Thursday, May 04, 2006

David and Goliath

A battle has been joined.  The Vatican and China are squaring off in what could be an epic duel.  The cause: China's "patriotic association" Catholic Church ordained 2 bishops recently.  The problem: the Pope did not approve these particular bishops.  The result?  According to Cannon Law (the Catholic Church's legal structure) a Bishop who is consecrated without Vatican approval is excommunicated (disconnected from the Church) as well as the Bishop who consecrated him.
The number of Catholics in the world?  About 1 billion.  The number of Chinese? Slightly more than a billion.  Sounds like we have an even fight.
To me, the funny thing is, the Vatican and the Chinese government should understand each other exceptionally well.  Both are really old, bureaucratic organizations (organizational age, not individual age--though both are old that way as well).  Both are steeped in history, tradition, pride, and the unwavering belief in their own rightness.  And both know that to back an opponent into a corner is to stir up trouble.
The current situation seems to have caused them both to push each other into a corner.  China, a country asserting protection of religious freedom for its citizens has just attempted to install two state-appointed religious leaders.  The Vatican smacked it down.  Not just a little bit, or quietly.  The Vatican did it in a way that embarrassed the Chinese.  And there are few things more detrimental to international relations than embarrassing your counterpart.
The Chinese response to being embarrassed:
"The criticism toward the Chinese side by the Vatican is groundless," that statement said. "We hope the Vatican can respect the will of Chinese church and the vast numbers of priests as well as its church members so as to create good atmosphere for the improvement of Sino-Vatican ties."
I'm not one to side blindly with the Vatican (or anyone, really, besides the Gopher Hockey team), but who does this spokesman think he's talking about?  "We hope the Vatican can respect the will of the Chinese Church"??  The whole point of the Vatican is that it does quite the opposite: it sets up a structure and a hierarchy for Catholic churches everywhere.  If it was in the business of respecting the will of a local church it wouldn't call itself Catholic.  It would be Protestant. 
What is my resolution to this situation?  I'm not entirely sure, but I think its just a bizarre turn of events for two behemoth bureaucracies to blunder into each other this way.  Especially after almost 30 years of a very carefully choreographed dance helped them keep a "good atmosphere."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a new Eastern rite is rising in China, not Constantinople.
As for your addressing the eveness of the 2 sides... I don't seem to recall any mention of the Vatican being a "Nuclear" power, or has Benidict XVI been secretly building a fleet of attack subs?