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.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Aug. 12, 2010 1:57 PM ET USA

    Same problem in California.

  • Posted by: Hal - Aug. 12, 2010 11:30 AM ET USA

    The infection of the judiciary with a sort of transnational, liberal elitism has been going on for at least the last 25 years or so. No end in sight.

  • Posted by: Lisa Nicholas, PhD - Aug. 11, 2010 5:39 PM ET USA

    In a perverse kind of way, it's comforting to know that our courts are not the only ones off their rocker. On the other hand, now our Supreme Court justices, who like to use foreign legal findings as "precendent" for U.S. cases, will be able to quote the legal precedent set by the Costa Ricans.