After those slaps in the face…?

Recently the words “slaps in the face” appeared rather frequently on chinacath.org.

One ridiculous case was when a certain Mr. Liu said that Chris Patten, during his recent visit to Hong Kong, gave me a slap in the face. The fact is that Chris Patten severely criticized the position of those who want Hong Kong to be independent from China. But I never supported that position. (I even criticized the students for their impulsive actions).

I can imagine the embarrassment of that ridiculous fellow, if I tell him that Chris Patten, before he concluded his visit, accepted to have lunch with me (we chatted for three hours)!

In another case, much more serious, someone said that when an excommunicated “bishop” took part, twice, in episcopal ordinations in Sichuan, China, it was as if they had given a slap in the face of our Holy Father. Yes, and it must sadden every Catholic who loves Pope Francis.

How could the Chinese government allow, or even encourage “Bishop” Lei Shiyin to do such a thing? How can we still believe that the Chinese negotiators have good will when talking to Vatican officials?

(It shocks me that no word of protest has come from the Vatican yet, till this moment, 12 December).

Reading a comment by Gianni Valente (Vatican Insider 30 November), I am happy to find out that, on this point, he feels the way I do. Did those “slaps” awaken him from his optimistic dream? Maybe he did not really feel as if he himself had been slapped. He was only half awakened. Why do I say so?

Gianni Valente gave us the information that “the IX General Assembly of Catholic Representatives in China is going to be convened soon.” He reported also, with obvious consent, the opinion of some Chinese bishops: “the participation in an illicit episcopal consecration is not to be judged as of the same gravity as the eventual presence at a national Congress, which is convoked by the Government, so it has nothing to do with the spirit of the Church.” [Probably they want to say “The presence at a national Congress is not to be judged as of the same gravity as the participation in an illicit episcopal ordination”.]

It’s incredible that such absurdity could be uttered by somebody. Gianni Valente himself in the same article has affirmed that this Assembly is “the highest authority governing the Church in China”. We may say: it is surely the most formal and explicit expression of the schismatic nature of that poor Church!!!

I ask the question: how could Gianni Valente suggest the idea that the Assembly could be allowed to be convoked. That is exactly what he is saying: “the recent history has shown that the problem is not resolved by putting pressure on Chinese Bishops (preventing them from joining the Assembly). It also shows that they are called, with the Holy See’s trust in them, to ensure with their speeches that the Assembly does not implement any action that may be contrary to the sacramental nature and great discipline of the Church.”

I cannot believe that Gianni Valente be so naïve as to believe what he said. He is saying, practically, that the Vatican should allow the Assembly to take its place and, in it, let the bishops make a revolution changing completely the present situation (because the actual situation is totally contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church).

Since Gianni Valente is talking about the recent history and particularly about the Assembly of 2010, I feel qualified to join the discussion because of my knowledge of the facts.

I do not know whether the Holy See has ever, before 2010, told the bishops not to join the Assembly. Anyway is it realistic to expect the bishops to do something inside the Assembly? Not even the heroic Bishop Li Duan succeeded!

In 2010 the Commission for the Church in China had finally seen the need of a change of strategy: tell the bishops simply not to join it. (The communiqué had obviously been approved by the Holy Father).

Was the Commission expecting that all the bishops would comply with the instruction? Probably not, but certainly a good number of them. And that would be enough to make the Government postpone again the Assembly (they did that already more than once) may be, “sine die” this time. The communists do not take risks when they are not sure of success.

How did the Assembly take place in 2010? The three bishops, mentioned by Gianni Valente, confided their difficulties not only to UCAN, but also to the Vatican Cardinal in charge of the Church in China, and the reply by His Eminence was: “we understand”.

The voice spread, everybody knew that is was the Cardinal, not the Commission, in command. The Government summoned the Assembly, since they still had a little fear that some surprise could happen, they used force, bringing “physically” several rappresantatives to the venue of the Assembly.

What would have happened without that “we understand”? Nobody may be able to tell, but one thing is certain: the following history would have been very different.

But why should we always ask: “what is going to happen?”, and not ask “what must we do?” When facing an evil action, why do we look for reasons which may justify our tolerance, rather than take the decision not to give our collaboration?

Coming back to those recent Episcopal Ordinations marred by the presence of the excommunicated “bishop”, why did the bishops present not dare to ask that “brother” to leave the place and insist on not carrying on the rite until he complied? Would their life have been in danger? Would they all have seen arrested? I don’t think so.

In 2000 Bishop Li Duan dared to disappear twice: fist, when, in January, they called him to take part in the mass illegitimate ordination, and then, in September, when they called him to Beijing to sign the letter of protest to the Pope against the Canonization of the martyrs in China. He was punished, yes, but not stripped of his office, and not arrested either.

Between 30 Nov and 2 Dec. there was enough time for a word of protest. People may say: “That would not have changed the events”. But, then, once more an act of “disdain for the Petrine and Episcopal Ministry” (Benedict’s letter 2007, sec. 8) was allowed to be committed.

Often I have been accused of pushing my brothers to martyrdom while enjoying freedom and security myself. In these days the readings in the liturgy come to my aid. Jesus said, referring to John the Baptist: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? … the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm.” (Mt. 11: 7, 12)

Before we contemplate the tender face of the Divine Infant let us look at the glorious Lord coming to separate the sheep from the goats.

It is cruelty to make our brothers be “reconciled” with their slavery. True charity consists in helping them to free themselves. The strength will come from the Holy Spirit.

The Ostpolitik strategy was a failure (Pope Benedict XVI – “The Last Conversations”) Try, please, this other strategy, the evangelical strategy, before it’s too late!

Chinese Version:

這兩個巴掌還不夠痛嗎?

Italian Version:

Non sono bastati quegli schiaffi?

關於 oldyosef

天主教香港教區榮休主教

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