Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng called the Vatican’s pact with China over the selection of bishops “preposterous” in a sharp critique of the Sino-Vatican agreement published Monday.
The September agreement is “a slap in the face to millions of Catholics and other faithful religious people in China who have suffered real persecution under the CCP,” Chen wrote in an essay on Public Discourse Nov. 26.
Chen, a blind lawyer, was imprisoned for his pro-life advocacy against forced abortions and sterilizations under China’s former “one child policy.” His dramatic escape from detention in 2012 led him to gain asylum through the American embassy in Beijing, eventually going on to serve as a visiting fellow at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.
“I grew up under this Party-State system and personally experienced the Communist Party’s violence and brutality, and I have known and worked with countless individuals in China who have been persecuted for their beliefs,” Chen wrote.
“I am sure that the active members of underground churches in China who have persevered against crippling persecution for so long can only feel betrayed,” he continued.
The Vatican rapprochement with the Chinese government brings Church leaders “closer to a Communist Party that is responsible for the deaths of over four hundred million unborn children and hundreds of millions of Chinese people,” Chen wrote.
Chen maintained that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been increasingly hostile to religion as more and more Chinese people put their trust in a faith higher than the party state.
“The CCP has been arresting priests, threatening congregants, and searching churches and places of worship. Many have disappeared and been tortured while under the regime’s control, refusing to relinquish their beliefs to a degraded, intolerant political party, and proving the power of their faith,” Chen wrote.
Religion is “at odds with the self-serving atheism and extreme party loyalty the CCP has long sought to inculcate in the population,” he argued. “Religion asks for … faith in ideas that are beyond the reach of the regime’s clutches.”
He cited reports that the CCP has destroyed more than 1,300 crosses and churches in the past few years in Zhejiang Province alone.
In Xinjiang Province, “Muslims have been rounded up in the hundreds of thousands and forced into re-education camps,” he said.
After the Sept. 22 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics, Chinese authorities demolished two Catholic Marian shrines in Shanxi and Guizhou.
“Through isolation, threats, detention, and torture, the CCP instills a sense of instability and insecurity, to nip in the bud any incipient movement that could prove a threat to its power,” Chen said.
Before the agreement, the Church in China had been split between the “underground” Church, in full communion with Rome, and the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which was not. The Chinese government appointed bishops of the CPCA.
The September agreement was designed to unify those groups, by approving a formula through which Pope Francis would approve bishops nominated by Beijing.
“It is also a regime that knows how to present itself to the West, saying and doing the right things to draw support from leaders abroad. Its veneer of civility is an attempt to cover up the reality of its immorality,” Chen argued.
“Clearly, the agreement is a blatantly political move designed only to serve the CCP’s interests,” he said.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.