Church and State Divide

Paul Mooney writes about increasingly tense relations between Beijing and the Vatican, with China ordaining bishops this past year in defiance of the Pope:

“It’s a very sensitive time,” said a scholar in Hong Kong who monitors the church in China. “In my opinion, there will be a showdown – things are coming to a conclusion.

“I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and I’ve never seen it get to this point before,” the academic said. “Both sides are playing all the cards they have. One of the two will win everything.”

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, speaking at a news conference in July, put it more harshly: “At this moment, it’s war.” He also took out a half-page advertisement in Apple Daily, sending a strongly worded “urgent appeal” to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, calling on the two top leaders to reject “rogue public servants” who are “using violence to assist scum inside the church to force bishops, priests, and followers to do things against their consciences.”

The priests in China who attended the ordination ceremonies have also been targeted for criticism, Mooney writes:

Bishops who have co-operated with the illicit ordinations and who took part in the National Conference in December, have come under criticism from their priests, nuns and parishioners. The church researcher said: “Some Catholics are saying, `You’re a bishop, and you don’t have the guts to stand up? What kind of bishop are you?'”

“I can understand they’re being forced to go there, but during the ordinations how could they lay hands?” asked the European priest. “No one could force them to do this. But the psychological pressure is so strong, so they just go along.”

Some bishops expressed remorse after taking part in these events, with several going on retreats afterwards. One bishop from Shanghai cried afterwards, saying he was too embarrassed to meet people.

“Under this kind of pressure, you feel like you can’t refuse what the government is asking,” the European priest said.


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