The gentlemanly Sando Magister has a must-read piece today at his site Chiesa called: Bishops Or Mandarins? The Dilemma of the Chinese Church.
Here is the introductory section of Magister’s piece, just to give you some context. Then I will give the selection from an interview with the new Chinese-born Archbishop Secretary of Propaganda Fide which left me troubled and angry.
ROME, June 10, 2011 – The Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, the organism with which the Beijing authorities assert the “autonomy” [a key point] of the Chinese Church from the pope, has been threatening for some time to create a dozen new bishops of its own, ordained without the approval of Rome.
On November 20, 2010, the threat was realized with the illegitimate ordination in Chengde of a new bishop, Joseph Guo Jincai.
And another illicit ordination was scheduled for yesterday, Thursday, June 9, in the diocese of Hankow.
In extremis, however, this ordination was postponed. With no explanation of why.
But everything points to the influence of resistance from the faithful and from the candidate himself, the priest Shen Guoan. [The people themselves and the candidate stood firm.]
And perhaps there was even more influence from the energy with which from Rome, on June 3, the new secretary of the congregation for the evangelization of peoples, [Archbp.] Savio Hon Taifai.
The frankness with which Archbishop Hon expressed his criticisms of the ecclesiastical policy of Beijing and of the part of the Chinese Church that submits to it confirms that a stance of confrontation, instead of accommodation, prevails in Rome.
The following are the most significant passages of the interview with Hon, now considered the main strategist of Vatican policy on China.
Magister’s piece then has the salient bits from the interview done originally with Asia News. Here are the headers.
- On the threatened illegitimate episcopal ordination of Hankow
- On the consequences of illegitimate ordinations
- On why some bishops and priests submit
- More on those who submit, and those who instead resist
- On a way out for the weakest
- On the steps to be taken with illegitimate bishops
And then we come to these last two excerpts:
- On the support given [get this] by American and European theologians to the “autonomy” of the Chinese Church
HON: Unfortunately, there is a theology in America and Europe that is also penetrating into the Chinese Church. This theology claims precisely autonomy in the selection of bishops, and independence from the Holy See. And so there are persons in America and Europe who are pushing the Chinese bishops to behave this way. “If you succeed,” they say, “we will follow you.”
Until a short time ago, these problems of independence and autonomy were only at the level of governance. Now they are also at the theological level.
– On how to free the bishops in prison
HON: In all the encounters with representatives of the Chinese government, we constantly insist on the liberation of these brothers of ours. But the government doesn’t pay any attention to us. These bishops are elderly, their liberation should also be a humanitarian act. But unfortunately, we do not receive any response. Maybe public appeals should be made, instead of asking in private.
In practical terms, supporting “autonomy” from Rome, in China, means prison and persecution for faithful Catholics.
Archbishop Hon is talking about the theological corrosion coming from America and Europe, which undermines faithful Catholics. He talks about the theological support given to the the government-sponsored Church, the Patriotic Association … from American sources.
Richard McBrien of the National catholic Reporter incessantly pushes for the autonomy of local Churches and tries to diminish the role of the Roman Pontiff. McBrien harps on authority from below and the election of bishops and their appointment not by the Pope or his delegates, or those whom he chooses to consult, but by local Churches.
At the time I am writing, on the site of the National catholic Fishwrap, McBrien has a piece in which he pushes precisely the sort of autonomy that Archbishop Hon says is resulting in problems for faithful Catholics in China.
This is how McBrien begins:
The sacking of William Morris as bishop of the Australian diocese of Toowoomba raises more than a few theological questions about the relationship between bishops and the Bishop of Rome.
Many Catholics believe, and so apparently does Benedict XVI, that the Bishop of Rome is free, by the will of Christ, not only to appoint all bishops in the Roman Catholic church, but to dismiss them as well.This is an incorrect assumption, and the firing of Bishop Morris provides us with a teachable moment in ecclesiology.
In China, bishops, priests, lay faithful who are faithful to the Catholic Church are persecuted.
Meanwhile, McBrien and his crowd are giving comfort and aid to the persecutors.
Finally… this is not merely a matter of exporting really bad ideas to China. McBrien and his lot are trying to import the model of the Patriotic Association to the United States.