under new management

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 02, 2006

The Holy See has issued a very blunt statement of sorrow and rebuke in respect of the illicit episcopal ordinations that took place in China last Thursday (under the auspices of the state-controlled Patriot Association). Two details struck me particularly. First, the Holy See uses the expression "Cina Continentale" -- i.e., "Mainland China," as opposed to the People's Republic of China. Second, the statement insists "almost all" the bishops, clergy, religious and laity in China have maintained "a profound communion of faith and life with the Successor of Peter." This seems aimed at confuting government reports to the contrary.

The days of Sodano diplomacy are over.

Below is an unofficial and provisional translation of the Holy See's statement:

The Holy See feels obliged to make known its position regarding the episcopal ordination of Fr. John Wang Renlei, which took place Thursday , November 30th, in Suzhou, in the province of Jiangsu (Mainland China).

1. The Holy Father learned the news with profound sorrow, inasmuch as the said episcopal ordination was conferred without pontifical mandate, that is, without deference to the discipline of the Catholic Church regarding the naming of bishops. (cf. CCL 377, ยง1)

2.This ordination is the latest of those illicit episcopal ordinations that have vexed the Catholic Church in China already for some decades, creating divisions in diocesan communities and distressing the consciences of many clergy and lay faithful. This series of extremely serious acts, which offend the religious convictions of every Catholic in China and in the rest of the world, is the product of a vision of the Church that does not correspond to Catholic doctrine and that subverts the fundamental principles of her hierarchical structure. The Second Vatican Council makes it quite plain: "one is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and of hierarchical communion with the Head and members of the Body." (Lumen Gentium 22)

3. The Holy See, made aware at the last moment of the planned episcopal ordination, did not tarry in taking those steps possible in the brief time available to prevent an act which would bring about a new wound in ecclesial communion. Indeed, an illicit episcopal ordination is an act so objectively grave that canon law provides severe sanctions for those who confer and those who receive it, provided always that the act was executed in conditions of true freedom. (cf. CCL 1382)

4. It is consoling to note that, in spite of difficulties both past and present, almost all bishops, priests, religious and lay people in China, aware that they are living members of the Church Universal, have maintained a profound communion of faith and life with the Successor of Peter and with all the Catholic communities dispersed throughout the world.

5. The Holy See is aware of the spiritual plight and of the sufferings of those ecclesiastics -- the bishops who are consecrating as well as those to be ordained -- who find themselves under constraint to take an active part in the illicit episcopal ordinations, thus contravening the Catholic tradition which, in their hearts, they would want to follow faithfully. It is one more instance of the interior anguish of those Catholics -- including priests, male and female religious, and laity -- who see themselves obliged to accept a pastor who they know is in full hierarchical communion neither with the Head of the College of Bishops nor with the other bishops throughout the world.

6. As for the episcopal ordinations, the Holy See cannot accept being subject to a fait accompli. For this reason, it deplores the manner in which the ordination of the Fr. Wang Renlei took place in Suzhou, and hopes that incidents of this kind will not be repeated in the future.

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  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 03, 2006 12:42 PM ET USA

    I must apologize! All this time I've been calling Mr. Liu Bainian, Patrick. His Christian name is, of course, Anthony. His status as the lead henchman of the Patriotic Church is the same.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 03, 2006 12:18 PM ET USA

    This is not a matter for the UN. Imagine if the USCCB decided to ordain women, would the UN, or even the US courts, step in to assert the Vatican's authority in the matter? No, in fact, "religious freedom" would argue that the Vatican has no authority over the US church. That's what the Patriotic Association is trying to prove. Even if the govt in Beijing wants to act, it can't act in opposition to it's own creature. But it can be silent while Card. Zen thrashes Liu in public!

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Dec. 03, 2006 7:07 AM ET USA

    Does anyone think the useless UN will condemn this attack on religious freedom?

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 02, 2006 9:35 PM ET USA

    While Beijing is busy playing nicy-nice with HK's Card. Zen (they all come from the same 'hood - Jiangsu - as it were) Patrick sticks his finger in the Cardinal's eye! But the Cardinal has most of HK behind him, not just Catholics, either, because of his courage in standing up for civil rights for HK citizens. Beijing doesn't want the Card. or HK to be unhappy. Patrick, on the other hand, who's he?! Watch for some correc tion - hopefully, soon!

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 02, 2006 6:59 PM ET USA

    De nada, Norwood. See, I'm thinking Patrick is digging a deep pit. Beijing had already made commitments to the Holy See and promises to HK's Card. Zen. Patrick is simply strutting his stuff; somehow Beijing will reign him in. 'Cause he's not only left Zen with "no face" (very bad!); Beijing also looks impotent with "no face" (even worse!). Most of the Beijing/CCP hierarchy are Jiangsu/Zhekiang "brothers" of the good Cardinal. They won't put up with it for long. It's bad for business!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 02, 2006 5:59 PM ET USA

    Thanks, ladybird, for the excellent background information.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 02, 2006 2:35 PM ET USA

    Interesting.Patriotic Assoc. head, Patrick Liu BaiNian, chose Suzhou, Jiangsu, as the episcopacy to fill. That's awfully close to home (heung-ha: ancestral home) base for the Bishop of HK, Joseph Card. Zen. They have been engaged in an increasingly bitter exchange since the Mar '06 illicit ordinations. This is a pronounced slap in the Cardinal's face - very bad form. He's flying awfully close to the Sun, Patrick is. Could be Beijing will let him get his wings burnt!