Pope Francis’ blindness to the evils of communism in Cuba manifests itself in China

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During his visit to Cuba, it became disappointingly clear that Pope Francis made a conscience decision to turn a blind eye to the evils of communism and the suffering of the Cuban people under the tyranny of the communist Castro dictatorship. Pope Francis went out of his way avoid offending Cuba’s apartheid regime and paid little to no attention to the island’s brave and courageous Catholic dissidents. Throughout his visit, as the Pope enjoyed his events with Castro regime officials and social gatherings with Raul and Fidel Castro, Catholic dissidents were being viciously beaten and arrested .

(You can read more about Pope Francis’ disheartening visit to communist Cuba HERE and HERE).

The Vatican has now turned its attention to China and Chinese Catholics and once again, the Pope’s disturbing and distressing blindness to the evils of communism manifests itself.

David Feith reports in The Wall Street Journal:

The Vatican’s Illusions About Chinese Communism

Cardinal Joseph Zen says that the Holy See misunderstands how repressive China is.

Cardinal Zen in St Peter's Square, March 6, 2013.
Cardinal Zen in St Peter’s Square, March 6, 2013.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most senior Chinese cleric in the Catholic Church, believes the Vatican is fast approaching a tragic mistake in China.

Within days church leaders could conclude a landmark agreement with the Chinese government after 65 years of acrimony and persecution. Pope Francis isn’t known to have signed off, and before he does Cardinal Zen prays to be heard.

The former bishop of Hong Kong speaks with passion that belies his age (84) and recent hospitalization for a lung virus. As we meet at the church complex where he has lived since 2009—and where he first moved as a novitiate from Shanghai in 1948—he warns of “surrender”: that Chinese leaders are demanding it and Vatican officials appear willing to give it “in the hopes of achieving an agreement.”

Proponents say the deal would help millions of “underground” Catholics and open the world’s most populous country for evangelization. Cardinal Zen says it would sacrifice church principles, abandon the faithful, undermine evangelization and invite further repression.

The deal concerns who gets to select Catholic bishops in China—as vital a power as there is. Beijing has claimed it since the 1950s, when Mao Zedong banished Vatican officials and established the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in their place. That organ now oversees the “official church” of some 70 bishops and five million adherents who answer to Beijing and toe its line. The underground church, by contrast, follows the pope, for which its 30 bishops and estimated seven million adherents face harassment, imprisonment and worse.

To promote unity the Vatican has lately accepted most Beijing-backed bishops. But it has always held that the state-run Patriotic Association is “incompatible with Catholic doctrine,” as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2007, adding: “The authority of the Pope to appoint bishops is given to the church by its founder Jesus Christ. It is not the property of the Pope, neither can the Pope give it to others.”

Yet now the Vatican seems willing to give it to Beijing, which is what Cardinal Zen calls “absolutely unacceptable.” Rome would commit to recognize as bishops only those clerics who first win nomination from the Patriotic Association’s bishops conference. This would make the church “totally subservient to an atheist government,” says Cardinal Zen, and may require the Vatican to cut ties to the true church underground.

Though he says state-backed bishops are generally “wonderful men” and “very faithful to the church,” Cardinal Zen laments that all are nonetheless “slaves” and “puppets.” Only someone ignorant of communism, he says, could think the nominations the government sends to Rome wouldn’t be coerced. Having taught in Chinese seminaries from 1989 to 1996, he recalls that state bishops couldn’t meet or even place international calls without government bosses present.

Cardinal Zen slams Vatican diplomats who say that embracing the Patriotic Association is needed to preserve the church’s hierarchy and sacraments. “I would prefer no bishops,” he says. “With fake bishops you are destroying the church.”

That’s what nearly happened in Hungary and other Soviet satellites in the 1970s after Rome embraced an Ostpolitik (“Eastern Policy”) of cooperation with Communist authorities. “The Churches in those countries have not been saved through the Vatican diplomacy,” he wrote recently, “but thanks to the unswerving faith of the simple faithful!”

He believes the same would happen in China if the Vatican refused to bow to Beijing. “The underground church is evangelizing very well,” he notes, even as authorities have destroyed 1,000 church crosses since 2013 and kept underground bishop James Su Zhimin in secret detention for two decades. “Also in the official church there are so many good people. . . . They are not afraid. Why should you surrender?”

“Pope Francis has no real knowledge of communism,” the cardinal laments. He blames Francis’ experience in Argentina, where military dictators and rich elites did evil while actual or accused communists suffered trying to help the downtrodden. “So the Holy Father knew the persecuted communists, not the communist persecutors. He knew the communists killed by the government, not the communist governments who killed thousands and hundreds of thousands of people.” (In China it was tens of millions.)

“I’m sorry to say that in his goodwill he has done many things which are simply ridiculous,” the cardinal says of the pope. These include his approaches to both China and Cuba, the other communist state he has courted at the apparent expense of human rights. But still he’s the pope, so even if he signs a bad deal Cardinal Zen says he won’t protest once it’s done.

His message to the faithful in that case: You’re never obligated to act against conscience. “You are not bound to join the Patriotic Association. You can pray at home if you lose your churches.” An underground priest who loses his flock can go home and till the soil. “You’re still a priest anyway,” he says. “So wait for better times. But don’t rebel against the pope.”

Mr. Feith is a Journal editorial writer based in Hong Kong.

2 thoughts on “Pope Francis’ blindness to the evils of communism in Cuba manifests itself in China”

  1. One can expect “His Holiness” to act in keeping with his Jesuit background, not to mention his socialist ideology, and this is not mere speculation given his prior conduct. At best, he thinks himself far more clever than he is or he thinks the powers of evil are much more “manageable” than they are. There’s no worse fool than a smugly self-satisfied and self-justifying fool. This guy and JFK should have gotten on famously.

  2. I still cannot quite wrap my head around the papal choice to project such abysmally bad optics as encapsulated by this photo (and far too many others with both Castro brothers). Regardless of his own political views, he has to have some basic grasp of PR and how symbols and images function, and yet he has shown an astonishing, not to say outrageous, lack of discretion, propriety, sensitivity and tact. Either he deliberately meant to give serious offense, which makes no practical sense, or he truly saw nothing wrong with his conduct and found it perfectly reasonable and appropriate.

    The latter possibility seems much more likely, because it fits the ease and “naturalness” of his public interaction with both Castro tyrants. That implies he meant no harm, but we are left with the fact that he did give very serious offense, grievously scandalizing the victims of the totalitarian Castro dictatorship, especially those who are practicing Catholics. Such presumed lack of awareness and understanding is extremely disturbing, because it amounts to blindness, and even if it is genuine as opposed to willful blindness, a blind man cannot lead or guide safely or effectively. If he cannot “get” something so obvious as the Cuban reality, how can he be trusted on other matters like Venezuela or Colombia, for instance?

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