It has been some time since Walt wrote about the plight of the "underground" Roman Catholic Church in China. To recap, the "official" Catholic Church, sponsored by the Communist Chinese government, is called the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA). It was organized following the Communist takeover of 1949, and many bishops and priests were coerced into joining. That is, they were pressured into switching their allegiance from Rome and the Pope to Beijing and Chairman Mao.
Putting it another way, the CPCA is schismatic -- not in communion with Rome and not truly part of Holy Mother Church. The remnant of Catholic priests and bishops who stayed loyal to Rome were driven underground, and the "underground Church" not only exists but thrives, in spite of continual harassment and persecution. See "Communist Chinese persecution of Catholic Church intensifies"
Finding a way to bring the CPCA back into the fold was to have been a priority of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. One of the key players was to have been Joseph Cardinal Zen Zekiun, Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong. See "Zen Catholicism".
Did the Holy Father's initiative work? Was the gap between the CPCA and the True Church bridged? Sadly, no. Why not? This week Cardinal Zen gave the answer which had long been apparent but not stated.
In a lengthy interview published in AsiaNews, the prelate charged that Vatican appeasement has helped the Chinese government strengthen its control over the CPCA as well as the underground Church. The Pope set appropriate policies, he said, but "his work was wasted by others close to him, who did not follow his line."
Who were those "others"? Cardinal Zen explains. "I mean people in the Vatican, but also those outside who, without the help of the Holy See, would not have done so much damage."
The cardinal said that Pope Benedict "has done things for China that he has not done for any other country," referring to the Pope's open letter to the Chinese Church, and that Chinese Catholics "should be profoundly grateful to him for this." But he repeated that Vatican officials had failed to follow the Pope's policies and failed to speak the direct truth about Beijing's efforts to seize control of the legitimate Chinese Church as well as their own schismatic group.
Here are the most significant passages from "Card. Zen: The Pope's great overture to China, held in check by the Vatican and Beijing".
"[The Pope] was a lonely voice in the wilderness. I have said and I repeat: his work was wasted by others close to him, who did not follow his line. I'm not here to judge consciences: it is likely that these his advisers thought that maybe he did not know enough about the situation [or] was unable to pursue the right strategy. In any case, these people have not implemented what Benedict XVI has established as the guidelines for the Church in China.
"We are facing an enemy that not only damages the Church, but China too, our motherland. They are government representatives and Church figures who indecently pursue their own interests, enslaving the bishops of the official Church with enormous pressures; leading them by the nose; forcing them to participate in illegitimate ordinations, making alliances with the worst elements.... If one day the supreme leaders of China decide to take a closer look at the work of these their representatives, they will discover horrors and atrocities....
"There are priests who are arrested, interrogated, beaten, tortured, imprisoned for days, but do not give up their faith and love for the Holy Father. Many priests will not accept illegal ordination, there is the case of Ma Daqin, the auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, who in deciding to quit the Patriotic Association was put under house arrest.
"Unfortunately, even in this case, the Holy See was too careful, it did not throw the full weight of its support behind his choice, opting for a policy of prudence and moderation. And we have lost an opportunity to help other bishops in China. While Msgr. Ma is deprived of liberty, they - especially the leaders of the so-called Chinese Bishops' Conference - are carted around in blue cars at the expense of the Party, to eat and drink at banquets, in exchange for obedience to the Party in making gestures against the Pope."
Who is responsible for relations between the Holy See and foreign governments? Who is the chief proponent within the Roman Curia of the long-discredited policy of Ostpolitik -- making nice with the Communists? It is none other than... wait for it... the Secretary of State, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone. Beyond any doubt, he is chief of the "others".