Catholic Church in China

Part II: Persecution and Confusion

By Joseph M.C. Kung

It is very sad to note that the invalid church called the Patriotic Association has been embraced by so many Roman Catholic religious and institutions at the expense of the blood of their own brothers and sisters in the underground Church.

There are approximately fifty Patriotic Association seminarians and priests studying in various Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States and approximately an equal number elsewhere in the Free World. This program in the United States is organized by Maryknoll on behalf of the Patriotic Association. They are given full tuition, room and board scholarships from various dioceses. And that is from your donations. These scholarships cost about one million dollars a year in the United States alone. Upon completion of their studies, the Patriotic Association seminarians will return (some have already returned) to China to be ordained, not by the underground Roman Catholic Bishops, but by their Patriotic Association bishops. They will serve in the Patriotic Association dioceses which, as I mentioned earlier, are not in communion with the Holy Father.

A number of persons already inquired of Maryknoll and why it should help the Patriotic Association's seminarians. Many of Maryknoll's replies to these inquiries were identical, as follows:

"... Several years ago, Vatican officials encouraged us to get any seminarians out of China that we could and into United States seminaries if at all possible. Their purpose was (and is) to get them a proper Roman Catholic education, and to expose them to the Universal Church. We were able to get about 40 of them out. ... We choose to follow the Holy Father's policy of reconciliation. ... We do not support one group over the other."

We wonder why Maryknoll failed to disclose in its reply any names, occasions and dates of these "Vatican officials" when they "encouraged" Maryknoll to sponsor "any seminarians" out of China to the United States, and why Maryknoll failed to point out that all of the "40 of them out" belong to the Patriotic Association. If Maryknoll really does "not support one group over the other" as it claimed in its reply, why does Maryknoll bring only the seminarians of the Patriotic Association to the United States? Why does Maryknoll not bring an equal number of the seminarians of the underground Church to the United States? For this matter, why does Maryknoll not bring even one underground seminarian to the United States?

Some dioceses in the Free World have granted faculties to Patriotic Association priests studying there, allowing them to offer Holy Mass and administer other Sacraments openly in a Roman Catholic parish. In view of their commitment to return to serve their Patriotic Association bishops, there is no conclusive evidence that these Patriotic Association priests have made a lifelong conversion of the heart and a lifelong profession of the true Catholic faith. Many Catholics who are the recipients of these sacraments from a Patriotic Association priest are totally in the dark, because they do not know the identity of these priests.

There are many religious and lay Catholics who are knowledgeable of what I have just described. They also possess power, authority and leadership. But, they chose not to speak out. This silence could be interpreted by the Chinese Government as approval of its repressive religious policy. This silence could also be interpreted by the underground Church as a betrayal.

China continues its oppressive religious policies not only because many Church leaders send wrong and misleading signals, but also because most governments in the Free World are not serious about their demands for human rights improvement in China.

In the meantime, the current policies of many countries in the West to delink human rights from trade send a clear, but wrong, message to China that we will tolerate human rights abuses for the sake of profits and trade. This policy also gives the Chinese Government the confidence that it can continue persecuting religious believers without affecting its international relationships.

"Zero Tolerance" — does that sound familiar? Zero tolerance has become the standard verbiage in the corporate world. To cite some examples, many multi-national corporations often allude to their policies of zero tolerance of conflicts of interest, zero tolerance of sexual harassment, zero tolerance of racial discrimination, and zero tolerance of child labor. Many of these policies are directly related to the upholding of basic human rights principles. Yet, the policy of zero tolerance, or for that matter, even minimum tolerance of human rights violations has not found its way into the policy of those companies doing business in China.

It is very wrong, bordering on hypocrisy, for corporations to demand of its employees a strong commitment to human rights by having all these zero tolerance policies, when these same corporations are more than willing to relinquish this policy of zero tolerance once the corporations are 20 hours away, in China. It is even more hypocritical that, while hiding behind the policy of delinking trade from human rights, these companies turn a blind eye to the atrocious religious persecutions in China in exchange for their "thirty pieces of silver".

China has achieved significant economic progress during the past two decades with much assistance from the Free World. This progress has not brought about true religious freedom, as many leaders of the Free World had hoped for. It is, therefore, very naive or even unethical for governments of the Free World to negotiate with and encourage the Chinese government to enter the World Trade Organization while such religious persecution continues and intensifies. Such acts amount to condoning the five decades of religious persecution in China. As the leaders of the Free World attended the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Peoples' Republic of China in Beijing, they must also remember that the religious prisoners were simultaneously observing the 50th anniversary of the religious persecutions in China.

Based on all the above actions, one could theorize that perhaps many Roman Catholic bishops and missionaries believe that working with the Patriotic Association Church would be the most expedient route to return China to the Mother Church. If this theory were the true objective of these Roman Catholic institutions, they should first seek the counsel of the loyal underground bishops in China. They have not. They should have accorded the same respect to the authority of the underground bishops as an Ordinary as they would have accorded to any other Ordinary throughout the Free World. They have not. These bishops and religious superiors supporting the Patriotic Association Church are in effect recognizing the Patriotic Association as a part of the Universal Church while our Holy Father has steadfastly refused to do so.

If these Patriotic Association bishops are truly loyal to the Holy Father, as they professed to their overseas benefactors, they must realize that this terrible persecution in China is causing much grief to His Holiness. Shouldn't they, the Patriotic Association bishops, as Christians and as a sign of goodwill, persuade their government and speak out that the on-going persecution of the Roman Catholic Church should be stopped immediately, because it is an evil act and also a gross violation of human rights? They have not. Shouldn't those Roman Catholic bishops and Roman Catholic religious superiors friendly to the Patriotic Association bishops show some support and unity to the underground bishops by suspending these donations and projects to the Patriotic Association until the persecution stops? They have not.

The nine million loyal Catholics are very heart-broken and confused. In their hearts, they know that "Papal Supremacy" is one of the basics of being a Catholic. In their hearts, they know that the Holy Father is firmly behind them. In their hearts, they know that the Holy Father will never abandon them. However, facing all these confusing and contradicting events, the loyal Catholics in China are experiencing a far more torturous persecution by the acts of our own Church than by being physically locked up in a Communist jail.

When you see all the donations and the cooperation with the Patriotic Association; when you see that there are no parallel donations and projects for the underground Church, do you feel that these projects with the Patriotic Association are wrong, do you feel that these projects with the Patriotic Association should never have happened, and do you feel that these projects with the Patriotic Association could not have been mere coincidences? Do you get the impression that the Holy See is now accepting the Patriotic Association? Do you also get the impression that perhaps the Vatican is ready to abandon the nine million loyal Catholics or is ready to force them to merge with the Patriotic Association instead of persuading the Patriotic Association to join the mother Church? Do you ever wonder why there are bishops and cardinals in the Vatican to approve and encourage these events to happen and let them continue to happen?

The Communist Government did not succeed in eliminating the three million Catholics by coercion and persecution in the 1950s. Now the government is hoping to defeat the Roman Catholic Church from within its own Church through misinformation, deceit, and confusion over and on top of the intensified persecutions! The Chinese Government is trying very hard to erode the respect, confidence, obedience and loyalty of the underground Church to the Holy Father to the extent that when the chips are down, the issue of the Papal authority on the Catholic Church in China would become irrelevant. I am very frightened to say that the Communists appear to be gaining ground.

However I, for one, believe that our Holy Father will never allow anyone to abandon these nine million loyal Catholics.

On this score, speaking in April 1994 at St. John's Church in New York, Cardinal Kung said:

"The Catholic Church will never vanish in China. I beg you to have the patience to stay with us with your prayers and open support until our Holy Mother Mary saves China in Her own time."

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