As someone who has long supported the Catholic Church in China, I am broken-hearted at the wanton destruction that is being visited upon it. Shrines and churches that have stood for decades, or even centuries, are being reduced to rubble by an increasingly hostile Communist Party. Here are just a few examples:
A church under construction in the Diocese of Fengxiang, Shaanxi province, was demolished on April 4. The authorities are attempting to coerce the bishop, priests, and laity of the underground diocese to join the schismatic “Catholic Patriotic Association.”
But not even all “Patriotic” churches have been spared. The Qianwang Catholic Church in Jinan City, Shandong province, which was constructed in 1750, was demolished last August. You can see the Blessed Mother’s severed head sitting on the rubble.
The present wave of persecution began in February, 2018, when harsh new restrictions on religious activity were put in place. Priests in the long persecuted underground Church have been ordered to join the official Catholic Patriotic Association—which is not in communion with Rome–or leave active ministry. Minors have been strictly forbidden from attending Mass, and catechism classes and summer camps have been cancelled. In fact, it is now “illegal” to engage in any religious activity outside of church grounds, such as Bible studies in private homes.
At the same time, Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has ordered the leaders of the Catholic Patriotic Association to “sinicize” their religion by promoting the existing order (led by Xi himself), and promote the official ideology (known as “Xi Jinping thought”).
Among other things, Patriotic bishops are expected to turn over all existing Bibles in exchange for a new Party-approved version of the Scriptures, and ensure that their priests carry out only approved religious activities within the walls of their churches. Most tellingly, they are expected to report any underground priests and or illegal gatherings to the authorities.
Hitler attempted something similar after taking power in Germany. His so-called “Nazification” program was an effort to compel all the churches in Nazi Germany to serve the goals of the Third Reich.
In fact, the Party’s new restrictions on religious activity within China’s borders are so onerous, and its invasion of the sanctuaries—the ones it allows to stand—is so aggressive, that I believe it has an even more ambitious goal in mind.
The Chinese Communist Party has never abandoned its aim of extinguishing all religious belief within China’s borders. Under Xi Jinping, who is the most anti-Christian leader since Mao Zedong, the pendulum has swung from grudging tolerance back to active and even vicious persecution.
The ultimate goal of Nazification was to replace the worship of the Triune God with the worship of the Third Reich and its leader, Adolf Hitler. The ultimate goal of sinicization, it is becoming clear, is the promotion of the cult of the Chinese Party State and its leader, Xi Jinping.
Some Patriotic bishops have attempted to explain the compromises they have made with the authorities as nothing more than a matter of “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.”
Their problem—which is now also the problem of each and every one of China’s estimated 100 million Christians—is that Xi Jinping, like China’s god-emperors of old, wants to be both god and Caesar.
STEVEN W. MOSHER is a member of the Naples Chapter of Legatus and the author of Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream Is the New Threat to World Order