ROME — Cardinal Joseph Zen said this week that the Vatican seeks compromise with China’s Communist Party (CCP), but they want “complete surrender.”
Zen — the former bishop of Hong Kong — has been a vocal critic of the Vatican’s rapprochement with the CCP, insisting that Pope Francis is “naïve” in dealing with a country he knows little about.
In September, 2018, the Vatican signed a secret agreement with China regarding the appointment of future Catholic bishops in the country. The provisions of the deal have never been made public but Vatican observers unanimously assume that the Holy See yielded some authority in the naming of bishops to the CCP.
“The pope doesn’t know much about China. And he may have some sympathy for the Communists, because in South America, the Communists are good guys, they suffer for social justice,” Zen told Catholic News Agency (CNA). “But not the [Chinese] Communists. They are persecutors.”
“So the situation is, humanly speaking, hopeless for the Catholic Church: Because we can always expect the Communists to persecute the Church, but now [faithful Catholics] don’t get any help from the Vatican,” he said.
“The Vatican is helping the government, surrendering, giving everything into their hands,” Zen said.
Last December, Cardinal Zen said that Pope Francis’ policies in dealing with the CCP are “killing” the underground Church in that country.
“Unfortunately, my experience of my contact with the Vatican is simply disastrous,” the cardinal said, noting his particular distress over the Vatican’s deal with Beijing over the naming of bishops and a subsequent Vatican document allowing Catholic clergy to register with the state-run pseudo-church.
“A secret agreement, being so secret you can’t say anything,” Zen said of the deal. “We don’t know what is in it. Then the legitimization of the seven excommunicated bishops. That’s incredible, simply incredible.”
“But even more incredible is the last act: the killing of the underground,” he said.
“Now they finished their job,” the cardinal said in reference to a document bearing the title “Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China” regarding Catholic priests enlisting in the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), which does not recognize the authority of Rome.
The document offered Chinese clergy the opportunity to register with the CPA in good conscience as long as they specify that they are acting without failing in their duty “to remain faithful to the principles of Catholic doctrine.”
While hastening to insist it “understands and respects the choice of those who, in conscience, decide that they are unable to register under the current conditions,” by explicitly authorizing membership in the CPA, the Vatican has removed its support for those who do not wish to do so.
This last act is “simply incredible,” Cardinal Zen said. “The document says, ‘To minister openly, you need to register with the government.’ And then you have to sign. To sign something in which it says that you have to support the independent church.”
“The document contains something against our orthodoxy and they are encouraged to sign,” he said. “When you sign, you accept to be a member of that church under the leadership of the communist party. So terrible, terrible.”
The next time I see the pope, “I’m going to tell him ‘you are encouraging a schism. You are legitimizing the schismatic church in China,’” Zen said. “Incredible.”