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U.S. Protests Arrest of Vietnamese Priest While Vatican Remains Silent

by Christopher A. Ferrara

On June 27, 2000 Cardinal Sodano presided over a press conference at which he, Cardinal Silvestrini, and Mikhail Gorbachev sang the praises of the late Cardinal Casaroli’s Ostpolitik: the Vatican’s policy of refusing to condemn communist persecution of Catholics in favor of “quiet diplomacy.” In a previous column (“Congress Speaks Out, But the Vatican Is Silent”), I noted how Ostpolitik: is still at work in the Vatican’s refusal to condemn the brutal persecution of China’s “underground” Catholics by the Red Chinese regime. But Ostpolitik: is not limited to the Red Chinese situation. The Vatican has decided to gag itself wherever communists oppress Catholics.

On May 18, 2001 ABC Online reported an official protest by the United States Embassy over the arrest of Father Tadeus Nguyen Van Ly by the Communist regime of Vietnam. According to the ABC report, “Father Ly, Vietnam's best-known dissident, was arrested in Hue for defying a house arrest order . . . A U.S. embassy spokesman says the ambassador and other U.S. officials have raised strong concerns with the Vietnamese government and urged that Father Ly be returned to his church residence.”

And what has the Vatican done to protest the arrest of Father Ly? Why, nothing. Such a protest would be contrary to the dictates of Ostpolitik:. But an obvious question presents itself: If the United States has already stood up for Father Ly by means of a formal diplomatic protest published around the world, what possible diplomatic harm could come from the Vatican adding its own protest and thus increasing the public pressure for Father Ly’s release? In fact, what evidence is there that Ostpolitik: is anything but what it would appear to be: a cover for communist persecution of Catholics, allowing it to escape public scrutiny and condemnation while producing no genuine relief for the victims of the persecution?

So, Father Ly languishes in his prison cell. The Vatican says nothing. The Church is oppressed in Cuba, where anyone who even accepts free medicine from a Catholic hospital is severely punished. But the Vatican says nothing. Catholic churches are being destroyed in China, while Catholic bishops and priests by the dozens are in prison or under state surveillance by Red Chinese goon squads. The Vatican says nothing. Meanwhile, in Russia, which we are constantly told is “converting,” the Church can neither proselytize nor obtain permanent residence for the 200 or so foreign-born priests and bishops who make up virtually the entire Russian hierarchy. The Vatican says nothing. (Correction: The Vatican does say, quite often, that it has no intention of proselytizing the Russian Orthodox.)

What does it say about those who run the Vatican, that Catholics being oppressed by communist regimes receive a stauncher defense from the pro-abortion United States Congress or the ultra-liberal Amnesty International than they do from the Vatican apparatus? The Catholic faithful have the right to ask themselves how much longer the failed policy of Ostpolitik: is going to be allowed to render the Vatican impotent to defend its own from the ongoing ravages of world communism.