The Vatican’s China problem – Seth Faison
Opinion from the Los Angeles Times (link):
WHEN Mao Tse-tung and his Communist forces swept across China and won its civil war in 1949, the pope’s representative to China, Msgr. Antonio Riberi, sent a message from his office in Nanjing to the 5,500 Catholic missionaries spread across the country. It ordered the faithful to stay on post and keep up God’s work, even in the face of certain persecution.
Although Riberi was the Catholic Church’s envoy to the Nationalists – Mao’s enemies who had fled to Taiwan – he refused to join the mass exit from Nanjing. He also resisted pressure to recognize the People’s Republic as a legitimate government. Instead, he actively opposed Communist plans to co-opt Chinese Catholics and create a religious organization controlled by Beijing. Facing a brick wall, sure to fail, Riberi fought on.
It may sound noble, yet Riberi’s stubborn determination was equally suicidal. It set the tone for the Catholic Church’s relations with Beijing over the next half a century: openly hostile and mutually suspicious, resulting in a countrywide ban of both the religion and its representatives.
Beijing and the Vatican, like many antagonists, have some key traits in common. Both are intolerant of dissenting opinions. Both follow rigid orthodoxies, and both are control freaks. It’s tempting to suggest that they deserve each other.