Gray pragmatism is rooted in Deng Xia Ping’s maxim ‘It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice’. Today this means it is impossible to distinguish white from black, what is true from what is false. Heroes of the faith are thus challenged by wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Mgr Savio Hon Tai Fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, centred his address at the symposium on Catholics in today’s China, faced with a major threat to their faith, namely what he calls “a gray pragmatism, which has grown along with economic reform".
This is best exemplified by the notion of "growth at all costs", well encapsulated in Deng Xiaoping’s famous maxim, “It doesn't matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice". This means that what works is true, a largely applied utilitarian principle that is at the root of gray pragmatism, which no longer distinguishes white from black, or what is true from what is the false. As social contexts end up unfortunately influencing the Church, Pope Benedict XVI offered some enlightening points in his 2007 letter to clarify certain ambiguities that are irreconcilable with doctrine.
For Mgr Savio Hon, ten years after the papal call, the latter has been eclipsed by gray pragmatism, as shown by some of the examples he cited, like a discussion between Martha, a newly baptised woman, and her parish priest. The latter asked her to deck out the church for the visit of an illegal and excommunicated bishop who was bringing large gifts. When she objected, he said that he needed the gifts, and told her to go to confession to fix everything.
In another case, a nun confessed all her uneasiness in a letter about the "sad story" of a pro-government bishop who was not only "incompetent" and greatly criticised for his "non-transparent" administration, but was also known for sexually harassing "young sisters". "We cannot tell civilian authorities because they are in favour of him".
The problem is that such a bishop is not an isolated case, said Mgr Hon. There are others. "Sometimes there are greedy wolves in sheep’s clothing," he said. "I wonder if easy legitimation of an illegitimate bishop is not a form of complicity in dressing up a wolf in sheep's clothing."
A priest told the prelate that one day some officials had invited him to dinner at a restaurant to ask him why he had not submitted to the illegitimate bishop. They even tried to explain to him that the question of illegitimate consecration did not exist because self-selection and self-consecration were part of Zhongguo Tianzhujiao (the Chinese religion of the Lord of Heaven), a practice that goes back more than sixty years, unchanged by the Yi Hui Yi Tuan (one association and one conference*). The priest told the officials that he obeyed only his bishop, but the latter told him that the authorities could recognise him as a bishop coadjutor, but that obedience was not due to him. And that is not all. They also told him that the Vatican would soon legitimate all illegitimate bishops. "After all, don’t you see in which direction the wind is blowing?" they told him as a provocation.
The priest's answer was exemplary. "Many in the clergy, including bishops, are waiting to see which way the wind is blowing. I never stop loving my homeland and I respect those who rule us, but I love God first of all and in matters of faith I obey the pope. The Church cannot be led by organisations that embrace principles that are incompatible with its doctrine. Whether the Church is reliable or falls depends on the strength of faith and not on the direction in which the wind is blowing. Should I lose my faith, I should not even believe in myself as a priest and believer."
During his address, Mgr Hon cited the case of another priest who was taken into custody and asked similar questions. Telling the public to rethink his premise in which he mentioned Pilate's cross-examination of Jesus, who told him, misunderstood, that his kingdom was not of this world.
The two talks between officials and priests touch a question that Pope Francis holds dear. The good shepherd the Church needs is the one who gives his life for his flock. A shepherd does not let himself be distracted by the affairs of the world. "No room should be given to gray pragmatism or careerism," Mgr Hon said.
Many missionaries came to China for this mission, he said. "One of the most significant groups is PIME, as Father Sergio Ticozzi's book shows," he added. "They shed blood and sweat to make fertile the land in which the seeds of the Gospel can grow. In difficult times, there have always been great examples of people bearing witness, sometimes going so far as enduring a martyr’s death."
When Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world.” Such a “statement remains unchanged, it accompanies us, and has become the two pillars in Christian life, namely truth and love,” said Mgr Hon, following Pope Francis. The kingdom of Christ is not of this world. Before us who evangelise in any part of the world, there is a mission of love, not of power; therefore, we are "in the world but not of the world."
* Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) and the Chinese Catholic Bishop’s Conference (CCBC)