U.S. Dollars for the Patriotic Association in China
Each year groups of supposed Chinese priests and sisters are granted visas to come to the United States to study in Maryknoll formation programs. Their studies completed, they return to their Communist country to allegedly spread the faith and initiate works of charity, educating the young and helping the sick. American Dioceses across our country are encouraged to donate to these “good” initiatives that by all accounts represent an opening of China to the Catholic Church and the Western world. Propaganda for “growing the Catholic Church in China” can be found even in the literature and websites of conservative organizations.
In fact, these religious who call themselves Catholic are not. They are part of the Chinese Patriotic Association (PA), the Communist State controlled “Catholic Church,” the only one with the right to exist.
For example, Sister Johanna came to St. John’s School of Theology in Minnesota to study, but she is quick to tell anyone who asks that she continues to be a member of the St. Joseph Convent of Beijing, a diocesan community of the Patriotic Association. In effect, her vow of obedience is pledged to the Chinese government, and not to the Catholic Church.
In the late 1950s, when the Catholic Church was suppressed, the Communist government formed the PA and required Catholics to disavow allegiance to the Pope and the “Church of Rome.” Chinese authorities have kept this “Catholic Church” of its own making – the PA – under its thumb.
Those millions of Catholics who refused to break ties with Rome and accept the government-run church worship clandestinely in the Underground Catholic Church, the authentic Church in China. Its Prelates, religious and members have faced persecution, imprisonment and even death.
Catholic money supporting Communism
The US Catholic China Bureau, founded in 1989 at the initiative of the Maryknoll Society and the Jesuits, has the full support and affirmation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Today it represents a whole cross section of Catholic religious orders, organizations and scholars. Under directives from our US Bishops, parishes are encouraged to fund raise and send money to the “Church in China” for its various projects. For example, the Catholic China Bureau hosts conferences, sends missionaries and study tours to China, sponsors lectures in the U.S. as well as visits to the Communist country.
The collaboration and networking is all done with the Patriotic Association, which the US Bishops and Catholic China Bureau call “the Catholic Church” in China. There is no support for the Underground Catholic Church, only for the government-directed Patriotic Association.
It is the PA bishops who choose students for the study programs in the US. It is the PA churches and clergy that host the American visitors. I know one woman who came back from one of these study programs raving about the growth and openness of the Church in China. She was unaware that the Patriotic Association was an organ of the Communist government, which had carefully overseen the details of her trip so she would have that ‘good experience.’
Why are the American Bishops promoting the Patriotic Association, accepting it as the Catholic Church in China? In their 2010 program update, the American Bishops explained they are taking their inspiration and guidance in its programs “from the many communiqués of late Pope John Paul II” and the “expressed pastoral concern” of Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 Letter to the Church in China. These messages, they explain, “continually call for respectful dialogue and mutual forbearance forgiveness” in the quest “to foster reconciliation and unity.”
In the name of this false unity, the authentic underground Church has been set aside, and the Communist PA is being wooed and supported.
What the post-conciliar Popes and US Bishops claim is that working with the Patriotic Association clergy and religious is the best way “to expose them to the Universal Church” and hasten the day of reconciliation. According to this theory, engaging in dialogue with the Patriotic Association Church would be the most expedient route to return China to Catholicism.
What such a policy demands, however, are concessions rather than resistance to the errors of Communism. There are the gravest dangers to the faith in such strategy.
No teaching on property
Public institutions exert a profound influence over the normal man, who accepts them as normal and follows their orientation in his way of thinking and acting. Knowing this, the Communist State in China imposes its agenda on all society, especially in the important areas of property and family. How can a Catholic accept the denial of private property, abortion, the one-child policy, to name just a few policies than directly transgress Catholic doctrine and morals?
The PA bishops and clergy are obligated by the Communist government to not preach the whole Catholic doctrine and to support – or at least close their eyes to – these errors in order to maintain their good relationship with the government. What happens is that both they and the faithful become deformed by those errors and consequently do not profess the Catholic Faith in its fullness.
Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira correctly predicted the results of such policy in his groundbreaking work, The Church and the Communist State, the Impossible Coexistence. In it, he points out that nothing is more valuable to Communism than this kind of pact that existed in the satellite countries of the USSR, and still exists today in China, where the Vatican accepts the bishops of the Patriotic Church. What kind of Catholics does such a policy produce?
He responds: “New generations of ill-prepared and lukewarm Catholics will arise, perhaps reciting the Credo with their lips, but with their minds and their hearts saturated with all the errors of Communism. In short, they will be Catholics only in appearance and on the surface, and Communists in the most profound and authentic layers of their mentality. After two or three generations formed in such a co-existence, what would be left of Catholicism in these people?”
This applies fully to the so-called Catholic members of the PA. We see the sad results of these concessions today. For example, the three priests and convent of 80 sisters in the large PA parish of the Sacred Heart in the Jiln Province have no problem reconciling Communism and Catholicism. Ignoring Church teaching on private property and family, they comply with the dictates of the Communist government and teach the Bible, administer the sacraments and provide social services.
Acknowledging the separation that exists between the “official” and underground priests, its pastor Fr. Wang asserts that the underground priests and bishops should come out and join the ”recognized” Patriotic church “because it operates as freely as any other institution in China.”
He goes on to criticize the Underground Church for not becoming Communists, “They (the underground Church) are too proud. They should realize that it is now OK to join us” (“Christmas in Jilin,” The Boston Pilot online, January 7, 2011).
In this priest’s mind, what separates the two churches – one faithful to Christ and the Papacy, the other to the Communist government – is a simple matter of pride, not doctrine or fidelity to Rome. We see that adhesion to the PA slogan “Love the Motherland, love the Church” – which demands obedience first to the government – has generated “Catholics” who are reconciled with the errors of an atheist and materialist Communism.
I believe we have a moral obligation not to contribute in any way to these ongoing diocesan-approved programs that are promoting the Patriotic Association and ignoring the Catholic Underground Church. I know of only one organization that exclusively supports the latter, the Cardinal Kung Foundation. I hope it will follow on the good path of its founder, the courageous Cardinal Kung, who would not betray the Catholic Church by joining the false PA.
“That ‘church,’” he affirmed, “was set up by the Chinese Communists to destroy the Roman Catholic Church in China,” and he lamented that it had been embraced “by so many Roman Catholic religious and institutions at the expense of the blood of their own brothers and sisters in the underground Church.” Unfortunately, this embrace today includes not only Bishops, but also the post-conciliar Popes.