The Vatican’s Politics against China

A good friend of mine recently told me that “separation of church and state” is a misnomer, especially in a democracy. Why? Pretty simple; he explained that whenever there is a group of people coming together, they will want their interests protected. That desire is politics. Whenever a group of religious people congregate, they will want to impose their views or desires on the rest of society.

What are we to make of the Vatican then? It is obviously both a religious and political entity. It wants power over citizens on this planet. It wants to protect its interests. In dealing with the child molestation scandals in the U.S., here is a snippet from a CNN article earlier this year describing the Vatican’s legal strategies in the U.S.:

Responding to a Louisville, Kentucky, lawsuit that seeks to depose top Vatican officials — including Pope Benedict XVI — the Holy See plans to file a motion Monday denying that the church issued a document mandating secrecy in the face of abuse allegations, as many victims allege, according to a Vatican attorney.

The Vatican’s motion also will argue that bishops are not employees of the Holy See, exempting the Vatican from legal culpability in cases of alleged abuse in the U.S., said Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican’s U.S.-based attorney.

Some of you astute readers will immediately ask, what about repent? What about taking responsibility? If the Vatican wants more followers around the world, shouldn’t it take responsibility for their members conducts? That is a very simple logic, no?

This leads me to the recent criticism by Pope Benedict XVI (as reported by the Straits Times) of China:

‘May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope,’ he said.

Pope Benedict XVI accused China of violating religious freedom, on the heels of the December 7th through 9th elections of the heads and other senior members of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) without official approval by Vatican. China Daily’s article, “China rejects Vatican’s criticism as very imprudent,” explains below:

The spokesperson said the congress, which is held every five years to amend the CCPA’s and BCCCC’s constitutions, elect a new leadership and set future agenda, does not deal with Catholic doctrines or violate the fundamental Catholic faith, and “there is no question of getting recognition by any foreign organization or state.”

The spokesperson said China’s religious freedom was protected by the Chinese Constitution, and it was a misinterpretation by the Vatican to declare the incompatibility of Catholic doctrine and the Chinese Catholic church’s principle of independent self-governance.

China’s Constitution grants Chinese citizens freedom of religious beliefs, but requires independence of religious organizations and affairs in China from foreign influence.

The fundamental question is who’s priority should take precedence? China’s constitution or the Vatican’s will?

Do you think Pope Benedict XVI is dishonest for not recognizing China’s constitution stipulating independence of religious organizations and affairs in China from foreign influence? Are Chinese believers of Christianity not “true” believers even though they elect their own religious leadership without Vatican influence?

How does Vatican selection of religious leaders in China make Chinese believers any truer? What “holier” criteria would the Vatican employ instead?

Some may misconstrue this post to mean China thinks everyone is against her. This is absolutely not that. The Vatican will want as many followers around the world as possible. The politics it employs around the world will be towards that end. Even the mighty powerful U.S. is not completely “free” from that.

Editors’s choice of supplementary comments:

68 thoughts on “The Vatican’s Politics against China

  1. The last thing Chinese people need is organized religion.
    If China doesn’t address poverty quick enough, organized religions will take root. A weak body is susceptible to disease. A poor society to religions. Which are more dangerous than viruses.
    This is the best blog in the U.S. — http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/

  2. yinyang,

    I wanted to say I think it is worse than this. Christianity, and especially Catholicism, is in many ways the yin to Chinese yang. Of course the yin and yang are perspectives, and both are correct. But the dogmatic insistence on the yin path by Judeo-Christian moralists is a great and terrible threat to China which needs more attention.

    From the article: http://www.theoligarch.com/democracy-authoritarianism.htm

    In the West it is widely believed that all religions are essentially the same under the hood, that all religions believe in sacred individual human life, free will, faith, emotional warmth etc. Although Christianity is in decline, Westerners have not started rejecting the sanctity of human life and championing cold rational power instead of warm emotional love. In fact, most people would say that today the West is closer to the true essence of Christian goodness than it was fifty years ago. Even though many politicians have abandoned Christianity, they maintain its spirit, and progressive human rights are the most advanced expression of that loving Christian spirit. Again we have the idea that liberal democracy is the end of history, the most perfect expression of the divine goodness which underlies all religion, morality, and philosophy.

    Yet philosophical truth is always bifurcated, for every archetype there is an opposite, and both positions are arguable. This is not the Jungian idea of the shadow, which is the perverted version of a personality. It is the idea of the yin and yang duality, the idea that truth can be approached from alternate perspectives, or truth is composed of alternate essences. So God can not be love or beauty, God must be power & love, or good & beauty. What are the two forms of religious philosophy? The Western and Eastern, or Semitic and Aryan. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all primarily Semitic perspectives. Pythagoreanism, Taoism, Buddhism are all primarily Aryan perspectives.

    Imagine a father and a mother caring for their children. The mother nurtures her children, she protects them from harm, she treats them as equals, she lets them play freely. The father, on the other hand, encourages his children to climb trees even though they may hurt themselves, he is concerned with the evolution of his children, he doesn’t see them as equals, he makes them work. In one case we have the Christian model of God – the loving shepherd who tends to his flock. In the other case we have the Eastern model of God – the Philosopher King who cares about the evolutionary advancement of humanity not individual suffering. Maternal religions typically have a utopian paradise which every worthy individual achieves at death, paternal religions typically have a cycle of reincarnation in which individuals are gradually perfected by painful challenge.

    Notice that to the mother the father is a tyrant who does not care about freedom and suffering. But to the father the mother is a materialist who does not care about truth or growth. In the maternal model we have contentment, freedom, egalitarianism, individualism, emotion, subjectivity. In the paternal model we have suffering, responsibility, elitism, collectivism, rationality, objectivity.

    So at the heart of modern Christianity, Humanism and Liberal Democracy we have two key moral concepts:

    (Moral X) Individual contentment – e.g. socialism, wealth redistribution
    (Moral Y) Individual freedom – e.g. capitalism, private property
    (XY commonality) Individual worth – human rights

    At the heart of traditional Chinese morality we have two principles:
    (Moral A) Respect – e.g. piety, obedience
    (Moral B) Responsibility – e.g. elitism, benevolence
    (Moral A + B) Collective worth – human responsibility

  3. Didn’t the Bible say “obey the law of the land”? Anyways Christians breaking from the Vatacan isn’t unprecedented – how did Church of England come about?

  4. It used to be that the Chinese were the 1st ones to complain about the Jesuit priests’ abuses of children.

    And now, we find out from US and Europe that the priests were doing it all over the world.

    Hmm…. Maybe, the Pope should be praying a little more for the child victims of his “faithful”.

  5. Your basic premise is flawed. “Wanting my interests protected” is only a small subset of “wanting to impose my views or desires on the rest of society”. I, in agreement with my neighbors, set aside a certain set of basic rights as “my protectible interests”, and we agree to refrain from bossing each around with regard to everything else — that is the whole basis of a free society, or civilisation in general. Liu Bang only made three laws. Not only do you not understand about separation of church and state, I’m not sure you understand separation of state and anything.

    “China’s Constitution grants Chinese citizens freedom of religious beliefs, but requires independence of religious organizations and affairs in China from foreign influence.”

    That’s BS. A lot of people’s religious beliefs include beliefs about what their form of religious organisation should be. You can’t ban their organisations and then claim to be respecting their freedom of belief. There are a lot of examples, but Roman Catholics are the example par excellence. They believe that their church was instituted by Christ and is basically one of his relics. They believe that the Pope was ordained by God to organise the community of believers, irrespective of their country of residence. If accepting the supremacy of the Pope is against the law, then Roman Catholicism is against the law.

    “The fundamental question is who’s priority should take precedence? China’s constitution or the Vatican’s will?”

    If China’s constitution is unjust, as it seems to be in this case, then obviously it should not take precedence.

    Questions like, “Are Chinese believers of Christianity not ‘true’ believers even though they elect their own religious leadership without Vatican influence?” or “What ‘holier’ criteria would the Vatican employ instead?” are pointless unless they are part of a discussion between Roman Catholics. I am not one of those, and apparently you aren’t either. From our perspective, the Vatican is totally irrelevant. I believe a Roman Catholic would say that the “holier” criteria used by the Vatican is the command of the spirit of God (i.e., holiness itself) via Christ’s vicar, the Pope, along with his cardinals.

    I don’t have anything personally against Chinese Catholics who choose not to accept the Vatican’s influence. From the Pope’s perspective, they are not fulfilling their duties as Christians, but the same could be said of Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Christians. There are, in fact, a number of churches that have split with the Vatican in the last few hundred years that still use the name Catholic (e.g. the Old Catholics of Utrecht, the Polish National Catholic Church, the Catholic group of which Sinéad O’Connor is a member, etc.), and that seems fair to me. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association is one of those to the extent that it does not overlap with the Pope’s church.

  6. If China’s constitution is unjust, as it seems to be in this case, then obviously it should not take precedence.

    Jesus, talking about arrogance!

    After reading Hooper’s essay (link from comment #2 above), I think I have a good idea where that arrogance comes from. Below are passages from the essay I think aptly describe that retarded mind behind that arrogance:

    Is Western individualist morality wrong? Is the West beginning to feel the sort of existential angst famous in Enlightenment France? In America the Tea Party are beginning to reject “political correctness”, in Europe the far right are beginning to reject “multiculturalism”. Are the masses in the West beginning to sense the failure of liberal morality and the importance of pragmatism? Is the West on the verge of psychological breakdown? Will the period that follows be as violent as the French Revolution?

    When the New Eastern Philosopher gives this speech, his Western opponent reacts in horror. Are you serious? Do you expect me to believe is some sort of spiritual evolution in which individual human contentment and freedom is irrelevant, and only communal intelligence matters? This is the most insane and dangerous idea I ever heard!

    To which the philosophers replies: But that’s the point – the ideological evolution of society – the “end of history” – human perfection – enlightenment. Did you think it would be easy? Don’t you think it is a rather more convincing vision than liberalism?

    Western minds struggle with conflict between liberal morality and communal good because of their individualism. Individualism is also the source of Western conflict between moral dogma and pragmatism. Attached to the notion of individual worth, they refuse to believe that truth is that which enables objective functional effectiveness, not unjustified subjective opinion.

  7. “A lot of people’s religious beliefs include beliefs about what their form of religious organisation should be. You can’t ban their organisations and then claim to be respecting their freedom of belief. There are a lot of examples, but Roman Catholics are the example par excellence. They believe that their church was instituted by Christ and is basically one of his relics. They believe that the Pope was ordained by God to organise the community of believers, irrespective of their country of residence. If accepting the supremacy of the Pope is against the law, then Roman Catholicism is against the law.”

    That’s BS.

    England dealt with Roman Catholicism and does not recognize the supremacy of the Pope. Neither does US or any other rational political legal system of governance.

    Incidentally, Vatican is a Sovereign nation, and the Pope is its political leader. Swearing allegiance to the political leader of another sovereign nation is OBVIOUSLY against the laws of MOST nations, as TREASON.

    That is simply political and legal reality, BEYOND any “belief” system.

    The Chinese Catholics can believe in whatever they want, but TREASON is still against the law.

    The difference is Roman Catholicism as a BELIEF is in the believers’ head, So who cares. But Roman Catholicism as in the appointment of a Bishop by a Pope, who is a foreign sovereign, is an ACT, which may be treason.

    Clearly, here, there was an OVERT ACT.

    “If China’s constitution is unjust, as it seems to be in this case, then obviously it should not take precedence.”

    If you think a foreign sovereign has the right to appoint leaders in your country, (under the guise of “religious freedom”), then I’m a Pope, and I appoint Allen and yinyang to be leaders in your country, where they shall recruit followers to swear allegiance to me, and of course, MY ONE TRUE CHURCH!

    I await the day your fantasy takes precedence in the world. LOL.

  8. raventhorn2,

    Are you under the impression that the Roman Catholic church is not allowed to operate in the UK or the U.S. … or almost any country in the world besides China? You’re trying to make it sound normal, but China’s relationship with the Catholic Church is anything but. It does resemble the situation in England for a long time after Henry VIII, although that was a more barbaric time — the Roman Catholic Church has operated normally there since the 19th century.

  9. @raventhorn2000

    I will make sure no molestation is involved.

    @Otto

    Tell us which country the Vatican’s relationship is “normal” and why.

  10. Otto,

    Obviously, in UK, Catholics don’t pay taxes to the Pope, do they?

    Afterall, if the Pope is Supreme, Why are English Catholics deferring to English law, and NOT to the Pope?

    Who said anything about a “normal” relationship with a church? if there is such a thing.

    It’s a FACT that SOVEREIGN states do not recognize the Supremacy of the Pope outside of Vatican. End of story.

    You live under your country’s laws, NOT the Pope’s.

    If you want to live under the Pope’s laws, go live in the Vatican, PERIOD!

  11. Furthermore,

    In recent child abuse cases, Vatican has already denies its liability by asserting that local bishops and priests are not its employees or agents, and thus the Vatican and the Pope cannot be held liable as employer or principle for the actions of individual priests/bishops.

    So, let’s see, does the Pope claim supremacy over his followers?

    If he does and he claims the right to control the bishop/priest selection process, then he is personally liable for all child abuses done by his priests/bishops. (i.e., he personally, on numerous occasions, willfully made selection choices that led to child abuses all over US and Europe.)

    But since he has already denied his right to control, by asserting local “autonomy”, then he has no rights whatsoever in the selection process of Chinese bishops.

    He can’t have it both ways. Simple as that.

    He claims “supremacy”? Let him go face the consequences of his supreme actions in courts.

    No? It seems like the Pope has already relinquished his duties as the “Supreme” in courts.

  12. @whooper
    “Imagine a father and a mother caring for their children. The mother nurtures her children, she protects them from harm, she treats them as equals, she lets them play freely. The father, on the other hand, encourages his children to climb trees even though they may hurt themselves, he is concerned with the evolution of his children, he doesn’t see them as equals, he makes them work. In one case we have the Christian model of God – the loving shepherd who tends to his flock.”

    Christians use the word shepherd, but not in the way you suggest. Nurturing comes until you piss him off. Than he shaves off your wool, bites your balls off and uses your flesh for shish kebab. The Christians believe that this imaginary being called God is a vengeful and rather ill-tempered character with little resemblance to the cute image of a mother that you portray. The devil is in the details, mate. Read the bible. I never understood why they call it the ‘Good Book’. It’s the worst one I’ve ever read.

  13. I agreed with you. The best way is just ignore Vatican, should not have any official contact. Vatican is not a country, it is a religion organization, they can´t be above any nations. The Pope was a “Nazi Jung” and he did not regret that..
    You can see how a excommunicated Priusbrotherhood come back into the church, (this extreme right church organization that they did not reconized a Nazi killed Jewish in the history. They are Nazi!!) and you will see the NAZI live in Vatican. Then and now.

  14. @PL123

    I think Christians who believe in Vatican need to see them for what they are. If they want to unfairly demonize China or anyone else, they deserve to be exposed.

  15. Thanks yinyang for writing a courageous post. IT’s not easy.

    Two quick points (I’ll follow up with a more comprehensive post when I get more time to devote to blogging again):

    1. the Catholic Church – whatever it might think of itself – is an organization of men, and as a worldly organization have done many evil and political things around the world (not just in China, but throughout the world); freedom of religion does not mean freedom to do anything one wants in the name of religion.

    2. freedom of religion is ultimately a political, not religious, concept. It is most forceful when used to check governments from sponsoring a religion at the expense of other religions; it is less forceful when used as a ploy to play politics, when religion is used as a check on enforcement of secular, societal norms.

    As a political concept, every society necessarily will draw the line dividing politics and relgion differently; thus Christian values that might be apolitical in a Western society may appear political in a non-Western one (and vice versa – consider, e.g., the French ban of head scarf); even in Christian societies, the lines between politics and religion keep shifting – consider: should the state prescribe minimum standards on how parents raise children (medical treatments, education, work hours, etc.) or leave it to parents to decide based on their religious and cultural norms, should the state define marriage based on specific religious notions of marriage (same sex marriage, polygamy, etc.) or some other societal norms, should the state define life based on specific religious notions of life (contraception, abortion, etc.) or some secular norms … and more recently in California: should the state prohibit circumcison on ground it constitutes physical mutilation or leave it to parents to decide based on cultural and religious beliefs?

    Thus I find the pope’s Xmas comments ironic and even hypocritical. I have many close and kind-hearted friends who are catholics and my mom actually grew up going to Catholic schools. But the Vatican, by its exercise of power, play of diplomacy, use of money is a political, a worldly, organization.

    And let’s not forget history, so many throughout the world over the last 1000 or more years have suffered in the Church’s name. I don’t blame that on Christianity, but on the group of men doing evil in the name of Christianity.

    In view of world history, there is nothing wrong for China to have patriotic churches. To the extent church is about conscience, Catholics can exercise their conscience freely in China. But to the extent the Church is about blind loyalty to an organization and group of men – who have in the past acted against the interest of the Chinese people – their idolation will not be protected under the guise of freedom of religion.

    We’ve had many discussions about this some time ago, with Buxi, Oli, and many other good people. I’ll incorporate their comments / links in a future post.

  16. Well said, Allen. Looking forward to that post.

    I have good friends who are Christians too. Piety to the Pope also makes politics of the Pope unthinkable for them.

  17. @YinYang

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at. Look at the way that the Roman Catholic church is treated in almost every country in the world: as a private entity which has rights to control its own property and set its own internal rules, and is not allowed to demand obedience from non-believers

    @raventhorn2000

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at, either. English Catholics defer to the Pope in religious matters and to their own government in secular legal matters. They pay taxes to their government because that is not a religious matter.

    Regarding the Catholic Church’s sex abuse issues and attempted legal defenses, I have never claimed that they are above reproach or even at all reputable in particulars. I am defending the broader principle of their right conduct their legitimate functions freely. If the Chinese policies against Catholicism were specifically targeted toward the Church’s irresponsible attitude toward sex abuse, that would make a lot more sense, but, obviously, it is not.

  18. @Allen
    “freedom of religion does not mean freedom to do anything one wants in the name of religion.”

    Total strawman and irrelevant argument which no one would disagree with.

    “In view of world history, there is nothing wrong for China to have patriotic churches. ”

    Also a strawman argument. As I said specifically, I don’t have any problem with Chinese patriotic churches (I do think they should be disestablished, i.e. stop receiving tax revenues), I just think Chinese people should have a choice about whether to attend a Patriotic Catholic Association church, or a Roman Catholic church (or neither).

  19. whooper :
    Imagine a father and a mother caring for their children. The mother nurtures her children, she protects them from harm, she treats them as equals, she lets them play freely. The father, on the other hand, encourages his children to climb trees even though they may hurt themselves, he is concerned with the evolution of his children, he doesn’t see them as equals, he makes them work.

    Look, neither of those people sounds like a very good parent. Both of them are, at best, giving their children only part of what they need to grow up into healthy adults. Moreover, I reject the model by which the government is supposed to be like my parents. I would say that it’s supposed to be more like an employee.

    Hooper writes in these broad abstractions that could be used to prove anything. To take an obvious example, what’s with this “Aryan” vs. “Semitic” religion business? Who says these are the two types of religious beliefs? Clearly, the God described in the purely Semitic Old Testament is much harsher and more demanding and therefore more “Aryan” than the Greek-influenced New Testament. Buddhism is supposedly classed as an Aryan perspective, but Hooper has very little to say about it and it’s not clear why he thinks that.

  20. @raventhorn2000
    And yet, raventhon…China recognizes Catholicism. In the words of Dr. Dre, ‘chickety check yourself before your wreck yourself’. China officially supports the Vatican. Deal with that.

  21. Charlie Siebert,

    The problem with your analogy is that you believe the Catholic Church is a rotten organization because of a few pedophiles in its flock.

  22. Right, pug_ster.

    Also, China recognizes the importance of religion and freedom to worship – of Christianity included.

    What China opposes is organized religion as a political force. Separation of church and state.

    @Otto

    Hooper writes in these broad abstractions that could be used to prove anything.

    But this comment also speaks about you – the fact that you have much more to read and comprehend as compared to him. Go back to this blog’s main page, and at the top is “Individualism vs. Collectivism” – you will be able to find the other more lengthy article from Hooper.

  23. Charlie,

    Recognizing the Existence of Catholicism is a recognition of a fact of life, not the recognition of the religion’s version of truth.

    Just as I recognize that you exist, but I don’t have to recognize your arguments as anything but illogical.

  24. @YinYang,

    Hooper is neither pro nor anti China. He stands by himself. If some like Otto doesn’t understand what he writes, thinking it’s too abstract, or perhaps maybe even too detailed, let it be. We are not here to defend nor deny Hooper.

    In fact we are not here to prove anything. We just want to write about the world as we see it – as it ought to be. Some may persist that their views are superior – that they have more right to existence. Let that be. That’s their prerogative.

    We stand by the truth. And if we are wrong, time will let us know. If we are right, time will let them know.

  25. Otto,

    Let me help you understand.

    “I don’t understand what you’re getting at, either. English Catholics defer to the Pope in religious matters and to their own government in secular legal matters. They pay taxes to their government because that is not a religious matter.”

    Appointment of bishop is now a secular matter, since the Pope and the Vatican won’t take secular responsibility for secular crimes committed by any and all bishops/priests.

    “Regarding the Catholic Church’s sex abuse issues and attempted legal defenses, I have never claimed that they are above reproach or even at all reputable in particulars. I am defending the broader principle of their right conduct their legitimate functions freely. If the Chinese policies against Catholicism were specifically targeted toward the Church’s irresponsible attitude toward sex abuse, that would make a lot more sense, but, obviously, it is not.”

    See Above, regarding SECULAR responsibilities that comes with appointment of Bishops.

    NO, it’s not merely “irresponsible attitude toward sex abuse”. It’s GENERAL IRRESPONSIBILITY toward all secular matters of the priests, AS demonstrated by Vatican’s LEGAL position in Western courts.

    HENCE, appointment of bishops/priests is OBVIOUSLY now the responsibility of the secular governments, to ensure such appointments are done responsibly!!

  26. What is China so afraid of? The Catholics are such a small minority. I think everyone agrees that for example Google, or better BBC in China has the right to select their own local management team. I wonder if some of you ever visited Rome and the so-called “Vatican state”.
    Now think about other side-effects: China’s reputation is getting worse day by day – America spends a lots of effort to get rid of the “ugly American” picture while China, it seems, puts in now all effort to make herself looking bad. What remains on the surface is that there is no freedom of religion in China – is it that worth? And on top, countries like the Philippines will not become a close friend to China.

  27. Har , har, raventhorn2. You really think the Chinese government would take responsibility if there were a sex abuse scandal among its “Patriotic” Catholic priests?

    Actually, the Roman Catholic Church and the Chinese government are very similar entities. Both are regarded as irreplaceable by their many millions of loyal supporters because they represent a higher principle, even if the actual leadership is seen as being barely worthy of the responsibility.

  28. Nah, if China is afraid of the Vatican, she would let Vatican run amok in the country. China does not care for the Vatican’s politics and simply blocked it.

    Are you an ardent supporter of the FLG too? 😉

    And I thought you are a Taiwan separatist.

    Funny mixed bag.

  29. @Otto

    Are you kidding me? The latest PEW survey show the Chinese government and hence their leadership enjoy tremendous popularity in China – in fact, much more popular than Western leaders.

    You really think the Chinese government would take responsibility if there were a sex abuse scandal among its “Patriotic” Catholic priests?

    It’s bizarre you make this accusation. Could you show us some facts of such priests molesting children? Could you show us some facts of the Chinese government not prosecuting anyone responsible for such crimes in China?

  30. @pug_ster

    “Charlie Siebert,
    The problem with your analogy is that you believe the Catholic Church is a rotten organization because of a few pedophiles in its flock.”

    Hey, pug_ster. I said ntoting of the sort. And my objections to the Catholic church began when I was about 11 years old sitting in church long before I knew what pedophilia was. Again, as I mentioned in one comment, it’s more based on the waking on water, turning water in to wine, parting a sea full of water. At a very young age I just could not believe that reasonable people could possibly believe in such things.

    And regarding raventhorn’s comment:
    “Charlie,
    Recognizing the Existence of Catholicism is a recognition of a fact of life, not the recognition of the religion’s version of truth.
    Just as I recognize that you exist, but I don’t have to recognize your arguments as anything but illogical.”

    My mother grew up in Richardton, North Dakota where there were by and large three career choices: Become a farmer; become a merchant that catered to the farmers; or join the local Franciscan Monastery and Nunnery. I have many priests and nuns in my family. To suggest that I somehow don’t recognize the existence of Catholicism is off the mark.

    I am all too aware of the existence of this belief system My opinions on Catholicism are informed by a very personal connection to the religion. I again suggest that personal experience is indispensable in forming accurate world views. I am not Catholic, because I discussed the religion with priests and nuns in my family and found their arguments in favor of such as belief system as unconvincing.

    My priest and nun relatives are and were by and large educated and good people. I only objected to their telling me about how they spoke to their imaginary friend, God, and suggested that I ought to do the same. When I read about Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism they were mystified that I couldn’t find everything I needed with their pal Jesus.

  31. Josef :What is China so afraid of? The Catholics are such a small minority. I think everyone agrees that for example Google, or better BBC in China has the right to select their own local management team. I wonder if some of you ever visited Rome and the so-called “Vatican state”.Now think about other side-effects: China’s reputation is getting worse day by day – America spends a lots of effort to get rid of the “ugly American” picture while China, it seems, puts in now all effort to make herself looking bad. What remains on the surface is that there is no freedom of religion in China – is it that worth? And on top, countries like the Philippines will not become a close friend to China.

    China is not afraid of Vatican when Vatican is under chinese government control which Vatican don´t want. Vatican think they are sent from god. God is the highest level of all kinds. And CCP think they are the highest of all mankind–Chinese.

  32. One has to remember Vatican is both a religious organization and a political state. Vatican’s foreign policy is closely meshed with its religious goals.
    this dispute has nothing to do religious faith.

  33. Otto Kerner :
    Har , har, raventhorn2. You really think the Chinese government would take responsibility if there were a sex abuse scandal among its “Patriotic” Catholic priests?
    Actually, the Roman Catholic Church and the Chinese government are very similar entities. Both are regarded as irreplaceable by their many millions of loyal supporters because they represent a higher principle, even if the actual leadership is seen as being barely worthy of the responsibility.

    Regardless of what you think, the Chinese government will inevitably bear the consequences, ie. secular consequences, such as social discontent.

    The Pope? He just washes his hands clean as if he never had anything to do with it, and runs away.

    Well. I think it’s obvious that you have conceded to his irresponsibility in the SECULAR LEGAL aspects of his CHURCH.

    Similar or NOT, It’s obvious that Pope doesn’t want the SECULAR consequences of his appointment power.

    He abandoned it, Chinese government picked it up. End of story.

  34. Charlie,

    Don’t really care what you personal background is, your comment is rather irrelevant.

    Frankly, your continual drawing attention to yourself in your comments is a classic sign of online obsessive compulsive behavior.

  35. Josef :
    What is China so afraid of? The Catholics are such a small minority. I think everyone agrees that for example Google, or better BBC in China has the right to select their own local management team. I wonder if some of you ever visited Rome and the so-called “Vatican state”.
    Now think about other side-effects: China’s reputation is getting worse day by day – America spends a lots of effort to get rid of the “ugly American” picture while China, it seems, puts in now all effort to make herself looking bad. What remains on the surface is that there is no freedom of religion in China – is it that worth? And on top, countries like the Philippines will not become a close friend to China.

    I have visited the Vatican State, and attended the touristy Sunday Mass by the previous Pope.

    Frankly, it’s not fear. It’s geopolitical tit-for-tat. Vatican still officially recognizes ROC and NOT PRC. Hence, No recognition for Vatican in PRC.

    End of story.

  36. “THE VATICAN IN WORLD POLITICS”
    by Avro Manhattan

    Written shortly after the end of WW2. Link here is to the full text.

    http://www.archive.org/stream/TheVaticanInWorldPolitics/VWP_djvu.txt

    Below is Chapter 20, CONCLUSION:

    CHAPTER 20

    CONCLUSION

    Thus we have come to the end of our survey dealing with the role played by the Vatican in the modern world. We have examined almost half a century of its influence on all major nations, the part it played before and during the two world wars which have shaken mankind within the brief period of three decades, and its contribution to the rise and establishment of Fascism. No one will lightly dismiss the responsibility which the Vatican must bear for the impasse in which the nations have come to find themselves.

    Enormous forces extraneous to religion in general and to Catholicism in particular have been the main promoters of the gigantic economic, social and political earthquakes which have shaken the first half of the twentieth century; yet the part played by the Vatican in most, if not in all, of them will make it a difficult task to acquit the Catholic Church of the heavy censure that history will pass upon it.

    The survey just made, although incomplete, has made it abundantly clear that the Catholic Church has steered the wheel of contemporary history often and decisively.

    Far from diminishing, the influence of the Catholic Church is expanding with increasing rapidity. It is moulding the course of local, national, and international events in such ways as to facilitate the attainment of its main goal— dominion throughout the world. If this main goal were limited to the purely religious sphere, it would still be objectionable on moral and practical grounds. But unfortunately the Catholic Church’s aspirations knows no such limit. We have already seen that the Church does not remain within its own domain; its fundamental claim of being the only bearer of truth of necessity forces it to trespass into ethical, social, cultural, economic and political spheres. Its assertion that it cannot be bound by any law enacted by men when in the exercise of its mission makes it act as it deems most suitable for its purpose, using whatever will help oppose, fight, or destroy ideologies or systems in conflict with Catholic tenets.

    While other religions, or even Christian denominations, either through the loss of spiritual aggressiveness or owing to effective measures devised by the State, have abated their zeal, the Catholic Church continues to assert its claim with undiminished vigor and an inexhaustible passion for conquest. It will stop at nothing to achieve its goal. To expect the Catholic Church to forego meddling in social and political affairs is to expect such a profound change in its inner structure as would alter Catholicism entirely. As in past centuries, so now and in the future the Catholic Church will continue relentlessly to employ its canning, energy, and skill in hampering, so far as lies in its power, the progressive forces of contemporary society.

    For the spirit that moves the Catholic Church makes it a ruthless and persistent enemy of our century and of all that individuals and nations are laboring and sweating to attain. History has shown that whenever Catholicism transforms its religious formulae into social and political ones it invariably endeavors to keep the status quo, or, indeed, to set back the clock, allying itself with all the forces whose object is similar to its own-i.e. the maintenance of a state of affairs which is no longer consonant with the needs of our changing times.

    The creation of new powerful Catholic parties on the ruins of the various Authoritarian regimes; the Church’s alliance with certain strata in Europe, in the Americas, in Asia, and, indeed, everywhere; its successful siding with the most powerful nation, the United States of America; its stirring up of the troubled waters of world politics against Socialism and countries that have adopted it as their political system; its global crusade against Communism and Soviet Russia; its thundering against an ideology which, no matter all the crimes committed in its name, yet is stirring the hearts of the masses all over the planet-all this proves that the Catholic Church is intruding in the affairs of bodies politic with the same energy, boldness, cunning and determination as it, did in the period between the two world wars.

    The Catholic Church is not easily deterred by defeats, setbacks, or dismal failures such as would break other, less majestic, institutions. Like the phoenix, it rises after each defeat stronger and more alive than before. Governments may come and go, but the Catholic Church continues to stand more challenging than ever. We have just seen how, having lost its mightiest secular ally in totalitarian Europe, it has reconstituted its forces. Within a few years it has become the spiritual associate of the United States of America in her crusade against Communist ideology and its embodiment, the U.S.S.R. The Church’s conquests on the American Continents have more than compensated it for what it has lost in the Old World, and the alliances it is making there are giving it a far wider influence upon the affairs of the globe than it ever had when supported by the ancient dynasties of the dictators of modem Europe.

    Notwithstanding the tremendous increase of its enemies, the Catholic Church continues undeterred in its mission. Indeed, its resolution to expand has become more intransigent than ever; its priests, its bishops, and many of its laymen are striving with the zeal of crusaders to expand its dominion in all corners of the Earth; no section or stratum of modern society escapes its attention, no nation or country is without its Hierarchy or some of its members.

    Unlike America and Soviet Russia with their political dependencies, the Catholic Church has neither standing armies nor atom bombs. It needs neither because it is the possessor of a weapon which during twenty centuries has served it not only to survive, but to win and conquer. Its strength lies in a passionate belief in its mission to convert and ultimately to rule all the nations of the world.

    This spiritual strength is buttressed by an organization that is unsurpassed and that has made the Catholic Church a power of the first magnitude.

    Its diplomats are ushered into almost every Foreign Office in the world; its press and its charitable, social, and political institutions stand side by side with the most up-to-date newspapers, sports and cultural dubs and social welfare centres in America and Europe; its .Catholic Parties are competing with powerful political movements in the major countries of the European continent; its ruler, the Pope, although a religious leader, has over fifty accredited ambassadors at his residence, and his words, obeyed by an army of 400 million, are considered by the leaders of all parties and governments and may have more far-reaching consequences than the utterances of heads of States, the resolutions passed at International Congresses, or the motions propounded by World Councils set up to ensure global peace.

    Being the relentless institution that it is, the Catholic Church will not rest. As we have pointed out, to attain its goals it win continue the patient process of machination and counter-machination. It will employ artfulness, daring, diplomacy, religion, intrigue -and all the armory of great nations bent on expanding their dominion abroad.

    It is fully to be expected that instead of helping to avert a third world catastrophe, the Catholic Church, by continuing to align itself with unenlightened forces, will greatly
    contribute to the widening of the gap already separating two great portions of the world. But while so doing, the Catholic Church should keep in mind that it is endangering not only the lives of countless millions, but also its own existence. A third world war, unlike the wars of the recent past, would spell irremediable destruction not only of entire peoples, but also of ancient institutions, among which the Catholic Church would certainly be one of the main sufferers.

    Millions of thinking people are today striving to build a world in which war is outlawed. New and living forces are on the march. Because the Catholic Church has seen small countries grow into mighty empires and then tumble, because it has beheld countless rulers rise and fall, ideologies come and go, let it not entertain vain illusions that it will also see the passing of the progressive forces which are now sweeping the globe.

    The atomic bombs which in a few seconds wiped Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the face of the earth and brought Japan to her knees should be a warning to all those forces dealing with the future of mankind, that the methods of uncompromising principles of past ages are for ever out-of-date. Unless new horizons are opened, new methods devised, and a new spirit encouraged, economic systems, social doctrines, and Political regimes, as well as religious institutions, will inevitably bring upon themselves and all mankind total and final annihilation. The Catholic Church would be no exception, and, like all other world-wide institutions, it should take heed of the warning and, by keeping step with the spirit of the twentieth century, try to follow a new road.

  37. @YinYang,

    I think this is one of the references I was thinking about, too. I am sure we referenced to something like it before but I can’t find it. I need to keep better track of things or else things just get buried under our heap of archive.

    One very relevant point to take up, alluded to in the excerpt above: a lesson of WWII – of “never again” – is not that a group of “enlightened” nations must always be on the vilelance against “evils” of the world (I find it funny that the West has made Hitler such a demogague when every nation in Europe at the time – for complex historical reasons – had a gripe against the Jews, the U.S. and U.K. explicitly refusing to give Jews a safe haven when Hitler offered to give them safe passage). No nation (or groups of nations) is such a saint.

    The key lesson is to learn humility – compassion – to be aware – to no be so sure, as Hitler was, of one way, one approach.

    The Catholic Church is blind – we know that – but what troubles me is that so are so many others, as we can see even in our own blog microcosm.

    The moral decrepitness that led to WWII’s holocaust is very much alive and well… Sad, but unfortunately true…

  38. @raventhorn2000

    Okay, then, you would agree that the Roman Catholic Church originally had the right to appoint its own bishops but lost that right due to egregious irresponsibility, right? And I suppose you agree with what follows logically from that, which is that the Chinese government could lose the right to appoint its own Catholics bishops if it mismanages that responsibility.

  39. The Chinese church has the right to elect its own clergy/bishops by law, and Vatican has the power to excommunicate all the Chinese church members and then treat the patriotic Chinese church as religious equals. The Chinese government wouldn’t be in any position to interfere with and perhaps would welcome that.

  40. @justrecently

    Well, if one look at this from the angle of chinese history, religion was always part of state. but not in sense of “state-religion” in a western sense.

    you have the manchurian emperor having no quarrels following Ming emperor’s tradition worshipping confucian, but at same time performing traditional shaman rites in their household while at same time consulting and patronizing tibetan lamaists while tomorrow holding ceremonies for worshipping heaven/earth. while their soldiers holding shrines for GuanDi!

    even emperor themselves became objects of religious veneration. Ming emperors are supposily worshipped by Chinese dispora in malaysia!

    The modern inisistence of seperation of church and state came about in the west because church was such grossly powerful force historically. religion caused endless wars between states and within states, by its very nature western religion is partisan. ( I am the one and only truth, and rest is fake) . no such thing from China. you have confucist statue sit next to a taoist statue set next to a buddha statue on the same platform in some places! Inherently people accept that they may be different angles looking at the same issue.

    the emperors were pragmatists. so are the commnunists. because they were and they still are chinese!

  41. @Otto Kerner “Okay, then, you would agree that the Roman Catholic Church originally had the right to appoint its own bishops ”

    no, why would they automatically have such right in the beginning?

  42. “Okay, then, you would agree that the Roman Catholic Church originally had the right to appoint its own bishops ”

    no, why would they (Vatican) automatically have such right in the beginning?
    even today a foreign bank wishing to set up a branch and have agents in US has to follow some pretty strict federal regulations and oversight from SEC.
    why should catholic church have more free-dom in this regard than a bank? after all vatican is a soverign state. and I assume the vatican appointed bishops are by their own definition the agent of foreign states. why shouldn’t the agent of foreign political state be restricted and regulated?

  43. Let’s do an tought experiment:

    Suppose that in height of 60s cultural revolution china declare that its ideologies is in fact a religion, and any one who believes in its “religion” is entitled to be treated as a religious follower. and it declares the right to appoint bishops ( or people’s commissars) for its religious followers, any where in the world.

    what do you think will happen? as far as treatment of this religion goes in the West?

    well,
    we don’t have to guess. just look at how communism was treated in west for the past 80 years.
    this is a factual history record.

    question is: why should Vatican be treated any different? especially it itself declares itself to be a political state as well as a religious entity.

  44. Here’re some facts about Chinese Catholic Bishop Conference:

    http://www.chinacath.org/article/other/Legal/fagui/2008-01-25/1580.html
    http://www.mzb.com.cn/html/report/99723-7.htm

    – Non-profit NGO established in 1992 by church leaders throughout China, replacing the Chinese Catholic Committee as the church’s highest governing body.

    – Bishops are elected by members of the conference and consecrated by divine provenance thru prayer, not appointed by the government.

  45. Otto Kerner :
    @raventhorn2000
    Okay, then, you would agree that the Roman Catholic Church originally had the right to appoint its own bishops but lost that right due to egregious irresponsibility, right? And I suppose you agree with what follows logically from that, which is that the Chinese government could lose the right to appoint its own Catholics bishops if it mismanages that responsibility.

    That’s frankly ridiculous. You are wrong on your supposition and your conclusion.

    (1) The Pope has stated his legal position as IRRESPONSIBLE from the very beginning, ie. he never presumed that he took any legal responsibility, “Bishops/priests are NOT his employees”. That’s NOT a change of policy in the Vatican.

    No legal responsibility, No legal right to appoint bishops, FROM the very beginning (His own admission).

    (2) If a government fails its responsibilities, the people should form a new government, not turn responsibilities back to a failed Pope. (And before you jump another conclusion, let’s just say, you are not one to judge when that “if” happens.)

  46. There is a growing movement in the Roman Catholic church, especially in US and Europe, to “reform” and increase “local church autonomy”, especially relating to Bishop selections process.

    Many Catholic bishops complain that the process is not transparent and arbitrary.

    The Vatican is simply behind the times.

    Seems like the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church is ahead of the times. Other countries may soon model China’s Catholic Church, and refuse to endorse Vatican choices.

  47. The Patriotic Catholic Association is the opposite of “local church autonomy”. It puts the church in China under the control of a giant bureaucratic organisation even bigger than and with an equally checkered history as the Vatican, and one that is composed overwhelmingly of non-Christians. Is there anyone outside of China (plus a handful of Chinese nationalists who happen to be overseas) who thinks that the CPCA is ahead of the times?

  48. raventhorn2000 :


    That’s frankly ridiculous. You are wrong on your supposition and your conclusion.
    (1) The Pope has stated his legal position as IRRESPONSIBLE from the very beginning, ie. he never presumed that he took any legal responsibility, “Bishops/priests are NOT his employees”. That’s NOT a change of policy in the Vatican.
    No legal responsibility, No legal right to appoint bishops, FROM the very beginning (His own admission).

    So, you are saying that if the Pope had taken responsibility for his appointment’s from the beginning, then he would have the authority to govern his church, right? The decisive factor is that the Pope declined to accept this authority, right? If not, it seems like a red herring that you brought this up at all.

    (2) If a government fails its responsibilities, the people should form a new government, not turn responsibilities back to a failed Pope. (And before you jump another conclusion, let’s just say, you are not one to judge when that “if” happens.)

    Obviously, it’s not my job to make a binding judgment on the worth of other people’s governments. You seem to resent the idea that I might have an opinion on the subject at all, but that’s not really the point since I was just talking about hypothetical government mismanagement of the Catholic Church specifically. Overthrowing the whole government over that one issue seems like a bit of an overreaction. Why is it in your model that power can flow from a private entity to the government if the private entity does a bad job, but, if the government does a bad job, power just flows to another government body?

  49. @SilentChinese
    Silent Chinese. Your comment about “different angles looking at the same issue” is quite a good observation. It fits nicely with the concept of yin yang. With that said, there was a time when Christians, Jews and Muslims all coexisted peacefully in the Middle East. Sadly, that time seems to be long gone and shows no sign of returning any time soon, so what you said about endless wars seems inevitable for the foreseeable future. Can’t you just send some Shao lin monks down to open up a can of Buddhist and Taoist whoop-ass on those quarreling cousins? I’ve always wanted to see the ultimate battle for Earth take place. It’s like wanting to see the Mafia take on the Hong triads in a fight to the finish. Or the L.A. Crips or Bloods against the LAPD in a tournament style slap down.

  50. By the way…all churches and religion suck, no matter where they come from. Listening to theological arguments are like watching people bang their heads against walls. Stick to issues that affect life on earth in a real and tangible way. Imaginary beings that you can’t see or prove exist? Man, I made up my mind about Santa and the gods when I was in primary school. Faith? Science! Crawl out of your caves and be all that a homo sapien can be. Lightening bolts are not hurled by Zeus in anger and nobody in China renounces their worldly possessions to follow Buddha’s example these days. As I mentioned earlier, people pray to Buddha for money and success. Faith indeed. Religion is residual superstition from when humankind’s ancestors clambered down from the trees to walk the Earth upright, but not necessarily upstanding. Atheism rules. Creationism fools.

  51. @Otto Kerner

    “The Patriotic Catholic Association is the opposite of “local church autonomy”. It puts the church in China under the control of a giant bureaucratic organisation even bigger than and with an equally checkered history as the Vatican, and one that is composed overwhelmingly of non-Christians. Is there anyone outside of China (plus a handful of Chinese nationalists who happen to be overseas) who thinks that the CPCA is ahead of the times?”

    At least it is Chinese.

  52. @Otto Kerner #62,

    Yes – it is very well said, even if you might not appreciate it.

    The division of religion and politics is a political process, and as such, needs to be drawn by the sovereign in China – not some far away, backward organization that has no interest of the Chinese people in mind – judging by their philosophy, beliefs, past acts, and current rhetoric.

  53. raventhorn2 @ #56
    The increase for “local church autonomy” in Europe has absolutely nothing to do with the government. According to Charles Liu in #54, officially the Chinese Catholic Bishop Conference, at least in his constitutes, is not influenced by the government. There is no reference how the government influences, the Patriotic Catholic Association, but I guess everyone here agrees that it is influenced.

    The catholic church will not excommunicate any normal members – they are already punished enough by the the CCP, standing for their faith. But the church can ask more from her bishops. The escalation mainly happened because the bishops were forced to attend the ceremony for a new CCPA elected bishop. All in all it is a very sad story of a dictatorship breaking fundamental rights of their people. There are many examples in Europe, where religions are given second priority against constitutions, but what is happening in China is a very different story.

    Thanks for your answer in #40 – I agree, it meets the point.

    I am scared of what silentchinese and Allen is so proud of: “At least it is Chinese.” – that is pure nationalism in its worst from.

  54. Otto Kerner :

    raventhorn2000 :


    That’s frankly ridiculous. You are wrong on your supposition and your conclusion.
    (1) The Pope has stated his legal position as IRRESPONSIBLE from the very beginning, ie. he never presumed that he took any legal responsibility, “Bishops/priests are NOT his employees”. That’s NOT a change of policy in the Vatican.
    No legal responsibility, No legal right to appoint bishops, FROM the very beginning (His own admission).

    So, you are saying that if the Pope had taken responsibility for his appointment’s from the beginning, then he would have the authority to govern his church, right? The decisive factor is that the Pope declined to accept this authority, right? If not, it seems like a red herring that you brought this up at all.

    (2) If a government fails its responsibilities, the people should form a new government, not turn responsibilities back to a failed Pope. (And before you jump another conclusion, let’s just say, you are not one to judge when that “if” happens.)

    Obviously, it’s not my job to make a binding judgment on the worth of other people’s governments. You seem to resent the idea that I might have an opinion on the subject at all, but that’s not really the point since I was just talking about hypothetical government mismanagement of the Catholic Church specifically. Overthrowing the whole government over that one issue seems like a bit of an overreaction. Why is it in your model that power can flow from a private entity to the government if the private entity does a bad job, but, if the government does a bad job, power just flows to another government body?

    DECLINED? No, his legal position is that he never had the responsibility to start with.

    (If he had the responsibility and he DECLINED, he would still be liable for PAST irresponsible acts. You can’t do a waiver AFTER the fact.)

    (2) you can have whatever opinion you want, Doesn’t matter to me.

    Still the fact, NOT your judgment.

    Who said any thing about overthrowing a government on 1 issue? (Only shows that your “opinions” tend to make red herring suppositions all over the place, which I didn’t make.)

    Again, NOT your call on how many issues would it take.

  55. Josef :
    raventhorn2 @ #56
    The increase for “local church autonomy” in Europe has absolutely nothing to do with the government. According to Charles Liu in #54, officially the Chinese Catholic Bishop Conference, at least in his constitutes, is not influenced by the government. There is no reference how the government influences, the Patriotic Catholic Association, but I guess everyone here agrees that it is influenced.
    The catholic church will not excommunicate any normal members – they are already punished enough by the the CCP, standing for their faith. But the church can ask more from her bishops. The escalation mainly happened because the bishops were forced to attend the ceremony for a new CCPA elected bishop. All in all it is a very sad story of a dictatorship breaking fundamental rights of their people. There are many examples in Europe, where religions are given second priority against constitutions, but what is happening in China is a very different story.
    Thanks for your answer in #40 – I agree, it meets the point.
    I am scared of what silentchinese and Allen is so proud of: “At least it is Chinese.” – that is pure nationalism in its worst from.

    “Influenced” only the matter of appointment of Bishop, in that “influence” it is Chinese and not Vatican. (And that’s LOCAL autonomy, not Nationalism).

    And let’s get this straight, what the Chinese government has is “approval” of the Bishops. The application of the candidates are still done through the Patriotic Church organization.

    This is the same selection process for Chinese Buddhist and Daoists.

    The Government does not, frankly, manage hardly any aspects of determining which candidate has the best merits.

    So I don’t know what “government influence” you are specifically referring to.

  56. China is wise to reject the Vatican’s attempted meddling, given the trader-missionary-gunboat trinity that undermined its sovereignty in the 19th century.
    Religion as an accomplice/handmaiden of Western imperialism is very much alive; witness events in Sudan. Eric Margolis writes:Southern Sudan’s Christian secessionist movement has longbeen guided and financed by British and US Christian missionaries and aid groups.
    American evangelical groups, who now form the voter core of the Republican party, have been playing a key role in promoting (the) independence movement.
    China has become a major customer of Sudanese oil. Washington intends to elbow China out of the way i f the south breaks away.

  57. @raffiaflower

    That’s an excellent point. Sudan is and excellent case in point in modern times where external religious political forces wreck havoc on a country’s unity.

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