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December 22, 2010
Chinese government defends control of Catholic church
A spokesperson for the People's Republic of China's State Administration for Religious Affairs said on Wednesday that the Vatican's criticism of the recent National Congress of Chinese Catholics was "imprudent and ungrounded." The government run Congress, which met from Dec. 7 to 9, elected the heads and other senior members of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church (BCCC) in China.
On Dec. 17, the Vatican issued a communiqué condemning the Congress,
With profound sorrow, the Holy See laments the fact that from 7 to 9 December there was held in Beijing the Eighth Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives. This was imposed on numerous bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful. The manner in which it was convoked and its unfolding manifest a repressive attitude with regard to the exercise of religious liberty, which it was hoped had been consigned to the past in present-day China. The persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens' lives, namely their conscience, and to interfere in the internal life of the Catholic Church does no credit to China. On the contrary, it seems to be a sign of fear and weakness rather than of strength; of intransigent intolerance rather than of openness to freedom and to effective respect both of human dignity and of a correct distinction between the civil and religious spheres. The Chinese spokesperson replied on Dec. 22,
The congress, which is held every five years to amend the CCPA and BCCCC's constitutions, elect a new leadership and set future agenda, does not deal with Catholic doctrines or violate the fundamental Catholic faith, and "there is no question of getting recognition by any foreign organization or state." Members of the CCPA are forbidden to acknowledge the Pope as the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, as Beijing will not tolerate any loyalty to any entity for any reason outside China. Thus, there are millions of "underground Catholics" in China who worship outside the CCPA at great risk.
The spokesperson said China's religious freedom was protected by the Chinese Constitution, and it was a misinterpretation by the Vatican to declare the incompatibility of Catholic doctrine and the Chinese Catholic church's principle of independent self-governance.
China's Constitution grants Chinese citizens freedom of religious beliefs, but requires independence of religious organizations and affairs in China from foreign influence.
Other examples of state control of church affairs include the Nov. 20 ordination of a Catholic Bishop (Fr. Joseph Guo Jincai) over the objection of the Vatican. A summary of recent "hostile acts" against Chinese Catholics is available here.
As an editorial in the National Post of Canada put it,
For decades, the Holy See has hoped that China's economic modernization would lead to a new political climate in which religious liberty would be fully respected. Quiet diplomacy had been employed to that effect, and many of the Vatican diplomats on the China file made no secret that they desired full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China - even to the extent of looking the other way on religious liberty issues. But the frontal assault of the past month from the PRC has obviously changed minds in Rome. The quiet diplomacy has been set aside. Governments, corporations and NGOs around the world are going through the same awakening about the nature of a "rising" China and reassessing their former optimism. Prosperity is not taming the communist regime, it is empowering it to press forward with new vigor its notion of Chinese cultural superiority and the need to insulate the country from Western influence.