Why has Rome not spoken out in defense of the Chinese Catholic Church?
Pastor's Corner: July 13, 2016
There seems to be a conspiracy of silence on the amount of manufactured goods coming from the so-called “Empire of the Middle.” We are literally swamped with Made in China tags, to say nothing of the influx of Chinese students in Western universities and growing investment from Chinese companies. We are comfortable enjoying the fruits of virtual slave labor as our countries in the West become increasingly dependent on China’s economic expansion. Yet are we aware of the violent persecution Catholics have had to undergo for decades since the violent reign Mao Zedong? And do we know the extent to which Chinese officials have curtailed all attempts to question it?
The latest story of Catholic oppression in China concerns Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai. For years ago Bishop Ma Daqin renounced the false Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (“Patriotic Association”), a puppet “church” of the Chinese government not recognized by the Vatican. Ma Daqin’s pledge of fidelity to the Catholic Church was an edifying testimony of resistance to the Patriotic Association and its dictators in Beijing. However, on July 12, 2015, Ma Daqin ostensibly recanted his previous stand against the Patriotic Association, though it is impossible to confirm the veracity of this statement due to the bishop’s ongoing house arrest which has lasted for four years.
Previously, another Chinese bishop who did not receive the regime’s placet, Martin Wu Qinjing of Zhouzi, Shaanxi Province, was placed under house arrest for the better part of a decade in 2007. Only after agreeing to concelebrate with an excommunicated bishop not approved by Rome was he allowed by the government and the Patriotic Association to practice his ministry openly.
The main problem is not so much that communist China—which is all smiles to the Western world when it comes to business—is showing teeth within its walls. The real problem is the deafening silence of the Roman authorities who, according to Asia News, were apparently aware of the pressure being applied to Bishop Ma Daquin to back down from the Patriotic Association.
Pope Francis himself pushed Realpolitik to the limit in his February 2, 2016 allocation where he exhorted China to be merciful to itself without mentioning the persecution of the underground Catholic Church and the millions of Chinese who have suffered for the Faith. The only voice strong enough to speak up is that of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong, whose cries receive scant attention from Rome.
It is interesting to link these sorrowful episodes with Anne Applebaum’s 2012 book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956. In it, Applebaum combs the Soviet archives to document that regime’s brutal totalitarianism which focused on suppressing any and all potential opponents, including the Church.
Today we can look to the situation in China and see the same strategy of state-sponsored terror that the Soviets introduced being used against the Chinese Catholic Church. If this ongoing form of tyranny is to be resisted and overcome, it can only be through a heroic witness to the truth on the part of the entire Catholic Church in solidarity with its longsuffering brothers and sisters in China.