HONG KONG (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cardinal Joseph Zen has highlighted serious problems with the Holy See's new pastoral guidelines for clergy registration in Communist China.
Having recently met with Pope Francis, Cdl. Zen updated his website on Monday with the full text of his dubia on the Holy See's new guidelines concerning the civil registration of the clergy in China.
Zen summarizes his dubia:
This document has radically turned upside what is normal and what is abnormal, what is rightful and what is pitiable. Those who wrote it hope perhaps that the pitied minority will die a natural death. By this minority I mean not only underground priests (who have been deprived of the leadership of a bishop, and recently even of a simple delegate — because the above ground bishop is legitimised) but also the many brothers in the official community who have worked with great tenacity to achieve change, hoping for the support of the Holy See, but now are asked to 'enter the cage' amid the laughter of the winning opportunists.
Published on July 28, the "Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China" attempts to offer guidelines for clergy in China in the wake of the Vatican-China agreement signed in September 2018.
It is reported that the agreement allows the Pope to appoint and veto bishops approved by the Communist Party of China.
After the agreement was signed, the Chinese government continued its religious persecution without making any exceptions for Catholics, even demolishing two Marian shrines, one in Shanxi and another in Guizhou.
Zen immediately boarded a plane to meet with Pope Francis once he learned the Holy See published these guidelines on June 28.
He brought a list of nine criticisms with him, all of which can be read on his website (the English translation is at the bottom).
Perhaps the most pertinent tension is between the Vatican's position on Church autonomy and the Communist Party's requirement that all bishops and priests register with the government.
The pastoral guidelines offer a way around this by allowing bishops and priests to register with the Chinese government but stating that the "independence, autonomy and self-management of the Church must be understood without undermining Catholic doctrine."
This does not work, according to Zen.
"A text is signed against the faith and it is stated that the intention is to promote the good of the community, a more suitable evangelisation, and the responsible management of Church assets," he says.
"This general rule is obviously against all fundament[al] moral theology! If valid, [it] would justify even apostasy!" adds Zen.
Bishop Joseph Strickland is the only American bishop so far to voice concern over the direction the Vatican has taken with China.
"China and Amazonia are half a world apart but the Vatican seems to have both regions on the same path to apostasy," he tweeted.
China and Amazonia are half a world apart but the Vatican seems to have both regions on the same path to apostasy....Cdl. Zen warns Pope Francis that Vatican directives for China church may lead to ‘death of true faith’ | News | LifeSite https://t.co/aDjRmtKYqW— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) July 6, 2019
Establishment reporters such as Massimo Faggioli, a contributor to Commonweal magazine and writer for the Italian version of HuffPost, viewed Strickland's concern as an accusation against the Pope and were quick to call Strickland out on social media as a possible apostate.
Your Excellency, I think you don’t realize how serious this accusation against pope Francis is.— Massimo Faggioli (@MassimoFaggioli) July 6, 2019
This message sounds much more apostasy than anything happening in China or the Amazon region. https://t.co/b8thTPcrYp
Other American bishops and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have mostly remained silent on this topic.
The USCCB only mentions the persecuted in China once in its lectionary notes for the Solemnity of Christ the King 2018.
"Christians in the Middle East, Nigeria, China, and other places face intense, violent persecution," states the note, which immediately adds, "Christians are not the only ones who suffer. Muslims in places like Burma and China are also being severely persecuted."
Zen and Strickland see the situation in China differently than men like Massimo Faggioli, and unlike most bishops, refuse to remain silent.
"May the Lord not allow the fulfillment of the wishes of those who want the death of the true faith in my dear homeland. Lord, have mercy on us," concludes Zen.
Church Militant reached out to Cdl. Zen for comment but received no response as of press time.