Vatican ‘capitulates’ to China – a sign of Beijing’s growing sharp power?


China and the Vatican will establish formal diplomatic relations sooner or later because Pope Francis has the “wisdom” to resolve problems between the two sides, a state-run Chinese newspaper said on Tuesday, amid increasing controversy over the issue, Reuters reports.

In light of [the Vatican’s] dismal track record, prudence and caution would seem to be the order of the day in Vatican negotiations with the totalitarians in charge in Beijing, at whose most recent party congress religion was once again declared an enemy of Communism, notes George Weigel, the Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

But there has been no discernible examination of conscience at the higher altitudes of Vatican diplomacy. And now it seems likely that an agreement between Rome and Beijing will be announced, in which the Chinese Communist government will be conceded a role in the nomination of bishops — another step toward what various older but still-key figures in the Vatican diplomatic service have long sought, namely, full diplomatic exchange between the Holy See and the PRC at the ambassadorial level, he writes for the National Review:

Vatican diplomacy prides itself on its realism. But on any realistic assessment of China’s future — the bad news or the good news — the Catholic Church comes out the loser if it caves to Communist demands that the regime have a significant role in the appointment of Catholic bishops now. 

The truth of the matter is that, today, the only power the Holy See wields is moral power, the slow accretion of moral authority that has come to Catholicism, as embodied by the pope, through the Church’s sometimes sacrificial defense of the human rights of all. How playing Let’s Make a Deal with totalitarians in Beijing who at this very moment are imprisoning and torturing Christians adds to the sum total of Catholicism’s moral authority, or the papacy’s, is, to put it gently, unclear.

“But as strategy in the gray twilight zone of world politics, dealing with the Devil — at least as Vatican diplomacy has done in dealing with totalitarianisms — has never worked out,” adds Weigel, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. RTWT

Not long ago, America and its democratic allies hoped to integrate a rising China into the political and economic system they built after the Cold War. Instead, China is creating its own institutions, or reshaping existing institutions and norms, to suit its own needs, The New York Times adds:

Leaders in many of these countries are watching warily as China encourages the notion that the Chinese model of central economic and political direction could eventually supplant Western democracy and its capitalist system. The Pentagon is so concerned that it named China, along with Russia, America’s top security threats for seeking to “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions.”…..

In the past year, public faith in America’s major institutions collapsed, according to a survey by the Edelman communications firm. Whereas faith in China’s government jumped eight points, to 84 percent, in the United States it fell 14 points, to 33 percent, the steepest decline ever measured among Americans and the biggest decline of all 28 countries polled. That’s a warning for democracies to resolve their internal conflicts, though, not an argument for authoritarian rule.


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