The showdown is coming in China over bishops

The showdown is coming in China over bishops.  This is from AFP with my emphases.

China wants to ordain bishops ‘without delay’

(AFP) – 10 hours ago

BEIJING — China’s state-controlled Catholic church wants to ordain at least 40 bishops “without delay”, its vice president said Friday, in a move likely to further irritate ties with the Vatican.

Liu Bainian, deputy head of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, confirmed an official Xinhua news agency report that said more than 40 of the country’s 97 dioceses were without a bishop.

The report said leaders of China’s Catholic church had agreed at a recent meeting that they would “strive to select and ordain bishops at these dioceses without delay”.

Liu told AFP that China’s existing bishops would “help various areas to select their own bishops. It’s the best opportunity to spread the Gospel in China.”

The Vatican and China have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1951. Beijing insists it has the right to ordain its own bishops, defying the Holy See, which says ordinations can only go ahead with the pope’s blessing.

Last November, China angered the Vatican when it ordained a bishop for the northern city of Chengde without the Holy See’s approval.

Another ordination in the central province of Hubei was postponed earlier this month, although Liu said Friday it was still “under examination.”

In May, the pope himself called on Catholics across the world to pray that Chinese bishops refuse to separate from Rome, despite what he called “pressure” from communist authorities.

The Vatican and China cut ties when the Holy See angered Mao Zedong’s Communist government by recognising the Nationalist Chinese regime in Taiwan as the legitimate government of China.

The atmosphere worsened when in 1957 China set up its own Catholic Church administered by the atheist Communist government.

The 5.7 million Catholics in China are caught between staying loyal to the ruling Communist Party in Beijing and showing allegiance to the pope as part of an “underground” Church not recognised by the authorities.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Tom Piatak says:

    We should all be praying for the Church in China.

  2. Frank H says:

    I find this difficult to grasp. I imagine there are some Chinese bishops with valid apostolic succession. But if a legitimate bishop was somehow coerced into ordaining another, unapproved bishop, is it necessarily valid? Wouldn’t the intent matter?

  3. MichaelJ says:

    Of all of the Sacraments, I’ll admit that the Sacrament of Holy Orders confuses me the most.
    So, with that disclosure out of the way, is it proper to say that a Bishop is being “Ordained”? Does not “ordained” mean “receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders”?

  4. Catholic traveler says:

    I wonder how much longer the communist regime will keep this up. Even though it is painfully clear who is in charge in China, the state has loosened things up on many fronts where the daily life of the average person is concerned. I hope that soon they lose interest in trying to control religion and come to see it as less thresatening than they believed it to be. Frankly, they should be more threatened by the growth of pop music, porn and other western innovations in their country. There are many things happening there that are more of a threat to the state’s long term hold on the minds and hearts than the Catholic Church. Also, it would be hard to find a country that so badly needs real Catholicism (not puppet priests).

  5. J Kusske says:

    To my knowledge, all Chinese bishops are validly ordained. The question is whether they are licit or not, and the large majority at present are. Many who were initially illicit later sought and were granted official standing from the Vatican. But the current trend is ominous to say the least, and I pray things won’t go off the rails. The “Patriotic Association” seems to be angling for a showdown, along with hard-liners in the central government and Religious Affairs Bureau. Now more than ever resistence from the rank and file, seminarians, laity, and clergy alike, is a crying need–from what I hear that is what postponed the illicit ordination in Hubei. Another thing, the official figure of 5 million or as here 5.7 million is understating the actual number of Catholics by at least 2 times, likely 3 or more–the underground believers are not taken into account. I pray in my lifetime (and God grant as soon as may be) the Church will be able to be completely open and united in China.

  6. Elizabeth D says:

    I met a Chinese lady Nuclear Engineering visiting scholar from Beijing today at a bus stop who was interested in Christianity, but also had a skepticism hard for her to overcome, and praying for Jesus to reveal whether he was real (for instance by answering her petition for a particular need) and had visited 3 different Protestant churches here, partly out of a desire to meet nice people. I tried to explain the Trinity and Jesus and the role of suffering for the sake of the will of God to her, how these are Love, and the difference between Catholics and Protestants. She seemed not to understand what I was telling her that one of the things different about the Catholic Church, which is the one that has existed continuously since Jesus, was that its leader is the Pope, in Rome. It seemed to be a language barrier issue but I wondered also if she had some awareness of the situation of the Church in China, and the idea of the Pope as head of the Church was basically something that did not seem to her expedient to consider. I am praying for faith for this sweet and friendly lady.

  7. Sol says:

    ‘MichaelJ says:
    24 June 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Of all of the Sacraments, I’ll admit that the Sacrament of Holy Orders confuses me the most.
    So, with that disclosure out of the way, is it proper to say that a Bishop is being “Ordained”?’

    Yes, it is proper to say that the bishop is being ordained, because there are three degrees of the Holy Orders, which I assume you know. The bishop is also ordained, only to a different order – the episcopacy. It is still an ordination, nonetheless. However, there is what I think to be more appropriate word – consecration. And that’s what I usually call it. To differentiate from ‘normal’ priestly ordination.

    Wth reference to what’s going on in China: don’t for a minute think we in Europe or in the US are safe. The majority of European states is run by socialist (either in name or actual) governments, eager ideological followers of Communists and Fascists. Laws are being passed that go right in the face of traditional values, states seek more and more to control everything we do, with moral objections often ignored. And I’m not only on about euthanasia or abortion. Think about how much power the state has over what, or rather, who, used to be your child. To think the state official can take my child away from me or force my 5 year old to have what is cunningly and falsely called ‘sexual education’ almost fills me with gratitude I am not a father yet.

    The only difference is they aren’t putting us in prison for what we believe in. Yet.

  8. BillG says:

    Please indulge me in a little story. A dozen years ago I was in Beijing for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. I went to the hotel’s front desk to see if there was some way I could satisfy my (Palm) Sunday obligation. After going through a couple of clerks I found one who understood that I wanted a “Catholic” Mass and she came back with an “address” (Chinese characters describing a building in a district, not a numbered street address like we use) on the back of the hotel’s business card which I gave to a waiting cabbie out front and was off on a long ride in the city. I was quite early for the Mass and found the preceding Mass at Communion time. A very old white haired Chinese priest (and only one priest) was distributing Communion to kneeling people on the tongue with a server holding a paten under their chins. I had somehow found a Latin Mass in progress to a full house of Chinese – I was the only non-oriental in the place. The universality of the Latin Mass and its necessity for the Roman Church struck me more forcefully than I ever thought possible. I was “at home” for worship halfway around the globe.
    What does this have to do with bishops? A dozen years ago there was more freedom for the Latin Mass in China than in many dioceses in the “free world”. Why? The current varied approaches to appointing bishops have not served the Church well in far too many cases. State appointment or approval of bishops is not an invention of the Chinese. And while I understand the absolute need for unity with the pope, I also empathize with the “average Chinese guy in the pew” who only wants to worship God in the manner of the faith he has chosen (or that has chosen him). Father Z, their choice is not between allegiance to a Communist regime they did not elect and allegiance to the Pope of the Faith they did chose. The availability of the underground Catholic Church does not provide a practicable option for most Chinese. In my opinion, Rome needs to be very flexible in this matter for the sake of the millions of Chinese both above and below ground who would be “Catholic”.

  9. robtbrown says:

    Sol says:
    Yes, it is proper to say that the bishop is being ordained, because there are three degrees of the Holy Orders, which I assume you know.

    Acc to Trent there are 7.

  10. MichaelJ says:

    I too was thinking that “consecration” is a more appropriate word to describe what is happening. Not so much to distinguish it from Priestly Ordination, but also to indicate that Consecration to the Episcopacy is not a Sacrament – or is it?

    This is really the main source of my confusion.
    If Consecration to the Episcopacy is truly a Sacrament, then it would seem to imply either there that are more than 7 Sacraments, or that the Sacrament of Holy Orders can be “subdivided” meaning that Father Zuhlsdorf , for example, has received only half of the Sacrament.

  11. Sam Schmitt says:


    This paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church may help.
    “1554. “The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests, and deacons”(Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 28). Catholic doctrine, expressed in the liturgy, the Magisterium, and the constant practice of the Church, recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate. The diaconate is intended to help and serve them. For this reason the term sacerdos in current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called “ordination,” that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders” (see also 1594-96).

  12. Dr. Eric says:

    Holy Martyrs of China, intercede for The Middle Kingdom!

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