Decidedly, the wind is blowing in a storm at the Vatican. After the recent dismissal for suspected fraud of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former deputy for General Affairs of the Secretary of State, it is the current Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is being accused of lying.
Posted on October 9 on his blog, it is a real tract coming from the fiery pen of Cardinal Joseph Zen, who does not engage in doublespeak: he knows how to call a spade, a spade.
The Reason for This Reaction
The Chinese prelate was reacting to a speech by the secretary of state. The tone is set from the first lines: “I read the speech given by Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness, in Milan on October 3. It was sickening! He is in no way stupid or ignorant, he told a series of lies with open eyes.”
The following is not more amiable: “The most repugnant thing was the insult to the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI by saying that he approved then the agreement signed by the Holy See two years ago, knowing that…Benedict certainly will not come out to deny it. It was also very ridiculous and humiliating for the innocent Cardinal Re being ‘used’ once more to support the falsehoods of the Most Eminent Secretary.”
Already last March, Cardinal Re, undoubtedly requested by Cardinal Parolin, responded to a letter from Cardinal Zen sent to all cardinals on February 26. Cardinal Zen immediately replied.
Cardinal Zen continues with these accusing words: “Parolin knows he himself is lying. He 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? I think he is not even afraid of his conscience.” This seems very hard, but the strongest is yet to come.
“I am afraid he does not even have faith. I had this impression when Parolin, the Secretary of State, in a commemorative speech in honor of Cardinal Casaroli praised his success in establishing the ecclesiastical hierarchy in the Communist countries of Europe, saying that ‘when 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.’”
“I wrote to him, asking if he intended to describe Cardinal Wyszynski, Cardinal Mindszenty, and Cardinal Beran. He replied without denying. He only said that if I was displeased with his speech, he apologized. But one who despises the heroes of faith has no faith!” the high prelate concluded.
Cardinal Zen’s Judgment on Ostpolitik
Cardinal Parolin’s mention of Ostpolitik makes the top Chinese prelate jump. Remember that, in the Church, the term Ostpolitik refers to the diplomatic relations the Holy See initiated with the communist bloc, especially under the leadership of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli.
Cardinal Zen comments: “the dialogue with the Communists began long ago. There were already bishops’ representatives from the Communist countries at the Second Vatican Council.… Then Pope Paul VI sent Monsignor Casaroli on various missions, to re-establish the hierarchies in those countries.”
But, he adds, “he had no way of knowing the real situation. The established hierarchies? Puppet bishops, more government officials than shepherds of the flock. But in those countries with a long Christian history, they could not behave too badly.”
And to drive the point home: “The dialogue continued through Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, but what was the result of this policy that is usually called the Ostpolitik?” To illustrate his response, Cardinal Zen quotes from the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI: “In the book Benedict XVI – Last Testament: In His Own Words, to the question: Did you share and support actively the ‘Ostpolitik’ of the Pope (John Paul II)? Benedict XVI responds:
“We talked about it. It was clear that the politics of Casaroli…although it was implemented with the best of intentions, had failed. The new direction pursued by John Paul II was the fruit of his personal experience, of his contacts with those powers. Naturally, then, one could not hope that that regime would soon collapse, but it was evident that, instead of being conciliatory and accepting compromises, it was necessary to oppose it with force. This was the basic vision of John Paul II, which I shared.”
The Culpable Simplifications of Cardinal Parolin
In this evocation of Ostpolitik, in addressing the Chinese component, Cardinal Parolin traces the attempts at dialogue up to Pope Pius XII. He states that Pius XII had given up on the attempt, and that “this created the mutual distrust which marked later history.”
The hot Hong Konger was upset and responded. “He seems to say that it was ‘distrust’ that caused the whole history of the following 30 years! Can history be simplified like this? What about the expulsion of the missionaries, all of them, after being subjected to a people’s court, condemned as imperialists, oppressors of the Chinese people, and even murderers? The pontifical representative was expelled as well, and many bishops were expelled after years in prison!”
“Having expelled the ‘imperialist oppressors’ they came to punish the oppressed, the Christians and the Chinese clergy, guilty of not wanting to renounce the religion learned from those oppressors! Half of the Church ended up in prison and forced labor camps. Think of the young members of the Legion of Mary, who entered the prison as teenagers and were almost 40 years old when they were released (except those who died there).”
“The other half of the Church also ended up in prison, but after torture under the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution. After that there was 10 years of silence.”
He then responds to a tacit objection: “Are you not able to forget the sufferings of the past? I have not suffered anything personally,… my family and fellow confreres did…To forgive, yes! But to forget history? History is the teacher of life!”
Application of Ostpolitik in China
The cardinal then develops a theme that is dear to him: “Pope Benedict made clear the principle that must guide every dialogue: one can not want to reach a result at any cost, a good result depends on the will of the two parties.” But this principle is no longer followed: “In my book For Love of My People I Will Not Remain Silent, I told the story of how a power group in the Vatican did not follow Pope Benedict’s line in solving the problems with the Beijing government.”
He explains the reason: Pope Benedict “has great reluctance in exercising his authority.” He gives an example. One day when he complained that those responsible for the Chinese dossier - Cardinal Ivan Dias and Parolin, both fervent supporters of Ostpolitik - were not following the Pope’s line, Benedict XVI replied: “Sometimes you don’t want to offend someone.”
He concludes: “There is no continuity between Benedict who said ‘No’ to Ostpolitik and Francis who said ‘yes’ to Ostpolitik. There is the continuity of Parolin’s Ostpolitik: before he did not follow Benedict and now Francis follows him.”
After this strong affirmation, Cardinal Zen drives the point home: “I will be asked: Do you say that Parolin manipulates the Holy Father? Yes, I don’t know why the Pope allows himself to be manipulated but I have evidence to believe so …Things that came out of the Vatican came from Parolin (obviously with the Pope’s consent)!”
The Effect of the Agreement
The porporato discusses the consequences of the agreement. He raises an objection: “But how would you say that the agreement is bad? Not having read the text, especially the one in Chinese, I could not give any judgment. But,” he adds, “the Most Eminent Parolin himself and his henchmen often stated that a bad agreement is better than no agreement.”
The cardinal is dumbfounded: “I cannot understand this, although being a teacher of morality. I always teach that evil cannot be done even with good intention.” And what follows manifests his exasperation.
“People say: the agreement is good, the Chinese Communists have finally recognized the Pope as the supreme authority of the Catholic Church. If I don’t see the text, I don’t believe it.”
“The Pope will have the right to veto!” He adds, “If I don’t see the text I don’t believe it. Even assuming he has it, how many times can he use it without being blocked?”
“With the agreement there will be no more illegitimate bishops!” they claim. “Can the word of a totalitarian regime be trusted? Don’t you remember the pact with Napoleon, the concordat with the Nazi government?”
The shooting is not over. Objections mount: “If the Vatican is as compliant as it has been, the legitimate bishops will not necessarily be worthy bishops. The official Church in China is now full of ‘opportunistic’ bishops, people who sell themselves to the government to make a career of power and wealth.”
He ends with a bleak statement: “Is the Church in China finally united? Rapprochement between the two Church communities? The normalization of the Church life, just because the Pope gives his blessing to this miserable situation, to this victory of the enemy? Is that good to have all bishops legitimate but in a Church that is objectively schismatic?”
The Last Act
It is in a disillusioned manner that Cardinal Zen approaches the latest developments. “More disastrous and more cruel was the last act of this tragedy: the document at the end of June, last year. The Pastoral Guidelines of the Holy See Concerning the Civil Registration of the Clergy in China was issued by ‘the Holy See,’ without specification of the department and without signatures (but it is known that it is Parolin’s creation). Everyone is invited to join the Patriotic Association, that is, the schismatic Church. It is the coup de grace!”
On the ground, it is desolation: “many who have resisted the regime all through their lives and persevered in the true faith (with many martyrs in their families) are now invited by the same “Holy” See to surrender!? Bewilderment, disappointment and (no one should be scandalized) even resentment for being betrayed.”
It is true that the document says that the Holy See “respects” their conscience if they do not feel like doing that act. But the practical effect will be the same: they will no longer have their churches, they will no longer be able to say Masses for the faithful in private homes, they will no longer have bishops. It remains for them to live the faith only in the catacombs, waiting for better days.”
For Which Fruits?
As for the results, they are essentially negative: “notable hardening of the persecution, persistence in making the unofficial communities disappear, strict execution of once relaxed rules, such as the prohibition of minors under 18 from entering the Church and participating in any religious activities. ‘Sinisation’ is not what we mean by inculturation. It is the religion of the Communist Party: the first divinity is the country, the party, the party leader.”
The conclusion is tragic: “it seems that in order to save the agreement the Holy See is closing both eyes to all the injustices that the Communist Party is inflicting on the Chinese people.”