George Weigel has written critically of the Vatican’s proposed deal with China that would supposedly allow for improved relations between the Vatican and Beijing, but at the price of giving the Chinese government some say into the naming of bishops for the Church in China. Mr. Weigel regards the deal as similar to other attempts by Vatican diplomats to work with totalitarian regimes as best they could for the protection and benefit of the Church in those countries, such as the Fascists in Italy, the Nazis in Germany, and the Communists in Eastern Europe. Those attempts were miserable failures.
Fr. Drew Christiansen, writing for “America” magazine, offers a different perspective. Fr. Christiansen reports that the Vatican and Chinese governments have been making joint appointments of bishops for years now, and that relations between Catholics in the Patriotic Church and Catholics in the underground Church are far closer than in the past, and far closer than many Westerners realize. Fr. Christiansen views the deal as a natural growth of relations that have been developing in recent decades and of being a bright opportunity for unity among Catholics in China.
I don’t pretend at being an expert in Vatican-Chinese relations. I know a bit of the history of the Church in China. A well-done documentary speaks about the history of the Church in China, including tensions between the underground Church and the Patriotic Church, and the hope that Catholics in China have for the future.
On the other hand, Cardinal Zen, retired bishop of Hong Kong, has been very critical of the deal. The timing of the deal is concerning, as critics of the deal say that the Chinese government, under current President Xi Jinping, has become more oppressive to religion, as well as human rights attorneys, labor organizers, and journalists.
I offer all of this, not to say which way I think the Vatican should go on this. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. But, if the Catholics of China, inspired by the 2007 letter of Pope Benedict XVI, are finding greater unity among themselves already, are working and worshiping together more often, than anything that can help that movement expand seems to me a good thing.
I encourage you to read and consider, and pray for the Church in China.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.