Hi Father! hope you are doing well! My mother is doing well now +my father is in his RCIA classes. He's very excited, so prayers for him are greatly appreciated! but also my question: I was recently reading on Pope Benedict's "concessions" to the Chinese church from a while ago. I was wondering about your ideas on the issue and what really happened because I cannot seem to find unbiased analysis. I mean in basic terms what even happened? thanks in advance!
Praise God that your mom is doing better! And rest assured of my prayers for your dad. That is wonderful news :)
The “Chinese situation” is pretty complicated, but let me see if I can explain it.
China was missionized by various groups, since the 17th century when the Jesuits under Matteo Ricci made many inroads. Fr. Ricci was so successful at inculturation and adaptation of the Chinese customs to the Catholic faith that Rome had even given permission for the Mass to be changed over from Latin to Chinese as an experiment.
Unfortunately, accusations abounded that the Jesuits had gone too far and had “paganized” elements of Catholicism in order to impress the Chinese, and there ensued the “Chinese Rites Controversy.” The reaction to that controversy in Rome is that the Pope put the kabosh and stopped all adaptations of Catholicism to Chinese culture or prayer forms.
From the Chinese side, there was a loss of respect for Rome and the Catholic Church, with charges that Catholic missionaries were nothing but imperialists trying to impose European culture and religion on China, without respect to its history and accomplishments. Not only that, but even up until the 1900’s, there was a resentment from some Chinese that Catholic missionaries were also racist. Up until the 1930’s, Rome appointed only European bishops in China, although there were many Chinese priests to choose from. And Chinese bishops were finally consecrated because of a direct order and intervention from Pope Pius XI (1922-1939).
So, fast forward to the Communist revolution in China under Chairman Mao, who defeated the Chinese Nationalists for control of China in 1949. In 1957, Mao’s government established the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association for the purpose of placing the Catholic Church completely under the control of the People’s Republic of China. From that time, certain Catholic bishops in China sided with the government and began to ordain bishops and priests for the CPCA. The rationale for this was that the only way for the Catholic Church to survive was to abide by Mao’s rules and to sever all ties with Rome and refuse to acknowledge any rule over the Chinese Church from foreigners (i.e. the Vatican).
When Pope Pius XII received news of this schismatic activity, and how some of the hierarchy and clergy had joined the CPCA instead of endure prison for their loyalty to Rome, he issued Ad Apostolorum Principis and excommunicated those who participated in these efforts to set up a parallel Catholic Church in China.
There are two churches, then, in China. One group is the “underground Church” loyal to Rome in all things, and one group is loyal to the CPCA and its bishops, who have official approval to open parishes and have public worship and ministry. The CPCA makes it difficult because they are run by atheistic laity, who release only guidelines which support the People’s Republic of China. For instance, they have officially supported the laws which promote abortion and contraception. And they have only gradually approved of documents from Rome, such as the New Roman Missal and copies of Vatican II and the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
For the last 20 years at least, Rome has attempted to draw the priests and people of the CPCA into closer union with the Universal Church. To do so, they have granted some of the “concessions” of which you speak. They have begun to recognize bishops ordained under the CPCA and have given them authority to run their dioceses in China with papal approval. They have also allowed priests and nuns of the CPCA to receive training in Catholic seminaries and convents, and have even invited bishops of the CPCA to attend Catholic synods. They have even recognized bishops and priests trained totally in the CPCA who still use the pre-Vatican II theology books, the Missal and Latin sacramental rituals.
Needless to say, this has all been very confusing to Catholics of the Underground Church, many of whom languished in prison for years for not renouncing the Pope, and then accepted Vatican II and the New Mass in obedience to Rome. Some have become very bitter with all of these concessions which seem to deny that the CPCA was declared schismatic by Pius XII in 1958, while others, including priests, have come out of hiding and have officially joined the CPCA.
Catholics in China are not always sure what it means to “be loyal to Rome” since bishops, priests, nuns, and laity who were in the communist-sponsored Church seem so accepted alongside those Catholics who rejected the CPCA and endured confiscation of their churches, fines, and imprisonment.
It is a complicated situation that is made more difficult because some parts of China are very tolerant of “Roman interference” and leave the Underground Church alone (i.e. Vatican involvement in the Chinese Catholic Church) while other parts of China are still very strict and have bulldozed Catholic parishes that were built without approval of the CPCA-government of China. God bless and take care! Fr. Angel