Chinese priests: changing the essence of the Patriotic Association is a vain hope
Card John Tong’s article on the future of Sino-Vatican dialogue continues to make waves. For one underground priest, the article encourages them to join the Patriotic Association. For an official priest, the Chinese government retains the authority to appoint bishops. Both clergymen believe that there is no difference between "full freedom" and "necessary freedom". The bishop of Shanghai stands as a bitter example.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Changing the essence of the Patriotic Association is a vain hope" and asking for a "necessary freedom" without "complete freedom" can lead to no freedom, this according to two priests, one from the underground community, the other from the official community.
The two spoke to AsiaNews about Card John Tong’s article on "The future of Sino-Vatican dialogue from the ecclesiological point of view". What they say is indicative of the doubts and weariness found among members of the Chinese Church vis-à-vis the many statements made about the dialogue between China and the Holy See. The names of the two priests have been changed for obvious security reasons.
In his article, Card Tong suggests that the Church can sacrifice some principles in order to evangelise and protect itself in various ways. From this point of view, the bishop of Shanghai (Mgr Thaddeus Ma Daqin) has admitted his mistake. His fidelity to the Holy See has brought chaos to the diocese of Shanghai. Perhaps the Holy See does not want him to be so faithful.
Card Tong explains his vision from the ecclesiological point of view and underscores its theological foundations. I think that his article will have a great impact on the Church in China. It is obvious that the points raised by Tong are in line with the thinking of the official Church, and with the groups that seek compromise and independence from the Holy See. Of course, there are some points that the government likes.
Card Tong’s seems to suggest three winners. In other words, his text will benefit three groups, namely the official Church, the groups in favour of compromise and independence from the Holy See, and the Chinese government. In my personal opinion, Tong’s article encourages people to join the Patriotic Association.
However, I disagree with the notion that the Church should sacrifice its full freedom for the sake of necessary freedom. If the Church does not have absolute freedom, maybe it cannot even have necessary freedom. Truth and freedom are related. Freedom is not true if it does not draw from the truth. Our underground Church has endured all kinds of pressure from the government to achieve true freedom.
In short, Card Tong expresses ideas full of super-optimism and self-glorification, but he did not grow up in mainland China and so cultivates illusions about the Communist Party. Moreover, he does not mention "sinicisation". Has he forgotten perhaps?
Although Card Tong’s analysis has good fundamentals, it is far from reality. Any hope the Holy See has to change the essence of the Patriotic Association is a vain hope. China retains the authority to decide the election of bishops. Approval by the Holy See is only formal.
In addition, the "necessary freedom" that Card Tong cites is just misleading propaganda to himself and others. In fact, the idea itself is detrimental to the notion of a local Church that adheres to the truth, and harms all the faithful who suffer humiliation when they bear witness.