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Last week Peter Lin Jiashan was installed as a state-sanctioned archbishop of Fuzhou, making him the third communist-approved appointment since the secretive Vatican-China deal was reached in September 2018.
The clandestine nature of the Vatican-China deal, coupled with the Holy See's favorable actions toward the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), render the details of this latest appointment as clear as mud.
Who appointed Jiashan and who approved? Did the CCP appoint him and the Vatican approve or did the Vatican appoint him and the CCP approve? The only people who know the answer to that question are those involved in the secret deal — a deal so surreptitious that not even the only two living Chinese cardinals (Cdls. Joseph Zen and John Tong Hon) know what the accord says.
Difficulty in knowing the actual story here is exacerbated by the information war communist regimes always wage for total control over minds and hearts. Information coming from a communist-controlled country is always suspect, since the "facts" are whatever the powers that be say they are and deliberate disinformation is always on the table.
Even reports on last week's episcopal installation have discrepancies in basic information such as Jiashan's age. UCANews (Union of Catholic Asian News) says he is 83 while Herald Malaysia says he is 86. Catholic-Hierarchy.org has Jiashan's birthday as Sept. 2, 1934, making him 85.
Another question involves canon law. Canon 401 §1 of the Code of Canon Law states archdiocesan/diocesan bishops (cardinals included) must submit their resignation to the pope once they reach the age of 75. So why has the Vatican appointed or approved a new archbishop who is presumably somewhere in his 80s?
And why did Jiashan suddenly decide to join the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), the "official" state-sanctioned church, after having resisted doing so since 1997? Jiashan even presided over Bp. John Yang Shudao's funeral in 2010. In 2004, Shudao told UCANews that joining the communist-controlled church would mean "a betrayal of faith."
Along with other priests, Shudao was arrested in 1955 and imprisoned for refusing to denounce the pope and join the communist-approved church. He was released 26 years later in 1981. Secretly made a bishop in 1987, Shudao was arrested again one year later and spent three more years in prison.
Working with a saintly man like Shudao and being part of the underground Church for decades, Jiashan suddenly joining the communist-controlled Church is suspicious.
It is reminiscent of a Seinfeld episode in which a mom and pop shoe business had to close because they could not afford to fix some faulty electrical wiring. They happened to have a pair of Jerry's sneakers when this happened and so Jerry and Kramer concluded mom and pop conned them. Elaine laughs at the two and sarcastically says, "So. Mom and Pop's plan was to move into the neighborhood ... establish trust ... for 48 years. And then, run off with Jerry's sneakers."
"So. the reverend Peter Lin Jiashan's plan was to join the underground Church … resist joining the communist-controlled church ... for 33 years. And then, change his remaining time on earth."
Sure, it is technically possible that he changed his mind, or maybe, according to some media speculation, had been wanting to join the CCP-sanctioned Church for a long time. But it is unlikely. In general, people become more set in their habits and ways over the years.
Perhaps Jiashan joined the CPA because he thought that was the new way to be faithful to the Vatican.
Cardinal Zen told Church Militant in July 2019 that persecution and confusion have reigned supreme since the Vatican-China agreement was reached in September 2018.
"Yes, it is obvious for anybody who follows the events on the news [that persecution has increased]. It is really a terrible thing. The most worrisome element is that the agreement was a secret one, so we do not know what is in the agreement," he said.
So, when the government comes to say, "Do this" and, "Do that" to our people here, they ask, "Why?" They ask, "Did the pope already agree?" Then the people say, "We don't know. We don't know what the pope promised to you — what he agreed on."
And then [the Holy See] says, "Now come up and sign the document to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association." Actually, that was not in the agreement because even Cdl. [Fernando] Filoni said that was not in the agreement, but still under discussion. So, many things have happened because of that secret agreement.
The situation [for Chinese Catholics] is pretty much worse. Before there was an agreement, there was a kind of compromise on many points; for example, the underground Church could have their church buildings and the underground priests, even in the cities; could say Masses for the faithful, even though the law is against that. But the authorities, for a long time, never enforced those laws. Now, they enforce those laws. So, it is a much harsher persecution after the agreement. It is terrible.
While the details of Jiashan's appointment will likely remain unknown, what is known is that the appointment is surrounded by secrecy and confusion. And as the late ex-Jesuit and Vatican insider Malachi Martin often said, "Confusion is a weapon of evil."