Rorate Caeli

In Blessing CCP Bishop, Francis Surrenders to the Spirit of the World


Today, Pope Francis blessed the appointment of Joseph Shen Bin, who had been installed as Bishop of Shanghai by the Chinese Communist Party in April without the Vatican's consent. The unauthorized appointment violated the Vatican's agreement with the Chinese Communist Party, which calls for the Vatican to reach consensus with the CCP on bishop choices. Indeed, this the second unauthorized appointment in the past year. But the Vatican remains unfazed: it is "determined" to continue an "open dialogue" with the CCP. This approach, of course, contrasts with the  "steely determination" Francis has shown in trying to eliminate the Traditional Latin Mass.

But in a broader sense, it is of a piece with a larger surrender of the Church to the world. Francis articulated his position in his recent "Declaration on Human Fraternity," which exalts 'fraternity' and vague social goals, but conspicuously lacks any call to convert the world to Christ, and gives unqualified praise to religious pluralism. And it was underscored by the remarks of the newly-announced Cardinal Aguiar of Lisbon, who said of World Youth Day, which he is organizing: "We don't want to convert young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that." Instead, he said that the "main message" of the event was, "I think differently, I feel differently, I organize my life differently, but we are brothers and we are going to build the future together." Aguiar connected this view to Francis's Fratelli Tutti.

The new path of surrender to the world is also reflected in Francis's appointment of Tucho Fernandez as prefect of the Dicastery of Divine Worship. In his letter announcing that appointment, Francis urges Fernandez to avoid correcting "doctrinal errors," and ensure that Francis's "recent magisterium" is taken into account, not simply "the perennial teaching of the Church." Fernandez has said that Francis told him to "promote thought and theological reflection in dialogue with the world and science, that is, instead of persecutions and condemnations." And Fernandez has already hinted at radical changes in doctrine that deemphasize sacred scripture and abandon tradition completely. We have seen, in the German Synodal Way, where this all leads: the Church abandoning perennial teachings and uncritically embracing the spirit of the age.

But there is a darker reality underlying this surrender: the Church ends up indifferently favoring the strong elements in society over the weak. Hence, the Church makes peace with the CCP, but abandons China's underground Church in the process. A Church that seeks dialogue, while abandoning its own teachings and traditions, ends up getting drawn away in the current, and aligning itself with whatever elements happen to be in power at a given time. The Church has survived for thousands of years only by rejecting this very course.