“Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.”1 The Chinese here means the Communist Party and the government of the People’s Republic of China. These words are from Archbishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a close adviser to the Pope.
A few months ago, the prelate made a quick, controlled visit to China, received the red carpet treatment, and now all of a sudden decided to speak up with scandalous praise: “They [the Chinese] seek the common good, subordinate things to the general good.”2
“I found…an extraordinary China. What people don’t realise is that the central value in China is work, work, work. … [L]ike St Paul said: he who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat” “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs.” There is a “positive national consciousness.” Beijing has “defended the dignity of the human person,” and, in the area of climate change, is “assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned” (referring to the implementation of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si).
To complete his act of servility, the archbishop could not fail to attack the United States: “The [Chinese] economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States.” “How is it possible that oil multinationals control Trump?” “Liberal thought has destroyed the concept of the common good…. On the other hand, the Chinese propose work and the common good.”
Below I will recall some doctrinal points, but first, let us look at the facts. As previously mentioned, the prelate suddenly decided to speak, after a fashion. His statements should not be seen as a tragic series of cowardly acts before an intimidating and heavy-handed tyrant. In addition to the ideological consonance ever present between progressives and communists (of which, in Brazil, Friar Betto and former Friar Boff are sad but striking examples), this degrading obsequiousness must be analyzed in the context of the present rapprochement between the Vatican and the Chinese government.
News of the negotiations has shocked Catholics and bishops faithful to Rome in the so-called underground Church in China. These faithful Catholics are deprecated by bishops and followers of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a state body founded by the communist government in 1957 to control the country’s Catholics (the so-called official Church, subservient to Beijing). According to its bylaws, this Association seeks to implement “the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration” in the Catholic Church of China. In short, it is a puppet organization of the Chinese government and the Communist Party. Some of its members do not even call themselves Catholic.
Emissaries of the Holy See have now tried to subordinate the pastoral action of the bishops loyal to Rome to bishops appointed by Beijing, placing the underground Church in the hands of the so-called Patriotic Church. In a word, the persecuted are delivered up to their enemies. Joseph Cardinal Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, has taken up the defense of bishops and Catholics loyal to Rome, thus opening a crisis with the Holy See. He warns: “The mainland brothers and sisters, in the past few days, have heard that the Vatican is ready to surrender to the Chinese Communists.”3
His Eminence continues: “If the illicit and excommunicated bishops are to be legitimized, and the legitimate bishops are to be forced to retreat, wouldn’t the legitimate bishops of the underground communities be worried about their fate? Priests and believers will soon have to obey and respect those who are today illicit and excommunicated but become legitimized bishops by the Holy See because of the backing by the Chinese government. How many painful nights will they have to bear?”
Joseph Cardinal Zen also reported that Pope Francis told him he did not want a “new Mindszenty affair.” Cardinal Mindszenty opposed the Hungarian communist government and the policy of rapprochement of Paul VI with that government.
The Vatican Policy of Détente with Communist Governments
– Should the TFPs Stand Down? Or Should They Resist?
Other facts: Archbishop Sánchez Sorondo pontificated that in China “you do not have drugs. Young people do not take drugs.” Contradicting this, a recent statement by China’s National Drug Control Commission, a communist government body, warned that the drug problem in the country is “spreading with great speed.” And Human Rights Watch condemns the “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” given drug addicts and traffickers in Chinese prisons. A considerable number of them are shot, while others are compulsorily interned in rehabilitation clinics.
China, which does not provide (undoubtedly terrifying) data, is regarded as the country that executes by firing squad the highest number of prisoners, thousands annually.
Archbishop Sorondo dreams on, that in China, “You do not have shantytowns.” Father Bernardo Cervellera, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), a director of AsiaNews, and a specialist in Chinese affairs, asks: “Has our bishop tried to visit the southern part of Beijing? There the government is making people homeless by the thousands by evicting migrant workers. Has he visited the outskirts of Shanghai? Has he visited the outskirts of the great Chinese megalopolises?” Of course, the hasty and obsequious prelate saw nothing of that.
Now for a doctrinal point. In his encyclical Mater et Magistra, John XIII defines the common good as the set of conditions of social life that enable people, families, and groups to reach their perfection more easily and fully. The common good facilitates the pursuit of perfection in the most varied fields. In the religious sphere, the common good should promote the salus animarum, the salvation of souls. The grave warnings by the Cardinal-Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong dispense me from any further comment.
What about religious freedom? Does the Chinese government promote an environment favorable to the development of the moral virtues, to more easily attain one’s perfection, as John XXIII teaches? For example, do totalitarian governments favor strengthening one’s personality and autonomy? It would be absurd to say so. Does the Chinese government promote the full development of families? What about its one-now-two-child policy, which has caused a monumental disaster? What about forced abortions? The government has forced millions and millions of abortions every year. I could recall countless other terrifying points.
This article is titled: “An Archbishop Ruthlessly Slaps Truth.” Fine, but let me add a qualifier: “An Archbishop Ruthlessly Slaps Truth with Impunity.” To make it even more explicit: “In Scandalous Subservience to Tyrants, an Archbishop Ruthlessly Slaps Truth with Impunity.”
- Catholic Herald, “‘China is the best implementer of Catholic social doctrine,’ says Vatican bishop” on Feb. 6, 2018, accessed Feb. 20, 2018, http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/02/06/china-is-the-best-implementer-of-catholic-social-doctrine-says-vatican-bishop/. See also InfoCatólica “Mons. Sorondo cree que la dictadura comunista china es quien mejor lleva a cabo la doctrina social de la Iglesia” at http://www.infocatolica.com/?t=noticia&cod=31549.
- Andrés Beltramo Álvarez, “Chinos, quienes mejor realizan la doctrina social de la Iglesia” in Vatican Insider, Feb. 2, 2018, accessed Feb. 22, 2018 (our translation), http://www.lastampa.it/2018/02/02/vaticaninsider/es/vaticano/chinos-quienes-mejor-realizan-la-doctrina-social-de-la-iglesia-mBmGrdwCpUt2VVswtlkeuN/pagina.html.
- Charles Collins, “Cardinal Zen accuses Vatican of ‘caging’ loyal Catholics in China” in Crux, Feb. 6, 2018, accessed Feb. 22, 2018, https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2018/02/06/cardinal-zen-accuses-vatican-caging-loyal-catholics-china/.