(CNSNews.com) -- Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong (now retired), said the "Vatican is selling out the Catholic Chuch in China" and, if it goes ahead with its plan to integrate with the Communist-run Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), it would be "blessing" a "strengthened schismatic Church."
Since the Communist revolution in 1950, there have been two Catholic churches in China: the Catholic Patriotic Association, which is run by the government, and the real, underground Catholic Church, which is loyal to Rome, and is illegal in China. For decades, Chinese rulers have tried to destroy the real Catholic Church and install government-selected bishops and priests as the official Catholic leaders there, although the CPA bishops do not profess loyalty to the Pope.
Because CPA members do not profess "loyalty" to the Pope and the Magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church, the CPA is schismatic, as are its bishops and priests. Under Canon law, the rules that govern the Church, "schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."
Cardinal Zen expressed his deep concern about the situation because in recent weeks the Vatican has called on two "underground" Catholic bishops in China to retire and be replaced by CPA bishops. As the New York Times reported, "Restoring ties and regularizing Catholic religious life in China has been a priority for Pope Francis. Negotiations started more than 18 months ago, but they are believed to have stalled over the delicate issue of who appoints bishops in the country."
A papal delegation went to China and essentially ordered Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, 88, and Bishop Guo Xijin, 59, to resign and be replaced by CPA bishops approved by the Communist Chinese government.
In a Jan. 29 letter to the media, Cardinal Zen, who headed the diocese of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009, said the effort to reconcile the underground church with the CPA church will only further the existing schism.
"The schism is there, in the Independent Church!" the CPA, said Cardinal Zen. "The Popes avoided using the word 'schism' because they knew that many in the official Catholic community were there not by their own free will, but under heavy pressure. The proposed 'unification' would force everybody into that community."
"The Vatican would be giving the blessing on the new strengthened schismatic Church, taking away the bad conscience from all those who are already willing renegades and those others who would readily join them," he said. Can you image an agreement between St. Joseph and King Herod? he added.
"So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China?" said the cardinal. "Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months."
In his letter, Cardinal Zen also stated, "The Communist government is making new harsher regulations limiting religious freedom. They are now strictly enforcing regulations which up to now were practically only on paper (from the 1st of February 2018, attendance to Mass in the underground [church] will no longer be tolerated)."