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Bush Demands Release of Priest while Vatican Remains Silent

by Christopher A. Ferrara

In Vietnam, as elsewhere, the disgraceful policy of Ostpolitik continues to render the Vatican impotent to resist communist persecution of Catholics around the world.

In an earlier column I discussed the arrest of a Vietnamese priest, Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, for the "crime" of speaking out in favor of religious liberty in communist Vietnam. In that column I noted that the Vatican had offered no public protest, even though United States diplomats had lodged and then publicized a protest to the Vietnamese "government" and had demanded that Father Van Ly be returned to his residence.

Now it turns out that President Bush himself has pleaded for Father Van Ly’s release. According to Zenit.org. (July 23, 2001) "In May, following his arrest by police who stormed a parish church, Hanoi rejected a plea by U.S. President George W. Bush for the priest's release."

Since the arrest, according to Zenit (which was reporting on findings by the Washington, D.C. based Commission for Religious Liberty in Vietnam) "Father Van Ly is being subjected to multiple interrogations every day."

It seems that in February Father Van Ly "urged the U.S. government not to ratify a trade agreement with Vietnam because of its grave human-rights violations." Here he showed more courage than the Vatican apparatus, which has failed to call for any sanctions whatever against communist Vietnam — or even Communist China, where persecution of the Church is vastly worse. This silence is in keeping, of course, with the Vatican’s absurd policy of refusing to condemn communist regimes for their persecution of Catholics.

Oddly enough, a Vatican delegation did go to Vietnam in June, a month after Father Van Ly’s arrest, but only to press the Vatican’s "requests for new bishops there." The Pope has been able to fill some vacancies, but only after the Vietnamese communist government approved the Vatican’s choices. Zenit notes that "Vatican officials in June reported some headway, with some of the Church's choices winning government approval but others being rejected."

So, Vietnamese Catholic priests are arrested and subjected to endless interrogations, while the communist government usurps the Church’s divine right to choose bishops. And the Vatican simply acquiesces in this vicious subjugation of the Bride of Christ.

On the 100th anniversary of the birth of Paul VI, Cardinal Casaroli, who was Secretary of State under Pope Paul, admitted that "Pope Paul VI once asked — as if in an examination of conscience — whether the Holy See was failing to enact the Gospel message in dealing with the Communist world." (CWNews report) Casaroli further admitted that while Pope Paul was "eventually persuaded that the Holy See could do a service to the cause of peace by quiet diplomacy," the Pope "remained torn by doubts about the ‘ostpolitik’ approach" and that Casaroli had "to convince Pope Paul to stay with his policy."

Now this shameful policy of silence in the face of evil is continued by Cardinal Sodano. Small wonder that Sodano also oversees the persecution of Father Nicholas Gruner, whose "offense" is to voice the same moral doubts that tore at the conscience of Paul VI. Heresy and scandal on a vast and unprecedented scale are tolerated by the Vatican apparatus, but there is no toleration for any criticism of the Vatican’s failed human diplomacy.

The fruits of Ostpolitik are there for all to see: the Church is in chains, not only in Vietnam, but in China, Russia and everywhere else communists and "ex-communists" continue to persecute the Bride of Christ. Yet the Vatican says nothing. What a scandal their silence is! Thank God that at least some world leaders, including America’s Protestant President, stand up for persecuted Catholics.