The Holy See uttered forth its reaction to the two recent illicit episcopal consecrations in China. I read the Reuters story which has been getting around. However, when you read the actual statement of the Holy See’s Press Secretary, Dr. JoaquÃƒÂn Navarro-Valls, you get an entirely different picture of the Holy See’s reaction. This was not just a strongly worded statement. This was a flame.
Here is my unofficial translation of Dr. Navarro-Valls statement. Note carefull that the Holy See is presenting an honorable escape from condemnation to most of the bishops and priests, not blaming them. One can sense in this a divide et impera move. But here goes:
I am in the position to make known the position of the Holy See concerning the episcopal ordinations of the priests Joseph Ma Yinglin and Joseph Liu Xinhong, which took place, respectively, Sunday 30 April in Kunming (Yunnan province) and Wednesday 3 May in Wuhu (Anhui province).
The Holy Father learned the news with deep displeasure, since an action which is so important as an episcopal consecration is for the life of the Church, was performed in both cases without respect for the requirements of communion with the Pope.
We are facing, therefore, a grave wound to the unity of the Church, for which, as is known, there are foreseen severe canonical penalties (cf. canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law).
According to the information received, bishops and priests were subjected – on the part of organizations external to the Church – to strong pressures and threats so that they would take part in the episcopal ordinations which, being without any pontifical mandate, were illegitimate and, moreover, contrary to their conscience. Some prelates opposed similar acts of pressure with a refusal, while others could not do other than endure them with great interior suffering. Episodes of this sort produce rips (lacerazioni) not only in the Catholic community, but also in the very depths of consciences.
We are, therefore, witnessing a grave violation of religious liberty, even though an attempt was made under false pretexts to present the two episcopal ordinations as necessary acts to provide pastors for vacant diocese.
The Holy See follows with attention the tormented journey of the Catholic Church in China and, quite aware of certain distinctive dimensions of such a journey, was thinking and hoping that similar deplorable episodes would have belongs by now to the past.
She (the Holy See) consider now her precise duty to give voice to the suffering of the whole Catholic Church, in particular to that of the Catholic community in China and especially that of the bishops and priests, who see themselves as obliged against their conscience to carry out or participate in episcopal ordinations, which neither the candidate nor the consecrating bishops want to perform without having received pontifical mandate.
If the news is true according to which there might take place other episcopal consecrations in the same way, the Holy See reaffirms the necessity of respect for the liberty of the Church and the autonomy of her institutions from any kind of external interference, and she hopes that there will not be repeated such unacceptable acts of violent and intolerable coercion.
The Holy See has, on various occasions, reaffirmed the proper willingness for an honest and constructive dialogue with the competent Chinese authorities in order to find solutions which satisfy the legitimate requirements of both parties.
Initiatives like the abovementioned indicate not only that they do not support such a dialogue, but they on the contrary create new obstacles to it.
For the sake of being complete, after doing my translation I discovered another, prepared by Asia News:
“I am able,” the Vatican statement, released in Italian, reads, “to make known the Holy See’s position on the episcopal ordinations of priests Joseph Ma Yinglin and Joseph Liu Xinhong, which took place, respectively, Sunday, last April 30, in Kunming (Yunnan province) and on the 2nd of the current month of May, in Wuhu (Anhui province).
“The Holy Father learned with profound distressed of the news, as such an important act for the life of the Church, as is an episcopal ordination, was carried out in both cases without respecting the needs of communion with the Pope. It is a serious blow to the unity of the Church, which calls for, as is known, severe canonical sanctions (cf canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law).
“According to the information received, Bishops and priests were subjected – by entities outside the Church – to heavy pressure and threats, so that they would take part in the episcopal ordinations which, lacking pontifical mandate, are illegitimate and, furthermore, contrary to their conscience. Various Prelates opposed such pressures, while others could only suffer them with great interior suffering. Episodes of this kind tear apart not only communities but consciences as well.
“We are therefore faced with a serious violation of religious freedom, even if efforts where made to make it appear that these two episcopal ordinations were dutiful acts for providing a Pastor to vacant dioceses.
“The Holy See is giving careful attention to the tormented journey of the Catholic Church in China and, despite being aware of certain peculiarities of this journey, thought and hoped that such deplorable episodes were by now a thing of the past. It now considers it to be its precise duty to give voice to the suffering of the Catholic Church as a whole, in particular to that of the Catholic community in China and especially to that of Bishops and priests who see themselves forced against conscience to carry out and participate in episcopal ordinations, which neither the candidate nor the consecrating Bishop want to perform without having received pontifical mandate.
“If the news is true that other episcopal ordinations are to take place in the same way, the Holy See repeats the need for respecting the freedom of the Church and the autonomy of its institutions from any kind of external interference, and strongly hopes, therefore, that such unacceptable acts of violent and inadmissible constriction are never repeated.
“The Holy See has, on various occasions, reaffirmed it availability for honest and constructive dialogue with appropriate Chinese Authorities for the purpose of finding solutions that satisfy the legitimate needs of both Parties.
“Not only do initiatives such as those indicated above not encourage such dialogue, but they create new obstacles to them.”