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China’s War on Catholic Priests

July 27, 2012

Nina Shea at National Review reports on the Chinese government placing Catholic priests under house arrest:

As widely reported, Catholic Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin has not been publicly seen since July 7, the day he was ordained auxiliary bishop of Shanghai and the day when he dissented from state religious policy. Catholic sources report that the 44-year-old Bishop Ma is now being detained under a form of house arrest, cynically described as a “retreat” by state religious authorities.

At his ordination mass two weeks ago, Bishop Ma avoided the imposition of hands by a bishop unapproved by the Vatican and publicly announced his resignation from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPA), an oversight body established by the state to register and regulate all Catholic worship, teaching, and practice within the country. He quit the CPA, he declared, because it was an obstacle to his leadership within the Catholic Church. According to a transcript, toward the ceremony’s close, invoking the words of the Jesuit St. Ignatius, he said:

In this present moment, in this place, we have to choose a way that will serve God with greater glory. . . . In the light of the teaching of Our Mother Church, as I now serve as a bishop, I should focus on the pastoral work and evangelization. It is inconvenient for me to take on certain responsibilities. Therefore, from this day of consecration, I will no longer be convenient to be a member of the Patriotic Association.

To openly renounce the CPA is rarely heard of these days. It prompted an emotional response. The Catholic Asia News reported that this declaration brought prolonged applause and tears among many in attendance, which included over 40 Chinese priests and bishops.

It also brought state reprisals. Father Bernardo Cervellera, a veteran journalist for the Catholic press, reports that the state is now retaliating against Bishop Ma: “The Religious Affairs Bureau [of the Chinese government] did not like this perfectly aimed blow and has confined him to house arrest in the Sheshan seminary, for a forced period of ‘rest.’”

Bishop Ma is courageous. By boldly renouncing the CPA regime, he witnesses and glorifies God as the sole judge. If truth does exist (and I’m asking rhetorically) then one needs to stand up for it, even risking imprisonment. Bishop Ma echoes the actions of Socrates, Jesus Christ and the saints.

Today’s responsorial in Mass was Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall not want.” How appropriate at this time (at all times). The Chinese government fails to realize that physically detaining a Christian behind closed doors means nothing–his soul remains free and with God. To clarify, the Chinese government are materialists, thinking only of matter and controlling it with earth bound power, which at the end, is useless and futile. They should get a clue from history that Catholics in Poland flourished amidst Nazi and later, Communist occupation. In God’s time, perhaps China’s human rights violation on religious freedom will crumble just like the Berlin Wall (a material object made by human hands).

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