April 23, 2006


China, Vatican Edge Toward Accord (Edward Cody, April 23, 2006, Washington Post)

After more than half a century of hostility, China and the Roman Catholic Church have inched within reach of normal relations, a historic shift aimed at improving the lives of 10 million Chinese who regularly practice the faith, according to leaders and analysts on both sides of the divide.

The irregular contacts, often made at meetings in Rome between Vatican diplomats and Chinese Communist Party officials, remain clouded by mutual suspicion, they said. Party elders particularly fear that the church could become a rallying point for anti-government agitation as it did in Eastern Europe.

But the process has overcome a major stumbling block with recent signals from the Vatican that it is willing to break with Taiwan and set up diplomatic relations with Beijing as part of an overall accord guaranteeing the church's role in China.

Realpolitik is amoral and for the Vatican to practice it especially repellant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2006 8:49 AM

The Vatican has done business with tyrants and despots for thousands of years with the cover story that they're only tending their sheep. Hardly a new flash.

Posted by: erp at April 23, 2006 9:43 AM

Yes, what erp says, and it's not obviously wrong. Clearly they can't endorse evildoing by the regime, and they won't; but they can refrain from directly confronting it, as Jesus did in the "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" episode.

Posted by: pj at April 23, 2006 1:08 PM

Probably more to this story than we know, else it's not likely that the Taiwanese ambassador to the Vatican would have converted to Catholicism, as he did (story can be found here),

Posted by: Patrick O'Hannigan at April 23, 2006 3:38 PM


For about 2,000 years, there wasn't anybody other than tyrants and despots to work with.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 12:19 PM

Let's remember this is not a case of China vs an independent Taiwan, but over whether Beijing or Taipei is the government of China. Whose claim is closer to reality?

Both the pro-unification and pro-independence factions on Taiwan de facto assume that Taipei will not be the government of China, so Taiwan's claims are mute anyway.

If the Vatican can obtain concessions over this, then it will probably lead to a lot of good in return for something that little harms Taiwan itself.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 24, 2006 12:27 PM

Matt, yes that's what I said, they worked with them and didn't worry their pretty little heads about their sheep's bodies as long as they had their souls.

When Christ said, Render unto Caesar ..., do you take his meaning to be that the church shouldn't be concerned with earthly matters at all?

I'm not advocating an opinion here, just asking.

Posted by: erp at April 24, 2006 4:49 PM


Naw, I always took that admonition as meaning, essentially, "each in due course."

I had to read the History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours for a history class a while back, and I was struck by the sheer acceptance by Gregory of the senseless violence and tyrannical rulers that characterized those times. This man was a priest and by all accounts a holy man, and yet he had no particular moral objections to torture, etc. It couldn't have been a nice world to live in and I'm only saying that better options probably weren't available.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 7:52 PM


Incidentally, since certain liberals say that conservatives are all a bunch of Christocentric theocrats, I figure we should tweak them a little and play around with this passage from the aforementioned book, originally about King Clovis of the Franks:

Day in day out God submitted the enemies of [Bush] to his dominion and increased his power, for he walked before Him with an upright heart and did what was pleasing in his sight.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 24, 2006 7:54 PM