Two recent articles from Catholic sources on Chinese Bishop Ma’s “Recanting”

Two recent articles from Catholic sources on Chinese Bishop Ma’s “Recanting”

[Another source (which I previously read did not post and now cannot find) mentions that the current Francis-appointed Papal Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, is a protege of the late Antonio Cardinal Casaroli, who was Paul VI’s Secretary for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs and promoted by JP2 to Secretary of State – as well as architect (under Pope Paul) of the Ostpolik (East-policy) of appeasement toward East European Communist governments (such as the removal of Hungarian Josef Cardinal Mindszenty from sanctuary in the US Embassy of Budapest and later of his titles as Prince-Archbishop and Primate-Regent). Thus, Abp. Parolin may be following in his master’s footsteps with a similar Fernostpolitk (Fareast-policy) of appeasement toward the Chicoms.]

Catholic World News summary of the artices below:

Chinese Catholics puzzled by Bishop Ma’s reversal, leery of Vatican stand

June 30, 2016

Chinese Catholics continue to question the reversal of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai, who has indicated his support for the government-backed Catholic Patriotic Association, after serving four years of house arrest for publically renouncing his membership in the same group.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the retired Bishop of Hong Kong, has questioned whether Bishop Ma’s reversal can be taken seriously. Other Chinese Church officials have said that he made his new statement under pressure. Father Gianni Criveller of the Pontifical Missions observes: “I believe that the question of whether Bishop Ma has written the article or not is misleading, because a person kept under house arrest, under pressure and multiple interrogations and under ‘political’ lessons, cannot be considered to be free, not even when he writes with his own hand.”

Bishop Ma also may have concluded that he should endorse the Patriotic Association because he might then be allowed to exercise his pastoral leadership in the Shanghai diocese. Chinese Catholic leaders must frequently weigh the pitfalls of cooperating with the regime against the pastoral needs of the faithful.

The Vatican has encouraged Chinese bishops to pursue unity within the Church, and avoid exacerbating divisions between those Catholics who accept the “official” Church and those loyal to the “underground” Church loyal to Rome. However, Pope Benedict XVI said that the Church cannot accept the role of the Patriotic Association, and Pope Francis has not altered that policy.

The Vatican press office has said that no Vatican officials were involved with Bishop Ma’s decision to reverse his stand– and in fact that the Vatican only learned of the reversal from news reports. Nevertheless, Chinese Catholics remain concerned that the bishop’s shocking statement was influenced by quiet talks between Rome and Beijing. Cardinal Zen went so far as to suggest that in the Vatican strikes an agreement with the Chinese regime, loyal Catholics should not criticize the Pope’s decision, but “at the end of the day, one’s conscience is the ultimate criterion for judging behavior.”

1. Chinese Church Conundrum: Why Did Bishop Ma Recant?

Analysts interpret the apparent turnabout by the Shanghai bishop, who has been jailed since 2012 for distancing himself from the state-controlled Patriotic Association, as a pressure tactic by China’s Communist regime.

BY BRIAN FRAGA – 06/30/2016

Critics of China’s continuing crackdown on religious freedom allege that the Communist Party is responsible for a bishop recanting his public statements from four years ago when he disassociated himself from the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
And, as talks continue between China and the Holy See on appointing bishops and other matters, observers believe communist leaders are using the example of Auxiliary Bishop Taddeo Ma Daqin of Shanghai to strengthen their hand in negotiations and to demoralize the country’s underground, official Church.

I have written and said often in the past that the solution of this case will be very significant for the future of Catholicism in China. Things are going very bad indeed,” said Father Gianni Criveller, a missionary priest in Hong Kong who is a leading Catholic authority on China and often consults the Vatican.

Father Criveller, of the Pontifical Foreign Missions Institute, told the Register by email that the situation in Shanghai is “very sad and discouraging.” He and other observers do not believe Bishop Ma, who has been under house arrest for four years, actually wrote the June 12 blog where he praised the state-sanctioned Patriotic Church and expressed regret for his past statements.

“I believe the question of whether Bishop Ma has written the article or not is misleading because a person kept under house arrest, under pressure and multiple interrogations and under ‘political’ lessons, cannot be considered to be free, not even when he writes by his own hand,” Father Criveller said.

In the blog, Bishop Ma allegedly writes that he had been “tricked by outside elements,” and that the Patriotic Association “has an irreplaceable role” of the development of the Church in China.

Father Criveller said the blog is an example of “self-criticism imposed on victims in perfect Cultural Revolution style, as unfortunately has become typical again in the last few months” under the political campaign of Xi Jinping, the general secretary of the Communist Party of China.

“The pressure has been ramping up in China over the last four years with this new leader. We see this in all areas, with forced confessed video statements and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) being harassed and forced to make statements rather than being expelled,” said Jesuit Father Paul Mariani, a history professor at Santa Clara University and the author of Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai.

Father Mariani told the Register he believes Bishop Ma was either coerced into writing the blog, or that state officials compiled segments of forced confessions over the last four years and combined them with stock government material.
“The most unlikely situation is that one night, after dinner and prayer in his chapel, Bishop Ma suddenly decided to fully support the Patriotic Association,” Father Mariani said.

Vatican Says Little

To date, the Vatican has said it has no direct information on Bishop Ma’s situation other than his blog and press accounts. In response to speculation that the Vatican was somehow involved, for diplomatic purposes, in Bishop Ma reversing his position, Father Federico Lombardi, the chief spokesman for the Vatican, said in a terse prepared statement that such speculation was “inappropriate.”

Father Lombardi said Pope Francis remembers Bishop Ma and all Chinese Catholics with particular care and concern in his daily prayers. In February, during his return flight to Rome from Mexico, Pope Francis expressed his desire to visit China.

In his blog, Hong Kong’s retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, a frequent detractor of China’s policies, criticized the Vatican for its silence. He wrote that the Holy See “should protect the church’s reputation, [Bishop] Ma’s reputation, and eradicate the chaos and dejection in the Chinese church. Not saying anything is irresponsible.”

Bob Fu, president of China Aid, a Texas-based international non-profit Christian human rights organization that advocates for religious freedom in China, told the Register that he would have liked to have seen the Vatican condemn the apparent forced statement while also demanding to have direct access with Bishop Ma.

“The Vatican should do something about this,” Fu said. “Unfortunately, there seems to be on the Vatican’s part, a rather naive thinking that maybe the communist government will have a fundamental change.”

Chinese Regime Embarrassed

Fu said Bishop Ma’s actions at his July 2012 ordination deeply embarrassed the Chinese regime. During the ceremony, Bishop Ma — whose ordination had been jointly approved by the Vatican and Chinese government — announced he was leaving the Patriotic Association to devote himself to full-time pastoral work. He also avoided the laying-on of hands by an illegitimately installed bishop by embracing him instead.

The Chinese government responded by placing Bishop Ma in solitary confinement at the Shanghai Sheshan Seminary. The communist authorities also closed the seminary, shut down the diocesan publishing house, refused to allow the opening of a Holy Door for the Jubilee Year of Mercy and blocked Bishop Ma from succeeding Shanghai’s Bishop Jin Luxian when he died in April 2013.

The Chinese authorities occasionally signal a new openness to religious freedom, such as approving the ordination of a Catholic bishop in August 2015 with Pope Francis’ approval. But more frequently, the government cracks down on religious dissent, raiding house churches, destroying church crosses, and imprisoning at least a half-dozen priests of the underground Church.

Despite decades of varying intensity of official hostility to religion, however, Christianity continues to grow in China. According to the Pew Research Center for Religious Life, in 2010 there were more than 68 million Christians in the country, most of them Protestants, making it the nation the seventh largest in the world in terms of its total Christian population.

The Catholic population was estimated at about 9 million believers, of whom 5.7 million were affiliated with the Patriotic Association and 3.3 million with China’s underground Church.

Divide and Conquer Strategy?

In the past four years, Bishop Ma came to be a revered figure in the underground Catholic Church, which is outlawed and meets secretly in homes. Unlike the official Patriotic Association, which is under the total control of the state, Chinese Catholics in the underground Church pledge their loyalty to the pope.

In his 2007 letter to Catholics in mainland China, Pope Benedict XVI said the Holy See does not recognize the Patriotic Association.

The Chinese authorities have tried to crack down on the underground Church, and engineering Bishop Ma’s recantation could be seen as a move to divide Chinese Catholics, observers said.

“This would be very demoralizing,” said Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a Connecticut-based organization that advocates for the underground Church in China.

“People who I know in China in the underground are watching this and wondering if Bishop Ma is doing this of his own free will or if he was under pressure. But nobody knows,” Kung told the Register.

Father Mariani added that the communist government would be mistaken to believe it can undermine the underground Church.

Said Father Mariani, “The Communist Party would be naive to think that somehow the underground Church is going to suddenly fold up and go away. It’s been there a long time and according to those in the underground, they see themselves as member of the one, true Church, in communion with Rome. They have been Catholics for many generations and they have stood up to state pressure in the past. They’re pretty tough and feisty.”

A Different Interpretation

The prevailing view among experts may be that Bishop Ma was punished for his defiance, and coerced into recanting, but Nathan Faries, an Asian Studies professor at Bates College who lived and taught in China for several years, sees it differently.

“The narrative nearer the truth is probably that Ma was trying to walk the line and push the conversation forward and please both sides,” said Faries, author of The Inscrutably Chinese Church.

Faries told the Register that Shanghai church politics were coming to a head between 2010 and 2012, and that Bishop Ma seemed to have wanted to make a statement for the dissenting segment of the local Catholic population. Faries said the auxiliary bishop tried to carefully couch his resignation, which he followed up with a promise that he would strive for unity, which Faries described as a transparent plea for an end to conflict between the unrecognized Patriotic Association and the underground Church.

However, the enthusiastic response from the audience, and the manner in which Bishop Ma’s actions were reported in the media, forced the government to deal with the situation, though not in a permanent manner.

“Ma is someone who can and will come back, and now he seems to be on his way back in earnest,” Faries said. “Ma has never been as controversial a figure as some would like to imagine. He wants what is best for the Church. He wants unity and the greater glory of God. Those were the main themes of his address, not criticism of the government.”

Incompatible Situation

While adding that there are some areas where the Chinese communist government and the Church can dialogue, Father Mariani said the Bishop Ma episode reveals an incompatible situation where the Holy See believes in a Church independent of the state while Chinese authorities see the Church as an organ of the government.

Said Father Mariani, “At some point, we thought the Chinese Communist Party would modernize and allow fuller religious freedom, but they keep going back to the idea that the Chinese Church must remain independent of Rome. It amazes me that they keep pushing this harder.”

2. Mgr Ma Daqin, the Vatican and the Patriotic Association’s “crooked logic”

Gu Feng – 06/30/2016

A priest in central China looks at the bishop of Shanghai’s volte-face, comparing him to John the Baptist who was jailed after he accused Herod. Because of their crooked logic, the Patriotic Association and the government seek to eliminate religion from the country. The Vatican is in danger of contradicting itself if it makes compromises with the Patriotic Association. Pope Benedict XVI described the latter as “incompatible” with Catholic doctrine in his Letter to Chinese Catholics, which Pope Francis has never disclaimed, but has instead reiterated.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – John the Baptist’s witness to the world can be traced even to the time before his birth. The Angel Gabriel gave him a name and prophesied what life he would live and the things he would do.

The Bible intentionally avoids reporting John’s secular life until he went into the wilderness. John is closely related to God and with Jesus Christ. When he was still in the womb, he leapt for joy when he met with Jesus. John grew with a strong spirit and lived in the wilderness until the Messiah began to preach. When John saw Jesus approaching him to receive the baptism, he humbly pointed at Him and proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

However, toward Herod and the Jews, John was extremely critical, straightforward, and outspoken, hitting the nail on the head and raising opposition.

John was a Man of God. He baptized others, so they could repent. Moreover, he spoke out against sin, even when facing imprisonment. He spoke the truth, to testify to the light, and illuminate the darkness of the human heart.

Mgr Ma Daqin goes into the wilderness

Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin wrote five articles in the past six months. Although the former four articles seem to have laid some groundwork and preparation for the fifth one, only the fifth one, when it came out, caused a strong shock among the Chinese, the Church in China, and the universal Church.

The Patriotic Association, which is a government-controlled grassroots organization, should not have become a problem for the Catholic Church. Why has it become an unescapable problem? Perhaps because, now as in the past, it has created a dilemma in many local churches!

At the ordination on July 7, 2012, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin voluntarily left the Patriotic Association, and this made those who support religious freedom policy lose face (at least as the authorities define such freedom). Consequently, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was restricted and forced to live in the Sheshan seminary, like in the wilderness, for four years. It has been a high price for leaving the Patriotic Association.

This shows that, in fact the “government-controlled” Patriotic Association, a so called “self-formed service organization” established within the Church, interferes with the policy of religious freedom that is written in the Chinese Constitution.

This is, indeed, a paradox: it determines the necessity of the presence of the Chinese Patriotic Association. Since, on principle, this is an organization spontaneously formed by faithful Catholics, it shows that religious freedom is present with no outside interference. If there is a contradiction, it is only internal. If it needs to be resolved, it needs something that can guarantee justice. This way, the Religious Affairs Department, which is run by the government, can legally intervene and its role is even justified. This means that they can resolve all the conflicts within the Church by themselves. This way of doing things does not contradict the Chinese Constitution, limits religious freedom, and can eventually eliminate religion (this has been the government’s dream).

Patriotic Association’s crooked logic

Chinese people can easily understand this form of “logic” better than non-Chinese people. “Logic” is a word introduced from outside, which is tied with truth and justice. Otherwise, it is not “logical”. However, Chinese people are able to make “obscurities”, “sophistry” and tricks develop into a learning theory that becomes “logical” even though these principles do not fit into the definition of logics. This is not real logical, but they still want to pretend that it is logical. How to do it? They invented a “crooked logic”! As a result, they use “crooked logic” and they know that cooked people, bandits, always do not value logics.

In his five articles, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin seemed to justify this “crooked logic”. From the very beginning, the existence of the Patriotic Association within the Church has been a disaster, and now, due to these ‘Chinese characteristics’, it has become unavoidable and righteous… If Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin knew that the Patriotic Association was worth giving up, why is he now making efforts to retake what he denied?

In Pope Benedict XVI’s Pastoral Letter to the Chinese Church, he clearly stated that the Patriotic Association is not compatible with Church teachings. Thus, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin’s publicly announced to resign from it. Until today, it is not hard to say that this action, inspired at the time of ‘Pastoral Letter’, is a model of bearing witness to the faith for the Chinese Church. However, why has he now changed his mind?

The Vatican spokesman has already clarified that Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin’s “volte-face” was not inspired by the Holy See, and that all the allegations and rumours that the Bishop’s change was due to the influence of the Vatican are all false. As a result, Bishop Ma got himself stuck in the mud (got himself cornered).

Although the Vatican has clarified that it had nothing to do with Ma’s volte-face, it did not continue to proclaim Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s basic decision of Patriotic Association as not compatible with the doctrine, nor did it do this with respect to Benedict XVI’s basic definition of the Patriotic Association. Moreover, there is a strong push for negotiations between the Vatican and China. All this seems to have inevitably misled Bishop Ma “into the wilderness”.

Vatican goes into the wilderness

With Bishop Ma’s retraction, the Vatican now also faces a difficult situation.

When he met Herod, Jesus said nothing, because he knew that Herod was a fox! Although Jesus ate with sinners, he did not talk to foxes.

Usually, it is thought that “logic” confuses people, not bandits. But foxes are very cunning; they know that God is merciful and has pity on bandits Therefore, they hold in their hand the card of the Patriotic Association and negotiate following a “crooked logic”.

If the Vatican saves the bandits and signs an agreement, it will bring shame onto itself. If the Vatican does not sign the agreement, it will have to see the faithful struggle with the “crooked logic” and starve to receive some care. If all these efforts do not result in any progress, this will bring more embarrassment. So now, the Vatican’s situation is the same as Bishop Ma’s, who wrote ” the baby is suffering” on his blog.

“People who lived in the shadow of death saw a ray of light,” that was the light of survivors who went through the valley of death; it is the light of truth, that is the light witnessed by John Baptist in the wilderness. It is the light that encouraged the bishop to declare publicly his resignation.

Today, facing Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin’s volte-face, we cannot help but ask ourselves from the bottom of the heart: is this happening because the light is hidden? Or is it because the light is, in its own way, engulfing the dark?

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