Pope Francis caves in to the Catholic Church’s old enemies
Illustration: Eric Lobbecke
“Is the Pope Catholic?” used to be a rhetorical question. The Vatican’s new deal with the Chinese Communist Party makes the irony seem quaint. As the free world grapples with the communist-Islamist threat, Pope Francis is finalising a deal that could legitimise the most genocidal ideology in modern history. It elevates the CCP as a religious authority over millions of Chinese. It violates core Christian principles that sustain the free world. It renders millions of Chinese vulnerable to state persecution.
In March, the Vatican will recognise the Communist Party as a spiritual authority with the power to appoint bishops. The idea is controversial, as The Australian has been reporting over the past few weeks. The accord will reverse decades of Vatican resistance to communism. It will give the Chinese state power over church leadership.
Communists are thrilled by the prospect. For years, they tried to eradicate Christianity in China. Like their Bolshevik comrades, they persecuted Christians, killed priests, destroyed churches and made political prisoners of resisters. When they failed to kill God, the red state tried to make Christ communist. They constructed a parallel system of religion with church leaders appointed by the CCP and bibles rewritten to align with communist ideology. In diplomatic terms, it is Christianity with Chinese characteristics. In truth, it is communism.
For many years, the CCP has been frustrated by Catholics who refuse to worship the gods of the red state: Marx, Lenin and Mao. Underground churches have developed in Christians’ homes where Catholics defend the vital separation of church and state by resisting the communist bible and its politically correct, false Christ. Many believe these Christians, loyal to Christ’s secular teaching, are being led like lambs to the slaughter by the Vatican’s deal with the communist state.
In the Global Times, party loyalists gloated about the Pope’s “substantial concessions” to the communist regime. They are spinning it as a pragmatic deal. From a certain vantage point, it is. There are reportedly about 10 million Catholics in China. Pew Research estimated that by 2030, China’s Christian population of 70 million would grow to between 250 million and 300 million. If the forecasts prove accurate, China will soon overtake the US as the most populous Christian country.
The CCP responded to news of a coming Christian renaissance with characteristic good humour; party official Ye Xiaowen rejected it as unscientific. Yet the party is rattled. It is desperate to revive belief in the dead faith of communism by cracking down on spiritual rivals.
President Xi Jinping has instructed CCP cadres to be “unyielding Marxist atheists”. The Global Times reported Wang Zuoan, director of the state administration for religious affairs, warning CCP cadres to be “firm Marxist atheists, obey party rules and stick to the party’s faith”.
Last year, Breitbart reported that the chief of the CCP’s Organisation Department, Chen Xi, had criticised party members for sympathising with “Western concepts” such as secularism and religion. He emphasised that the separation of powers was a serious threat to communism.
The CCP’s totalitarian nature is revealed by its treatment of Christianity. If Pope Francis recognises the tyrannical regime as legitimate, it will surrender Catholic spiritual authority to communism. It will be a realisation of Hegel’s totalitarian dictum: “the state is God on earth”. By contrast, Christ’s teaching provides for the limited state, which is a bulwark against totalitarianism. On the separation of church and state, Christ said: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s: and to God, the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
The announcement of the Vatican deal coincides unhappily with a fresh CCP crackdown on private religious worship. In an impassioned article for The Federalist, Chinese emigree Helen Raleigh recounted the Communist Party’s brutal persecution of Christians. She contrasted Pope Francis’s appeasement to Pope John Paul II, who worked with world leaders to defeat communism.
Raleigh wrote that Pope Francis “is willing to capitulate to oppressive authoritarian regimes like Cuba and China in the name of ‘openness’ ”.
The most publicised opposition to the coming Vatican-communist accord was issued by Chinese cardinal Joseph Zen. He warned the pact was a blessing for a communist-ruled church. Its true effect will be to validate a corrupt system of state-governed religion and empower the persecution of Christians in underground churches who reject it. He believes the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China.
Pope Francis, long rumoured to be a darling of the socialist cause, is closely associated with men schooled in liberation theology. In general terms, liberation theology combines revolutionary socialism with selected Christian teachings on poverty. South American priests led the ideological charge by joining Marxist revolutionary movements and appropriating Christ for the cause. It was denounced by the Vatican in the 1980s. Liberation theologians reportedly have contributed to controversial papal policies in favour of porous borders and global governance of the environment.
Concerns about growing Marxist influence on Vatican thought mounted earlier this month after Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, head of the Pontifical Academy of Social Science, said China was the best example of a Catholic society.
Sorondo said the communist state had a “positive national conscience” and praised it for “best implementing the social doctrine of the church”.
The Pope smiled as Bolivia’s socialist President Evo Morales gave him a communist cross featuring Jesus nailed to the hammer and sickle. As young Jesuit priest Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Pope was attacked for defending Christian doctrine against socialist radicals. He has come a long way. The goal of liberation theology and revolutionary socialism is transforming the established order towards Marxist society. The goal of Jesus’ teaching is the “greatest and the first commandment” that “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind” (Matthew 22:36-38). The alpha and omega of Christianity is God, not Marx.
Paul Jeandel, a Christian priest and POW in communist camps, recalled the worst punishment captors inflicted was forced conversion to politically correct ideology. He said of communist thought reform: “The worst wasn’t to die, but to see one’s soul change.”
If the Vatican cedes spiritual authority to the Chinese Communist Party, we will no longer ask is the Pope Catholic but is the Vatican Christian. Neither question will be rhetorical.