With all the attention Cardinal Joseph Zen has been getting with regard to his protests against the China/Vatican deal, most American Catholics probably aren’t aware that Hong Kong has two retired cardinals. Taking a much different approach than his predecessor, Cardinal John Tong, has offered his support for the agreement, and has spoken of the hope that a unified Catholic Church in China represents. While the bishop of Hong Kong does not have jurisdiction over the Church in mainland China, bishops of Hong Kong generally have much to say about the situation of the Church in mainland China, and their voice deserves special attention given their proximity to the situation.

Cardinal Tong is currently the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Hong Kong, as his successor, Bishop Michael Yeung died of liver failure on January 3 of this year. (Yeung also supported a Vatican/China accord.)

Now Cardinal Tong has issued a pastoral letter, in which he speaks out strongly in support of Pope Francis and the role of the papacy, as well as the measures being taken in the Hong Kong Church to address the problem of sexual abuse.

The first part of the letter specifically addresses the resistance against Pope Francis, and how this is contrary to what the Church teaches about the papacy. Excerpts:

 The pilgrim Church on earth is called to holiness, to be a Communion of Saints, but through human frailty she has regrettably from time to time become a Community of Sinners. Yet, in spite of her faults and weaknesses, the Church must not give up the mission entrusted to her; rather, she must repent and, relying on the unfailing help of God’s grace, continue her journey towards her heavenly goal.

It is no exaggeration to say that Pope Francis has gained recognition, not only as a humble and open-minded Church leader who zealously proclaims the message of God’s Mercy and Love, but also as a public person who has significantly contributed to world peace and interreligious dialogue. We note, however, that there are Church members who do harbour some sort of perplexity, distrust or even hostility towards Pope Francis, regarding him as not knowing what he is saying or doing, or as deviating from the teaching of the Church.

Let us first of all bear in mind that the Church must keep abreast of the times. While preserving the integrity of the “deposit of faith” and remaining faithful to the teaching of the Apostles and to Tradition, the Church is bound in every age to preach the perennial Gospel message and present the Catholic faith anew, in a manner intelligible and appealing to mankind. Secondly, the Church must continue to reform and purify herself, so that she may shine forth as the Bride of Christ. These goals are precisely what Pope Francis has been aiming at. It is our duty to give him our full support.

There are some Church members who seem to be willing to stand by the Pope only when he shares their ideas, but they speak against the Pope when he holds a different view. Certainly, the Pope speaks infallibly only under very special conditions with regard to Catholic faith and morals, still, we are bound to show Christian obedience to him when he, as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, teaches or guides the People of God under other circumstances. We, as Catholics, are also obliged to respect the officials of the Roman Curia who are chosen by the Pope himself to be his close collaborators in his mission as Supreme Pastor.

The second part of the letter was on the sexual abuse of minors:

In order to take more drastic measures to resolve the problem of the sexual abuse of minors, Pope Francis convened a meeting in Rome from February 21–24, attended by representatives of Bishops’ conferences and religious institutes from around the world. The victims were heard, and the Holy See and Church officials pledged to spare no effort to prevent such scandals from ever happening again.

The fact that the crime of sexual abuse of minors is found, tragically, in all human communities, does not minimise the scandalous nature and the responsibility of the Catholic clergy and Church leaders. Rightly, people have high expectations of Catholic pastors, who are supposed to set an example of impeccable moral conduct, especially in view of their thorough formation and the sacred mission they are to carry out. Regrettably, too often, it has been brought to light that clerics have abused their position or power, and have thereby betrayed the trust that minors and their families have placed in them.

As far as Church leaders and those involved in pastoral services or Church activities are concerned, they should never be alone with a single child in an isolated and closed place for whatever reason. Priests should hear the confessions of children in locations where trusted adults are also present, without prejudice to confidentiality. All Church activities involving minors should be made public and should include more than one trusted adult.

Persons who believe themselves to be victims of sexual abuse, or have knowledge of cases of alleged abuse, have the right to report them to the civil authorities and to the ecclesiastical authorities.

Read it all.

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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He's a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He's active in his parish and community. He is the founding managing editor for Where Peter Is.

China’s “other” cardinal

8 Responses

  1. Steven Rood says:

    I had (have) my doubts about the approach to the Church in China — but my prayer is that the Holy Spirit guides the Church and the Pope forward and I trust that the decisions taken will come out right in the end.

  2. Jane says:

    Because I trust Almighty God, therefore I trust the Vicar He has given us, therefore I trust that what Pope Francis is doing is good. I have to remind myself that I do not know all the details that he knows, nor do I have the graces to be the Pope. But I CAN and WILL be obedient. And I CAN and WILL learn everything I can from and about what our Holy Father is trying to do and say. God bless you

  3. Richard W Comerford says:

    Mr. Lewis:

    Approximately 1-million Chinese believers: Christians, Muslims and Pagans; are currently held by the Communist government in concentration camps as slave laborers where, when they die (Murdered), their body parts are sold to the highest bidder.

    Neither Our Holy Father Francis, Cardinal Tong, you or Mr. Mark Shea has deigned to address this issue.

    Why not?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

    • Mike Lewis says:

      Actually, I did write a lengthy piece on the issue of religious liberty in China. I am under no illusions that China isn’t hostile to religion or that their government treats believers horribly. Nor is the Vatican or Cardinal Tong.

      It’s terrible, and of course their government should allow the people to have religious liberty. But they don’t.

      In light of that situation, how best to address the issue with the Chinese government? What ground can be gained, and what concessions are the government willing to make, and at what cost?

      • Richard W Comerford says:

        Mr. Mike Lewis:

        Thank you for your reply.

        The question should not be ” how best to address the issue with the Chinese government?”; but rather ‘how to best address this issue with Christ?’

        And Chinese Catholics had already done so. Christ granted them the grace to endure, and somehow prosper, despite horrific persecution. The current agreement between Holy Father Francis has already been grossly violated by the godless, communist regime. The Universal Church has gained nothing from agreement and Christ and His local church has lost much.

        Here in the USA there was a terrible government persecution of Catholics of French and Indian descent in New England from 1920 to 1976 that included, among other things, forced sterilizations, abortions and frontal labotomies as well as the seizure of children all without due process. (See Breeding Better Vermonters) The faithful endured the long persecution with remarkable stoicism and indeed flourished until the Bishops turned on them.

        Our first loyalty is to Christ, not government. Our trust is in Christ, not government. Our strength is in Christ, not government.

        God bless

        Richard W Comerford

      • Mike Lewis says:

        The process of integrating the Patriotic Chinese Church with the Catholic Church has occurred in stages, beginning in the 1980s when Pope John Paul began accepting the petitions of the bishops from the state Church who wanted to reconcile with Rome. This process reached a point where, as of last year, only 7 bishops outside of full communion remained. The agreement brought these 7 bishops into full communion. The situation of the underground Church is much more complicated than it was during the early days of Mao or the Cultural Revolution.

        As I said before it’s not a good situation: the Chinese government is unfriendly to ALL religion, whether it’s technically permitted by the state or not. But whether Catholics are able to worship relatively freely or are forced into secret varies from region to region. Whether priests and bishops are arrested or Churches are raised also depends on the region and the attitude of the local government. The question is whether the deal between the Vatican and China is an incremental improvement in a bad situation or a step back. Here’s what it did: it legalized approximately 70 bishops and the churches under them to practice their faith. They are no longer outlaws.

        Now, does this mean the Chinese government won’t break their promises or that local officials won’t persecute the Church in different areas? No. Of course not. But I also can’t really see how it makes the situation worse. Here is the piece I wrote about it: http://wherepeteris.com/on-the-church-in-china/

        If you think this is an unprecedented move, I suggest you research the agreements that the Church has made with secular governments throughout history, particularly with communist government in Eastern European countries and Cuba in the 20th century.

        It’s not ideal, and it’s a prudential matter on which good people can disagree, but these are situations where the Vatican is doing everything they can to secure religious rights and freedoms for our fellow Catholics who live under oppressive regimes.

      • Richard W Comerford says:

        Mr. Mike Lewis:

        Thank you for your reply.

        The Church in the 20th Century signed formal and various agreements with Hitler, Mussolini and other socialist governments regarding its legal foundation within a country; and in every instance the government promptly violated the agreement. Now the communist government of China, before the ink on the current instant agreement has hardly dried, has again started to persecute openly Catholics.

        And this is not just a problem with socialist governments. In the USA the Bishops have usually carefully refrained from criticizing powerful politicians on matters of sexual immorality to include contraception, abortion, euthanasia, sodomy, divorce et al. In return the Bishops have received VAST sums from the government and the government (so far) has refrained from prosecuting errant Bishops.

        Psalm 146:3 “Put not your trust in princes” we are told. Whether dealing with socialist or other governments we must remember that we will always be persecuted until the Second Coming (Matthew 10:22 “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.) Our Holy Father Francis should not make inevitable Chinese Communist persecution easier by handing over ti the Reds the keys to the rectory.

        Keep up your good work.

        God bless

        Richard W Comerford

  4. Richard W Comerford says:

    It is noce to know that we are one big Catholic family.

    “As the Associated Press reported, the website of the Guangzhou Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs states it is now offering up to 10,000 Chinese yuan, roughly $15,000, for information on the activities of “underground” Catholic Churchs and other religious groups, that could eventually lead to the arrest of key leaders. The Sinicization of religion has been pushed by President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2013 and who has strengthened government oversight of religious activities.”

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

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