Sat, Feb 10, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Machiavelli nears another win

Concern over increasing signs that a rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing could be just months away does not seem to be limited to Taiwan, but extends to members of the Catholic hierarchy and the faithful as well.

Retired Hong Kong cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君) has been among the most vocal opponents of Pope Francis’ drive to mend ties with China — but he is not the only one, according to wire agencies.

It is ironic that Zen has been so critical — he has said that a Vatican-China pact would be a catastrophe that would bring suffering to millions of Catholics — given that his elevation to cardinal by then-pope Benedict XVI in 2006 was seen by many, including Zen himself, as an attempt to build a bridge between the papal state and Beijing.

However, even as bishop of the Hong Kong diocese, Zen was an outspoken proponent of religious freedom in China. Now he says the Vatican is “selling out” those Catholics who have remained loyal to Rome instead of becoming members of the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

It is also ironic that the Vatican, which for centuries has fought to maintain the pontiff’s supremacy in all things church-related and ruthlessly battled all who sought to challenge papal authority, is now willing to go along with Beijing’s control over the association and bishops’ appointments, whatever the token compromise that Beijing has offered to make.

One cannot help but draw comparisons with those authorities in the sports world who were willing to sacrifice principles and the lives of many people for the “glory” of bringing their games to a new country — Juan Antonio Samaranch and the International Olympic Committee’s years-long effort to get the Olympics to China and the unholy mess that is FIFA with the awarding of tournaments to Qatar and Russia are just two that spring to mind.

It is also hard not to feel that some in the Vatican ranks have fallen under the sway of the “great China market myth,” only it is souls, not sales of bottles of cola, that they covet.

What else to make of comments such as Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences head Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo saying that Chinese are perhaps best at implementing the Catholic Church’s teachings on social issues, such as concern for the environment and human dignity; or Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin saying that the Vatican understood the pain of Chinese Catholics.

What kind of human dignity does Sanchez Sorondo think has been accorded the hundreds of lawyers and rights activists rounded up in China since July 2015, or Beijing’s harassment and unspeakable abuse of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) or his wife, Liu Xia (劉霞). What about the destruction of China’s environment?

Make no mistake, the devout atheist cynics that rule in Beijing are not trying to make some accommodation with the Christian faithful in their nation; they are trying to punish Taiwanese for not believing in their creed of the eternal “one China.”

How else to explain the willingness of Chinese officials in the past two years since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returned to the Presidential Office to reach an accommodation with the papal state — after years of outreach by Rome — except as part of the drive to deprive Taiwan of yet another diplomatic ally.

Perhaps Taiwan can take some solace in the fact that previous efforts to reach such an accord have hit roadblocks; the two sides were supposed to be on the verge of a deal in November 2016, only for it to come to naught.

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