LONDON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The last British governor of Hong Kong, and a top former Vatican media advisor, is excoriating Pope Francis for his "policy of appeasement" towards Beijing.
In an explosive interview with BBC Radio 4 on Sunday, Lord Patten of Barnes, a member of Britain's House of Lords, lambasted the Vatican for being "incredibly lily-livered" for not standing up in defense of former Hong Kong Cdl. Joseph Zen.
Daring Pope Francis to publish his secret deal with China, Christopher Patten, a practicing Catholic, insisted that the Vatican's claims of retaining ultimate veto over episcopal appointments in China could not be believed until the concordat was made public.
"The Vatican could put an end to a lot of [this] criticism if they would simply publish the deal and say what had been accomplished as a result of it so far," Patten pleaded. "But the fact of the matter is, we don't know exactly what it is."
Patten's stinging criticism of the Sino–Vatican accord follows the Vatican's decision to renew its controversial concordat with the Chinese regime in late October, despite Catholics and human rights activists almost universally condemning the failed agreement.
"The easy thing to do is allow the Vatican simply to publish the agreement," the former chairman of the BBC trust reiterated, accusing the Holy See of being guilty of "a degree of self-delusion" in dealing with the "thuggish dictators" of the Chinese Communist Party.
"I'm a great supporter of most of what Pope Francis is trying to do. But I think the attitude to China and what he said recently about Ukraine are pretty unattractive," Patten stressed, rebuking Francis for his "cop-out" in claiming "you have to take a long-term view in China."
Asked if the Vatican's deal with China was intended to relieve pressure on persecuted Chinese Catholics, Patten responded, "Yeah, but you know, it would be nice to know the evidence for that having happened."
"It's all pretty unclear, pretty muddy, about what the Vatican actually got out of it," Lord Patten, chancellor of Oxford University, observed. "And I think it's all pretty, well, to be blunt, unsavory."
"There are at least two Catholic bishops who are in prison. There are arguably others who are under house arrest. There are lots of priests who've been driven out of the priesthood because they won't sign a vow of loyalty to the Communist Party — and now working as farmers or working in factories," the British peer lamented.
Patten slammed the Vatican for being "incredibly quiet or discreet" over the persecution of "other Christian churches in China," as well as Muslims who face incarceration, forced sterilization and forced abortions, which have been denounced by the United Nations.
"If they can be denounced by the U.N., why aren't they denounced by the Catholic Church?" he asked. "When things are wicked, when things which are done are wicked, we should call them out as wicked."
Reserving his strongest criticism for the Vatican's refusal to defend Cdl. Zen, who is currently on trial for failing to register a pro-democracy fund with the government, Patten blasted the Vatican for being "incredibly lily-livered in what it said about him."
"He's a great, outspoken spokesman for the best sort of Christian attitude to human rights. He is a great opponent and critic of Chinese communism, which you would have thought would make the Vatican rather sympathetic towards him," Patten pointed out.
"But they've been so spectacularly careful in anything they've said about him that it's rather distressing," he observed, lamenting the lack of even "a prayer for Cdl. Zen" or the absence of "some references to the position of a fellow cardinal" at the recent consistory.
Lord Patten's remarks triggered outrage from left-wing supporters of Pope Francis, including the pontiff's hagiographer Austen Ivereigh, who said that it was "shocking" for the BBC to give Patten "a platform to critique the Vatican over China without inviting a [sic] also contrary informed view from the Vatican or someone familiar with that policy."
"As for calling on the Vatican–Beijing agreement to be published, the whole point is that it is temporary and ad hoc, meaning that either sides [sic] can not renew it, which creates [an] incentive for cooperation and dialogue," Ivereigh argued.
"To take just one example of Lord Patten's distorted approach: it is Cardinal Zen himself who has asked the Vatican not to criticize Beijing publicly," Ivereigh claimed, and did not respond to tweets asking him to provide evidence of Zen's words.
Ivereigh retweeted an article by Mike Lewis defending the secret concordat by arguing that "the relationship between the Holy See in China is a very sensitive and complicated subject with decades of history behind it" and "cannot be reduced to a mere 'good guys' vs 'bad guys' situation in order to attack the pope."
Dr. Francesco Galietti, an expert in geopolitical economics, has said that the CCP has been sending $2 billion to the Vatican every year since Francis became pope in 2013.
Exiled dissident Guo Wengui has also accused the Vatican of receiving $1.6 billion every year since 2014 in bribes from the Chinese Communist Party because Beijing "wanted the Vatican to shut up about China's religious policies."
Wengui also claimed the Chinese government was paying the Holy See $100 million before 2014. The tycoon did not specify when the payments initially started. Beijing has branded Wengui an attention-seeking criminal. But the Vatican has yet to deny the allegations.
Meanwhile, an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal noted that Zen had flown to Rome just two years ago "in a desperate attempt to get the Holy Father to reconsider his China deal."
"But a pope who always seems to have time for private audiences with celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio refused to meet a cardinal with long firsthand experience of Chinese communism," the WSJ observed.
When a reporter asked about Zen on his return flight from Kazakhstan, "the pope offered not a word of support, noting only that the cardinal 'says what he feels' despite knowing there are 'limitations.' The pope declined to even say China was undemocratic. All that was missing was a cock crowing in the background," the opinion piece added.
In a 2020 interview with German DW News, Zen called the Sino–Vatican agreement a "betrayal."
"Poor Cardinal Zen. He stands in the dock alone, betrayed by the pope who sold out the underground Chinese Catholic Church," Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative, wrote in September.