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Steven Mosher Warns:
Vatican Is Snatching Defeat from
the Jaws of Victory for the Church in China

by Christopher A. Ferrara
March 2, 2018

An article at Life Site News, republished by permission of One Peter Five, has educated me to an aspect of the Church’s situation in China which has received little coverage in the press. The article, by Steven Mosher — a Catholic convert, president of the Population Research Institute, and social scientist who specializes in Chinese demographics and population control — reveals how the Church in China was slowly reassembling itself despite Beijing’s creation of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) as an instrument for state control of Catholic clergy and laity.

Mosher recounts a conversation he had with an unofficial Vatican emissary to China, to whom he refers by the pseudonym “Monsignor Nonini.”  Nonini claims that despite Beijing’s efforts to control the Church in China via the CPA, at the grassroots level the CPA-approved churches were sufficiently free from daily government control to make it possible for them eventually to reunite with Rome.  While a long way from the unity of the one true Church in China, the situation was, at least according to Nonini, slowly resolving itself in that direction.

A conspicuous exception to this organic local development, said Nonini, “are the Patriotic bishops of Beijing, Shanghai, and a couple of other major cities. They have made too many compromises.”  That is, these “bishops” from China’s major cities, where Beijing is more vigilant, are simply agents of the regime, as are all the members of the faux bishops’ conference the regime has created to govern the CPA.  In the outlying provinces, however, government control is much looser, given the sheer vastness of that nation.

Whatever one makes of Nonini’s optimistic assessment, this much seems solid: that, as Mosher notes, the Vatican is making the situation worse by attempting to negotiate a formal written agreement with the same Communist Party that created the CPA.  When the Vatican Secretary of State entered into direct negotiations in 2005 “with the goal of signing a written agreement with the atheistic regime over the appointment of bishops,” that, says Mosher, was “a major blunder.”  As he explains:

“First, it drew the attention of the Chinese Party-State to the activities of the Catholic Church in China… Catholics in China were a small minority, scattered in communities throughout the length and breadth of China. As such, they were able to evangelize, build churches, and even open seminaries, all while attracting relatively little hostile attention from the central government. ‘The mountains are high, and the emperor is far away,’ as the Chinese say.

“Once Beijing entered into formal negotiations with the Vatican, however, the Party-State began to pay a lot more attention to the activities of the domestic followers of this ‘hostile foreign power.’ In other words, the mere fact of negotiations put a target on the backs of Chinese Catholics. The ‘space’ in which it had operated began to shrink under the unblinking eye of state surveillance.

“Vatican diplomats seem not to have realized that they were dealing with a one-party dictatorship that was far more brutal, and far less tolerant of any expressions of religious faith, than Mexico in the 1990s or Vietnam in the 2000s. For in the view of the CCP, all belief in transcendental religions, especially those with foreign connections like Catholicism, is suspect, even treasonous.”

In other words, the situation has been worsened immeasurably by negotiations that have only encouraged Beijing to demand formal Vatican concessions that were not on the table before.  For this reason, says Mosher:

“[T]he biggest blunder made by Vatican diplomats in their on-again, off-again negotiations with China has been insisting, after the fashion in Western diplomatic circles, on the need for a formal written agreement. An informal understanding would have been far more appropriate in the Chinese cultural context….

“It is not hard to see why asking a communist functionary to draw up a formal written agreement would end any hope of real compromise. What functionary would dare draw up, much less urge his superiors to sign, an agreement giving the Vatican – which is to say a foreign power – any real control over the appointment of Chinese bishops in a Chinese-run church? Party leaders would be apoplectic at the mere suggestion that China's sovereignty be violated in this way. Any functionary who suggested otherwise would, at a minimum, be removed.”

The effect of seeking a formal written agreement with communists respecting the rights of the Church in China has led Beijing to say, in substance: “Well, since you bring it up, we would like all the following items from Rome” — including, as we now see, the resignation of legitimate Catholic bishops to be replaced by bishops who have compromised with the regime and will be its reliable puppets.

At the same time, seizing on the Vatican’s eagerness for a piece of paper to signify a diplomatic “victory,” Beijing is cracking down on the local churches of the “underground” pursuant to new regulations that became effective February 1, evidently in anticipation of the Vatican’s cave-in respecting the legitimacy of the CPA and the regime’s right to select candidates for the episcopacy in China.  Clearly, it is precisely the Vatican-Beijing negotiations which have emboldened Beijing to take these repressive measures.

So, the wizards of Vatican diplomacy, still pursuing the folly of Ostpolitik, seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by formalizing the control of a communist regime over the visible Church in China, rather than allow the situation to develop informally over time in ways that could be far more favorable to Chinese Catholics, if only the Vatican were to maintain pressure on Beijing for recognition of the Church’s rights.

Add this debacle to the entire debacle of the post-Vatican II “renewal” of the Church, which has led to the worst crisis in her entire history — a crisis from which only Our Lady of Fatima can deliver her when the Church is governed again by a holy and courageous Pope, whose name may well be Pius XIII.