Readers of this blog have seen me refer to myself repeatedly as a badly lapsed Catholic. I was born and raised in the Roman Catholic faith, and although I don't attend mass nearly as often as I should, I have always considered myself a loyal Catholic, and a member of that faith. That is why it hurts so much to leave it. However, as painful as it is to leave the only faith I have had my entire life, leave it I must, and at the risk of losing many friends, I have to ask my fellow anti-Communists in the Catholic faith to join me in the exodus. The continuing minuet between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party has given me no choice.
That the Holy See is looking for a rapprochement with the Communist regime is not news; in fact, it predates the election of Pope Benedict XVI. However, recent developments have made it clear that the Church, and the Pope who leads it, are not only willing to sacrifice the island democracy of Taiwan, but also the well-being of the people of mainland China, including millions of believers who have suffered persecution to resist the Communist-controlled "Patriotic" Church and remain loyal to the Vatican. This I can no longer accept.
Truth be told, I've been considering this move for some time now (last item), ever since I read the story of the "breakthrough" in Shanghai. The Vatican consecrated a "Patriotic" priest as a successor bishop to Aloysius Jin, the Communist Bishop in Shanghai. Worse than that, the Vatican also rejected the request of Bishop Joseph Fan - head of the loyal "underground" Shanghai Church - to have a successor consecrated for him. In effect, the Holy See told the persecuted Shanghai Catholics that it was time to go to the Communist-controlled Shanghai masses. Shanghai isn't alone: "in a journal that reflects Vatican thinking, German Jesuit theologian Father Hans Waldenfels suggested in October that successors to underground bishops would no longer be named by the pope, thereby healing the decades-old split in China's Catholic communities" (Newsweek).
Now, I know a good Christian, even one suffering persecution, should love his persecutors and pray for them. But endorse the persecutors' faith over their own? That one I don't see.
Still, I held back, in part because I wanted to think and pray things through, and in part because of the elevation of Cardinal Joseph Zen. If Pope Benedict was willing to elevate the Bishop of Hong Kong, a longtime champion of human rights and defender of the city's beleaguered freedoms, then perhaps there was hope.
That hope was dashed by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States (i.e., Foreign Minister). Archbishop Lajolo's statement, which was released in such a way as to make clear he was speaking for Benedict XVI, was deeply troubling for two reasons. The first was, of course, Taiwan. The archbishop pledged to "immediately" break off ties with Taiwan if diplomatic relations were established with the Communist regime. Lajolo even went so far as to say that (in the words of United Press Int'l via Washington Times), "the spiritual needs of millions of Chinese Catholics were clearly more urgent than the needs of 300,000 Taiwan Catholics." For any Catholic, but most especially an archbishop, to claim some Catholics are more important than others was a rude shock. Even worse, however, was Lajolo's comments on Cardinal Zen - namely that Benedict XVI elevated him not to speak to the increasing danger in Hong Kong, but rather "to signal his concern and respect for China" (Catholic World News via Church Resources).
However, the straw that broke the camel's back was, ironically, Archbishop Lajolo's attempt to defend Zen's political activism. Lajolo insisted that Cardinal Zen (and these are Lajolo's words) "had not interfered in the legislative activity of the state" (CWN via CR). I couldn't believe my eyes. Cardinal Zen is well-known in Hong Kong for playing a leading role in interfering with the Communist-controlled HK Legislative Council's attempt to pass the hideous "anti-subversion" law in 2003 (sixth item). In fact, said interference was instrumental in fueling the "people power" that pushed the local Communists to shelve the law. Either the Vatican is ignorant of the situation in Hong Kong - and Cardinal Zen's importance there - or it is trying to airbrush recent history.
In any event, Lajolo's comments, the actions regarding Shanghai, and the statements on Taiwan have made it abundantly clear: the Roman Catholic Church is looking to accommodate the Chinese Communist Party, and if the Roman Catholic Church is growing comfortable with the Chinese Communist Party, I am no longer comfortable in the Roman Catholic Church.
The fact that I was a lapsed Catholic will make this withdrawal less powerful; it is the price I pay for my weakness in faith. I also understand that it will be much harder for Catholics reading this to join me in leaving; many of them may not consider me a Catholic in good standing as it is.
However, I must ask them these questions. Does the Lord want his Church to seek a compromise with an entity as evil as the Chinese Communist Party? Does "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" include the endorsement of a "church" the Communist regime used in its war against the faithful? Does the Church honor its martyrs from China's past by trying to find just the right concession to win the imprimatur of the regime that martyred them?
We must all answer these questions with the help of the Lord, and in our own thoughts and prayers, but as for me, I have made my decision. I am, for now, a Christian without denomination. I have left - because I feel I must leave - the Roman Catholic Church, and I hope against hope that I am not the only one.
Cross-posted to the Shotgun