Beijing pontificates against Vatican "threats"
by Bernardo Cervellera
The State Administration for Religious Affairs defends the integrity of the two excommunicated bishops (Leshan and Shantou) and mimics the Vatican saying that the Holy See’s gesture inflicts "wounds" and "sadness" among Catholics in China. It reaffirms the decision to go ahead with the ordinations without papal mandate, but the "resistance" to their dominance of the faithful, priests and bishops is growing. Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao should tackle the violation of the "harmonious society" and corruption of representatives responsible for religious politics.
Rome (AsiaNews) - Against the Vatican’s "unreasonable" and "brutal" "threats", an (unnamed) government spokesman says that Beijing will continue on its path to ordain bishops without papal mandate.
This the contents of a summary statement published by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (Asar, the old Office of Religious Affairs), published today in Xinhua.
The declaration targets "the Vatican's accusations against the ordination of bishops of the Catholic Church in China" and in particular the ordinations of Leshan (06/29/2011) and Shantou (07/14/2011).
As is well-known, Fr. Lei Shiyin was ordained bishop in Leshan, a candidate that the Holy See had long rejected for "serious reasons" (see 29/06/2011 Leshan: seven legitimate bishops take part in Episcopal ordination that had no papal mandate) in Shantou Fr Huang Bingzhang, was ordained who had also been advised by the Holy See to step aside, because, there is already a bishop in Shantou, but one who is not recognized by the government (07/14/2011 Eight bishops in communion with the pope forced to take part in illegitimate ordination in Shantou) .
In both cases, once the ordinations had taken place, the Holy See published a statement in which it rendered public the excommunication of the two newly ordained (see: 04/07/2011 The Holy See condemns Leshan ordination and 16 / 07/2011 Holy See condemns illegal Bishop of Shantou, appreciates "resistance" of bishops and faithful).
It should be noted that the excommunication is "latae sententiae", ie, automatic, for the fact that an act of disobedience to the faith was carried out. In this case there was not even the problem of verifying the intent of the two, because both had been repeatedly been advised not to candidate themselves for the episcopate.
The Asar has come out against the excommunication, describing it as an "unreasonable" "threat", a "brutal means" that " deeply wounds" Chinese Catholics and "causes great sadness" to priests and laity. And it is curious that Beijing uses the same terms ("deep wounds" and "cause of great sadness") that the Vatican statements attributed to the universal Church and the pope!
As is traditional practice in the Communist Party, they are using the other party’s charges against them, so that while the Vatican talks of wounds to religious freedom, China paints itself as a victim of the Holy See.
This aping of the Pope and the Holy See, arrives at the climax when the declaration pontificates that "the two newly ordained bishops are devout in their faith, their integrity and competence, they are supported by their priests and lay faithful"; it is somewhat curious that two of the priests of Catholic Church should need a license in orthodoxy from an association composed of atheist secretaries, led by an atheist Party!
Asar’s need to play the victim even results in its delving into the past, the 1950s, to when it claims the Vatican "threatened" bishops and priests with excommunication, and because of this "priests and laity of the Catholic Church in China have suffered a great historical trauma "!
Aside from the historic falsity of the statement - in the past, no bishop or priest has ever been officially excommunicated, and only John XXIII spoke of possible secret schism in the Church in China - the Asar completely overlooks the "sufferings" and "major trauma" of the tens of hundreds of bishops and priests who have faced prison (up to 20-30 years), lagers, torture, mockery within the people's courts precisely because they remained faithful to the Pope as the religious leader of the Catholic Church. If the Vatican were to canonize all the martyrs under Chinese communism, undoubtedly we would have the largest canonization in history!
To Vatican "threats" the Asar responds with another threat: "The majority of priests and believers will more resolutely choose the path of independently selecting and ordaining its bishops, and the government will continue to support and encourage such practice".
Such a threat - to continue the illicit ordinations without papal mandate - was repeated days ago by the illegitimate bishop Guo Jincai who, speaking to China Daily on July 22, said that "at least seven dioceses in China will ordain their bishops elected." He added: "When the conditions are good."
The point is that "the conditions" hoped for by the Asar are far from being good. More and more faithful, priests and bishops are distancing themselves from the illicit ordinations: in Shenyang, Mgr. Pei Junmin resisted being deported to the Shantou ordination (for which he had been designated as the main celebrant), thanks to the defence of the priests and faithful his diocese, and another bishop, Msgr. Cai Bingrui in Xiamen, enlisted for Shantou, managed to hide and is now wanted by the authorities of the government.
In short, throughout China the "resistance" of the Church towards the undue interference of government on religious matters is growing (see 18/07/2011 Chinese Church "resists" excessive power of Government and Patriotic Association). In addition, in recent days, many bishops who were deported and forced to participate in the illicit ordinations, have written to the Holy See communicating their being forced to take part in the act and receiving reinstatement in communion with the Pope.
The Asar declaration speaks of " support and encouragement" to those who want an "independent" and "self-organized" church. In fact, until now there has been deportations, kidnapping and abduction of the bishops to force their participation in illicit ordinations: instead of leaving bishops and priests free to decide on their own, the Asar has preferred to "support and encourage" them by dint of coercion.
With a taste for paradox, the Asar statement concludes with an invitation to dialogue: "The principles and the position of the Chinese government to improve relations with the Vatican are solid and clear. We hope to begin a constructive dialogue with the Vatican and we hope to explore ways and means to improve relations. "
The declaration then calls for the "removal of the excommunication" as a condition to continue "the right path of dialogue".
Apart from the grossness of attempting to be "the Pope’s pope", ordering the Pope about in matters of faith, this note on dialogue and diplomatic relations is important. It is a sign that there are still those in leadership who want to modernize China providing real religious freedom and opening to relations with the Vatican. And these figures are within the entourage of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. For this - with fear and dread, and completely inconsistent with the rest of the statement - Asar is attempting to align itself with the supreme leadership.
In fact, however, Asar policies against the Catholic Church are completely counterproductive to Hu Jintao’s proclamation on the "harmonious society" and "fighting corruption". The members of the government's Religious Affairs Bureaux and the Patriotic Association are dividing communities and creating not harmony, but new tensions in Chinese society. In addition, the way they prey on the goods and property of the Church opens an entirely new chapter on the stinking corruption inside the party.
Will Hu Jintao succeed in healing this most recent front of concern in Chinese society? Only days ago Cardinal Zen, in an appeal published in the Hong Kong Apple Daily, asked the two leaders to "dedicate a little of their time to Catholics" in China (see 13/07/2011 Urgent appeals by Card. Zen and Bishop Tong against illicit Shantou ordination). We too join in this appeal.