Cardinal Zen: Vatican Must Accept Responsibility
for Confusion and Disunity of Chinese Catholics

by James Hanisch
February 26, 2013

Retired Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, blames the Vatican’s policy of “appeasement and compromise” toward the Communist Party of China for the confused plight of Chinese mainland Catholics, who are divided between the true underground Church and the veritably schismatic official Church, whose bishops are mere “slaves” of the Party.

Zen (81) addressed Convivium magazine subscribers in Toronto earlier this month, and told a reporter from The Catholic Register,

For years they [the Communist Party of China] had everything their way. The Holy See adopted a policy of appeasement and compromise. So they were happy that they could control more and more the Catholic Church, and they could make slaves of the bishops.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), which appoints its own bishops and refuses to acknowledge the authority of Rome, has been a tool of government officials ever since its creation by the Communist Party of China in 1957 as a division of the Religious Affairs Bureau. The majority of China’s estimated 12 million Catholics have avoided participating in worship offered by CPA-registered churches, but the Vatican’s diplomatic outreaches toward China have consistently served only to undermine the resolve of Catholics to remain clear-sighted and steadfast under this persecution.

Pope Pius XII denounced the principles and activities of the CPA in his July 29, 1958 encyclical Ad Apostolorum Principis, and declared that any bishops participating in the consecration of new bishops selected by the CPA were thereby excommunicated. In hindsight we see that it is regrettable that he did not go further in his denunciation of this evil institution from the very beginning, and brand it with the name that fits the crime: Schism. No Pope since Pius XII has chosen to carry on with his straightforward approach to dealing with the Church’s enemies, calling a spade a spade in honest polemics that can serve as a light to the faithful who are called upon to suffer for their faith. At no point in the last 60 years has the Vatican declared the CPA-sponsored churches to be schismatic, and Cardinal Zen is charging the Vatican’s failed diplomacy with creating a scandalous danger: a “schismatic church with the blessing of the Holy See.”

Do you know what I write to the Holy Father? I say it is only because of your kindness [i.e., misplaced tolerance] that the official Church is not called schismatic. It is actually schismatic without being named. It’s risking being a schismatic church with the blessing of the Holy See, because the Holy Father cannot command that Church. The whole command is in the hands of the government.

For a long time I have abstained from talking about the Holy See. But I think that is unfair. We must be fair to everybody. They [Vatican officials] should take the responsibility.

The CPA explicitly declares in its constitution that it is autonomous from Rome and that it will in no way submit to the authority of the Pope. This is an exact fit for the very definition of schism, as we learn from Pope Boniface VIII in his Bull of 1302, Unam Sanctam:

[T]he Lord said to Peter: “Feed My sheep.” He says “My” [sheep] universally, and not “these” or “those” in particular, and thus it is understood that He entrusted all [His sheep] to him. If, therefore, the Greeks or others say that they have not been entrusted to Peter and to his successors, they necessarily admit that they are not of the sheep of Christ, since the Lord says, in John, that there is one fold and one shepherd.

Pope Pius IX said as much in his 1856 Encyclical, Singulari Quidem:

There is only one See founded on Peter by the word of the Lord, … and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.

And Pius XI gave us this priceless and clear teaching in his 1928 Encyclical, Mortalium Animos:

[I]n this one Church of Christ, no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize, and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors.

But Catholics in China have not had the advantage of a clear declaration of the Church in regard to their situation. Instead, they have been expected to find their way in spite of a long series of disquieting diplomatic gestures and silences from the Vatican, all calculated to appease the Communists, if not also to dishearten the faithful. Since the 1980’s the Vatican has been granting recognition and “regularization” of CPA appointments of bishops. No voice of condemnation followed the 1995 CPA Bishops’ Conference “pastoral letter” which called upon Chinese Catholics to support the government’s official Platform for the Development of Women — in other words, approving contraception, sterilization, and even forced abortions in accordance with China’s one-child policy. John Paul II invited two CPA bishops to participate in the Asian Synod of Bishops in 1998, and directed that a pair of empty chairs mark their absence from the proceedings when the Chinese government refused to allow their involvement. Benedict XVI likewise invited two CPA bishops to join in the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist held in Rome in 2005 (who similarly were not permitted to attend).

The pro-abortion stance of the schismatic CPA establishment cannot present any surprise. As the Catechism of the Council of Trent warns about such false societies,

All other societies arrogating to themselves the name of “church”, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral.

And in fact, to speak of both doctrinal and moral errors, CPA adherents fell very quickly from schism into heresy as well, since they refuse to recognize the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (defined by Pius XII in 1950), as well as all canonizations made after 1949. And regarding the regularizations, Cardinal Zen replies with refreshing honesty:

Under an atheist government, how can you accept bishops proposed by the government? It’s ridiculous. … They are all slaves of the government.

The Council of Trent (Session XXIII) confirms his judgment:

The holy Synod teaches … that in the ordination of bishops, priests, and of other orders, … those who by their own temerity take these offices upon themselves, are not ministers of the Church, but are to be regarded as “thieves and robbers, who have not entered by the door” (Jn. 10:1).

Lacking a clear voice from Rome, plainly opposing this Communist-controlled, pro-abortion “church” of the CPA, Cardinal Zen fears for the souls of Catholics in China, and he openly wonders how long they can withstand such pressures toward compromise and loss of faith:

The hope is in the faithful and in the priests, provided we don’t disappoint them too long. … The Holy See has a long policy of compromise and in China there are weak people in the Church.

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