China’s highest-ranking Catholic prelate, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has accused the Vatican of “selling out” the Church by caving in to demands of the Communist leaders.
The Vatican has "sold out"
Late last month the Vatican reported that it has asked two Chinese bishops – who were appointed by the Pope and oversaw an underground Catholic Church – to resign. Bishops appointed by the Patriotic Association – the section of the Chinese Catholic Church that is approved by the Communist party – would take their places.
Prior to this request from the Vatican Rome had appointed an estimated 30 to 40 underground bishops. These bishops operated without the Chinese government’s approval. Meanwhile, the government appointed seven bishops that Rome opposes.
Communists given "carte blache"
According to Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, the editor of Asianews.it, the agreement with Beijing showed that Vatican negotiators were prepared to give the Chinese government “carte blanche, and accept all requests and pose no opposition on questions that affect the church in China.”
Full relations would give the Roman Church allow it to legally look after all of China’s estimated 12 million Catholics. Half of those members belong to the Roman Church, the other half to the Beijing Church. Once an agreement is reached, a united Catholic Church can focus on numeric growth. China has seen Protestant churches grow at unprecedented rates.
Vatican: Some are sowing confusion
Cardinal Joseph Zen wrote on Facebook, “So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all they are doing in recent years and months.” He added that the Communist government had recently introduced "harsher regulations limiting religious freedom".
In response, the Vatican said it was surprising and regrettable that some people in the Chinese Church were “fostering confusion and controversy.”
A 70-year rift
A rift has existed between the Roman Catholic Church and the Chinese government since the Chinese Revolution in 1949. Beijing and the Vatican severed diplomatic relations in 1951. Over these 70 years, both sides have sparred over which group has the right to appoint bishops. In 1988, the Vatican barred Roman Catholics from participating in the sacraments of the Patriotic Church. It said the Patriotic Church “had broken all relationships with the pope” and would be “under the direct control of the government.”