02/17/2018, 12.52
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The Church 'doesn't care about politics and human rights' ... Wrong!

by John Mok Cit Wai

In an attempt to please China, several commentators dare to conceal or manipulate the teaching of the Church. The Church's mission is linked to support for human rights and commitment to society. Jesus never challenged the Roman Empire, but created a revolution. Msgr Romero defending the poor and the Church, had to face the military junta. A comment by John Mok Cit Wai.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - In recent weeks, following the news given by AsiaNews on the Vatican request to relegate two bishops recognized by the Holy See to leave room for two others still considered excommunicated, some media have published unconfirmed reports of an imminent agreement between China and the Holy See on the appointment of bishops. As often in the past, these voices have inflamed the dialogue within the Church among pessimists and optimists, between Card. Joseph Zen, who accuses the Secretariat of State of "selling out the Church" and points to a fracture between the Pope collaborators and the Pope himself, and the Vatican Press Office which claims the total harmony between the two and the benefits of a possible agreement as a "minor evil".

Around this core there is a chorus of journalists and personalities who seem to want to court China to push it to sign the agreement, showing the total "non-danger" of the Church for China, indeed the great appreciation for it, for having embodied "the best implementer of the social doctrine of the Church ". The comment we are presenting deals with another chapter of this chorus: given the long list of violations of human rights against Beijing, from different sides the claim has been made that the Church "is not interested in human rights". I echo the comment of John Mok Chit Wai, now a PhD student at the University of California, Irvine, among the signatories of the letter of Catholic personalities to prevent the signing of the agreement between Beijing and the Holy See, which would be "a deplorable and irreversible error".

In a report by Hong Kong Free Press[i] Francesco Sisci, a researcher at the Renmin University, was quoted saying: “The church is not interested in politics. It’s not for human rights, it’s not against human rights”. He is so wrong that I could not believe these are words coming out from the mouth of a “church expert”.

In his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis, St. John Paul II writes: “In any case, we cannot fail to recall at this point, with esteem and profound hope for the future, the magnificent effort made to give life to the United Nations Organization, an effort conducive to the definition and establishment of man's objective and inviolable rights, with the member States obliging each other to observe them rigorously. This commitment has been accepted and ratified by almost all present-day States, and this should constitute a guarantee that human rights will become throughout the world a fundamental principle of work for man's welfare. There is no need for the Church to confirm how closely this problem is linked with her mission in the modern world.” "(RH 17).

He deplores that “If human rights are violated in time of peace, this is particularly painful and from the point of view of progress it represents an incomprehensible manifestation of activity directed against man, which can in no way be reconciled with any programme that describes itself as ‘humanistic’.(Ibid).

If one still thinks the above passages are not clear enough, let us look to the speech St John Paul gave on the World Day for Peace in 1999, titled Respect for Human Rights: The Secret of True Peace: “Defence of the universality and indivisibility of human rights is essential for the construction of a peaceful society and for the overall development of individuals, peoples and nations. To affirm the universality and indivisibility of rights is not to exclude legitimate cultural and political differences in the exercise of individual rights, provided that in every case the levels set for the whole of humanity by the Universal Declaration are respected.” (No. 3).

He then further emphasized some specific human rights: the right to life, religious freedom, the rights of citizens to participate, the rights to self-fulfillment, and the rights to peace. Both civil and political rights, and social and economic rights, shall be upheld and protected, he added.

Sisci also argued that Jesus never challenged the Roman government. Again, he is wrong. Yes, Jesus never challenged any government through political revolutions. Yet, he challenged everyone to protect the weak and the poor, and stand up against injustices. He openly and unreservedly criticized the ruling elites, and condemned those who oppressed the others. Such challenges and condemnations were fundamental, hence even more powerful than toppling a regime. It was, is, and will continue to be, a revolution of love and justice.

Quite a number of “church experts” and “papal advisors” recently keep on arguing that the Church does not want to get involved in politics, in an attempt to ease the worries of the Chinese government. They are correct, but only partially. If political involvement means acting like a state actor, supporting candidates during an election, or leading a political revolution to overthrow a regime, then the Church indeed does not want to get involved in such politics. However, politics has a much broader meaning. It also means fighting for just social, economic, and political structures, condemning oppression and injustices, and protecting the rights of the people. In this sense, the Church cannot shy away from participating in these political tasks. For we are called to walk with the poor and the weak. The Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero never intended to fight the government overtly. His mission was to protect the poor and defend the persecuted Church. Yet with such a mission of love, he had no choice but to confront the military junta, for the origin of oppression of the poor and the Church was the state itself.

Gaudium et Spes teaches us: “All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community.” “With integrity and wisdom, they must take action against any form of injustice and tyranny, against arbitrary domination by an individual or a political party and any intolerance. They should dedicate themselves to the service of all with sincerity and fairness, indeed, with the charity and fortitude demanded by political life.” "(GS, 75).

Clearer than that!


[i] https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/02/15/ash-wednesday-china-catholics-mull-vatican-beijing-ties/

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