May 8, 2006


The Pope Is Asking China for Freedom, Not Forgiveness: The Chinese authorities have begin ordaining illegitimate bishops again. But this time the Vatican is responding firmly. It is the new course inaugurated by Benedict XVI (Sandro Magister, 5/08/06,

Speaking at the synod on October 12, bishop Zen of Hong Kong drew these conclusions from the whole affair:

“It has become more and more clear that the Chinese bishops ordained without the approval of the Roman pontiff are accepted neither by the clergy nor by the faithful. It is to be hoped that in the face of this 'sensus Ecclesiae' the government of Beijing will see the advantage of coming to a normalization of the situation, even if the 'conservative' elements within the official Church are creating resistance for obvious motives of self-interest.”

The “conservatives” within the official Church include, for example, Beijing bishop Michael Fu Tieshan, who is not recognized by Rome and is unwelcome to most of the faithful, and one of the new bishops ordained in recent days, Joseph Ma Yinglin, who is also a member of the People’s National Congress, the Chinese parliament.

But above all, there are the “conservatives” within the communist regime, for whom the normalization of relations between the Vatican and China would be a catastrophe. This is the view, in particular, of the Patriotic Association that controls the official Church. Its vice-president, Anthony Liu Bainan, does everything he can to keep the Church nationalist and separated from Rome, and it is especially to him that the recent resumption of illegitimate ordinations is due. It is clear that this objective clashes with the project of a “harmonious society” as enunciated by president Hu Jintao.

The resumption of illegitimate episcopal ordinations on April 30 and May 3 has temporarily given an advantage to the “conservatives.” And the initial silence of the Vatican authorities was also greeted with alarm by the newly nominated cardinal Zen, who declared in an interview: “I cannot be the only one to protest. If we remain silent, we are preparing the way for an unconditional surrender.”

But a few hours later, on May 4, the Holy See published the forceful declaration reproduced above. It states that the illegitimate bishops and those who consecrated them are subject to excommunication (according to the canon cited, number 1382 of the Code of Canon Law), but that they are spared from this because they have acted under constraint.

In the note, the Holy See restates that it is not withdrawing from dialogue with the Chinese authorities, in order that “such unacceptable acts of violent and inadmissible constrictions not be repeated.”

For Benedict XVI, the central issue for China is definitely that of religious liberty. Or rather, that of liberty plain and simple.

Shifting the Church from Realpolitik to to Crusade would be enormously helpful.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2006 7:22 AM

He'd better start paying attention to Belgium. There's a big problem there.

Posted by: Sandy P at May 8, 2006 11:23 AM