Catholicism in China


#1

I wasn't sure which forum to post this in...

Can someone please help me to understand the situation in China for Catholics?

As far as I understand Bishops are chosen by the country NOT by the Vatican... but doesn't that mean that those churches are no longer valid?

Are any of their priests validly ordained?

Are they properly Catholic in the full sense of the word?

Anyone care to explain all of this to me? :) Mostly I'm just curious... I'm just trying to understand how they can be 'Catholic' when they are controlled by the government and not the Vatican...


#2

Well I would assume they're validly ordained, and so the Sacraments are valid, but the government would choose who would be ordained. It's happened in history before, like immediately following the French Revolution. I could be wrong, though.


#3

I thought Catholicism was illegal in China?


#4

factbites.com/topics/Catholicism-in-China
"China versus the Church

The resilience, and the revival, of this church is something of a metaphor for Catholicism in China up to and during a half-century of Communist Party rule.

Catholicism in China is a paradox, because it is allowed in China's state churches, but allegiance to the Pope is not.

The entire structure of the church in China, which is stifled by state-run organizations like the Patriotic Catholic Association, is the real sticking point between Beijing and the Vatican, which has operated from a base in Taiwan since its church leaders were expelled from China in 1951."

issi.org.pk/publication-files/1302769584_725810.pdf

"The Chinese government has consistently adhered to a peaceful foreign policy of independence and taking initiative in its own hands, and is willing to improve relations with the Vatican.40 However, such improvement requires two basic conditions: first, the Vatican must end its so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognize that the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legal government in China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory; second, the Vatican must not interfere in China’s internal affairs on the pretext of religious affairs. In the first place, the relationship between China and the Vatican is one between two countries. Therefore, only when relations between the two countries improve can religious issues be discussed. Whether the relations between China and the Vatican change or not, the Chinese government will, as always, support Chinese Catholicism which holds aloft the banner of patriotism, sticks to the principle of independence and self-management, and stands for selection and ordination of Bishops by itself.41"

"The situation of Catholics in China"
youtube.com/watch?v=EHjvL3zP4r0

"chinese patriotic catholic association church"
economicexpert.com/a/Chinese:Patriotic:Catholic:Association.htm


#5

China seems to have a forced schism. The government doesn't allow the Vatican to select bishops, instead appointing its own. I am sure they are ordained (presumably validly) by other bishops of the government-approved church.

There also is an underground church that is loyal to the Magesterium.

What would be interesting to know is whether a Catholic tourist would need to try to find one of the underground churches (which would potentially expose them to harm) or the tourist might fulfill the obligation by attending the state-approved church (presumably refraining from Communion since they are in schism) or be excused from the obligation (due to the difficulty in finding a church in Communion with Rome).


#6

[quote="SonCatcher, post:5, topic:288436"]
What would be interesting to know is whether a Catholic tourist would need to try to find one of the underground churches (which would potentially expose them to harm) or the tourist might fulfill the obligation by attending the state-approved church (presumably refraining from Communion since they are in schism) or be excused from the obligation (due to the difficulty in finding a church in Communion with Rome).

[/quote]

Generally foreigners are discouraged from trying to locate underground churches, because they are after all trying to stay underground. That said, the underground churches are not as underground as they once were, and in some parts of the country I understand they are fairly open.

Further complicating the picture, over the last 10 or 15 years some of the bishops of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association have been ordained with the approval of the Vatican. Hopefully in time the official church and the underground church can be united under Rome. But for now, it's probably best for tourists to get a dispensation, and you may be able to attend mass at one of the embassies or consulates.


#7

[quote="stephe1987, post:3, topic:288436"]
I thought Catholicism was illegal in China?

[/quote]

No, it is not.


#8

What would be interesting to know is whether a Catholic tourist would need to try to find one of the underground churches (which would potentially expose them to harm) or the tourist might fulfill the obligation by attending the state-approved church (presumably refraining from Communion since they are in schism) or be excused from the obligation (due to the difficulty in finding a church in Communion with Rome).

Were it me, I'd be asking for a dispensation while traveling/advice on what to do.


#9

I can tell you what I know, which isn't nearly enough.

There have been Catholics in China since the time of Mateo Ricci, in fact some Catholics visited China before his time.

The church was dominated by missioners up until the civil war, and the Catholic church was negligent in developing a native episcopate until it was almost too late. Thus it came to be seen as a foreign religion in a land that was to quickly become hostile to all religion.

The Communists drafted legislation that any religious organization had to be run by natives. This was not so bad for the Protestants, who quickly adapted. The missions run by Protestants were quickly turned over to their native lieutenants. It was not so simple for the Catholics.

The thing is, the Papacy claims universal jurisdiction, and the right to name all bishops (it was not always this way, but in the modern church that's how it is). This means that the Catholic church is in theory controlled from outside the country. That is against the law in China.

As a result, the Catholic church in China has been somewhat abandoned by the rest of the church over this principle. The evangelizing efforts of the native Catholic church have been crippled and the native Protestants have stepped into the vacuum.

Yes, their bishops do have Apostolic succession, and yes their sacraments are valid. Some of these bishops of the 'official' church actually have been approved by either Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI, and so are in communion with the Pope. These men are in communion with the Pope and also with bishops the Pope did not approve, so the church is not in schism exactly, it occupies a gray area neither here nor there.

I can assure you, Chinese Catholics are as faithful as any Catholics anywhere, possibly more so. They are devout and orthodox in their faith and adore the Pope, whose picture can be seen in any rectory. They are strongly devoted Marianists too.

But, they have this political problem not of their choosing.

I don't think the underground church is anywhere near as large as people think it is, and frankly from what I can tell most of the 'underground' sympathizers regularly attend Mass in the official church too, so they might be counted twice.

Hong Kong is a part of China, and the government leaves the Catholic church there alone as part of it's 'one nation - two systems' policy. (The government even lets the Falun Gong make public displays and demonstrations in Hong Kong.) Same for Macau.

Bibles are easy to purchase (in fact many Bibles sold in the USA are printed in China). But when I lived there it was very hard to find a Catholic version of the Bible, the church (which owns the translation copyright) lacks sufficient funds to publish, and so many Catholics have to make do with the Union Bible (Protestant).

In spite of all the rhetoric, priests, seminarians and nuns from the 'official' church come to study and work in Roman Catholic dioceses, even in the USA. Catholic immigrants from China are very conservative and devout and are accepted readily.


#10

[quote="Aggies08, post:8, topic:288436"]
Were it me, I'd be asking for a dispensation while traveling/advice on what to do.

[/quote]

Most Catholics visiting from abroad attend the official church. As I stated in another post many of the bishops are actually on good terms with the Pope, and from one city to the next a visitor is not going to know who the local bishop is, much the less whether he is in unimpaired communion.

Seeking out the underground church is dangerous. I hate to say this but it would be a lot like a foreigner in our country making an illegal assembly, one can expect an uncomfortable experience and an ignominious deportation.

When I visited the church in the city I resided in, they had the official [CCPA] priest and also a visiting Roman Catholic priest from South Korea who came weekly. This priest was doing this work to say Mass for the Korean immigrants, and yes, his bishop was a regular Roman Catholic Korean bishop in South Korea under the Pope who made an agreement with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to provide this ministry.

As I mentioned earlier, CCPA seminarians will come to the USA to complete their studies, so do Sisters. Then they go home and minister to the faithful there in the official church. Catholic bishops and institutions all over the world are actually cooperating in this difficult situation, and I believe it must be with the knowledge and approval of the Pope.

The average western layperson is barely aware of this, but that is my take on it.


#11

All very interesting stuff.

Thanks guys for your input. :thumbsup:


#12

[quote="Aggies08, post:8, topic:288436"]
Were it me, I'd be asking for a dispensation while traveling/advice on what to do.

[/quote]

When my son and his wife went to China to get their adopted child, they were told by the priest at their parish to not ask about a Catholic Church while there.

The true Catholic Church is underground in China.


#13

I have also heard of an “Underground Church” in China and even of a possible Cardinal that only the Pope and his inner circle know about.

I’ve said on other threads that I hope I live to see the day this current government in China falls. The world will be a better place for it.


#14

[quote="SonCatcher, post:5, topic:288436"]
China seems to have a forced schism. The government doesn't allow the Vatican to select bishops, instead appointing its own. I am sure they are ordained (presumably validly) by other bishops of the government-approved church.

There also is an underground church that is loyal to the Magesterium.

What would be interesting to know is whether a Catholic tourist would need to try to find one of the underground churches (which would potentially expose them to harm) or the tourist might fulfill the obligation by attending the state-approved church (presumably refraining from Communion since they are in schism) or be excused from the obligation (due to the difficulty in finding a church in Communion with Rome).

[/quote]

I have some experience with this matter, having lived in and frequently visited China. Although the situation in China is "schism-like", I have never seen any Church official or document describe it as a formal "schism". That said, there absolutely are bishops who were appointed by the Chinese government who have not received papal approval and whose communion with the See of Rome is uncertain at best. It is almost impossible for a lay person to determine whether any given bishop is licit and in union with Rome.

First and foremost, if you are visiting China, do not under any circumstances seek out the "underground" Church. The last thing Chinese Catholics need is a foreigner drawing the attention of the authorities. There is no canonical reason you need to attend an "underground" mass, and you will only be putting yourself and, more importantly, our Chinese brethren in danger.

When I last traveled to China, the advice I received from my parish was that I did not need to attend mass at the "official" government (CCPA) church, because of the unknown status of their communion (no dispensation necessary). Attending a church that is illicit may give people (Chinese or foreign) the impression that "regular" Catholics "approve" of their status, are indifferent to it, or that there is no real distinction between a licit and illicit bishop. That said, I was also told that if I wanted I could attend, and ultimately the decision was mine. I did not ask about receiving the Eucharist, since I did not plan to receive anyway (due to the uncertainty mentioned above). My personal advice is, do not receive unless you are sure the bishop is in communion with Rome; but in any case the Eucharist is valid, even if the Bishop is illicit. If you are in danger of death or conscious of a mortal sin, I personally would seek out any Catholic priest, licit or illicit, to hear my confession.

Ultimately, talk to your priest/parish office about it, be respectful of Chinese laws whether you attend a CCPA church or not, and pray for the situation in China.


#15

[quote="rfournier103, post:13, topic:288436"]
I've said on other threads that I hope I live to see the day this current government in China falls. The world will be a better place for it.

[/quote]

That will depend on what comes in its place. In many cases the instability following a regime's demise gives rise to a number of groups trying to fill the void. Many may want change, but there is usually a lot of disagreement on what type of change. On the other hand, foreigners, foreign institutions, and foreign practices are easy scapegoats, so a very conservative, xenophobic political group is often able to gain power. Until stability is regained, reforms favoring Christians are unlikely, even if the government in power supports them.


#16

[quote="rfournier103, post:13, topic:288436"]

I've said on other threads that I hope I live to see the day this current government in China falls. The world will be a better place for it.

[/quote]

I don't think it will fall any faster than the government of the USA or Britain will fall, and I don't wish it either.

Wishing for positive change is more realistic. Wishing for a government to fall is like wishing for chaos and violence and unknown horrors.

Christians have traditionally prayed for their governments, even the early Christians before the liberation from the Edict of Milan prayed for the Roman emperors and the security of the Roman state. This was an important apologetic argument Christians made at the time.


#17

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