agreement. He said if Pope Benedict signed this agreement, he said, "Show me the signature." There is no signature.

CM: Knowing what you know about China, how do you view President Trump's trade negotiations with China?

Dr. Mosher: President Trump is the president that I've been waiting for, for 30 years in terms of getting tough on China. After they brutally murdered 10,000 people in the main square of the capital city, Tiananmen Square, on June 4th, 1989, I believe that the Communist Party was incapable of reforming itself and that we should not enable the rise of a country led by a Communist Party that really wants to replace the United States as the dominant power on the planet.

Trump has been onto China since the 1990s. He was talking about in his book, published in 1999, getting tough on trade with China because China was cheating. China was cheating on its currency by artificially devaluing it. China was cheating by stealing our intellectual property. China was cheating on trade in other ways. So he understands China very well, and he's doing now exactly what he said he would do 20 years ago. And he's doing it very effectively.

Hong Kong protesters, June 2019 (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty)

In 2016 the people, the economists, the geniuses on Wall Street, and so forth were telling us that the Chinese economy would eclipse that of the United States in the year 2020 — that we were doomed to decline. China was bound to rise. There was nothing we could do about it. We just sort of had to manage our decline. And Trump got into office and he said, no way. He said China's going to have to play fair on trade. China is going to have to stop stealing our intellectual property. China is going to have to stop devaluating its currency. And he has moved forward on all those fronts. We now have an economy that is probably twice as large as China's. Why? Because of Trump getting tough on trade, because of Trump encouraging economic growth in this country.

This would never have happened without a president who understood the real danger of the rise of China. I wrote about this in my book, Bully of Asia. And I would say today in 2020, if we have a second term with President Trump, China will never be number one. It is in demographic decline. It has the most brutal totalitarian political system in the world.

The Chinese people in their righteous anger in Hong Kong are rising up against this government. There is massive unrest in China today. They have created an epidemic that is killing lots of their own people. They won't admit it, but there are many more deaths in China than the official death toll tells you. So China will never be number one as long as the United States continues to believe in itself.

CM: During your speech earlier this afternoon, you said that the coronavirus was "made in China" either through incompetence or evil or both. Can you say a little more about this?

Dr. Mosher: Well, here's what I see when I look at China. We know that China signed a bioweapons convention pledging never to develop bioweapons in 1972. They signed the convention. We know that before the ink was dry on the paper, they began trying to develop bioweapons, number one. Number two, we know that they have been collecting dangerous viruses, including dangerous coronaviruses from around the world. They've collected them from wild animals. They've collected them from bio research laboratories in Canada and the United States. They've stolen them, OK, from labs, and they've collected them — where? — they've collected those deadly coronaviruses in the only level 4 biotechnology laboratory in all of China. It is located in Wuhan, which just happens to be the center of the epidemic.

We also know that they have let dangerous viruses, including dangerous coronaviruses, escape from the lab before. Some people may remember the SAR's epidemic, SARS, sudden acute respiratory syndrome. That was a coronavirus. They were studying it in a lab in Beijing the year after the epidemic. They let it escape twice. It killed a lot of people in China, made a lot of people sick. Two times their poor lab procedure let it escape from the lab. So we know they have a history of lab accidents, OK. Add that to the fact that when the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan happened, the government first lied about the existence of it.

Beijing police masked against the coronavirus, January 2020

They didn't tell the Chinese people that they had a dangerous new pneumonia, but they did do this: They locked down all the military installations in and around Wuhan in late December. So they were trying to protect their military and police from the coronavirus. They didn't worry about ordinary people. Who cares about ordinary people? They don't value human life, right? The one-child-policy — they eliminated 400 million unborn children. What value do they place on human life? Virtually none. Then when the virus grew out of control, they finally told the Chinese people in Wuhan that there was a deadly coronavirus. And we're going to lock down the entire city of 15 million people. We're going to put a quarantine on the entire city. They blamed the outbreak on the seafood market in Wuhan.

They said there was some wild animal being sold in the seafood market. Somebody bought that wild animal. And one of the coronaviruses from that wild animal, maybe a bat, maybe a snake, maybe a little scaly anteater crossed over into human beings. But it was an accident. The seafood market is about 1,000 yards from the Institute of Virology. All right, that was just a pretext. I believe the coronavirus probably did come originally from a wild animal. That's how you collect dangerous pathogens. You go out and collect pathogens from wild animals, but then you bring them to the lab — in this case, the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And you're doing experiments on them. You're genetically re-engineering them. And then if you're careless, if you're careless — and we know that there's a lot of carelessness — they escape from the lab.

When that happens, what do you do? Well, if you're the Communist Party, you lie about the existence of the epidemic for weeks to your own people. You lie to the world about the problem for a couple of months until it gets to the point — until so many people are infected that you can't hide it any longer. And then you admit to the world that you have a problem.

By that point, 5 million people have left Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic. And they've gone to all provinces of China. They've gone to Italy. They've gone to Iran. They've gone to Africa. They've gone to all countries around the world. Why did they travel? Because those 5 million people are part of the largest human migration on the planet. Every year, 200 million Chinese go home for the Chinese New Year. They didn't quarantine the city of Wuhan until after 5 million people had left the epicenter of the epidemic and spread the disease throughout China and throughout the world. Too little and too late. The horse was out of the barn before they closed the barn door.

I think we find ourselves in the age of the laity, and the laity simply have to step up, step up and be informed about what's going on in the Church and be a force for good as God intends him to be.

And now the latest dodge, the latest excuse by the Communist Party is, well, the epidemic began in China, but the coronavirus did not originate in China. And what Communist Party members are being told secretly — not publicly, secretly — is that the coronavirus really was a bioweapon that came from the United States of America. So you see, it's really our fault. Of course, all of this is just shifting the blame. And I think by the Communist Party claiming that this is a bioweapon from the United States is actually admitting that, yes, it's a bioweapon. But don't blame us, even though it's our bioweapon, blame these guys over here. Blame those bad Americans.

CM: On a personal note, how does your Catholic faith inform your work?

Dr. Mosher: Well, it informs my work in more ways than I can count. I begin in the morning in prayer. I end the day in prayer. I'm not a daily Mass-goer like my wife. I should be. But our division of labor, our complementarity is this: She goes to daily Mass and I do the work. So, you know, by God's grace, I'm able to continue to do this work.

I would say this: Had I not been in China in the operating room and witnessed the death of nearly full-term infants by cesarean section abortion, I would not have been probably saved because I was at that time at Stanford University in an environment very hostile to faith — any expression of faith. So God saved me by allowing me to be an eyewitness to these horrible crimes against humanity. These terrible, barbaric procedures and in turn, the little babies whose deaths I witnessed in China, I believe, have been praying for me before the throne of Almighty God for my conversion and my continuing conversion. Obviously, the story is not over yet, right? We all have more work to do on ourselves and more work to do in the world as long as God gives us a breath.

CM: Before we close, what else might you like to tell Church Militant viewers?

Dr. Mosher: Well, I think that Church Militant plays a vital role in keeping the laity informed about what's happening in the Vatican and what's happening in the Church, not only in the United States, but around the world. All institutions are — I mean, obviously — the Catholic Church is a divinely inspired institution, a divinely instituted institution. It's lasted 2,000 years, longer than any human institution could possibly have lasted.

The longest-running Chinese dynasty lasted three hundred years. We're oh, you know, we're going on 2,000 years now. So clearly divinely inspired, populated and served by fallible human beings who oftentimes don't want to admit their own failures. So we have to be a check on some of the failures of the institutional Church. I think that Church Militant is doing God's work in that regard. This is ... I think we find ourselves in the age of the laity, and the laity simply have to step up, step up and be informed about what's going on in the Church and be a force for good as God intends him to be.

Watch the full interview here.

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