The Vatican and Communist China: A Surrender or an Alliance?
Is Pope Francis’ Vatican “surrendering” or “caving in” to Communist China? That’s the language many concerned Catholics are using. Pope Francis’ decision to turn against that nation’s underground church appalled them. So they try to explain it. They point to priestly naiveté. Or goofball hopes for Western-style reforms. I wonder, though. Francis and his appointees seem driven by something more. Namely by anti-American, illiberal politics. So I think it’s worth considering other words. Such as “strategic alliance.” Does that sound crazy? I wish it were. Read to the end before you decide.
The facts on the ground are clear: We’ve seen 60 years of conflict between the real, underground churches of China and the Communist front groups set up by its government to control them. Now the Vatican has announced that it’s switching sides. Believers, priests and bishops of the Catholic wing of that underground church must stand aside. They must go join the “Patriotic” church which they’ve been fighting for decades.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, who served prison terms at the hands of the Communist government, calls this capitulation. As The Wall Street Journal reported:
“You are telling them, ‘You are stupid for being loyal for so many years. Now surrender,’” Cardinal Zen said in an interview in the Hong Kong seminary he joined seven decades ago.
“They are appointing bad people to be the shepherds of the flocks. How can you do that?” he said in the interview, closing his eyes and shaking his fists. “You’re putting wolves before your flock, and they are going to make a massacre.”
A group of concerned Chinese Catholics issued an anguished open letter. It said, in part:
[T]he seven illicitly ordained “bishops” were not appointed by the Pope, and their moral integrity is questionable. They do not have the trust of the faithful, and have never repented publicly. If they were to be recognized as legitimate, the faithful in Greater China would be plunged into confusion and pain, and schism would be created in the Church in China. …
[W]e are deeply worried that the deal would create damages that cannot be remedied. The Communist Party in China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has repeatedly destroyed crosses and churches, and the Patriotic Association maintains its heavy-handed control over the Church. Religious persecution has never stopped. Xi has also made it clear that the Party will strengthen its control over religions. So there is no possibility that the Church can enjoy more freedom. In addition, the Communist Party has a long history of breaking promises. We are worried that the agreement would not only fail to guarantee the limited freedom desired by the Church, but also damage the Church’s holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, and deal a blow to the Church’s moral power. The Church would no longer be able to have the trust of people. …
The Radical Left at the Vatican
The highest authority at the Vatican on science, economics and politics is Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. If anyone speaks for Pope Francis, he does. Yet Sorondo ignored all the abuses which Chinese Catholics cited. Like a gullible pilgrim to Moscow in 1936, he spoke of his visit to China in sophomoric, glowing terms. He spouted Party propaganda. And worse, as China expert and pro-life hero Steven Mosher explained at The Stream, Sorondo lauded the Chinese dictatorship for supposedly avoiding the evils leftist Catholics attribute to U.S. capitalism. He praised China for its environmental stewardship on “climate issues.” He outright said that China comes closer to “Catholic social teaching” than the United States does. Pope Francis did not contradict him.
The cardinal lauded the Chinese dictatorship for supposedly avoiding the evils which leftist Catholics attribute to U.S. capitalism. He praised China for its environmental stewardship on “climate issues.” He outright said that China comes closer to “Catholic social teaching” than the United States does. Pope Francis did not contradict him.
Catholics should take that seriously. Sorondo is one of Francis’s front men on Catholic social teaching. He has told us what he thinks it amounts to. I’ve been warning for years that leftists were hijacking and distorting Catholic social thought, then trying to give their ideology the veneer of divine authority. Indeed, Sorondo once told a Vatican symposium that Francis’ opinions on climate change were as binding as the Church’s stance on abortion. Francis’ call for massive, centralized control over the world economy by global agencies? That forms part of the “ordinary magisterium,” Sorondo claimed. According to him, Catholics cannot publicly dissent from it without sin (which is absurd).
America as a Dictatorship
In 2013, another Francis protégé, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga explained Pope Francis’ inaugural document Evangelii Gaudium. It slams the free market as wicked and exploitative. Quoting Fidel Castro acolyte Jean Ziegler, Maradiaga denounced the
world dictatorship of finance capital. … The lords of financial capital wield over billions of human beings a power of life and death. Through their investment strategies, their stock market speculations, their alliances, they decide day to day who has the right to live on this planet and who is doomed to die.
In his own words, Maradiaga dismissed systems like America’s. He damned “neoliberal dictatorships that rule democracies.” He warned, “To change the system, it would be necessary to destroy the power of the new feudal lords.”
It’s not surprising that Maradiaga is peddling conspiracy theories. As Alan Dershowitz revealed, back in 2002 the cardinal denied that a clerical sex abuse crisis even existed. What did? A plot by Jews in the media to strike back at the Vatican. Why? For defending the Palestinians. So let’s revoke Spotlight‘s Oscar, okay? It was really just Zionist agitprop.
The Dangerous Christian Right
The Vatican-supervised Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica tipped its hand in 2016. It published a telling piece by close Francis associate Fr. Antonio Spadaro. In it, Spadaro denounced the Christian right in America. For what? Conspiring with certain rogue Catholic conservatives in a plot to impose a sharia-style theocracy. The proof? We oppose same sex marriage, abortion and attacks on religious liberty. Spadaro even coughed up the leftist talking point which smears American evangelicals as opponents of civil rights for black people.
Also in 2016, Wikileaks revealed that billionaire leftist, globalist and pro-choice extremist George Soros was funding leftist Catholic groups. One was the South American radical group PICO. Cardinal Maradiaga was the proposed go-between. (Maradiaga has been implicated since then in a major financial scandal involving “dark money” he seems to have collected.)
In 2017, 24 U.S. bishops and Vatican Cardinal Peter Turkson graced a conference sponsored by PICO and other leftist groups. Its final message included a note of support from Pope Francis himself. The group called for radical “resistance” against U.S. laws. And essentially open U.S. borders. It asked bishops to hide illegal aliens from justice.
Rejecting America, Root and Branch
A recent article in The Federalist is must-reading. It points to a campaign among some Catholics to reject the American founding and the liberties it ensures as part of a corrosive “Liberalism.” This atomist philosophy inevitably leads to decisions like Roe v. Wade. So scholars such as Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame warn us. Rejecting it, however, might require Catholics to rethink Vatican II’s embrace of religious freedom for non-Catholic Christians.
Pope Francis just made a deal with a dictatorship that dynamites Christian churches.
Pope Francis has not weighed in on this question. But he regularly uses “neo-liberalism” as a term of abuse for pro-American political and economic policies. And he did just make a deal with a dictatorship that dynamites Christian churches. (Most of them Protestant.) He subjected China’s Catholics to the same authorities that oversee those demolitions. Presumably he hopes that Catholic churches get spared. If so, they’d effectively benefit from the government’s persecutions. (In fact, this will more likely permanently discredit the Catholic Church in China. But that’s not what he intends.)
We made a lot of fun here at The Stream of a group of disgruntled Catholic Millennials who called themselves “Tradinistas.” They called for open borders, global socialism, guaranteed wages for breathing and an official Catholic state. They cited papal documents condemning American “Liberalism.” Maybe they weren’t just grumpy graduate students. It seems they were on to something. They were channeling voices that are also coming from Rome. From a Vatican that seeks powerful allies against the “real” threat to peace and equality: “neoliberal dictorships” like the United States of America.
Leftist ideologues with whom Francis has staffed key Vatican posts see more common cause between their worldview and China’s. And Fidel Castro’s. And George Soros’. They keep saying so. It’s time we listened.