Scene at the ordination of Paul Lei Shiyin as the Bishop of Leshan.
American journalist Paul Mooney has written a most fascinating, must-read article on the current state of relations between China and the Vatican in the South China Morning Post.
Much of the article zooms in on the events surrounding the ordination of Paul Lei Shiyin as the Bishop of Leshan, and Joseph Huang Bingzhang as Bishop of Shantou without papal approval.
Hong Kong’s outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen has described the situation as “war” and a scholar interviewed by Mooney was quoted as saying, “It’s a very sensitive time. In my opinion, there will be a showdown – things are coming to a conclusion…. I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and I’ve never seen it get to this point before. Both sides are playing all the cards they have. One of the two will win everything.”
Particularly eye-opening is Mooney’s description of the pscyhological warfare that has been waged on Chinese bishops that are in communion with the Pope, forcing them into a quandary between following the orders of the Vatican, and of Beijing.
Those that did not yield to the pressure to take part in the ordinations by laying their hands on the government-groomed bishop-elects have been literally kidnapped and forced to attend. Paul Liang Jiansen, the bishop of Jiangmen who was installed earlier this year, was “seen sobbing as police dragged him away”.
As a result:
Bishops who have co-operated with the illicit ordinations and who took part in the National Conference in December, have come under criticism from their priests, nuns and parishioners. The church researcher said: “Some Catholics are saying, `You’re a bishop, and you don’t have the guts to stand up? What kind of bishop are you?'”
“I can understand they’re being forced to go there, but during the ordinations how could they lay hands?” asked the European priest. “No one could force them to do this. But the psychological pressure is so strong, so they just go along.”
Some bishops expressed remorse after taking part in these events, with several going on retreats afterwards. One bishop from Shanghai cried afterwards, saying he was too embarrassed to meet people.
“Under this kind of pressure, you feel like you can’t refuse what the government is asking,” the European priest said.