Communism vs. CatholicsFATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
In China today, as in Poland during the Cold War, Christians are being persecuted for their faith.
Wyszynski was the great architect of religious resistance in Poland, confounding the communists here and in moscow, and, it must be said, confusing officials in the Vatican who did not understand how to deal with tyrants.
Wyszynski knew when to say no, and when to say maybe, and when to say perhaps later — and also that it was unwise for a bishop ever to say yes to those who would kill the Church if they could. He was imprisoned for three years, from 1953 until 1956, when the communists realized that they had to release him for social peace. Without the space that Wyszynski created, it would have been much more difficult for the Polish pope, John Paul II, to emerge, and to vanquish the Soviet empire.
It would be a happy thing if the witness of Wyszynski were admired, but not required in the 21st century. But today in Shanghai, where the local Catholic population officially numbers 150,000 but may be twice that size, the Chinese communists are doing what all communists cannot prevent themselves from doing, namely imprisoning bishops and egregiously violating religious liberty.
Bishop Jin reconciled with the pope in 2005, and was thus recognized by both Rome and Beijing as a valid bishop. In July 2012, Thaddeus Ma Daqin was ordained as a successor for the elderly Jin, with the agreement of both Rome and Beijing — a formula that Wyszynski himself used in Poland. But at his ordination ceremony, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin courageously resigned his positions in the Patriotic Association, stating that he desired to devote himself fully to serving as a Catholic bishop, without encumbrance of the state's religious apparatus. Beijing was furious, and seized Bishop Ma almost immediately, interrupting the celebrations planned for the subsequent days. He was placed under house arrest, where he remains now. When Bishop Jin died, Ma was not allowed to attend the funeral, even though custom would dictate that he should have presided over it as the new bishop of Shanghai.
The Chinese government instructed the Patriotic Association to strip Bishop Ma of his office as bishop of Shanghai, which they did last fall. The Holy See responded that no one can depose a bishop save for the pope himself, and certainly not an organ of the Chinese communist state. The upshot is that the legitimate Catholic bishop of Shanghai is imprisoned and the Catholic faithful of Shanghai are denied their leader.
The story is as old as Ahab and Elijah, or Pilate and Jesus, or Boleslaw the Bold and Stanislaus, or Henry VIII and John Fisher and Thomas More — tyrants always seek to slake their thirst on the blood of the martyrs. Wyszynski, with the strength of the Polish Church, outfoxed the tyrants of his day. Whether Ma can do the same in Shanghai, with only a small minority of Catholics, is unlikely. But the courage remains the same, as is the outrage of what communists do to religious liberty.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
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