Photo by Vatican
It appears that Pope Francis, the most political pope in modern history, is close to coming to an agreement with Beijing over the appointment of bishops in China. In doing so, he upends over two thousand years of Catholic tradition, and betrays the steadfast loyalty of his faith’s 10 million adherents in that nation.
The government wants Roman Catholics in China to attend only state-sanctioned churches, ruled over by bishops designated by the Communist dictatorship. Underground churches in that country, who brave oppression, continue the religion’s ancient practice of allegiance to the Pontiff, seen as the heir, in an unbroken line stretching back to Peter the Apostle, who was, according to the New Testament, appointed head of the church by Christ himself.
The BBC reports that there are about 100 bishops in the world’s most populous nation, some appointed by the Vatican, others by Beijing. Following four meetings since 2016, an agreement to provide joint authority in the designation of bishops appears to be potentially completed within months.
The LA Times has revealed that a further dramatic reversal of church doctrine was emphasized by Bishop Sanchez Sorondo, a close adviser described as “confident” of Pope Francis. Sorondo stated that the Communist giant “is implementing the social doctrine of the catholic Church.”
The move would be an even more significant change to Catholicism’s power structure than that which occurred in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. For the first time in the two thousand year-old history of the Church, the Vatican would cede the power to appoint clergy leaders to an atheist entity. It would also be seen by Christians as a betrayal of martyrs who gave all for the integrity of Christianity.
Surrendering to Beijing’s demands to have the right to appoint bishops has in the past been severely criticized by some Church leaders, particularly in Asia. The Catholic Herald reports that “ Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most senior Chinese Catholic, has said a possible deal between China and the Vatican would ‘betray Jesus Christ’.
In a past interview with The Guardian, Cardinal Zen stated “Maybe the Pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China…The pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands. Chinese Catholics are free to go to mass and attend government-sanctioned churches, but barred from proselytizing. The state-controlled China Catholic Patriotic Association controls the church and appoints bishops, currently without any input from the Vatican.An “underground” Catholic church exists, with some estimates saying it is larger than the official one, and its members and clergy have faced persecution by authorities. Protestant Christians also face similar challenges…”
As the planet’s most influential religious leader, a surrender by Pope Francis on the issue of the independence of faith groups to appoint their own governing clergy would impact every denomination in every nation.
Many of Pope Francis’ statements have raised serious questions about whether his worldview is sufficiently informed. A U.S. News analysis noted that the Pontiff has not watched television since 1990.
Commentator Wayne Allyn Root has written that “This pope neither seems to understand, nor care that his views on issues…often put him in bed with atheists and socialists, who don’t believe in God, mock religion and think the Bible is a work of fiction. He crusades for social justice, yet chose to embrace the Castro brothers – evil murderers who have imprisoned, tortured and murdered generations of Cubans for expressing their opinions and questioning the authority of a tyrant…He chose not to visit or even be seen with Cubans imprisoned because of their political views.”
Pope Francis’ lack of a more thorough and well-rounded understanding of the world is leading to exactly the opposite of the goals he, with all good intentions, advocates.
When the Pope ventures into areas beyond his theological expertise, that can cause problems. Damien Thompson, writing in Spectator writes: “What should worry Francis is that moderate conservative Catholics are losing confidence in him. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who is no one’s idea of an extremist, believes that ‘this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him’. Cristina Odone, former editor of the Catholic Herald, says that ‘Francis achieved miracles with his compassionate, off-the-cuff comments that detoxified the Catholic brand. He personifies optimism — but when he tries to turn this into policy he isn’t in command of the procedures or the details. The result is confusion.’”
The Report Continues Tomorrow