Reading Paul Kengor’s study of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II,  A Pope and a President, one is reminded of the truly astounding character of Pope John Paul and Ronald Reagan.

There are so many thing I love about both men:

  • that they were actors
  • That they were prayerful men,
  • that they were essentially outsiders–standing the establishment “wisdom” on its head
  • that they were shrewd
  • that they were humble
  • that they were courageous
  • that they saw evil clearly and called it out

They saw the clear evil of atheistic communism and did not appease the evil, but stood up and decided to defeat the evil.

Their stance against the tricks, lies and devious policies of the Soviets is in contrast with what seems to be the present Vatican policy of appeasement towards Communist China.

I have hesitated from commenting on the situation since, at the moment, there seem to be rumors and headlines swirling about, but if the upcoming deal with China is what it is rumored to be, then compared to the courage and determination of Pope St John Paul II this present Vatican policy seems astonishingly cowardly.

We’ll wait and see, but if the Vatican is truly kow towing to the Communist state church it is a sell out on a massive scale.

For those who are not in the know, the Chinese Communists adopted a different policy than the Russians. The Russian Communists were determined to eradicate religion completely. They imposed atheism on the people of Russia ruthlessly–persecuting Christians, closing monasteries, seminaries and church schools, dynamiting cathedrals and doing everything they could to forcibly eliminate religion and establish an atheistic state.

China took a different route–one which is very similar to that of King Henry VIII of England– In 1957 the Communists established The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. This was, in effect, the Catholic Church of China. Think Church of England, and you’ll understand.

This Catholic Church of China is a pretend Catholic Church, just like the Anglicans they will say, “We’re Catholic. We’re just not Roman Catholic.” Like the Church of England the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association rejects the authority of the pope and appoints its own bishops.

In 1988 a Vatican document barred Catholics from receiving the sacraments in the Catholic Patriotic Association, and since its establishment, there has always been an underground Catholic Church in China that was persecuted and remained loyal to Rome. This is very similar to the recusants in England who resisted every pressure to conform to the Church of England–and did so for three hundred years.

The reports are that the Vatican has approved seven bishops put forward by the atheist regime and asked two bishops of the underground church to step aside to make way for the appointments. Rather than the Vatican approving the Catholic Patriotic Association completely, this seems to be an acceptance that the Chinese government may appoint bishops to govern the underground church. Assurances are given that the Vatican will still “have a say” in the appointment of bishops.

To continue the Anglican analogy, this would be equivalent to the Catholic Church in England accepting the Anglican formula for appointing bishops: that the Prime Minister submits names to the Queen who makes the appointment.

If you read the history of the church, the interplay between the civil authorities and the pope in clerical appointments has never been far from the surface. In the Middle Ages king and emperors were enthusiastic about the right of appointing bishops, priests and abbots to influential positions, and often the church made compromises, accepting the appointments made by monarchs in order to make gains elsewhere.

However, there is a bit difference here. In those circumstances the church was accepting the appointments of a Christian ruler, and despite human frailty and failures, one could argue that the appointment was made within a Christian context with the common good of society and the church in mind.

Can this be said when the authority appointing the church officials is an avowed enemy of religion and atheistic? It was widely known that in Russia many of the Russian Orthodox bishops and priests had sold out and were secretly employed by the communists.

The Washington Post reported earlier this month on what has happened:

Last month, a delegation from the Vatican traveled to China and met Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian, 88, who presides over the church in Shantou in the southern province of Guangdong.

In a meeting in Beijing, they asked Zhuang to retire in favor of a bishop appointed by the Chinese government, Huang Bingzhang, who is also a member of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, and was excommunicated by the Vatican in 2011.

Zhuang was in tears at this demand, the website reported.

Another Vatican-appointed bishop, Joseph Guo Xijin in eastern Fujian province, was also asked to downgrade himself and become assistant to a CCPA bishop, Vincent Zhan Silu, the website reported.

So now the Vatican is actually doing a deal whereby the bishops of the true Catholic Church in China will be appointed by the communists? For sixty years it has been the express intention of the communists in China to control all religion and subject it to the rule of the communist state.

Haven’t we just given them exactly what they want?

If this goes through you can predict what the next step will be: absorption of the underground Catholic Church into the Catholic Patriotic Association.

Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong has been the most outspoken critic of the proposed concordat:

Zen has become the most vocal opponent of rapprochement between the Vatican and the Communist Party, and he reiterated those concerns in a blog post Monday.

“Is it not good to try to find mutual ground to bridge the decades-long divide between the Vatican and China?” he asked. “But can there be anything really ‘mutual’ with a totalitarian regime? Either you surrender or you accept persecution, but remaining faithful to yourself.”

Zen compared it to making a deal between Saint Joseph, husband of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and King Herod, who in the Bible ordered the execution of young male children.

“So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months,” Zen wrote.

Haven’t we learned from history that communism is atheistic and violently opposed to God and to all his followers–especially the Catholic Church? Haven’t we learned from the twentieth century that communists will use diplomacy and smiling promises to get their way and that they will always break those promises when it suits them?

And still we play their game?

The full details of the agreement are not finalized, but if the news reports are accurate this is indeed a sell out–not only to the Chinese Catholics who have endured sixty years of persecution, but also to all the courageous Christians of every tradition who have stood up to the cruelty and martyrdom inflicted by global communism.

All I can think is, “What would JPII have done?”

Not this.