The Vatican recently announced the extension of its agreement with China for another two years. The provisional agreement was signed in 2018 and renewed in 2020, yet since the signing of that agreement, religious freedom in China has worsened. Why then extend it a second time?

Cardinal Parolin stated in an interview at the end of October, 2022: “Pope Francis- with determination and patient foresight – has decided to continue along this path, not under the illusion of finding perfection in human rules, but in the concrete hope of being able to assure Chinese Catholic communities, even in such a complex context, of the guidance of pastors who are suitable for the task entrusted them”.

One third of Chinese dioceses are without bishops, and there has been first-hand testimony that the bishops who have been approved by the Chinese government are simply government stand-ins. The new, CCP-picked bishop of Szechuan has recently stated that he will be celebrating the ‘birthday’ of the Communist Party in his cathedral on the solemn Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and he urges the Faithful to come ‘hear the word of the Party’, and ‘recieve the Grace of the Party’. How is it even concievable that such men would be suitable for the role of pastors? In the meantime, the Chinese Catholic Church has lost great men who are bishops (men who insisted that children not be banned from entering Church or from participating in prayer) – either through prison or detention or because they are on trial (card. Zen), or have been arrested for having refused to conform to the Vatican-CCP agreement. And if the bishops are the life of the Church, as the Vatican so often states, than the objective here is clearly to remove those figures of theological authority upon whom Chinese lay Catholics depend, in order to render them more vulnerable and disgregated.

The Vatican-China agreement has never been made public, but Vatican officials insist that it outlines procedures to ensure that Catholic bishops are elected by the Catholic community in China, and approved by the Pope, before their ordinations and installations. In the past few years, only six bishops have been installed under the terms established in the agreement. In his interview, card. Parolin noted that the achievements of the agreement are as follows: lifting the excommunications of irregular status of seven bishops who had been ordained by government approval, but not by the Vatican. He went on to state : ” Many dioceses are still without bishops, or have very elderly bishops, but the process is continuing . . .there are dioceses in which, despite all efforts and good will, no fruitful diologue exists with local authorities”. To me, this sounds like a failed agreement: the Vatican was coerced into accepting government apparachicks in the guise of bishops – men who had been excommunicated, with good reason – whilst remaining incapacitated in its attempt to nominate worthy Catholic bishops of their choosing. What then has the Vatican recieved in return?

A few years ago, Pope Francis stated that the original agreement between the Vatican and China had been signed in order to find ‘good shepherds’ to preach the Gospel in China, and in order to establish full and visible Unity within the Church. This past September, he stated that the commission was going very well, but slowly, because (according to him), the Chinese pace is slow, and the people have endless patience. Yet Pope Francis is not dealing directly with the Chinese people, but with the CCP, whose leader is a brutal dictator cut from the same cloth as Mao Tse Tung, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and other such bloodthirsty psychopaths throughout history. Last December, Xi stated his goals, one of which is to bring every belligerant in China – be he Catholic, Protestant, Mohammedan, Taoist or Buddist -under the direct control of the Communist Party, in order to serve the exclusive purpose of the forwarding of the Party. The leader of China has just recently installed himself as Dictator for life at the 20th Party Congress (an amazing show of unity amongst the puppets who sat and unanimously raised their right hands and clapped rhythmically to ensure that Xi understood that they liked him. Otherwise they would be dead men walking).

Xi Jing Ping has stated that any religion that does not teach its members to love the Party, and to love National Socialism, is a backward religion engaged in illegal religious activities, and must be stamped out. The Chinese Communist party’s goals are very clear: they intend to destroy the underground Church, and of course they have used the ‘agreement’ to accomplish that, whilst they simultaneously create a visible Church that tows the party line, supporting National Socialism and supreme leader Xi Jing Ping. It’s long term goals are to decapitate the Church heirarchy, whilst strangling the Church out of existence.

In which manner is the CCP decapitating the Catholic heirarchy? In the past, these figures were simply massacred, but in the age of video surveillance, CCP methods have become more insidious and discreet. There are over 100 Sees in China, about a third of them are empty, and at the current pace of installations (only six over several years), those thirty-three Sees will remain vacant, whilst more become empty as Bishops of the original Patriotic Church – whose average age is well over sixty – will become too elderly to resist. If the government were to continue nominating only one or two bishops over the course of several years, whilst many enter retirement every year, this would represent a slow-moving effort to leave the faithful with no bishops, except of course those who are actually members of the Communist Party.

Cardinal Zen warned everyone that if this agreement were signed, the Vatican would be selling out the Chinese people, and the Gospel itself. It is both astonishing and revolting that Vatican officials can justify the distortion of the Gospel and the fact that it is being used as a vehicle to promote a Marxist agenda. The Church has come under the direct control of the United Front of China, so it is being used for propaganda purposes. The underground Church is being rounded up, tricked by the secret contents of the ‘agreement’ , which is misrepresented (or so we believe) by the CCp, which states that Catholics, according to the agrremment, must join the United Front Church. Some priests may well have been informed that this is the desire of the Pope.The Vatican is silent about the fact that Bishop Zeng, the head of the underground seminary was arrested and witheld in detention facilities a year ago, with accusations based upon the outlines of this so-called agreement. Not only will there no longer be any bishops: there will no longer be any priests, or any faithful. It is unfolding exactly as Bishop Zen said it would, and all one needs to do is go back to the documentation of Soviet horrors and atrocities, to understand that much worse is to come.

According to Card. Parolin: the agreement “mainly concerns aspects that are essential to the daily life of Catholics in China. I am thinking, for example, of the validity of the sacraments celebrated and the certainty for millions of the faithful, that they will be able to live out their faith in full Catholic communion, without therby being suspected of not being loyal citizens of their country”. Yet we know that the CCP released documents on religious affairs back in 2018, which required that Catholic priests sign waivers against any allegience towards the Catholic Church, whilst contemporaneously signing documents of full support of the Communist Party of China. They are only allowed to celebrate in government sanctioned places; minors below the age of 18 are not allowed to attend: how can Cardinal Parolin consider it possible to live out full Catholic communion under these circumnstances? Those who wish to remain faithful to the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church will be forced to do so outside of the official, organized structure.

Cardinal Tagle , who supports the ‘agreement’ , stated “the agreement was signed in order to safeguard the valid apostolic succession and the sacramental nature of the Catholic Church in China, . . .and this can assure, comfort and enliven baltpized Catholic in China”. He certainly does not seem to understand what is going on in China: the Chinese Communist Party is writing the sermons for Catholic priests, forcing them to conform to communist ideology, demoting God to second place; they have re-written the Bible, providing a Chinese Commmunist Party version, changing key passages such as the woman caught in adultury, in which -after Jesus convicts the others for their sins, convinces them to drop their stones and walk away – he proceeds to stone her to death himself. Can anyone imagine having to sit in a Catholic Church in China, listening to this blasphemy? This is not the promotion of the Catholic Church in China, by any means.

When asked to respond to critics about the Holy See’s dealings with China, which have led to the suffering of Catholics in China, card.Tagle said: ” In dialogue, the Holy See has its own respectful style of communicating with representatives of the Chinese government, but which never ignores and indeed alsways makes present the situation of suffering Catholic communities, which sometimes arise from inappropriate pressures and interference”. This is a wild understatement of what is actually happening. Catholics are being persecuted, restricted, suppressed, their faith is being crushed, and it is being done with sophisticated, high-tech tyranny: people are being blanketed with surveillance and social credit scores which deny them opportunities of all kinds, from education and housing to getting on a fast train. Some are being put in black jails and indoctrinated.

Perhaps the most painful aspect of this subrosa ‘agreement’ is that not only does it seem the Vatican intends to remain silent in the face of religious persecution against Chinese Catholics: it openly praises the CCP, acclaiming non-existant accomplishments, whilst comvering up atrocities, from forced abortions, forced sterilizations in mass numbers, organ harvesting, to the enslavement of Uighurs. The Catholic Church, to whom all have historically turned for sound denunciations of such horrors, is inexplicably morally ambivalent, if not indifferent, relinquishing its role as the universal beacon and stalwart champion of ethics, morality and human rights.

Whilst card Tagle has spoken of ‘inappropriate interference’, it seems he is suggesting that we should all just shut up and go away, which of course, we will not. We cannot speculate upon what the vatican supposed the ‘agreement’ might do to assist persecuted Chinese catholics, as the contents of the agreement remain secret, but it has obviously backfired, as Catholics in China are in worse conditions now than they were prior to 2018. It is possible to state in good faith that if the Vatican is not fighting for religious freedom – especially for persecuted Catholics – then it is furthering the goals of the Chinese Communist Party.


Nina Shea, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute Steve Mosher, President of Population Research Institute, author of ‘Bully of Asia’


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