Letter to the Church in China: first glance

Here are some rapid notes after a first reading.  This should post appear after the embargo is lifted, after 1200h in Rome.

The Letter to Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China.

The text is now ready in all the major languages, including Chinese in both simplified and traditional characters.

The text is not available in Latin.   It is dated to Pentecost Sunday.  

It is divided in two parts, a theological examination of the Church in China and guidelines for Pastoral Life

A recurring theme in the first part of the letter is suffering.  Benedict expresses his unity with the people, a great people with a long tradition, who are suffering.  At the same time as he looks at the particular situation of the Chinese people, he also underscores the Catholic tradition and the meaning of what it is to be a Church.

As in everything this Pope writes and says, he is concerned to speak to the Church herself, considered as the Church (ad intra) and also how the Church interacts with the word and fits in a particular social context (ad extra).  

The Church has had a painful experience in China for the last fifty years.  There were persecutions in the 1950’s and expulsions of foreigners.   Chinese Catholics became isolated and an official Church was established by the government to control religious activity.  Consecration of bishops without papal mandate in 1958 wounded the unity of the Church.  The Cultural Revolution (1966-76) was a time of great trial.  The 1980’s saw some openings and tolerance.   Faith had remained alive.  Some Catholic pastors were determined not to be too influenced by the government and opted to function in a clandestine way.  Others opted to work with the government Church some seeking also union with the Successor of Peter.  There remain those who believe the official Church is independent, which is not reconciable with Catholic doctrine.  In the climate of doubt, many Catholic priests and bishops have sought from Rome some counsel on how to proceed.  With this letter the Pope offers some guidelines for the life of the Church and the task of evangelization. (No. 2).

He recognizes their suffering, and the value of that suffering.  He knows that reconciliation cannot be accomplished overnight.  (no. 6).

Benedict repeats the words of Jesus in Luke 5:4, "Duc in altum… cast out into the deep".  In a way, this suggests to me that if missionaries cannot arrive in China, perhaps we need to make better use of tools of social communication in evangelization and promoting unity.  These words were also used by John Paul II in his letter about using the internet.  However, in this Letter, Benedict says, "Duc in altum" invites "us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence". (No. 3)  Again, in this phrase we see Benedict’s desire to establish continuity with the past, for the sake of a healthy present and future.

On practical matters, Benedict gives guidelines about the recognition of ecclesiastics by government authorities  and about the appointment of bishops.  

Again, Benedict stresses, as he has been doing in Italy, that the Church cannot replace the State.  The State and Church have different missions.  However, the Church must not be silenced. She has a mission to fulfill, to proclaim Christ.  It is not the Church’s primary task to to build a the most just earthly society.  However, she cannot be sidelined either.  (cf. Deus caritas est).  As a result, she does not wish for ongoing conflict with civil authorities, but she will not yield her rights when there is undue interference in "matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church."

In language that seems to be proposed as a bridge, Benedict writes: "No one in the Church is a foreigner, but all are citizens of the same People, members of the same Mystical Body of Christ. The bond of sacramental communion is the Eucharist, guaranteed by the ministry of Bishops and priests."  The government is often concerned about "foreign" influence in China.

The Pope dwells on the need for reconciliation for the purpose of authentic communion, moving beyong the pain and personal positions and difficult experiences.  Force cannot be the model.  While charity must rule the God given ecclesial and hierarchical structure of the Church cannot be compromised.  The ministry of the Apostles is a sine qua non.   The State cannot place itself above the Church’s own authority to guide the ecclesial life of the faithful.  

Does collaboration with or recognition from civil authorities compromise communion with the universal Church?  Benedict responds that

"courageous safeguarding of the deposit of faith and of sacramental and hierarchical communion is not of itself opposed to dialogue with the authorities concerning those aspects of the life of the ecclesial community that fall within the civil sphere. There would not be any particular difficulties with acceptance of the recognition granted by civil authorities on condition that this does not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion." (No. 7).

Benedict applies a principle of subsidiarity, leaving it to the local bishop to determine in the precise local context how to balance these aims.  He stresses that the faithful must remain in union with the bishop.

Addressing the issue of bishops, Benedict speaks to a number of topics, including their formation.  The role of bishops is vital and no lay person can become the de facto head of a community.  Also, given the nature of the Petrine Ministry and the Apostolic succession and its ministry, "the proposal for a Church that is ‘‘independent” of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine."  

Even when bishops are consecrated without pontifical mandate, their consecration is valid. In the case of bishops who have not sought unity with the Holy See, their sacramental ministry is valid, but illegitimate.  

The Letter does not state that these bishops are excommunicated for being consecrated without papal mandate.  This seems to be a recognition of the need to consider the social context and difficult conditions of the Church in China.

The Letter reminds bishops that no bishop or groups of bishops in Episcopal Conferences can be subjected to civil authorities when teaching about faith and moral and the Church’s sacramental life. (no. 8).  

However, the present official "College of Catholic Bishops of China cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the ‘‘clandestine” Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine."

When the Pope approves the appointment of bishops, he exercises spiritual authority, strictly within the religious sphere, not political authority.  When appointing a bishop the Pope does not interfer with the internal affairs of a State.  Benedict hopes that some agreement can be reached so that the Holy See can be free to appoint bishops.  He is willing to work with the government to resolve questions regarding certain candidates and the publication of their appointments.

The section on practical guidelines, I will look at later.

At the end the Pope proposes that 24 May could be a future day of prayer for Catholics around the world in unity with the Church in China, with special reference to Our Lady, Help of Christians, venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

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30 Responses to Letter to the Church in China: first glance

  1. Alex says:

    I would like to add my confusion that the episcopal consecrations without a papal mandate wounded the unity of the Church, and not their occupation and usurpation of Diocesan Sees. Never in the history – before the weird canonical allegations of Cardinal Gantin in Ecclesia Dei 1988 – of the Church have episcopal consecrations without a papal mandate been considered in themselves to be (intrinsically) schismatic or the breeders of a schism. It is the usurpation of jurisdiction of the Pope and bishops in communion with him, which forms and consummates the schism. The episcopal consecrations are merely an act logically preceding them.

    Another worrying thing is that the excommunication of the Chinese Patriotic bishops in 1951 is not mentioned at all. Of course there was grave fear in the matter and coercion. But some have testified of their malign intentions by actively calling for schism and even heresies in the realm of moral theology.

    This letter was much needed, but contains serious Canonical flaws, especially as regards to the link between illicit episcopal consecrations in themselves and schism. Illicit episcopal consecrations are headed in the CIC 1983 as abuse of ecclesiastical power, not as a crime against the unity of the Catholic Church.

    The Chinese undergound Church is promising despite all. And the even the patriotics protested the planned dynamitation of a local Harbing Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine by the communist authorities (who claim it is a dangerous place of illegal worship). Sanguis martyrum, semen christianorum est.

    And most Chinese Roman Catholics really believe in all dogmas of Faith and are not lukewarm cradle “Catholics” like in the Western world. Many, I have heard so from a Sinologian traditional priest, priests and underground continental bishops long for the Traditional Roman Mass to be restored (they lost it after introduction of the “Vatican-faithful” new missal after 1978; the Patriotics inserted a new vernacular liturgy starting from 1987).

    Our Lady, Empress of China, pray for us.

  2. Antonius says:

    “Consecrated Persons”? Terrible choice of words. What happened to “To His Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and all other Local Ordinaries that are at Peace and in Communion with the Apostolic See, and to the Clergy and Faithful of the entire Catholic World.

    Venerable Brethren and Dearest Sons, Health and Apostolic Benediction.” as Blessed John XXIII put it?

  3. n says:

    “In recent years, for various reasons, you, my Brother Bishops, have encountered difficulties, since persons who are not “ordained”, and sometimes not even baptized, control and take decisions concerning important ecclesial questions, including the appointment of Bishops, in the name of various State agencies. Consequently, we have witnessed a demeaning of the Petrine and episcopal ministries by virtue of a vision of the Church according to which the Supreme Pontiff, the Bishops and the priests risk becoming de facto persons without office and without power. Yet in fact, as stated earlier, the Petrine and episcopal ministries are essential and integral elements of Catholic doctrine on the sacramental structure of the Church. The nature of the Church is a gift of the Lord Jesus, because “his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:11-13).

    Communion and unity – let me repeat (cf. section 5 above) – are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church that is ‘‘independent” of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

    I am aware of the grave difficulties which you have to address in the aforementioned situation in order to remain faithful to Christ, to his Church and to the Successor of Peter. Reminding you that – as Saint Paul said (cf. Rom 8:35-39) – no difficulty can separate us from the love of Christ, I am confident that you will do everything possible, trusting in the Lord’s grace, to safeguard unity and ecclesial communion even at the cost of great sacrifices.

  4. AntonioG says:

    Alex –

    Greetings from Shanghai, but …

    You need to get your facts straight. There was no excommunication of the Patriotic bishops in 1951 because there were no Patriotic bishops in 1951. The Catholic Patriotic Association was founded in 1957, and the first two illicit ordinations took place in April 1958. One of those, Dong Guangqing of Haikou, was reconciled with John Paul II in the early 1980s by Fr. Larry Murphy, then President of Seton Hall. You can hear Murphy talk about the process by which that reconciliation took place here:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/poetry/antholog/larrymurphyoaudio.htm

    Point is, none of the 50+ illicitly ordained bishops was ever excommunicated.

    Also, the vernacular mass was first prayed in Shanghai in September 1989 – not 1987. The celebrant was Father Joseph Zen, and the location was the Sheshan Seminary in Shanghai (located just below the basilica at Sheshan, which the Pope refers to in his letter as the “memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai). The vernacular slowly spread – both in the underground and registered churches – until was approved by the national religious authorities in 1993.

    AntonioG

  5. Tim Ferguson says:

    Antonius, the phrase consecrated persons refers to those who have taken religious vows. It’s not a poor choice of words, its a method of including all categories of the faithful in the address.

  6. thetimman says:

    What interested me was this paragraph, and the several leading to it, which may have some relevance to the traditionalist situation:

    Concerning Bishops whose consecrations took place without the pontifical mandate yet respecting the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination, the resulting problems must always be resolved in the light of the principles of Catholic doctrine. Their ordination – as I have already said (cf. section 8 above, paragraph 12) – is illegitimate but valid, just as priestly ordinations conferred by them are valid, and sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests are likewise valid. Therefore the faithful, taking this into account, where the eucharistic celebration and the other sacraments are concerned, must, within the limits of the possible, seek Bishops and priests who are in communion with the Pope: nevertheless, where this cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they may, for the sake of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in communion with the Pope.

  7. thetimman says:

    What interested me was this paragraph, and the several leading to it, which may have some relevance to the traditionalist situation:

    Concerning Bishops whose consecrations took place without the pontifical mandate yet respecting the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination, the resulting problems must always be resolved in the light of the principles of Catholic doctrine. Their ordination – as I have already said (cf. section 8 above, paragraph 12) – is illegitimate but valid, just as priestly ordinations conferred by them are valid, and sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests are likewise valid. Therefore the faithful, taking this into account, where the eucharistic celebration and the other sacraments are concerned, must, within the limits of the possible, seek Bishops and priests who are in communion with the Pope: nevertheless, where this cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they may, for the sake of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in communion with the Pope.

  8. Antonius says:

    Tim Ferguson: Of course I realize what the term “Consecrated Persons” refers to. I still think the example I gave above is a gazillion times more elegant way of beginning an apostolic letter.

  9. thetimman says:

    thanks for coming?

  10. Michael says:

    The Holy Father certainly gives the faithful in worldwide some ‘food for thought’, especially articulating that China’s Bishops Conference cannot be recognized by the Vatican.

    It begs the question, what is the Spiritual Role and importance for Bishops Conferences recognized by the Vatican?

    —————
    “In the light of the principles expounded above, the present College of Catholic Bishops of China cannot be recognized as an Episcopal Conference by the Apostolic See: the “clandestine” Bishops, those not recognized by the Government but in communion with the Pope, are not part of it; it includes Bishops who are still illegitimate, and it is governed by statutes that contain elements incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”
    —————

  11. Michael Dorner says:

    Circuit:

    Circuit: A shame it is that a serious discussion of people inside the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, should be interrupted by your outburst of raw Protestant fundamentalism and intolerance. I am not pious as are the people who do this website or correspond with it, so let me say that you ought to go back to the Scriptures and read about charity and love of fellowman. Your intolerance, it may surprise you to learn, is not charity. One may disagree but one must do it in love and respect to one’s fellow man. Your invective sounds rehearsed, something you memorized from yahoo Protestant ministers as loud as they are ignorant.

    Spare us the invective. You intellectuality has the depth of a water puddle.

    Michael

  12. Rose says:

    First reactions (I skimmed the letter.) I’m going to HK and China mainland next week and will go to Mass at the Cathedral (hope to hear Cardinal Zen’s sermon). Things I like about the letter: the current Episcopal Conference is not legitimate; the open Church bishops who profess their communion with Rome should make a public confession of their fidelity to the Pope and let their congregations know (this is a tricky point and may be the most inflammatory part of the letter-the PA will not like it because they will see it as urging open underminiing of the PA’s authority; on the other hand it may lead to a “convenience”), and proclaiming the Sheshan shrine (am I mistaken this is the one where the army has been taking exercises?) a special shrine for China. Things I do not understand: the whole issue of excommunication of certain bishops. Things I would caution to bear in mind: China is not Poland; JPII’s Polishness was central to his mission in Communist Poland; Benedict is a “foreigner” to China although he enjoys tremendous esteem because the Chinese revere their scholars. Catholic Poland and modern China are very different: the Protestant community enjoys great reach in China because they are not in a conflict between Church and State, no need to declare fealty to Rome. Also, Benedict has hit the right note when he talks about suffering. The Chinese have a great tradition of suffering in silence if possible and suffering in death if necessary (somewhat like Thomas More) and a great tradition of subtlety. Actually I think Benedict shows in this letter a very great understanding of Chinese culture and the “Chinese” mind-set. My father who was a Chinese scholar of the third rank taught me about tradition; that’s why I presume to write like this.

  13. Rose says:

    I should clarify that my father was a scholar of third rank in the “imperial” examinations, not that he was a third rate scholar!

  14. Tim Ferguson says:

    Antonius, the only problem with the examples you gave were that those apostolic letters were addressed to a wider audience. This letter is addressed, specifically, to the faithful in China. I can think of few things more elegant than precision in address.

  15. AntonioG says:

    Rose –

    Sheshan is not the shrine that is slated for demolition by the government of Henan Province. That one is in Anyang.

    Sheshan is in Shanghai.

    Sheshan, in fact, is an interesting choice for the Pope. The Marian shrine and basilica were built by the French in the 19th century, I believe. In the early 80s, the current bishop of Shanghai, an official bishop, somehow negotiated some extra land from the government, adjacent to the shrine, and built China’s first post-Mao seminary there. Some 500 priests or something like that have been trained there since. I think it’s the biggest seminary in China, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why Benedict chose it. That’s a place where the official church made a positive impact.

    This is going to be an educational time for all of us interested in China’s Catholics.

  16. Jim Capaldi says:

    As thetinman wrote, I think that this sentence is very important to the traditionalist position: “Therefore the faithful. . .where the eucharistic celebration and the other sacraments are concerned, must, within the limits of the possible, seek Bishops and priests who are in communion with the Pope: nevertheless, where this cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they may, for the sake of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in communion with the Pope.”

    To me this means that if a Catholic is unable to attend a holy and sacred Novus Ordo Mass without the usual abuses, “for the sake of their spiritual good” they may attend Masses of the Society of Saint Pius X. SSPX bishops are validly consecrated, their priests are validly ordained, and the fullness of their communion with Rome is a debatable subject based on varied Vatican documents.

    This statement from Pope Benedict also fits in with his desire to reconcile with the SSPX. If the pope would declare the excommications of the four SSPX bishops invalid, along with the forthcoming Moto Proprio freeing the Latin Mass, then real discussions on doctrinal issues could begin with the SSPX leadership. It may well be that His Holiness knows that he needs the help of the SSPX to save the Church and he is reaching out to obtain that help. Of course, Bishop Fellay must proceed very carefully beecause he is not just dealing with the pope, but with the entire Vatican apparatus which has been less than trustworthy in the past. May God give His Excellency the graces to do what needs to be done.

  17. Jordan Potter says:

    Jim said: To me this means that if a Catholic is unable to attend a holy and sacred Novus Ordo Mass without the usual abuses, “for the sake of their spiritual good” they may attend Masses of the Society of Saint Pius X.

    Apples and oranges. China is ruled by a murderous totalitarian dictatorship. The Church is seeking to cope with the situation in China in such a way that what is a de facto schism does not become permanent. Allowing the faithful in a emergency to seek the sacraments from bishops and priests not in communion with her is already a part of canon law. But why would the Church go that route with the SSPX, where there is no tyrannical government attempting to subvert the unity and liberty of the Church? As far as I know, it would be a rare occasion when a Catholic would have no other option but to assist at one of the SSPX’s illegal Masses.

    If the pope would declare the excommications of the four SSPX bishops invalid

    The Pope can’t do that. He could rescind their excommunications, but he can’t say that they were never excommunicated at all. The law of the Church is pretty clear that bishops who consecrate bishops without papal permission have broken their communion with the Church. The Church may decide to forgive them and restore them to communion (which is essentially what the Church is doing with the Chinese government’s version of the Catholic Church), but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any severing of unity with the Church.

  18. prof. Basto says:

    Father,

    What will be the practical consequence of the paragraph of the letter reppealing
    all the special faculties previously granted by the Apostolic See?

  19. Tim Hallett says:

    “天主是爱” What! there has to be a better translation than that! I would think “天主慈悲也”.“天主慈亲也“ or ”天主明爱也“

  20. John Kusske says:

    Could someone enlighten me on why the Chinese and English versions of the letter appear to be quite different? The formats are not at all the same, nor does the content appear to be (though I haven’t had the time to delve into the Chinese enough to know for sure). Oh, and Tim, I would say that your readings for “God is love” may be in more graceful literary Chinese, but the standard Baihua idiom is what almost all believers in China are used to reading. I wish I had the Bible translation that John C. H. Wu did during World War II to hand… I’m sure he said something like your readings.

  21. Joseph Thomas says:

    I’m not Father, of course, but I believe the basic idea with the whole “revocation of previous faculties” bit is that, all things considered (especially [1] the possibility for greater communication between the Holy See and the underground portion of the Church in China [perhaps by way of the internet and whatnot] and [2] the somewhat improved or at any rate *different* dynamic of China today in terms of religious tolerance as compared to two decades ago [though still incomprehensibly deplorable]) the Holy Father has — surely after much soul-searching and looking at the relevant data — decided to revoke what were essentially “emergency” faculties that had been granted by John Paul II to the underground (portion of the) Church in China during the 1980s. These emergency faculties had been granted in view of the terrible suffering of the underground Catholic Bishops and faithful. As far as I can tell, said “emergency faculties” were two-fold in character: first, the allowance for underground bishops to consecrate without receiving prior pontifical mandate and second, a substantial lessening in terms of what was required as preparation for ordination for any of the faithful of the underground Church who wished to become priests.

    Over and above what was explicitly mentioned by His Holiness in terms of reasons for the revocation, one cannot help but take note of the practical necessity for such a revocation of emergency faculties, given the Holy Father’s holy and august vision for the Church in China en toto. Given the attempt on the part of the Pope to bring the Chinese regime to the “table” of dialogue (which if successful would serve to the far greater benefit of all Catholics in China — including and especially those presently persecuted), the revocation of such “emergency” faculties can be seen as an attempt to express the readiness of the Holy See to remove any unnecessary impediments to dialogue. What is more, the spectre of having emergency faculties obtain for one set of bishops and faithful (the “underground”) while not yet another (the “government-sanctioned”) — however justified such unequal distribution was and is in principle given the markedly different circumstances of the two groups (to say the least!) — cannot help but serve, de facto, to underline the ecclesial *difference* between the government-recognized bishops (even those who received subsequent approval by the Holy See) and their flock versus the persecuted bishops and their flock. Such an underlining of differences would be inimical to the Holy Father’s desire to emphasize and increase the unity of and communion among all the particular Catholic Churches in China. After all, this gesture may (we can only pray) serve as incentive for the already recognized bishops of the “official” portion of the Church in China to “step up” and be counted as such, thus displaying their fealty towards the Supreme Pontiff. The Holy Father’s goals here appear to be far-reaching. As such, he sees the good that is capable of being attained of far greater worth than any present sufferings that may be caused by the removal of the “Band-Aid” solution of emergency faculties.

  22. Tim Hallett says:

    Thanks John,
    I have reviewed some sections of the English and Chinese side by side, and overall I am satisfied with the quality of the work. And there appear to be no omissions or gross errors in the segments I reviewed, which bodes well for the rest of the document.
    That being said, Literary forms are still in common use for titles of major documents, and I think the a Papal Encyclical is worthy of the use of more elegant phraseology. In addition, unlike English or German, Chinese as a language is no so impoverished in the “love” department, and while in general baihua “ai” is certainly used a a general catch-all for “love”, it still carries more connotations of “amor” than I am comfortable with in this context.

  23. Thomas Menten says:

    Don Bosco, describing one of his famous visions, writes:

    “In the midst of the immense expanse of sea, two mighty columns of great height arise a little distance the one from the other. On the top of one, there is the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, from whose feet hangs a large placard with this inscription: Auxilium Christianorum – “Help of Christians”; on the other, which is much higher and bigger, stands a Host of great size proportionate to the column and beneath is another placard with the words: Salus Credentium – Salvation of the Faithful.”

    I find it uncanny how both John Paul II and Benedict xVI have indirectly “fastened” the Church to these two great “pillars” in significant but nevertheless diverse ways. First, and less obviously, John Paul II gave us his great Encyclical on the Eucharist /during/ the Year of the Holy Rosary — only, of course, to proclaim a Year of the Eucharist immediately following. Second, we have Pope Benedict issuing (simultaneously, for all practical purposes) his Moto Proprio liberating the Traditional Mass and his Letter to China (think: Dragon of Revelation 12) in which he explictly invokes Mary as Help of Christians! This can hardly be a coincidence.

  24. John Kusske says:

    Yes Tim, you’re right… I was looking at the wrong thing before, since I didn’t have much time to get to the bottom of things. What I saw before was the left-hand link on the Vatican website, not the right-hand one, so naturally I thought something was amiss. Bu hao yisi… I’m going to get a good workout practicing my Chinese the next period of time with this letter! I hope and pray it will be as widely and favorably received as possible, by God’s grace. I am very impressed with Pope Benedict’s understanding of the situation in China as evidenced in the letter. I would dearly love to see how the people in China are receiving it. Let’s all keep up the prayers!

  25. Prof. Basto says:

    Thanks for your input, Joseph.

  26. Here is a preliminary assessment of the letter by the Cardinal Kung Foundation.

  27. AntonioG says:

    With all due respect, Father Angelo, I had sincerely hoped that the Pope’s letter would have put an end to the divisive and even hateful rhetoric of the Kung Foundation. Apparently, it has not. I’ll get to Kung’s delusional letter in a moment. For now, it’s worth noting that the Kung website has not been updated to reflect the letter, and still includes references to Cardinal Tomko’s Eight Points as “China Guidelines from the Vatican,” in spite of the fact that the Pope’s letter revoked them. Instead of sending out press releases, maybe Joseph Kung could should show some true obedience for a change, and actually alter his website to reflect the Vatican’s – and not his – perspective on China’s Church.

    As for Kung’s press release, it is delusional, divisive and deceptive. His opening paragraphs – where he suggests that the Pope’s letter is – somehow – a response to his 2000 letter, is frankly laughable. More serious is his continued use of the term “Patriotic Catholic Church” when the Pope’s letter clearly states that China’s Church is unified, but a government “entity” interferes with its operation. That entity is the Catholic Patriotic Association, and no matter how much Joseph Kung hopes, wishes and prays that it be the “Patriotic Church” he has used to raise thousands of dollars over the years – IT IS NOT.

    Here, another misleading statement from the Kung letter: “[H]e declares that the Catholic Patriotic Association’s declared independence of the Holy See is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”

    Misleading, because the CPA is independent from the Holy See. The Pope’s letter repeatedly recognizes it as such.

    If the Kung Foundation really wanted to make a contribution to furthering the message and spirit of the Pope’s letter, it would stop sending out this kind of divisive rubbish and instead focus on the explicit recommendations and statements on the underground offered by the Pope.

    For example, underground bishops are ENCOURAGED to apply for recognition by civil authorities. An underground Church “is not a normal and lasting situation” for the Catholic Church, says the pope. All bishops should now unite so that Rome can finally recognize officially the already existing Chinese Bishops Conference. Till now this cannot be done because the underground bishops are not members while some other members of the conference are not appointed by Rome.

    Father Angelo, please open your heart – and not just your mind and political biases – to the true message of unity in this letter. China’s situation is complicated. It needs to be understood sympathetically – and not in the manner espoused by Joseph Kung and his Foundation.

    AntonioG

  28. Kim D'Souza says:

    AntonioG,

    It seems that one of your paragraphs is a quote from Fr Jeroom Heyndrickx’s commentary, quoted also on Adam Minter’s blog Shanghai Scrap

    “Underground bishops are encouraged to apply for recognition by civil authorities. An underground Church “is not a normal and lasting situation” for the Catholic Church, says the pope. All bishops should now unite so that Rome can finally recognize officially the already existing Chinese Bishops Conference. Till now this cannot be done because the underground bishops are not members while some other members of the conference are not appointed by Rome.”

    Presuming that you are quoting, I wonder why you did not cite your source. In any case, I would like to read Heyndrickx’s commentary, so please post your source here, if you know where I can obtain the full text.

    Also, I have not been able to listen to the clip from Larry Murphy on the Atlantic web site, so any help you can provide with that would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Kim D’Souza

  29. Antonio G.

    Father Angelo, please open your heart – and not just your mind and political biases – to the true message of unity in this letter. China’s situation is complicated. It needs to be understood sympathetically – and not in the manner espoused by Joseph Kung and his Foundation.

    It is with open mind and heart that I respond to you. The message I espouse is, indeed, one of unity. I will be frank, but charitable.

    With all due respect, Father Angelo, I had sincerely hoped that the Pope’s letter would have put an end to the divisive and even hateful rhetoric of the Kung Foundation . . .
    As for Kung’s press release, it is delusional, divisive and deceptive.

    Actually, Joseph Kung’s assessment of the Holy Father’s letter is thoughtful and respectful. On the other hand, your demeaning remarks concerning Mr. Kung’s long years of work on behalf of the persecuted Church in China is out of hand.

    As for Kung’s press release, it is delusional, divisive and deceptive. His opening paragraphs – where he suggests that the Pope’s letter is – somehow – a response to his 2000 letter, is frankly laughable.

    Mr. Kung does not, in fact, suggest that the Holy See responded to his letter. However, he does remark, correctly, that he had expressed the need for such a clarification from the Holy See in his letter of 2000. If you read Mr. Kung’s letter fairly, you will see that in 2000 he did indeed ask questions that are answered by Pope Benedict’s letter.

    More serious is his continued use of the term "Patriotic Catholic Church" when the Pope’s letter clearly states that China’s Church is unified, but a government "entity" interferes with its operation.

    Actually, in the letter, Pope Benedict has this to say about the principle of Church unity:

    It is therefore indispensable, for the unity of the Church in individual nations, that every Bishop should be in communion with the other Bishops, and that all should be in visible and concrete communion with the Pope (5).

    And

    Communion and unity – let me repeat (cf. section 5 above) – are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church that is "independent" of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine (8).

    Note in the quote from section 5 the words "visible and concrete." Obviously, not all the validly consecrated bishops in China manifest that kind of communion with the Pope. Those who do not, therefore, lack "indesepensible unity’ with the Church. Furthermore, in connection with the quote from section 6, the Patriotic Association does constitute a "proposal for a Church that is "independent" of the Holy See, in the religious sphere" and is, therefore, "incompatible with Catholic doctrine."

    You suggest at the end of your comment that the Cardinal Kung foundation should "focus on the explicit recommendations and statements on the underground offered by the Pope." Here is one that the Foundation has always been calling for that touches upon the unity of the Church in China:

    What is more, some legitimized Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to prove that they have been legitimized. For this reason it is indispensable, for the spiritual good of the diocesan communities concerned, that legitimation, once it has occurred, is brought into the public domain at the earliest opportunity, and that the legitimized Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter (8).

    In other words the Church in China does not enjoy the unity it should, and the Holy Father is making clear the way that unity ought to be achieved. As Mr. Kung states in his assessment, he is very grateful for the clear answer.

    Here, another misleading statement from the Kung letter: "[H]e declares that the Catholic Patriotic Association’s declared independence of the Holy See is incompatible with Catholic doctrine."

    Misleading, because the CPA is independent from the Holy See. The Pope’s letter repeatedly recognizes it as such.

    Here is the passage of the letter to which Mr. Kung refers:

    Likewise, the declared purpose of the afore-mentioned entities to implement "the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church" [36] is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be "one, holy, catholic and apostolic" (7).

    Yes, the CPA is independent of the Holy See. This is precisely what the Holy Father, and Mr. Kung in agreement with him, identify as its problem.

    If the Kung Foundation really wanted to make a contribution to furthering the message and spirit of the Pope’s letter, it would stop sending out this kind of divisive rubbish and instead focus on the explicit recommendations and statements on the underground offered by the Pope.

    If one considers the importance of an accurate reading of the letter, indispensable to implementing the "explicit recommendations and statements on the underground offered by the Pope," it seems to me that Mr. Kung is on the right track. On the other hand, you misrepresent one of the Holy Fathers recommendations:

    For example, underground bishops are ENCOURAGED to apply for recognition by civil authorities. An underground Church "is not a normal and lasting situation" for the Catholic Church, says the pope.

    Here is what the Holy Father actually says:

    There would not be any particular difficulties with acceptance of the recognition granted by civil authorities on condition that this does not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion. In not a few particular instances, however, indeed almost always, in the process of recognition the intervention of certain bodies obliges the people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and undertake commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their conscience as Catholics (7).

    Hardly an unqualified encouragement to apply for civil recognition. On the contrary, the Holy Father is principally preoccupied with the unity of the Church as it is guaranteed by formal communion with the bishop of Rome.

    And in the context of expressing the irregular situation of an underground Church, Pope Benedict makes it clear that this situation exists in order for pastors and the faithful "to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the Church’s life" (8). He also puts the burden of responsibility for restoring unity among Chinese Catholics, not on those who are suffering from a lack of religious freedom, but on the state entities that oppresses them:

    For this reason the Holy See hopes that these legitimate Pastors may be recognized as such by governmental authorities for civil effects too – insofar as these are necessary – and that all the faithful may be able to express their faith freely in the social context in which they live (8).

    Antonio, contrary to your assessment, I am very sympathetic to the complex situation of Catholics in China. But, no matter how complicated that situation is, only the truth will set them free.

  30. Cowboy says:

    Thank you Father Angelo for clearing up the fog that exists in some minds. Some like Antonio G. should read the actual text as it is and not with a delusional, divisive, deceptive bias. Joseph Kung and his foundation have been a prophetic voice in our times speaking out on behalf of the truth and our suffering brothers and sisters in the underground Catholic Church. May be Antonio would do more if he supported their good work. Thanks again Father Angelo and Joseph Kung. Sincerely in Jesus and Mary, Cowboy