PopeWatch: Middle Kingdom

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The Pope is coming under attack for his recent remarks on China:



Pope Francis came under fire Wednesday after lavishing praise on China in a move widely seen as part of Vatican moves to improve relations with Beijing.

Close watchers of the Holy See were taken by surprise by the content of an interview with the Asia Times in which the Argentinian pontiff said the world need not fear China’s growing power and avoided any mention of human rights or the restrictions on Catholics and other Christians’ freedom of worship in the world’s most populous nation.

“A superb example of Realpolitik pushed to the extreme,” was the verdict of Sandro Magister, one of Italy’s leading Vatican experts.

Writing on his blog for Italian weekly L’Espresso, Magister lamented Francis’s “total silence” on questions of religion and freedom and what he interpreted as an “unrestrained absolution” of the Chinese communist regime’s historical record.

In the interview, Francis said China had always been, for him, a “reference point of greatness” and “a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom.”

The Argentinian pope made only the lightest of allusions to China’s troubled recent history, saying a people sometimes “makes a mistake and goes backwards a little, or takes the wrong path and has to retrace its steps to follow the right way.”

Go here to read the rest.  Popes have a difficult task when dealing with dictatorial states with large numbers of Catholics.  The Catholics are in effect hostages.  With that in mind one can understand that a Pope may not speak as bluntly as he might wish to.  However, Pope Francis has a history of speaking quite mildly to governments of the left, while giving the back of the papal hand to governments with free markets and freely elected governments.  Is the stance of the Pope Realpolitik or a manifestation of a “no enemies on the left” world view, even when the leftists are the leadership of China, who manage to combine some of the ugliest features of Communism and crony Capitalism?  Compare and contrast with this letter to Chinese Catholics from Pope Benedict in 2007:

Likewise, therefore, the Catholic Church which is in China does not have a mission to change the structure or administration of the State; rather, her mission is to proclaim Christ to men and women, as the Saviour of the world, basing herself – in carrying out her proper apostolate – on the power of God. As I recalled in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, “The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply” [14].

In the light of these unrenounceable principles, the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities; at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church. The civil authorities are well aware that the Church in her teaching invites the faithful to be good citizens, respectful and active contributors to the common good in their country, but it is likewise clear that she asks the State to guarantee to those same Catholic citizens the full exercise of their faith, with respect for authentic religious freedom.

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Keeping a Promise

As faithful readers of this blog know, I was a very reluctant, and late, supporter of Donald Trump in 2016.  I grudgingly


  1. China has always been a source of “inexhaustible wisdom” for the pope? I guess no one has told him about the one child policy. Calling him a communist sympathizer is being polite!

  2. Father of Seven
    “I guess no one has told him about the one child policy.”

    With this we get less of that eco-evil carbon footprint, and a sure cure to that awful habit of “breeding like rabbits.” Now if they could only excise themselves of that horrible capitalist-like colony of Hong Kong.

  3. “[A] great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom” is hardly an endorsement of the current regime, but a tribute to Chinese civilisation few would wish to dispute, especially when he adds that a people sometimes “makes a mistake and goes backwards a little, or takes the wrong path and has to retrace its steps to follow the right way.”
    No one imagines Wittgenstein was endorsing National Socialism, when, in 1938, on a visit to Ireland,he called the Germans “a nation of poets and thinkers.” [dem Volke der Dichter und Denker]

  4. I agree we should always look at the context of the pope’s words. In his case, he seems to save his superlatives for totalitarians. Was it the policy of forced organ donation from prisoners, the absolute ban on the free exercise of religion or the one child policy the pope was referring to when he said a people sometimes “makes a mistake and goes backwards a little”?

  5. Remember the old Men At Work song, It’s a Mistake?

    They made that song to castigate Reagan. However, it fits the current pontificate.

    It is a mission of the Church to overcome Communism. John Paul II never stopped opposing this evil system.
    Too bad the current pontificate is so full of itself.
    Pope Francis, in my opinipn, would not do what JPII did to overthrow Communism.

  6. Penguin Fan wrote, “It is a mission of the Church to overcome Communism”
    A mission little insisted upon in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The Council Fathers make little reference to it, except obliquely, in Gaudium et Spes, where one might expect to find it.

  7. I do not consider the Second Vatican Council to be the “be all end all” of the Catholic Church” . Popes prior to the Second Vatican Council opposed Communism. The current pontificate is showing the world his idea of true and full implementation of the Second Vatican Council. This is what you get when an old Cardinal from a screwed up order and a screwed up country and a narrow worldview is put into a position of great authority.

  8. This is what you get when an old Cardinal from a screwed up order and a screwed up country and a narrow worldview is put into a position of great authority.”

    Penguin fan, you might just call it the “Peter Principle?”

  9. Michael P.-S. – as I understand it they soft pedaled any pointed discussion of communism. In the interest of getting Soviets to allow Russian clergy to attend

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