Questions about the Church in China

A week or so ago there were two news blurbs in our local Catholic newspaper- one about valid, but illicit ordinations in the SSPX and one about valid, but illicit ordinations in the Patriotic Association (the puppet church of Communist China). The two articles were almost exactly the same, but the tone of the latter seemed slightly more sympathetic.

I never had any idea that the Patriotic Association actually had real priest who could celebrate Mass. So, I looked into it some and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • There is an underground Church in China. The identities of the Priests and Bishops are kept secret because being a Catholic can get you fined, jailed, tortured, or even killed.

-There is the Patriotic Association. This is a “church” setup by the Communist rulers in China. As such it supports the positions of those rulers including the “one child policy” and forced abortions. What I never knew before is that the Priests in this “church” are actual priests. The Communists select candidates for Bishops, and in some cases send them to Rome for approval- which Rome has given in the past. The reason for the latests article I read is that the Communists ordained a Bishop without getting approval from Rome prior to doing so.

This boggles my mind a good bit. Why in the world is the Church approving of anyone who would be part of a “church” run by Communists- when the Church has taught clearly that mandatory communism is evil and can not be cooperated with?

There was a followup in our newest issue of the local Catholic paper. The Vatican praised members of the Patriotic Association who refused participate in the illict ordination…UNTIL PRESSURED TO DO SO, and THEN DID PARTICIPATE. Again, why are we praising people are complicit in the evils of communism? The actual underground Priests and Bishops are under a great deal of pressure as well and are actually going to prison and being tortured instead of caving in.

I’m also confused about what a Catholic from elsewhere should do when going to China. My wife says that outsiders are not supposed to even look for the underground church as this would pose a risk of “outing” them and place them in grave danger. On the other hand, the Patriotic Assocation would appear to me to clearly be evil. Does the Church advise Catholics to attend these Masses?

Again, I am new to this, so if I am getting any facts wrong, please correct me. I knew there was a puppet Church in China, but until the last few weeks I never had any idea that the puppet church was intertwined with the true Church in such a manner.

No - the Church appointed some bishops. The Communists, to save face, claimed that the bishops were appointed by them. The Church remained silent. Those clergymen are bishops in good standing. Also in good standing are those who regularized their statuses with the Vatican, making it clear that Rome was giving them the pallium. And also those who are underground. Those clergy are all either no members of the CPCA, are only nominally so, or simply are forbidden by the government to leave it.

As for the Binzhang case, the bishops were coerced into ordaining that man - practically at gunpoint. One question, though - if you force a bishop to ordain someone at gunpoint, is that ordination valid?

Thank you. I’ll have to do some more reading. I’m still not sure how one can be “nominally” a member of a group who espouses things the Church teaches are evil such as communism and abortion. A bishop or a priest is not a nominal member of a church- they are its leaders.

I also can appreciate that people are being intimitaded and threatened. But, I still wouldn’t go so far as to issue statements praising people who ultimately give in to the intimidation and threats.

Basically, it amounts to the government saying that all aboveground clergy automatically belong to the CPCA, in the same way that in East Germany, all the workers automatically belonged to the government trade union.

I was told that if you are in China and you are in the company of at least two priests, the worst question to ask was where do their loyalties lie, to the Vatican or to the state. Because one priest could be one who is in communion with Rome, and the other could be a spy for the government. Even amongst themselves they do not even discuss it.

Very interesting question. I think it depends on the intent, and that is something that is difficult to determine. IOW, if the ordaining bishop were to specifically withhold the intent to confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the ordination would not be valid, irrespective of whether or not the ritual were correctly followed. And when a bishop is forced to ordain (practically, if not literally, at gunpoint) it’s almost impossible to determine intent, unless the bishop leaves a secret missive in his own hand.

In its way, it’s similar to the Eucharist: one of the four conditions for valid Eucharist is intent, meaning that the priest must intend to do what the Church intends. Lack of intent is always the difficult difficult to prove.

Just my unsolicited :twocents:

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