The Agreement between Pope Francis and China

I’m not qualified to review and evaluate the agreement between the Holy See and the government of China. And neither are you. I’ve never been to China. I don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese. I don’t read Chinese. And I’ve not read the agreement — it is not publicly available. Little is known about this “Sino-Vatican provisional agreement” which Pope Francis has signed with China. So how would I decide whether it is a good idea or not?

Other commentators are in the same position. They have no greater qualifications in this area than I do. They have not seen the agreement. They have not been to China. And yet the Catholic blogosphere is filled with papal critics who have decided the Pope made the wrong decision. This is yet another example of the pride of the papal critics. They substitute their judgment for that of the Pope. If they disagree with him on any matter, they assume they are right, and he is wrong. Even when they are uninformed and unqualified, as in the China matter, they judge the Pope to be wrong and themselves to be right.

One of their arguments is that the Church should not cooperate with a dictator-type government. But we all know that the Church did cooperate with the holy Roman empire, for many centuries. They argue that civil government should not be given influence over Church affairs, such as appointing Bishops. But the emperors of Rome called Ecumenical Councils, and attempted to install and depose Popes, among other types of meddling in Church matters. So this type of uneasy agreement is not unprecedented.

Is it the best decision for the Church in China? I don’t know. But I trust that the Pope is guided by the Holy Spirit. I do not view his decisions in this matter as if they were political decisions by an elected leader. The attitude of papal critics is that nothing is good, unless they judge it to be good, nothing is best apart from their approval, and nothing is true unless they agree. They usurp an authority not given to them.

Cardinal Zen disagrees with the agreement. But there is always a Cardinal here or an Archbishop there who disagrees with any decision of any Pope. I can’t assume that he is right.

Pope Francis has been entrusted with the keys of Peter by Christ. And we should not speak and act as if we ourselves were the ones who hold the keys.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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2 Responses to The Agreement between Pope Francis and China

  1. ERM says:

    Hi Ron,

    “One of their arguments is that the Church should not cooperate with a dictator-type government. But we all know that the Church did cooperate with the holy Roman empire, for many centuries.”

    I looked up Emperor Joseph II on Wikipedia. For the time period of 1780 to 1790 (after his mother, Empress Maria Theresa, died, up until Joseph himself died) it says:

    “He tried to make the Catholic Church in his empire the tool of the state, independent of Rome. Clergymen were deprived of the tithe and ordered to study in seminaries under government supervision, while bishops had to take a formal oath of loyalty to the crown.”

    I think this would be an example of what you were talking about, for dictator-type government in the HRE. Any other examples you had in mind? You said, “for many centuries…” but I don’t know that the HRE was continuously dictator-type for many centuries. Maybe you had other specific emperors or time periods in mind?

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