Chinese priests abandon the ministry out of opposition to the Patriotic Association
by Padre Peter, 01/25/2019
According to Fr Peter, a priest who belongs to the official community, many fellow clergymen feel “betrayed” by the Vatican, especially after the interim agreement between Beijing and the Holy See on the appointment of bishops. The Patriotic Association (CPCA) is still working to set up a Church that is “independent” (from the Holy See). Its role should be addressed in future talks between Vatican and Chinese delegations.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Several priests in the underground community are giving up on their mission because they are in conflict with the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), this according to Father Peter, a priest in the official community who sent a message to AsiaNews, and a friend of underground priests.
Fr Peter defends the choice of “conscience” of his friends, noting that they feel “betrayed” by the Vatican, especially after the interim agreement between Beijing and the Holy See on the appointment of bishops.
In fact, whilst the agreement amends the CPCA’s work at least with respect to episcopal appointments (Pope Francis has said that “the last word belongs to me”), it does not clarify the relationship with this supervisory body of the Chinese Communist Party, whose goal is to build a “self-sufficient” Church, one that is “independent” (from the Holy See).
In his 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics, Benedict XVI had said that the CPCA’s status was “incompatible with Catholic doctrine”. On several occasions, Pope Francis reiterated that Pope Benedict’s Letter “is still valid”; however, he has de facto accepted that bishops and priests may belong to the CPCA as a sort of “lesser evil”. In fact, CPCA membership is still a precondition for government recognition.
In his letter, Benedict XVI said that recognition by the government can take place “on condition that this does not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion”, citing precisely “certain bodies” that force “people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and undertake commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their conscience as Catholics” (n.7).
An example of the CPCA’s domination over bishops was the celebration of 60 years of the “independent” Church, in which 48 bishops participated and praised one of the most painful events in the history of the Church in China.
In light of the situation, some Vatican insiders believe that the role of the CPCA should be addressed in future talks between the Vatican and China. Meanwhile, the members of underground communities feel “abandoned”.
Another priest goes home
I remember what Cardinal Joseph Zen (Chen Ri Jun) said: if the Holy See and the Chinese government really reach an agreement, allowing illegitimate bishops to lead their dioceses, the priests of the unofficial Church could freely follow their consciences. If unable to proclaim the Gospel, they could go home and work in the fields. I did not expect Card Zen’s prophecy to come true.
Not long ago, a priest from my town phoned me, asking me to go with him to visit another priest, because he had gone home from his mission. During the meeting, after the initial joy of seeing each other again after a long time and sharing our stories, we could not fail to mention the many problems faced by the Chinese Church after the signing of the agreement. During the conversation, we discovered that the reason our fellow priest decided to go home was because he could not accept to become the assistant of a parish priest from the Patriotic Association.
The priest went on to explain that “For more than 30 years I have fought against the Patriotic Association, and now they want me to become the assistant priest of a Patriotic Association priest. I can not accept it, I have no choice but to go home.” Hearing these words, I felt indescribable pain in my heart. What can we still say about the Holy See? I still respect the conscience of this brother of mine. He has the right and the moral obligation to obey his faith and his conscience.
I recently heard from a friend that another priest, who was working in Henan, had gone back home. I know him well. He is a very enthusiastic and very humble young priest, but he too has become a victim of the Sino-Vatican agreement.
in addition to the two cases that I mentioned there are others. I fear that throughout China there are many priests living the same situation: they have been faithful and have defended their Catholic faith, but suddenly they have been betrayed by Rome. They cannot violate their conscience, but even more they cannot go against their faith. The important thing is that they don’t lose their missionary vocation.
If the secular power deprives them of their divine power, if they do not receive any support or comfort from the Church, then they truly are like the crucified, “suffering” Christ. Like Jesus on the Cross, the only thing they can do is cry out in utter powerlessness: “Father, why have you forsaken me?”
Wednesday, January 23, 2019