Cardinal Zen’s arrest and the Vatican’s muted, dangerous dance with China

The Chinese now know they can arrest a Prince of the Church, confiscate his passport, and hold him for a few hours’ close questioning, without eliciting the naked ire of the Vatican.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, is pictured in a file phot. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The most striking thing about the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen, SDB, in Hong Kong on Wednesday is the anodyne statement from the Vatican regarding the news. At least, the muted response from Holy See press office director Matteo Bruni was the most striking thing, until the Cardinal-Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, offered what in other circumstances would have been obiter dicta perhaps worthy of mention on a slow news day.

Cardinal Zen is Bishop-emeritus of Hong Kong. His name is well known even to casual consumers of Church news, but may be familiar also to general readers of news in big national and international papers. Zen is an outspoken critic of both the Communist government on the Chinese mainland and of the Holy See’s provisional accord with the China’s repressive totalitarian regime.

National security police took Cardinal Zen in for questioning on Wednesday in Hong Kong, reportedly along with at least three other people with whom he had worked at the defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a charitable outfit that offered financial support for legal defense to democracy advocates on the island. The police released Cardinal Zen and the others later on Wednesday, after several hours’ detention. Authorities confiscated their passports.

Vatican News said the other persons were lawyer Margaret Ng, activist and pop singer Denise Ho, and former academic Hui Po-keung. Police said they were arrested on charges of “collusion with foreign forces.” That is a crime under the far-reaching “national security” legislation the mainland imposed on Hong Kong in 2020, in an effort to quash democracy agitation after the mainland practically abandoned its “one country, two systems” policy and undertook a crackdown on the island that has garnered international condemnation.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest,” Bruni told journalists late Wednesday afternoon, hours after journalists had confirmed the arrest. Bruni said the Holy See “is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention.”

Not even a “not the done thing” from the Third Loggia or any other Vatican quarter. “Extreme attention” is stronger than “some attention” but isn’t quite the expression of alarm or indignation one may reasonably expect under the circumstances. To paraphrase an old Vatican hand with whom I spoke shortly after the statement’s release: One could imagine stronger words from the Holy See were an Italian cardinal denied service in a Roman eatery.

Mind the setting

The backdrop to the arrest is the Holy See’s much-controverted, frequently maligned, and fairly doubtful (even within the walls of Vatican City, albeit quietly so) 2018 accord with the Chinese government, which had the twofold purpose of repairing a decades-long schism that split the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association from Rome and from the Chinese bishops and faithful who remained loyal to Rome. Neither side has published the terms of the deal, but the broad strokes of it are that both the Communist government on the mainland and the pope get a say in the appointment of bishops.

The Chinese like that, and Rome apparently decided it can tolerate that, in exchange for visible – if minimal – Church unity and better treatment of Catholics in China. “Better” raises the question: “Better than what?” It has long been clear that the deal was bad, and fair to surmise that the deal has helped Catholics even less than its architects modestly hoped.

What about now?

On Thursday, Cardinal Parolin was in Croatia to mark the 30th anniversary of that nation’s independence and the 25th anniversary of the Holy See’s official treaties with the country. Speaking in general terms, Parolin said such instruments are “useful for regulating the life of the Church and guaranteeing its independence in the face of the desire to interfere in its organization.”

They certainly can be.

The Vatican News piece that carried the story of Cardinal Parolin’s speech said that the Secretary of State was speaking specifically of the agreement with China when he offered the following: “The important thing is not the concordat but the concord,” because the value of agreements lies “in promoting harmony and coexistence in today’s societies.” Vatican News notes that Parolin was quoting Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, Secretary of State from 1979 until 1991 and the architect of Pope St. Paul VI’s so-called Ostpolitik (basically the Vatican’s version of détente).

[Don’t] rock the boat

Unless the Cardinal Secretary of State is completely checked out, he read the line on purpose. Assuming he isn’t checked out, there are two possible reads: the Vatican is willing to let this play out and won’t make too much fuss because they don’t want to rock the boat; or, Cardinal Parolin is recalling his Chinese counterparts to the spirit of their little arrangement – gently, so as not to rock the boat.

One may be forgiven for thinking of Cardinal Parolin muttering, à la Lando Calrissian, “This deal is getting worse all the time.” It is harder to imagine him turning on his erstwhile imperial partners – and that is something of a problem.

How much is too much? The Chinese now know they can arrest a Prince of the Church, confiscate his passport, and hold him for a few hours’ close questioning, without eliciting the naked ire of the Vatican.

Also on Thursday, the Diocese of Hong Kong issued a statement saying that they are “extremely concerned about the condition and safety of Cardinal Joseph Zen,” adding that the faithful there are “offering our special prayers for him.”

“We have always upheld the rule of law,” the statement continues. “We trust that in the future we will continue enjoying religious freedom,” and “urge the Hong Kong Police and the judicial authorities to handle Cardinal Zen’s case in accordance with justice, taking into consideration our concrete human situation.”

The statement closes with a quotation – antiphonal, one supposes – from the 22nd (23rd) Psalm: “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” The clear implication is that Cardinal Zen and Chinese Catholics are walking through the valley of death. A more subtle implication may be that the faithful there aren’t even looking to Parolin or anyone else in Rome for protection.

Bad blood

Of late, press outfits sympathetic to the pro-Beijing regime in Hong Kong have pilloried Zen, who has also criticized the Vatican for its management of the China business. There’s no love lost between Cardinals Zen and Parolin, either. In 2018, Zen called Parolin a liar and accused him of acting in bad faith when it comes to the China business,

The details of that extraordinary exchange are pertinent, quite apart from the salacious imagery of two Princes of the Church embroiled in a knock-down, drag-out.

Cardinal Parolin gave a speech in Milan, in which he said – among other things – that Pope Benedict XVI had approved “the draft agreement on the appointment of bishops in China.” Cardinal Zen wasn’t buying it. “Parolin knows he himself is lying,” Zen wrote. “He [Parolin] knows that I know he is a liar. He knows that I will tell everyone that he is a liar. He is not just shameless but also daring.”

“What will he not dare to do now?” Cardinal Zen wondered. “I think he is not even afraid of his conscience.”

Those were some of the quotable quotes from the epistolary defiance. The real meat was in Cardinal Zen’s response to the insult he perceived Parolin to have given to Churchmen who were heroes of the faith in the 20th century under Communism. “[W]hen you look for bishops, you don’t look for ‘gladiators,’ who systematically oppose the government and who like to show themselves off on the political stage,” Zen quoted Parolin as having said in another speech celebrating, you guessed it, the aforementioned Cardinal Casaroli.

“I wrote to him,” Cardinal Zen continued, “asking if he intended to describe Cardinal Wyszynski, Cardinal Mindszenty and Cardinal Beran.” Zen said Parolin “replied without denying,” offering only that, “if I was displeased with his speech, he apologized.”

Cardinal Zen also went a round in the press with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re in 2020 over the same broad questions. So, if this is a game of “good cop, bad cop” then it is fair to say Zen has been happy to play the bad cop. Cardinal Pietro Parolin would be the good cop. Only, what happens when the players are too far gone in their roles?

That’s one question this affair raises.

History is teacher

To put this business in context, it is worth recalling the lives of two great 20th–century heroes of the faith, who were also victims of Communist prevarication. One of them was among those Cardinal Zen invoked in his brave letter to Cardinal Parolin.

Cardinal Józef Mindszenty was Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Primate of Hungary when he was arrested on charges of treason, tried in a Communist kangaroo court, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison on February 8th, 1949. In an editorial, l’Osservatore Romano declared Mindszenty “morally and civilly innocent,” and deplored the travesty of justice he received. “Cardinal Mindszenty,” l’Osservatore opined, “acted as a man, as a citizen, as a Bishop, and as a Prince of the Church in such manner that Catholics and free men can look to him without blushing.”

Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận had been coadjutor of Saigon for less than a week when the South Vietnamese capital fell to Communist forces in 1975. His reputation for steadfast faith and his family ties to South Vietnam’s slain first president, Ngô Đình Diệm, made him a person of interest to the Communists, who arrested him and sent him to a re-education camp. He spent more than a dozen years in captivity – without trial – nine of which he spent in solitary confinement. Vietnam released then-Bishop Văn Thuận in 1988, and he made his way to Rome in 1991. He served in various posts while retaining his title as Coadjutor of Saigon (by then renamed Ho Chi Minh City) and eventually became the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

He received the red hat in 2001, and died of cancer in September of the next year.

When Cardinal Nguyen died, Pope St. John Paul II eulogized him as an “heroic herald of Christ’s Gospel” and “a shining example of Christian loyalty to the point of martyrdom.” Nguyen is on the path to sainthood now, and Pope Francis celebrated him as a “son of the East” in 2013 remarks to some 500 people who attended a Vatican ceremony to mark the closing of the diocesan – local – phase of his cause for canonization. That phrasing was part of a delicate diplomatic balancing act, seeking to maintain and strengthen relations with Vietnam’s Communist government in Hanoi while also giving God, His people in Vietnam, and a great 20th century hero of the faith their due.

If anything, the China business is more delicate, with higher stakes and more unwieldy freight.

On the mainland

Cardinal Zen’s arrest was not a terrible surprise as he has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government for years. Cardinal Zen’s parrhesia toward the Chinese Communist leadership has not gone unnoticed. While it is too much to say that his arrest was inevitable, it nevertheless shouldn’t be cause for amazement. Still, Zen’s arrest is “complicated politics for the mainland,” according to Whitworth University sinologist Anthony Clark, who talked briefly with me on Wednesday.

One can see why.

Even if the Vatican doesn’t make a fuss, it isn’t a great look for the Communist overlords on the mainland, who would like to maintain even a gossamer veneer of plausibility for their “nothing to see here” attitude toward Hong Kong. On the other hand, there is no dearth of indications they don’t care what outsiders think.

Clark also said that asking the Vatican “to come down hard” was always going to be a tough sell, but the practical non-response is jarring all the same.

The long game

The Vatican is playing the long game in China. So are the Chinese. It is difficult not to read Cardinal Zen’s arrest as a probing jab in the early rounds of a prize fight. Letting loose with a reactive haymaker is never good tactical boxing, even if it lands. Neither is letting one’s adversary put one back on one’s heels. If that happens, be assured a better-timed haymaker is coming from the other guy. The thing is to jab back and make it sting just a little, if possible, to let the other guy know you’re there.

I’ve compared the Vatican’s conduct of its relationship with China’s mainland Communist government to a dance, with the twofold question being: “Where does the Vatican want to be when the music stops, and where is the Vatican’s conduct likely to put the Church in China when the music finally does cease?” Boxing is a kind of dance, though, so the metaphor fits. The problem may appear on this reading to be that the Vatican is behaving as though it is in a very different kind of passo a due with the Chinese, than it really is.

Whether a bad deal is better than no deal is always a tough question.

If there was a time to let frustration be known, in other words, there’s a strong case to be made for it having been the day of Cardinal Zen’s arrest. Cardinal Parolin passed.

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About Christopher R. Altieri 190 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, editor and author of three books, including Reading the News Without Losing Your Faith (Catholic Truth Society, 2021). He is contributing editor to Catholic World Report.


  1. Parolin and Francis betrayed Cardinal Zen for thirty pieces of silver. There is no other explanation for their silence.

  2. Where was all this ‘down with the state fir attacking the church ‘type of effort for Cardinal Pell v Australia and the preparations undertaken by the NSW police to secure a charge against him?

  3. “The Chinese now know that they can arrest a Prince of the Church, confiscate his passport, and hold him for a few hours’ close questioning, without eliciting the naked ire of the Vatican.”

    That, really, is all that need be said, but one question remains – “the naked ire of the Vatican” – what does that mean?

    Bullies like the Chinese and the Russians are like all bullies – they understand 2 things – 1) Force, and 2) The willingness to use it. In this case – they have measured their opponents and know that they will NOT stand to protect those whom they wish to bully.

    This will happen again.

  4. What is the Vatican supposed to do about it? Really, the response to this episode seems overly dramatic. I hope Cardinal Zen escapes. Maybe the Vatican can hire mercenaries to extract him in secret. If His Excellency chooses to stay with his people, then at least it can be said the Vatican responded in a sufficiently Hollywood manner for its offended critics to be satisfied. There are also millions of other suffering Chinese Christians and yet-to-be Christians. All images of God, all Peter’s lambs. How would it look if the Vatican seemed to favor (in vain) its own short-term political position over all those other poor people? As there are no Catholic superpowers to act as leverage against the Maoist state, and as far worse governments have been known to become Christianized in the long run, perhaps it is best to maintain constructive diplomatic ties with an ancient powerful state possessing a clear destiny. If Cardinal Zen were a strong advocate for Chinese unity instead of Hong Kong independence, I would be skeptical of any claim that he would be treated similarly by the Maoists solely for his Christian faith. This is a strictly political move by Beijing, and the Vatican ought not allow it to be popularly regarded in error as a religious dispute, nor allow any conflation of its long-term religious interests in China with any transient local political movement. Moreover, if the real issue is one of federal organization or freedom of speech and religion or due process, and other such liberal policy concerns, then it’s certainly not toward 109 acres of elderly clerics that activists ought to be sending their appeals for help, but to the negligent British Parliament that still has responsibilities (yet no Empire), or perhaps even Washington, should another pro-Russian/anti-Beijing administration be elected in the next several years. Anyone can see, based on the unlikelihood of such assistance, that perhaps Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other anti-Beijing forces in China ought to look to their own defenses at this juncture.

    • So the Vatican’s “long term interests” are to continuously praise a government for continuously persecuting Catholics for being Catholic while telling the persecuted Catholics to shut up and accept it?

  5. It doesnt appear to me that JP2 was afraid to confront Communism in Poland. An extreme political change in Eastern Europe was the result. Too many feel as though the church has abandoned them. There is a lack of leadership on even the smallest matter, and capitulation to secular govt demands, whether this involves arresting clergy for political reasons ( Pell, Zen) or forcing church closings as in the US and around the world for supposed covid issues. The Canadians have been arresting and JAILING their Protestant pastors of late. No, the Vatican has no military, but they do have quite a pulpit to reach multi-millions of Catholics with the truth. That assumes they are not too fearful to use it.

  6. While Communist China Expands Its Threat To The Globe, DC Is Still Acting Like It’s 1991, by Christian Whiton.

    May 13, 2022

    The article begins:

    Can you imagine living in mortal fear of a 90-year-old man who preaches peace and love? If so, you know what it is like to be a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party. On Wednesday, communist authorities in Hong Kong arrested Cardinal Joseph Zen on a phony “national security” charge.

    Zen’s immediate offense was his alleged involvement in a dissolved fund to defend those harmed by the ruthless crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. His real crime is his unwillingness to overlook Beijing’s broken promises about establishing democracy with universal suffrage in Hong Kong—a promise it made to get the former colony back from the gullible British.

  7. How do we know that the Vatican did not raise the matter with China? Most likely, it did, and rather discreetly. Perhaps, this might be the reason for his early release.
    Unlike Cardinal Pell, Cardinal Zen was not hounded and arrested because of his Catholic faith; it was his involvement in the politics of the country. Though I must say that he was responding as a true patriot.
    It is sad that this is being used as a weapon to bash the Vatican and/or Pope Francis.

    • Yes, we can safely dismiss the ridiculous notion that a militantly atheistic regime that has been murdering and persecuting Christians from its inception arrested Zen because of his faith. People do cook up the most outlandish conspiracy theories!

  8. This is one of many embarassments by this Vatican administration. It will be another marker in the downfall of the Catholic Church as we know the cowardice of this pope. The martyrs must be tearful of these traitors.

  9. Dod God show his “naked ire” when we put his Son to death on a cross?

    Matthew 5:10-12
    “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

    I would never expect the Vatican to take a stance that would put more Chinese Catholics at harm.

    • “I would never expect the Vatican to take a stance that would put more Chinese Catholics at harm.”

      I know sinologists who believe the Vatican has already done that because of its pact with China.

      “Ire” is anger; there is a place for righteous anger. Being angry about an innocent Cardinal being arrested and treated as he has been is an occasion for righteous anger.

      • Agree!

        And why hasn’t the Pope Francis and the Vatican been pressured to disclose the amount of money the Chinese paid to seal its deal with Rome? Like by any American Bishop with the courage to do so?

        • What makes you say that money was the prime focus of this deal?
          Two points we need to consider here. According to ucanews “The Vatican stretched its systems beyond limits to have the historic pact, which reportedly agrees that the state-controlled church grooms and handpicks new bishop nominees but appoints them only if the Vatican approves.” There are a few dioceses in need of Bishops and the Vatican would like more Bishops which, according to the agreement must be approved by the Vatican. The report goes on to say: “Relations have improved considerably between the two since 2018 after the Chinese government recognized some of the bishops of the underground church and began appointing new bishops in consultation with the Vatican. Neither the Vatican nor China has appointed any bishop independently in the past three years.” This is good news.
          The second point concerns Taiwan. While all the big powerful capitalist nations have ditched Taiwan, only the Vatican and a few non-European countries still recognize that island nation. With this deal the Vatican did not establish diplomatic relations with China (as China might have desired) but continued to have the same with Taiwan. “The Vatican is Taiwan’s only remaining diplomatic partner in Europe, giving it vital access and influence. Despite not being a member of the EU, the Vatican is integrated with the pan-European trade bloc politically and culturally. Bereft of formal recognition from other nations, Taiwan would be left with little diplomatic ammunition and options to generate external resistance to take on the China narrative that “reunification is an internal matter.”
          So, you see the non-political but rather pastoral deal was really a gain for the Catholics in China and for the citizens of Taiwan.

          • Neither the Vatican nor China has appointed any bishop independently in the past three years.” This is good news.
            Have you lost your mind? It is “good news” for the Vatican to be subordinate to the demands of an atheistic government? And calling it “pastoral” no less.
            The cut and paste job you perform from a source that doesn’t understand Catholicism let alone Catholic tradition that would absurdly describe Francis as traditional, an association for which he has expressed hatred continuously, might refer to “improved relations” between China and the Vatican, but that is because the Vatican has decided to turn a blind eye to the persecution of Catholics in China thanks to the billions China has poured into the Vatican’s pockets now that Catholics are increasingly refusing to support this corrupt pontificate.
            Your source’s comments about Taiwan are silly. The Vatican’s “influence” on their fate is non-existent.

    • I am with you on this, Aaron. Though some sinologists have criticized the Vatican over the agreement, the truth is that they have not been privy to the negotiations that were held over a period of some years. And some of these critics, Aaron, have not taken into account the power of prayer and the Mary’s protection (the Holy Father placed the Chinese Catholics under the protection of our Lady). This might explain why the Catholics have done better than the Muslim Uighurs and the Falun Gong.
      The Vatican might make mistakes but it will never intentionally take a stance that would put more Chinese Catholics at harm.
      BTW, Cardinal Zen was not arrested for his Catholic beliefs, but for his involvement in the politics of the country. And, not long after, he was released.

  10. I posted this comment to a CNA story on the arrest posted at CWR earlier this week. Given the comments coming from the Vatican since then, it appears that it was more prescient than parody. The Francis papacy reaches new lows every week.

    My sources tell me that Parolin will be issuing a follow-up statement to the effect that Francis and he hope that the charges against Zen prove false, but that the legal process must be allowed to play itself out. He will also add that they respect and have full confidence in the Hong Kong justice system. They will withhold further comment until the facts are known. Finally, the Cardinal will express his fervent wish that this unfortunate incident l not disrupt the many ongoing Vatican-CCP initiatives that have yielded so much good fruit over the last nine years.

  11. China Vatican relations are beyond Byzantine. Few can really offer a coherent assessment of the Vatican’s policy. Its objective, prudent survival or capricious capitulation? Altieri offers possibilities, the long game the one in the interests of both the Vatican and China. That requires severe compromise by the Vatican simply to exist. Cardinal Zen disagrees, his belief with wide support among Catholics is apparently the correct one. No compromise be true to the faith.
    Perhaps, ironocally Cardinal Zen’s recent arrest, his outspoken criticism of Chinese communism and Vatican policy isolating him once again facing imprisonment, is likely the finest, most powerful witness to Christ that will encourage the faith of the oppressed Church in China as well as Catholics abroad. The saints always fought against the turpid tide.

    • Fr. Peter, Cardinal Zen was not arrested for questioning because of his Catholic faith. I believe it was due to his involvement in the politics of the country.

        • There is no doubt that they did know that he was a Cardinal, but why should that stop the cops from doing what they consider to be their duty? They probably treated him with respect. At least, I hope they did.

      • Pitiful stuff Mal in your three comments and, as usual from you, and over-weaning desire to exculpate the Vatican in all instances. Imagine giving the Chinese Communist Government the benefit of the doubt !

        • Well mate, I do not trust any Marxist regime. In fact, I pray for the citizens to be freed from these ruthless, atheistic dictators. But, in this instance, I merely pointed out the facts.

  12. For over thirty-five years. I have carried a small yellow book, the “Thoughts of Jesus Christ”. It was issued by the Catholic Truth Society London in 1972 to combat Mao’s Little Red Book (Older readers will remember it) it presents no shallow fashionable image of him. It expresses his unique authority his clear ethic and the good news of the kingdom, as it reveals Him God-man, the risen Lord, whose message is truly radial because it is supernatural…

    “Jesus Christ thought is the only message for an era in which human beings find themselves alone and purposeless”… The only information given is a direction under different headings with Gospel references. The simplicity of the book with minimal information impels the reader to contemplate the words of Jesus Christ in different life situations, this can be and is illuminating and encourages further study and spiritual growth, the onward transformation of the human heart…

    Quote “It is the most powerful ideological weapon for opposing oppression, misery, and inhumanity. Jesus Christ’s thought is the guiding principle for all of those who would follow him to perfect manhood. Therefore, the most fundamental task in our social political, and ideological work is at all times to hold high the sign of the Cross, to arm the minds of the people throughout the world with it and PERSISTLY use it to command every field of activity”…

    The cover has long gone, like much of my old self, the remaining pages are yellowing and torn, some words can no longer be read but it is of no importance as there is no vacuum in my heart, as to some degree His Word now lives.

    To anyone who may consider reading The Little Yellow Book *(if you can obtain one) note it is a tool for contemplation, as it contains the ‘living’, Word of God which is supernatural and radial, it cannot be misunderstood by anyone approaching his Word (Will) with honesty, it’s beauty (Truth) cannot help but inspire integrity, no matter of what religion, race, creed, state of being you are or belong to.

    Whatever happened to the little yellow book?

    But more importantly, whatever happened to our God-given ideals once propagated by the Church.

    Note * I contacted The Catholic Truth Society, via e-mail about three years ago, asking for the price, for a rerun of the book, (if it was out of print). They said my e-mail would be forwarded to another department, and that they would get back to me, but they never did
    kevin your brother
    In Christ.

  13. When I first heard of Guo Wengui’s allegations that the CCP is shoveling money to the Vatican, I thought they were far-fetched. Now I would be very surprised if they are not true. At any rate, even without the financial incentives, there is a definite pro-Communist bias at the Francis Vatican. They would be sympathetic to the evil regime as a matter of principle.

    • 100% true.

      Marxist in sexual ideology, Marxist in political ideology.

      As Damian Thompson observed: Pontiff Francis “has no enemies on the left.

      • Whoever this David Thompson is, he is wrong. Neither the right, nor the left, like Pope Francis. I give an extensive quote from The American Thinker. “The Pope is a traditional Catholic. Since the MSM has not been covering much of what Pope Francis has been saying lately, here is what many people may have missed.
        At a May 20 general audience he told those present that parents are responsible for educating their children; that they must take back their role from the “so-called ‘experts’ …[who] have assumed the role of parents in even the most intimate aspects of education.” He also stated some months ago that it is okay for parents to spank unruly and misbehaving children.

        In April Pope Francis strongly criticized “gender theory” saying it “aims to erase sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”
        In a speech in March to the diplomatic corps in Manila, he spoke out against same-sex marriage saying that traditional families are under attack “thanks to the spread of an individualistic and self-centered culture which severs human bonds and leads to a dramatic fall in birth rates, as well as legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole.”
        Regarding economics, in a January interview in the Italian journal La Stampa, Francis — yet again — clarified his views on capitalism, saying, “When money, instead of man, is at the center of the system, when money becomes an idol, men and women are reduced to simple instruments of a social and economic system.” He added that “We need ethics in the economy, and we also need ethics in politics.”

  14. In 2007 Pope Benedict called for three events in China, (1) harmonization between members of the underground element and party-controlled elements of the Church, (2) explicit recognition of the papacy by bishops of the party-controlled element, and (3) recognition by China that the Church is a unique institution with its own constitution and not a tool of Western (or any) political powers (“Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China,” May 27, 2007).

    In this instance, and in so many others where Popes John Paul II and Benedict articulated with needed clarity the message of the Church as it exists and works in the World, Pope Francis seems to then move the goal post. While still calling his fluidity consistent with the former papacies. (Just as Batzing insists, also, that “synodal way” infidelities are not a departure from the Church.)

    The most obvious incongruities or questions include: (1) the 2007 Letter (above, versus the “provisional” China Agreement), (2) Familiaris Consortio and the dubia (versus Amoris Laetitia, ch. 8 and fn. 351), (3) Veritatis Splendor (versus accommodation with Fr. James Martin’s homosexual subculture), (4) Fides et Ratio (versus an apparent split between dogma and the natural law, and practices), (5) Lumen Gentium which posits a “hierarchical communion” (versus a needed culture of service, but as a fully “inverted pyramid”) and (6) with synodality, as an “endless journey,” the urgency of leavening the world—but blended with the provisional nature (?) of even the living Tradition and the Magisterium?

    Credit for progress on Vatican finances (!), but what exactly is the “new paradigm?” Of Ostpolitik with China, we might recall the courage of Fr. Werenfried van Straaten (founder of Aid to the Church in Need) who remarked of the earlier Soviet version: “no peace without justice, and no justice without truth.”

    Unprecedented and impossible times, these. How to fully support Pope Francis and his overall affirmation of Divine Mercy, but without exaggeration and without discounting the companion message of Faith still united with Reason?

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