Monday, February 12, 2018
Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., has this piece in America, defending "the Holy See’s possible rapprochement with the China’s Communist government on the appointment of bishops." I'm among those who has expressed grave reservations about such a move and I continue to regard the attitudes expressed by its defenders as quite naive. To be clear: to harbor and express such reservations is not to throw in with those who criticize in various ways the papacy of Pope Francis. This is a particular decision, I think, and I'm addressing it in particular -- though it is consonant with some recent and strikingly foolish statements made by a particular bishop to the effect that China is a world leader in implementing Catholic Social Teaching. It most certainly is not.
Fr. Christiansen's piece is worth reading, but one of his several suggested defenses strikes me as quite weak:
Anti-communist Catholicism: Time for aggiornamento? It has been 55 years since St. John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris”(“Peace on Earth”). At the time of its publication, the letter’s most controversial affirmation was its opening to dialogue with political parties of the left, including the Italian Communists. Pope John himself penned the line that distinguished between adherents of an errant ideology and the ideology (Marxism) itself. “Pacem in Terris” cleared the way for a new relationship with the Communist governments of Eastern Europe and the re-establishment of the Catholic Church in the East. But even with shifts in the policies of the People’s Republic, that opening to Communists has not been accepted by intransigent elements of the underground church. Might it not be time to apply John’s teaching to relations with the Chinese government? Why should China be an exception to world Catholicism’s aggiornamento in church-state and political relations?
This is a fuzzy misuse of Pacem in Terris and relies excessively on "communism" as an abstract. Now, I would insist that any "rethinking" of Catholic opposition to communism, both as an ideology and as a lived regime, would be a mistake. "Communism," as it has been instantiated in regimes around the world, is antithetical to Christianity. Put that aside for now. Here, the "shifts in the policies of the People's Republic" that might be relevant are not identified here. Any "shifts" that might warrant a warming on the Church's part are dramatically outweighed by the continuation (and, in some instances, the worsening) of censorship, confiscation, disenfranchisement, and persecution.
The issue is not whether or not "aggiornamento" with something called "communism", or with some people called "communists", is warranted in the abstract. The issue is the reality that the PRC is not, in fact, a "People's Republic" -- no one should use that term without scare-quotes -- but is instead a repressive, secular dictatorship -- skyscrapers and billionaires notwithstanding.