We must admire the zeal of his Eminence Card. Parolin, the Secretary of State of His Holiness. He is not only working hard in the Vatican Palaces, but goes around to let his voice be heard. In his high level dissertation in Pordenone (Italy) he talked about the wonderful contribution of Card. Costantini to the Church in China and made many revealing comments on the present negotiations between the Holy See and the Chinese Government. I suppose everybody would expect me to be most interested in the subject (I noticed also some recent reflections that Card. Parolin expressed on “Avvenire”, the official daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference).
I am sorry I could not follow the joyous wave of optimism, instead I have a few questions and doubts, which I try to expose here with due respect to His Eminence, believing also that other readers of the dissertation may nurture the same doubts.
Card. Parolin says that the problems (of our present day) are not totally dissimilar from those which Card. Costantini helped overcome 70 years ago.
That sounds strange to me. In my humble understanding, they are toto coelo different.
At the time of Card. Costantini the problem was how to get rid of the “missionary imperialists” (imperialist politicians of Western Powers, posing as the only legitimate protectors of the Church and of the missionaries) who tried to prevent the Holy See from establishing direct relations with the Chinese Government which would have been very happy to have them.
Today, the problem faced by the Holy See is how to reach an acceptable agreement with an atheistic and totalitarian Government, determined to pursue their unchanged policy of subjugating (the word they use is “guiding”) all the religions, especially Christianity.
I do not think it is necessary to list all the facts and the many, even most recent, pronouncements from the Chinese Government. They are of public dominion and of easy consultation.
If what I have said in part A is valid, then, while we show our admiration for the indomitable Card. Costantini in carrying out successfully his difficult mission of bringing the Chinese faithful into the protecting bosom of Mother Church, today we have to sympathize with our officials in the Vatican diplomacy, because what they have to face is a “mission impossible” (or almost impossible).
How can we reasonably hope that the Chinese Government would consent to an agreement which would guarantee a real religious freedom? This would mean that they are willing to give back to the Church the authority which they are exercising since so many decades? This would mean to suppose that the Chinese Government has changed radically their ideology. This would also mean that we believe our counterpart has the same good will as we have, that they pursue also the truth, the good, and all the universal values as we do.
One has the right to choose between optimism and pessimism, but a responsible judgment must be based on facts.
– Card. Parolin encourages us to trust in Divine Providence. But God does not guarantee us that the turmoil may be soon over. Time is in God’s hands.
– Card. Parolin recognizes the need of proceeding “in fear and trembling”, but what we see is an exaggerated optimism. They seem to be happily sure that they are writing unprecedented pages of history (mind you, “not out of desire to reach who knows what worldly success”, but to contribute to world peace).
We have raised the voice of caution, but we are been deemed guilty of lack of trust, of judging badly other people.
– Card. Parolin says that the Pope knows “what progress has been made” (in recent years?). It is unfortunate that we are not given to see those progresses. What we see is that, to please the Chinese Government, the Holy See has closed her eyes in the face of so many abuses, abdicating her authority. Now we are reaching the bottom of the pit, from which it will be difficult to climb up again. It may take a miracle. We believe in miracles, but we should not tempt God.
We are told that we are on a journey towards a goal. Then it is important to know first of all FROM WHERE THE JOURNEY IS STARTING OFF.
CAN WE REACH AN AGREEMENT ON “WHERE IS THE REAL PROBLEM TODAY”?
– There is too much talk of reconciliation (between the two communities of the Church in China). I was among the first to say that there are no two Churches in China, because, both in the underground and above ground, there is a common desire to be in union with the Successor of Peter. The division into two communities is created by the Government. The latter, on the one hand, refuses to recognize as Catholic those who profess obedience to the Holy Father in matters of faith and discipline; on the other hand, it holds ever more tightly its pressure on those who, for whatever reason, have accepted to be subject like slaves; with a few of them, the opportunists, becoming their collaborators.
The problem is not about reconciliation. When Bishop Ma of Shanghai declared his loyalty to the Holy Father, the underground community went immediately to promise him their obedience. (But now, before the mystery of his “self-confession” is clarified, how can the Holy See push the underground to come out to support him?)
– In the same way, there is no problem in being both Catholic and Chinese. We never had any doubt that we are authentically both Catholic and Chinese. It is the Chinese Communist Party that wants to have the monopoly in judging who is and who is not a Chinese patriot (just as, even more ridiculously, they hold themselves judges of who is a Catholic or a priest or a bishop!)
Are we going to be more Chinese if we allow the Communist Party to run our Church?
I repeat: CAN WE AGREE ON WHERE IS THE REAL PROBLEM?
Don’t you see that the problem is how to free the above-ground community from the slavery? This means to ask the Government to release them. Without real freedom, how can there be a life of full communion with the Pope (“To live out in a positive way their belonging to the Church” in the words of Cardinal Parolin)?
Are the Chinese Communists ready for that?
The genuine realism is to know and to acknowledge the reality, otherwise realism (healthy or otherwise) or what the Communists call “pragmatism and flexibility” would only be euphemisms for compromise, surrender, and self-betrayal.
The reality may be cruel, but we have to face it squarely. We must see clearly where we are now, before we can start walking towards where we must be.
Card. Parolin says: the Pope wants us to abandon the logic of “either this or nothing”. The expression “either this or nothing” sounds negative and rude. If it means: “either you grant us full freedom, or we don’t even talk”, it may be questionable. But if to avoid “doing nothing” you are ready “to do anything”, that may be wrong also. We can not refuse dialog, but we can not agree to anything just to make the dialog a success. The dialog must have a bottom line, it is not acceptable to go against the principle of faith just to have a “successful” conclusion to a dialog.
Pope Benedict in his letter of 2007 said: “the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities; at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church.”
To deny one’s own identity doesn’t solve the problems. One must hold fast to one’s own faith, otherwise the martyrs would be fouls.
Let us ask and answer unambiguously the following questions: Is there any real Bishops’ Conference in the official community of the Church in China? No, there isn’t! It is the Government that runs the Church in the name of the so-called “One Association and One Conference”.
Is there in China a schismatic Church? Yes, there is! Even if the Popes prefer not to call it such, because they know that many are in it under enormous pressure.
EVERY JOURNEY MUST START FROM HERE!
And remember what Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta said: “God doesn’t ask us to be successful, but faithful”.
24 September 2016