The Vatican’s China Syndrome
How long can the Vatican remain silent about the Chinese repression in Hong Kong and about reports of persecution and re-education camps for religious believers in the rest of China? Clearly, the figures in the Roman Curia (primarily Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin) who crafted the still unpublished accord with the Communist government have put themselves in a moral bind. If they speak out, they may jeopardize the agreement (which would not exactly be a tragedy, since it has only led to even more violent, more open acts against Christians in China). If they don’t speak out, they run the still greater risk of being accomplices, conspicuous accomplices, in the repression and potential liquidation of a heroic Catholic people of confessors and martyrs.
It didn’t have to be this way. Just as the Vatican PR machine is able to gin up campaigns to promote Pope Francis’ preoccupations about the environment, immigrants, the death penalty – and now nuclear weapons – it could also have made crimes against Christians, particularly Catholics, far more visible, and an urgent priority for anyone, anywhere in the world who pays attention to the moral leadership of the Church. And not only in China, because persecution of Christians exists in various hotspots around the globe and there are increasingly anti-Christian attacks even in Western nations like France and the United Kingdom, to say nothing of our own country.
Many Catholics were rightly upset when Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Council of the Social Sciences, returning from a trip to China, said, “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.” That was so absurd – considering the religious repression, the environmental damage, the forced abortions, the Orwellian surveillance of their own people – that it doesn’t bear a moment’s thought.