China’s “underground” Catholic Church has faced increasing persecution since the signing of the Sino-Vatican agreement in September 2018, writes China expert Steven W. Mosher in an August 5 op-ed.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) entered into the deal with the Vatican regarding the naming of Catholic bishops in the country in order to convince Pope Francis to legitimize the eight bishops that the Holy See had previously excommunicated, writes Mosher, author of a number of books including the bestselling Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream Is the New Threat to World Order.
The CCP “also intended for the agreement itself to serve as a tool to be used to force bishops and clergy in the underground Church to join the Patriotic Association; and also, it has now become clear, as ‘cover’ for an intensifying persecution of the Catholic Church as a whole,” Mosher asserts in his article for the National Catholic Register.
The Sino-Vatican agreement “has enabled the CCP to cloak its persecution of the underground Church by intimating that it has been at least tacitly approved by the Vatican,” Mosher states.
As Breitbart News reported last November, a growing number of the Chinese Catholic faithful have criticized the Vatican’s deal with the CCP, insisting that it has emboldened officials in their persecution of Christians.
The accord has galvanized Communist authorities in China in their war on the Catholic Church, allowing them to claim that “the Vatican supports us,” local Catholics assert.
The Vatican and the CCP had very different goals in mind when signing the ill-fated 2018 agreement, Mosher states in his essay, but whereas Beijing has walked away having achieved all it set out to do, the Vatican has gotten nothing for its troubles.
The Vatican “intended to create a mechanism by which it could collaborate with Beijing on the naming of new bishops,” Mosher notes, but the “larger hope was that this would acknowledge the Pope’s authority over Catholicism” and heal the long-standing rift between the “underground” Church and the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).
“It is safe to say, nearly two years after the signing of the agreement, that while the Chinese Communist Party has achieved its goals, the Vatican clearly hasn’t,” Mosher states.
The CCP has accepted only five “underground” bishops and the secret agreement has been used as cover for the persecution of both the underground Church and the CCPA and for “the intended obliteration of the underground Church.”
Mosher, who studied at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and now runs the Population Research Institute (PRI), said that the situation in China for the followers of all faiths — Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim — has been “deteriorating” as part of dictator Xi Jinping’s crusade to bring all religious practice in the country under the absolute control of the Communist Party.
Months before the Sino-Vatican agreement was signed, Mosher notes, “the CCP issued a directive imposing onerous new restrictions on religion and religious believers in China,” which was followed by a second directive, “outlining in painful detail how these new restrictions would be implemented vis-à-vis all of China’s religions, religious institutions and religious practitioners.”
Under the leadership of General Secretary Xi, Mosher states, the CCP is carrying out “a new Cultural Revolution, the specific targets of which include all organized religions and all religious believers.”
The goal of this revolution is not simply to restrict and control all religious activity and belief but “to completely replace such activity and belief with worship of the CCP, its ideology and its leaders,” he adds.
As Breitbart News reported last month, Chinese authorities have threatened poor Christian villagers with the suspension of welfare benefits unless they remove Christian images from their homes and replace them with portraits of Xi and Chairman Mao Zedong.
The CCP has continued its program of “Sinicization” of religion by channeling religious fervor in the country toward the party rather than God.
The party “conceives of itself as a secular religion and is determined to impose that religion on the people of China by deploying all of the considerable resources that a hi-tech, one-party dictatorship has at its disposal,” Mosher warns.
This, Mosher declares, “is the environment in which Catholic bishops, priests and laity are forced to operate in today’s China. It is an environment of constant propaganda, surveillance and intrusion by hostile agents of the state.”