Bp. Finn (D. KC-St.J): Will China Buy Our Silence About Persecution of Catholics?

From the most excellent Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Most Rev. Robert Finn, appearing on the blog of the Catholic Key. My emphases and comments.

Will China Buy Our Silence About Persecution of Catholics? – Bishop Finn

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:
By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

In May of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a Pastoral Letter to Clergy, Religious, and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China. There the Holy Father expressed his affection for the people and his solidarity with them. He explained the proper relationships within the diocese, between the dioceses and the State, and the indispensable link between the local Churches and the Church Universal. The Pope offered encouragement for unity and a guide for evangelization.

The challenging circumstances for the work of the Church in China have been intensified because of a separation that has existed between a state-supervised Patriotic Catholic Association, China’s only legal public form of Catholicism, said to have about 5 Million members, and an “illegal,” “underground church,” believed to be the home for perhaps 10 million clergy, Religious and laity, who have sought to maintain a more unfettered communion with the Vatican. It is acknowledged that many members of the Patriotic Association, bishops included, have attempted to keep ties with Rome. [This depends in part on the region.  But, as I understand it, the fact that many of the PCA are trying to be close to Rome makes the situation a little fluid.]

In his letter of four years ago, the Holy Father seemed to succeed in establishing a conciliatory note, while clearly outlining vital principles of religious freedom, and the Church’s requisite foundation for governance and pastoral action. The Vatican was able to build some level of communications with the Peoples’ Republic, giving rise to what has been, for the last few years, a more active and helpful collaboration in the selection of bishops – within the Patriotic Association – on the Mainland.

As 2010 was drawing to a close, the mood of cooperation collapsed as the Patriotic Catholic Association began forcibly gathering bishops in order to bring them to Beijing for an assembly, the intended purpose of which was to elect a new national president of the Patriotic Association and president of the council of Chinese bishops. A number of bishops resisted and fled; others refused to participate in Masses that were to be part of the assembly.

An illicit ordination of a bishop – one in which there was no mandate from the Holy See or permission from the Holy Father – took place in November of 2010; another a few weeks ago on June 29, 2011, and another last week. In the Vatican’s daily Press Release of July 15, Vatican Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. spoke of the Pope’s “sadness and concern at the latest illegitimate episcopal ordination in China” which, he said, damages “the unity of the universal Church.”

July 14, 2011, “at Shantou in the region of Guandong Fr. Joseph Huang Bingzhang was ordained a bishop without pontifical mandate. … A number of bishops who are in communion with the Pope were obliged to attend yesterday’s ceremony.” Shantou already had a bishop, and the “new bishop” had been cautioned several times by the Holy See not to accept Episcopal ordination.  [In the ancient Church a man could be held down and validly ordained against his will.  That is not the case today.  I wonder what the role of free will plays in these consecrations.  BTW… I prefer “consecration” to “ordination”.]

Following the June 29 ordination, the Holy See released a declaration highlighting how a bishop ordained “without the papal mandate, and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognize him as the bishop of that diocese.” In a release of July 18, the Vatican formally confirmed the sanctions against the illegitimate bishops, expressed support for the conscientious resistance of those who remain faithful to the Holy See, and asked for a cessation of the hurtful actions, “The Holy Father, having learned of these events, once again deplores the manner in which the Church in China is being treated and hopes that the present difficulties can be overcome as soon as possible”.

Some news sites suggest that, after the forced elections of the Patriotic Associations, in which ballots were reported to have only one name, as many as ten ordinations of new bishops are expected.

Aside from the concern over the kidnapping and arrest of bishops compelling them to participate in fraudulent elections, there are grave implications for all Catholics in China who, whether within the Patriotic Association or in the so-called ‘illegal’ or underground church fear more interference in Church life, and a renewal of reprisals from years past.

According to a July 17 CNN story, leaders in China have, in turn, accused the Vatican of interfering in its religious affairs. Last November the U.S. State Department listed China as one of eight countries of “particular concern” on religious freedom. [Perhaps another State Dinner is in order before talking more about that.] Specifically the U.S. accused China of persecuting followers of the Dalai Lama in Tibet and Uyghur Muslims in western China. [NB:] While President Barak Obama met last week with the Dalai Lama, apparently no public mention has yet been made by the administration about actions against Catholics.

In his July 17 blog post, Deacon Keith Fournier of Catholic Online (www.catholic.org) lamented the silence of the U.S. and other western governments about these abuses against human rights and religious freedom in China. “We should ask ourselves the following question; with our growing economic reliance and dependence upon the Regime in China: Are we sacrificing our fundamental obligation to defend human freedom and human rights because we depend on the economic assistance of a repressive regime?

At one time we might have insisted that China’s desires to be accepted and welcomed as a partner with the West must be met by an insistence that it respects this fundamental human right of religious expression and organization. Now we must be careful that our need to come, hat in hand, to China in the economic sphere doesn’t require us to be silent about such significant restraints on human dignity.

For our Catholic brothers and sisters on the Mainland who have endured so much to hold on to an authentic Catholic faith, this is hardly an intellectual exercise. They need our support in prayer and political clout. Mary, Mother of the Church, intercede for your children. St. Joseph, defender of justice, pray for us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Sacristymaiden says:

    [In the ancient Church a man could be held down and validly ordained against his will. That is not the case today. I wonder what the role of free will plays in these consecrations.]
    Really??! Wow.

  2. pelerin says:

    ‘I prefer consecration to ordination’ comments Fr Z.

    Indeed, though in England even ‘ordination’ would be preferable to ‘installation’ which seems to be used here now. Someone pointed out that ‘installation’ is used for central heating so I have no idea how or when it started to be used in relation to the consecration of Bishops or why it was ever changed.

  3. Caroline says:

    I have had a love for the Chinese people since I was a young girl….I can’t imagine the hardships our brothers and sisters have endured to remain faithful. They have my most sincere prayers.

  4. JMody says:

    Why is everyone loathe to compare these godless Communists — but I repeat myself — of the PCA running amok to the situation with SSPX?
    One resists the Vatican, one resists the changes of the Second Council of the Vatican.
    One promotes a nationalist church and abortion, one promotes the traditional form of the faith and sacraments.
    One has “elevated” over ONE HUNDRED bishops since 1953 without Vatican approval, and one has done this four times.

    Who are the schismatics? Who are the people sowing confusion, endangering souls, promoting scandal? Why, the anti-Communists, of course.

    The same answer explains His Excellency’s question over the US State Department — people who always insisted that the fight against Communism was ill advised, and that the Communists have a point or two worth implementing in a “fundamental transformation” of our society, are not going to criticize Communists over a few million bead-mumbling mackerel-snappers. I mean, these are the same people who keep picking on gays and getting in a tizzy over abortion.

    There are no coincidences …

  5. AnAmericanMother says:


    Show me where the Church has promoted abortion.

    Until then, the over 35 million murdered by Red China, plus untold millions murdered in forced abortions, give the lie to your comparison.

    And believe me, you’re not doing the SSPX any favors by this sort of lunacy.

  6. Marc says:

    The reason we haven’t heard a peep out of the regime in Washington D.C. is because they admire the Chinese model of bringing the Church into line.

  7. ContraMundum says:


    I think it has more to do with the fact that (1) we want the Chinese to keep buying US treasury bonds to support our profligate spending, and (2) our commercial economy has been made completely dependent on China. If China were to stop selling us shoes, I don’t know what we would wear on our feet.

    The Dalai Lama may be irritating to the Chinese government, but they know he’s no real threat. He is to them what Fidel Castro is to the US — someone to be resented for old time’s sake, not because of anything that might happen in the future. They recognize in the Catholic Church, though, a Power that really does threaten their system.

  8. St. Rafael says:

    Anyone who really wants to know the situatation with the Catholic Church in China, the PCA, and the underground Church; needs to read the following interview with Fr. Couture, the Asia District Superior of the SSPX, in which he discusses the Church in China:


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