Rorate Caeli

The Passion of the Church in China

From the Union of Asian Catholic News:

Vatican advice leaves China bishops in a bind

HONG KONG (UCAN) — Several mainland bishops, approved by the Vatican and recognized by the government, say following some of the advice from the Vatican’s China Commission will put them in a difficult position.

The communiqué for the third plenary meeting released on March 25 said the commission unanimously hoped that all mainland bishops could avoid gestures that run counter to communion with the Pope.

It specifies such gestures like: sacramental celebrations (with illegitimate bishops), episcopal ordinations (without a papal mandate) and participation in meetings (like the planned National Congress of Catholic Representatives of the “open” Church community in China).

UCA News spoke to three open bishops for their response to the communiqué. They spoke on condition of anonymity, and are given the pseudonyms Joseph, Paul and Peter.

Bishop Joseph noted that the communiqué puts “pressure” on bishops but lays out “a clearer and more concrete direction for the China Church toward reconciliation.”

He admitted some bishops may have difficulties following the Vatican’s advice, as local situations differ in each diocese and the “state of conscience of individual bishops is different.”

His conscience does not allow him to participate in an illicit ordination, he stressed. However, he was hesitant regarding the point on attending the national congress, which he described as “inconsistent with the Church spirit.”

Bishops Paul and Peter also stressed they would not attend episcopal ordinations without a papal mandate since Pope Benedict XVI made his position on the issue clear in his 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics.

“No matter how much my diocese and I have to sacrifice, I will definitely not go to any illicit ordination,” Bishop Paul said.

However, he said concelebrations with illegitimate bishops may happen particularly when attending meetings organized by Church authorities. “I will not join if the main celebrant is an illegitimate bishop, but if he is only one of the concelebrants I can hardly avoid it,” the prelate said.

He said the China Commission has good intentions and “neither I nor many other bishops wish to join the national congress, but it’s hard to refuse.”

The meeting is arranged by the government. “Officials will accuse you of not loving the country if you do not take part. They will aim their anger at bishops after being blamed by their superiors, and Church work in all aspects will become very difficult in future,” Bishop Paul noted.

Bishop Peter said the communiqué’s advice is difficult to follow practically, since bishops will find it “hard to say no” to government officials who will coerce them to attending the congress or illicit ordinations.

“We bishops feel perplexed about what to do. We no longer have room for maneuver since the papal letter came out. We can only choose between surviving in the cracks and breaking off relations with the government,” he lamented.

“The open community is unwilling to break the good relationship with the government, which it has struggled to build over a long period of time,” he explained.

Bishop Peter believed the national congress, which is supposed to convene later this year, will cause a split in the open community.

“I will passively attend the meeting to gain space for pastoral work and not to embarrass local officials,” he said. He believed the majority of open bishops will also attend, adding that it is unrealistic not to go.

Those who wish to follow the Vatican’s advice should be prepared for poorer relations with the authorities and stronger controls, which is another way of being God’s witness, he said.


For what Cardinal Zen has to say about the Vatican's China Commission and the challenges of the Catholic Church in China, see this.



  1. Anonymous4:05 PM

    The open community is a euphemism for catholics in schism with Rome, who accept illicit ordinations, of bishops and priests, and masses said without prayers for the Holy Father.

    I wonder why those "schismatics" in France are not called an "open community", and why there has to be a "dialogue to reconciled them", when millions of schismstics in China are treated as being encouraged to act as if in communion with Rome?

  2. John McFarland10:26 PM

    Scripture speaks of the doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways.

    The Vatican is likewise doubleminded, and likewise unstable in all its ways. China is the most egregious example, since the Patriotic Church's constituent documents are unequivocally schismatic; but it is far from the only example.

    The treatment of the SSPX is different precisely because it is singleminded. The Chinese are prepared to talk out of both sides of their mouth, and that the Vatican can work with. The Chinese regime is also powerful, and part of the spirit of Vatican II is the spirit of making the best peace the Church can with the powerful. The SSPX's yes is yes, and its no is no; and it is weak. The mere fact that the Vatican is willing to talk with the SSPX is grounds for amazement, and hope.

  3. Anonymous11:40 AM

    The word that comes to mind is confusion.

    Who is the father of confusion?

  4. Anonymous2:30 PM

    The Chinese Patriotic Church was forcibly separated from Rome by the state. The schismatic SSPX separated itself from Rome.

  5. Anonymous4:43 PM

    anon 14:30 says: "The schismatic SSPX separated itself from Rome."

    Speaking of the father of confusion, I would say that this is one very confused 'anon'. :-D

  6. Anonymous6:23 PM

    In response to anonymous 15 April, 2010 14:30

    I agree with you about the SSPX.

  7. Thomas John7:23 PM

    "We adhere with our whole heart, and with our whole soul to Catholic Rome, the Guardian of the Catholic Faith and of those traditions necessary for the maintenance of that Faith, to eternal Rome, Mistress of Wisdom and Truth..."
    -Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre

    Does the Conciliarist Church make this claim? Can it?
    Would it even if it could? We know indeed whence 'separation' came wounding the Roman Church.

  8. Anonymous11:05 AM

    When some French bishops disobeyed the teaching of the pope, did they do it under any pressure from a dictatorial regime? Of course NOT!

    The Patrotic Assoociation is not a "church". It is an organisation used by the communist regime to control the "open community".

    The Patrotic Assoociation which attempts to seperate Catholics from the Holy See is schismatic, but not the "open community".

  9. Anonymous2:23 PM

    Apostasies in the Underground Church in China.


Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!