Do Catholics in China Approve of the Persecution of Falun Gong?

Do Catholics in China Approve of the Persecution of Falun Gong? - No, but the Chinese Communist Party would like you to think so.

Do Catholics in China Approve of the Persecution of Falun Gong?

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Commentary

The Anti-Evil-Cult Association of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has just republished a condemnation of the Falun Gong spiritual practice by the former head of the Patriotic Catholic Association (PCA) or Patriotic Catholic Church. The communists want to create the impression that Catholics in China approve of their ongoing persecution of Falun Gong.

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The republished statement, originally issued in 2001 by the now-deceased Fu Tieshan, the former “patriotic bishop” of Beijing, effectively endorses the CCP’s effort to eradicate what Fu referred to as a “dangerous cult.”

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Of course, since Fu was in schism from Rome, rejecting all attempts at reconciliation, he is probably not the best authority on “dangerous cults.” In fact, as the head of the Patriotic Catholic Church, set up by the CCP in 1957 to surveil, compromise, and control Catholics, he was part of the CCP itself. To further underline his close ties to the communists, he was elevated to vice chairman of the standing committee of China's rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, from 2003 until his death in 2007.
In any event, Fu’s denunciation of Falun Gong was scathing. He claimed that it “ignored the basic ethical and moral principles of human beings … and recklessly, trampling on human beings, destroying human nature, and have no regard for human lives.”
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To me, this sounds more like a description of the Chinese Communist Party than Falun Gong, which is a meditation practice dedicated to the principles of “truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.”

It is possible that, back in 2001, Fu did not know that a nationwide campaign was underway to crush the movement and that huge numbers of practitioners were already being arrested and brutally tortured, with some even secretly executed for their organs. After all, the persecution, which began in the summer of 1999, was still ramping up. Given how well-connected he was within the Communist Party, however, I am not inclined to give this “patriotic bishop” the benefit of the doubt.
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Now, of course, over two decades later, there is no doubt that the current leaders of the PCA are aware of the ongoing persecution. Indeed, the entire world is aware of the horrors that have been inflicted on Falun Gong practitioners. The U.S. Department of State, along with many other international organizations and countries, has published reports documenting the many crimes against humanity committed by the CCP in its effort to eradicate Falun Gong.
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 Falun Gong practitioners during a reenactment of the Chinese Communist Party's practice of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners, during a rally in Taipei, Taiwan, on April 23, 2006. (Patrick Lin/AFP via Getty Images)
Falun Gong practitioners during a reenactment of the Chinese Communist Party's practice of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners, during a rally in Taipei, Taiwan, on April 23, 2006. (Patrick Lin/AFP via Getty Images)

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So what can we make of the claim by the Anti-Evil-Cult Association that the republication of Fu’s attack on Falun Gong was approved by the PCA?

Given that the PCA, like all approved religious groups in Xi Jinping’s China, is now under the direct control of the United Front Work Department of the CCP, this is probably true. The current leader of the PCA, Beijing Bishop Li Shan, is trusted by the CCP “to unite and lead the vast number of Catholics to accept Xi Jinping’s thinking as their guide.” Indeed, he has pledged to do so.
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There is no chance that Bishop Li will break ranks, but shouldn’t the Vatican protest against the Communist Party's deceitful attempt to implicate the Catholic Church in China in its ongoing violation of the human rights of Falun Gong practitioners?

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Now, up until the signing of the 2018 Sino-Vatican Agreement, any statement by the PCA on the Falun Gong would have been dismissed out of hand. After all, the PCA was little more than a creature of the CCP. If its communist masters told it to attack an independent religious organization that refused to be subordinate to the officially atheistic CCP, it would do so.

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But the issue is complicated by the 2018 Sino-Vatican Agreement, which has created an aura of legitimacy around the Patriotic Catholic Church by recognizing its member bishops as legitimate. Bishop Li, for example, unlike his predecessor Fu Tieshan, is a legitimate bishop in good standing with the Catholic Church.

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In May 2018, I met with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and laid out the reasons why signing any agreement with the CCP would be a mistake. I mentioned the new regulations governing religious activity, which came into effect on Feb. 1, 2018. These called for underground bishops and priests to submit to the communist authorities as a condition of staying in ministry.
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Cardinal Parolin dismissed my concern, saying, “We have no objection to the requirement that everyone register with the authorities.”

But this was no simple “registration.” In the hands of the Communist Party, it was twisted into a requirement that all clergy join the schismatic Patriotic Catholic Church and profess that their first loyalty was to the officially atheistic Party-State rather than to God.

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The following year, the Vatican added to the confusion by issuing “pastoral guidelines” that suggested those clergy under pressure to join the Patriotic Catholic Church should “specify in writing” that they are joining under protest and still “remain faithful to the principles of Catholic doctrine.” Or, if this is not possible, that they should protest orally and in the presence of a witness.
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As one who has been arrested in China and forced to write a “confession," I can personally attest to the fact that there is exactly zero chance that a beleaguered priest will be allowed to either call witnesses or amend his “registration” in any way. The suggestion would be laughable were it not so absurd.

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But the clear implication of the "pastoral guidelines" is that the CPA is not in communion with Rome. The association remains today, as it has always been, a group controlled by the CCP, in recent years through its United Front department.

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For several years, the Vatican attempted to ignore the way that the CCP was violating the Sino-Vatican Agreement. It averted its eyes when loyal bishops and clergy were dragooned into joining the CPA. It made only mild complaints when bishops were created or transferred without the prior approval of the Vatican.

But it seems to me that the CPA’s latest abuse must elicit a response from Rome.

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To suggest that any officially recognized organization of the Catholic Church approves of the CCP's mass arrest, incarceration, and execution of members of a peaceful practice is an insult to every living Catholic. Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong has long seen the persecution of Falun Gong as a violation of freedom of belief.

Rome needs to clearly state that the Catholic Patriotic Association does not represent the Catholic Church and that it does not approve of its attack on Falun Gong.

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Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.