The Holy See has reportedly asked two Chinese bishops to stand aside to make way for illicitly ordained, Chinese government-backed counterparts.
A Vatican delegation asked Bishop Peter Zhuang of Shantou and Bishop Jospeh Guo Xijin of Mindong to retire or accept demotion in order to smooth relations with the Chinese government.
Asia News, the outlet of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, reports that 88-year-old Bishop Zhuang received a letter dated 26 October asking him to resign to make way for the government-backed Bishop Huang Bingzhang.
Note that fact: Asia News is an official Vatican news agency. This is not idle media speculation. This is coming from inside the Vatican.
Bishop Huang was excommunicated in 2011 after being consecrated without Vatican approval. He is also a member of the National People’s Congress, the Chinese parliament.
Asia News reports that Bishop Zhuang was escorted to Beijing, where he met with Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, former president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who told him to retire – but with the proviso that he could nominate three priests, one of whom Bishop Huang would appoint as his vicar general.
Sources said Bishop Zhuang burst into tears on hearing the demand, adding that “it was meaningless to appoint a vicar general, who is still a priest that Bishop Huang could remove him anytime.”
Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, confirmed the situation regarding Bishop Zhuang, Asia News says.
Bishop Zhuang is almost 90 years old. Think about all the communist persecution he has lived through. And now, the Vatican itself is selling him out to the communists.
From an altar in a dingy backyard four hours from Beijing, Paul Dong is conducting mass.
He’s also breaking the law. Dong and his parishioners are among millions of illegal Christians worshiping in officially atheist China.
According to a new report from US-based NGO Freedom House, persecution of Chinese Christians and other faith groups has “intensified” in recent years.
“Combining both violent and nonviolent methods, the (Communist) Party’s policies are designed to curb the rapid growth of religious communities and eliminate certain beliefs and practices,” the report said.
Its release comes amid hot speculation over whether the Vatican and Beijing will strike a potentially historic deal on the ordination of Chinese bishops, ending decades of frosty ties.
Such a deal would not be welcomed by Dong and many of his fellow illegal worshipers.
“Jesus said one person cannot serve two gods, now the Vatican is willing to serve God and the Communist Party,” he said.
Plenty of mainlanders worshipping in “catacombs churches” are also opposed to any rapprochement on the government’s terms. “It’s possible that Rome may betray us,” said Fr Dong, a priest in Hebei province, told The Telegraph. “If this happens, I will resign. I won’t join a Church which is controlled by the Communist Party.” Those are strong words, but they are understandable. After all, true reconciliation comes only after repentance. Giving the regime a veto on appointing bishops means that Chinese officials won’t be asked to repent; they will be vindicated.
Back to the 2017 CNN story:
As the situation has worsened for Protestants, relations between the Vatican and Beijing are at their strongest level in years.
Pope Francis has expressed his desire to visit China, and reports last year suggested the two sides were moving closer to a deal on the ordination of bishops, long a sticking point.
Under Xi Jinping, Chinese government is destroying churches left and right these days. Pope Francis could speak out against this persecution. But he doesn’t. In fact, as we now see, he wants Chinese Catholics to prostrate themselves before the communists. Look at this:
Officials in China’s eastern Jiangxi province have replaced religious images displayed by Christian families with portraits of the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, according to reports.
Pictures showing officials removing images of the cross and other religious subjects in Yugan County were uploaded to the social messaging service WeChat account of Huangjinbu town government, according to Ucanews.com.
The message from officials said the Christians involved had “recognised their mistakes and decided not to entrust to Jesus but to the (Communist) Party” claiming the Christians voluntarily removed 624 religious images and posted 453 portraits of Xi, the country’s president and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.
The officials also claimed they were “converting” Christians to party loyalty through poverty alleviation and other schemes to help the disadvantaged. Nearly 10 percent of Yugan County’s largely impoverished 1 million people is Christian.
Father Andrew, who declined to give his full name for fear of government retribution, told ucanews.com that the removal of the Christian images involved officials giving money to poor households in return for hanging Xi’s portrait.
Father John, in northern China, said he felt Xi had become “another Mao” Zedong following the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October. The priest predicted that other officials around the country would imitate what had been done in Jiangxi.
And now, Pope Francis is toasting to friendship with Xi. Cardinal Mindszenty, pray for these poor Catholic catacombers in China.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviets had control of the Russian Orthodox Church. As far as I know — I welcome correction from those more knowledgeable — the sacraments remained valid because even though the government controlled the appointment of bishops, their consecrations were sacramentally valid. Russian believers, including faithful priests, had to suffer decades of intense persecution, often never knowing which of their priests were secretly loyal to the Bolsheviks above all. (In fact, a Czech Catholic reader of this blog e-mailed me not long ago to talk about how a priest in Prague whom he greatly trusted as a young Catholic there, turned out to have been an informant of the communist regime’s).
It is possible to hold on throughout the persecution. Perhaps the thinking in Rome is that it is better to guarantee the validity of the sacraments throughout the communist time, so that the Catholic Church will still validly be present when communism passes. Remember that Catholic and Orthodox ecclesiology is different from Protestant ecclesiology. Sacraments are valid even if a validly ordained priest is personally corrupt. But without valid sacraments — which require a validly ordained bishop, and a validly consecrated clergy — there is no church, only ecclesial communities.
Maybe what Rome is trying to do is to gamble to keep the Catholic Church alive through the dark communist night. That’s the best spin I can put on it.
However, what Catholic journalist Michael Brendan Dougherty says here might well prove true:
Imagine how demoralizing it is for Catholics who remained faithful to see the Church cave without a single concession from Beijing.
If China will be Christian, the Vatican is guaranteeing that it will be Protestant. — Michael Brendan Dougherty (@michaelbd) January 23, 2018