The Wall Street Journal reports (behind subscriber wall):
Pope Francis has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government, a concession that the Holy See hopes will lead Beijing to recognize the pope’s authority as head of the Catholic Church in China, according to a person familiar with the plan.
This is a single source. A newspaper like the Journal doesn’t go with a single source on a story like this unless it is somebody at the top.
Two days ago, Catholic News Service reported on the clashes within the Catholic Church over Francis’s overtures to Beijing. Excerpt:
A similar tension is being played out in China, where the Vatican is engaged in dialogue with the communist government in an attempt to move, however slowly, toward a situation in which all the Catholic bishops would be in full communion with Rome and all Catholics would recognize each other as members of the same church.
But some people who have given up their freedom to remain faithful to the pope and some who have observed the resulting suffering see the Vatican’s dialogue with the Chinese government as a betrayal.
One of the loudest critics of the Vatican’s current engagement with the Chinese government is Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired archbishop of Hong Kong.
In a blog posted on his Facebook page Jan. 29, he asked rhetorically, “Is it not good to try to find mutual ground to bridge the decades-long divide between the Vatican and China?” And then he responded, “But can there be anything really ‘mutual’ with a totalitarian regime? Either you surrender or you accept persecution, but remaining faithful to yourself.”
While Cardinal Zen acknowledged that some Catholics who have cooperated with the government-approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association did so “not by their own free will, but under heavy pressure,” he also said others are “willing renegades” who, in effect, are in schism.
In his post criticising Vatican diplomacy, Zen wrote: “So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all they are doing in recent years and months.”
I am reminded of the penultimate scene in The Mission, the 1986 film in which the Vatican, in the person of a Cardinal Altamirano, decides the fate of a convert church of Guarani Indians living in colonial territory contested by Spain and Portugal in the 1740s. There is no good decision, only a less evil one. The cardinal makes his call based on geopolitics and what he considers to be the greater good of the Church. The results were not good. I have slightly edited this final exchange of dialogue for the sake of avoiding a spoiler. The first line is from a state official. The second line is from the cardinal, who has been taken aback by the consequences of his verdict:
“We had no alternative, Your Eminence. We must work in the world. The world is thus.”
No… . Thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it.”
What must St. John Paul II, the lion who defied communism, be making of this news.
God help the catacombs Catholics of China. I bet they never imagined this day would come.
… but then the pope's big gambles, the divorce/remarriage push and perhaps this, both involve making major concessions to the stewards of that paradigm, in its Western-democratic and Sino-oligarchic forms, in the hopes of making new evangelization possible.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) February 1, 2018