Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Regular MOJ readers know that I've regularly [ed.: Try "obsessively"!] blogged over the years about the PRC's violations of its citizens' religious freedom and of the rights of religious communities, associations, and societies. In particular, I have been very critical of the regime's assertions of authority over the Roman Catholic Church's episcopal appointments and training and ordination of clergy, and have strongly supported the so-called "underground" Church. And, I have expressed skepticism about the much-discussed alleged/pending "deal" between the Holy See and the Chinese dictatorship. (For a different view, read this post - "China and the Vatican: Principles for the Rationally Ignorant Catholic") by our own Adrian Vermeule and Gladden Pappin.)
My sense is that Chen Guangcheng speaks with authority, and persuasively, when it comes to matters of China and human rights, including religious freedom. So, I urge MOJ readers to check out this piece, "A Pact with a Thief, a Deal with the Devil: The Vatican's Pending Agreement with China," at Public Discourse. Here's a bit:
. . . In China, the CCP seeks to lead and control all. Religion, however, encourages goodness, reverence for the sacred, loyalty towards others, and veneration of an omnipotent spiritual power. Its set of refined values are at odds with the self-serving atheism and extreme party loyalty the CCP has long sought to inculcate in the population. Religion asks for trust in a higher power—higher still than the Communist Party can claim—and faith in ideas that are beyond the reach of the regime’s clutches.
Chinese people have been turning to religion—including Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Daoism—in great numbers over the past decades as they emerge from the horrors of botched socialist policies. This trend has caused the CCP to feel threatened and anxious. It sees these disparate groups as competitors, leading it to intensify suppression with growing scope and vigor. . . .
For what it's worth: It seems important that our evaluations of relations between the Holy See and China, and of the situation for Catholics in the PRC, and of the merits/wisdom of whatever arrangements (or compromises, even) are arrived at should proceed separately from the various ongoing debates about Pope Francis's style, perceived agenda, curial management, attentiveness to sex abuse and misconduct by priests and bishops, etc. That is, I believe it is a mistake to lump or equate reservations about the pending agreement (or, what we think we know about it) with the various criticisms -- some of which are measured, some of which are quite hostile -- of this pontificate. My own concerns, in any event, about the situation in and with China are (I hope!) untethered to the often unedifying online and other debates about the Pope, his assumed allies, etc. Similarly, it does not seem to me that an appropriate respect for, attachment to, and submission to the Pope requires one to endorse the agreement (or, again, what we think the agreement is).