Cardinal Joseph Zen.jpgOften he is called the conscience of China, Joseph Cardinal Zen, SDB, 79, visited members of the US government this week. The cardinal has stood against any thinking that doesn’t support life issues –human rights. Zen is the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong. He’s been critical of those who talk without knowing the situation and unable to make crucial distinctions in policy. That is, Zen belives the 2007 letter of the Pope has been wrongly interpreted by members of the Roman Curia. Where the Pope talks about reconciliation of mind and heart, influential members of the Curia talk about a reunification of the two Chinese communities: the open church and the underground church. Reconcilation and renunification are the same thing and ought to be confused for each other. Pope Benedict never talks about reunification. He does talk about reconcilation. The premises are different.

Additionally, Cardinal Zen stated that in the past one could hold that those who belonged to the open church were, in their heart, loyal to the Catholic Church. Not so today. Zen sees many indications that loyalty to the Catholic theology and ecclesiology is no longer a common possibility where a “common ground” of faith, hope and charity is possible. He does, however, hold and he promotes dialogue but not at all costs: if you call yourself Catholic then there are parameters of the faith that must be lived and adhered to.

One of the problems for Cardinal Zen is The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. For him, the cardinal Prefect of this office at the Holy See prefers to follow an appeasement policy (similar to Vatican had with the Communists prior to and in the early days John Paul IIs pontificate). Zen sees any policy that capitulates to the Chinese government to be against the leadership of Benedict XVI and a true sense of Catholicism.

The problem is Fr Jeroom Heyndrickx, a China expert at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), a consultant the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Secretary of State, is a key proponent of policies that ease, that is, these policies basically surrender to the China government’s demands. Perhaps it is better say that Cardinal Zen and faithful Chinese Catholics think any accommodation to the Chinese government is wrong and it leaves the faithful hanging in the wind. The appeasement approach leaves clergy and laity confused as to what to believe and how to morally engage in society. For example, Zen points out the participation in the ordination of bishops not approved by the Pope leads to a watering down of Catholic theology and the pastoral care of souls. Ultimately, there still remains no religious freedom for Chinese Catholics.

Read more about the Zen approach to the Chinese problems here.