Friday, November 19, 2010

Catholic freedom in China

A major issue for Catholics in China is freedom. The communist government first introduced by Mao Zedong does not allow Catholics freedom to worship, but only the illusion of such. Loyalty to the Pope is forbidden and high ranking officials have been imprisonned. Others have been martyred, such as Fr. Beda Chang, from the Society of Jesus.

Of course, the government of China wishes to maintain an image of freedom by offering its own version of Catholic Churches. These churches are forbidden from recognizing the Supreme Pontiff of the Church and must follow rules set out by the government. Many priests have been forced to take menial jobs to support themselves.

This all started in the late 1940s when Mao came to power and forcibly introduced communism. During this violent and tumultuous time, Mao went after religious institutions including the Church. One very disturbing video I saw showed Chinese government agents destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary and replacing it with Mao's official portrait.

People even today in China bow before statues of Mao. He replaced religions with worship of him, a most distasteful practice. Mao specifically targetted Christians more than Buddhists because he wanted to demonstrate that Christians were less welcome because they came from outside, even though the Church has a relationship with China going back to the 8th century.

China established its own imitation Catholic Church called the Chinese Patriotic Church. On the surface, it appears quite similar, however there are differences. The Church was founded in 1949 and does not accept theological development made by the Church after that date.

It does however accept the revised version of the Catechism and the Code of Canon Law. Also, some have reported that the Pope is prayed for by name, which is a positive sign.

There is however an underground Church, which completely follows the pope. It is illegal and those caught can be prosecuted. When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, he had named a cardinal in secret, it had not been publically released and is referred to as "in pectore" (close to the chest). I believe only that cardinal knew. However, upon the death of the pope, the name will remain hidden. Many have speculated that the named cardinal could have been from China, given the lack of religious freedom.

China must allow freedom of religion if it is to advance as a modern nation. People are innately born with freedom and this includes freedom of worship.

No comments:

Post a Comment