As I look back on the past year, it seems to me that the most telling illustration of the deep crisis gripping the Catholic Church is Pope Francis' abandonment of the body of Christ in China. I can think of no spiritual calculus whatsoever that makes sense of it.
Christians in the Middle East and Africa are already in the grip of violent persecution. Through the so-called free countries of the West, adherence to Christ's understanding of marriage and the family is being construed as a hate crime and used as an excuse to strip Christ followers of their parental authority and property rights.
In no country in the world has the pogrom against Christ's teachings been pursued with more focused and systematic ideological determination than in Communist China. Under Xi Jinping's program for sinicization, the Chinese Communist Party is implementing a five-year plan to make the identity of every individual in China totally incompatible with anything but self-gratifying lip service to the mind of Christ.
The aim is to assure that in one or two generations, few if any people in China will even profess Christian faith, much less have the heart to preach and practice it in Christ's way, even unto death.
Xi Jinping's Communist Party has pursued its hostility toward all religion with totalitarian zeal. If Pope Francis thought that surrendering authority over the Church in China would mitigate the party's destructive implementation of this hostility, recent events suggest that he was woefully mistaken. Since anyone under the age of 18 is formally forbidden to participate in religious activities, it's hard to see how Chinese parents will be able to acquit the vow to raise up their children in the Faith.
Yet, as part of the traumatic abandonment of reason that presently besets some Catholic hierarchs, Pope Francis' fellow Argentinian, Bp. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chairman of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, asserted, "Right now, those who are best at implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese."
Does the social doctrine of the Church include abandoning the true definition of society? Society consists of relations among human beings. But all humans live and move and have our being in God. If we take God away, what is the substantive being of society?
Christ highlighted the need to answer this question when he doubted the profit involved in gaining the whole world while losing one's soul (i.e., life in communion with God by way of His Spirit). Bishop Sanchez Sorondo says that in China, "[You] do not have shanty towns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs." He asserts that in China "there is a positive national conscience."
But even if we assume that his assertions have some basis other than propaganda, if the price for such purported goods requires turning away from God, we purchased lifeless dust at the expense of surrendering the only source of enduring life there is.
Where in Catholic doctrine, down through the ages, is the tenet of faith that proclaims it good to sacrifice our knowledge of God in exchange for worldly prosperity? Or does Christ, with love in His heart, tell the inquiring young man the contrary, advising him to surrender all the goods esteemed in his ambition, in order to keep company with Him, and therefore with God his Father?
The Vatican's rapprochement with the anti-Christ government of China (for who stands against God stands against His Son) stands Christ's teaching on its head. For the sake of worldly profit, it sacrifices the communion, sustained through decades of sacrificial witness that faithful Chinese Catholics maintained, through the vicar of Christ, with Christ and God. Now, by the authority of ruthless atheists, that communion will be withheld from their posterity.
If this sacrifice of souls to secure the bodily life accords with the way and truth and life of Christ, why did His Apostles refuse to stop preaching the Gospel of Christ, even though it meant rejection, poverty, bodily torture and death? Why did countless martyrs light fires of faith throughout the earth by following in that apostolic succession? It seems that Pope Francis' Vatican means to teach that keeping faith with Christ is consistent with abandoning knowledge of His Father's will.
But what is positive about the ill-informed and empty "conscience" that must inevitably result from this abandonment? Could it be that this false priority for human relations is at the heart of the corruptly welcoming "accompaniment" that promotes self-pleasuring as a substitute for the self-sharing joys of procreation — replacing the worshipful likeness of God's productive love with a strained and ultimately barren pantomime, bereft of the Holy Spirit by which God breathes and shapes the water of life into our dust?