Joseph Kung Responds in the Atlantic Monthly

By August 16, 2007Fr. Angelo Geiger, News

Just after Pope Benedict XVI published his letter to the Church in China, Joseph Kung of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, released a preliminary assessment which we posted on this blog. Shortly before, in the July-August edition of The Atlantic Monthy, Adam Minter published an article entitled “Keeping Faith”, in which he delivered a rather one-sided assessment of the Church in Shanghai, one favorable to the Patriotic Association and the Patriotic bishop of Shanghai of many years, Jin Luxian.

Joseph rebutted Adam Minter in a letter to the editor published in the September issue of The Atlantic Monthly, to which Mr. Minter responded in the same edition. Unfortunately the letters to the editor are available on-line only to subscribers. Mr. Kung has posted his complete letter (the printed version was truncated by AM) on his website.

Mr. Minter’s response to Mr. Kung is, in part, an interpretation of Pope Benedict’s letter, that selectively refers to parts of the letter which support the legitimacy of Bishop Jin Luxian. This selective interpretation of the Pope’s letter has not been altogether uncommon.

Below is a string of comments from Father Zuhlsdorf’s blog in which I rebutted a similar one-sided view of the Pope’s letter.

[Update: Joseph Kung expresses his more recent thoughts on the Holy Father’s Letter in the Cardinal Kung Foundation Summer Newsletter].
Fr. Z’s post and all the comments can be found here.

  1. Here is a preliminary assessment of the letter by the Cardinal Kung Foundation.Comment by Father Angelo ” 2 July 2007 @ 9:06 pm
  2. With all due respect, Father Angelo, I had sincerely hoped that the Pope’s letter would have put an end to the divisive and even hateful rhetoric of the Kung Foundation. Apparently, it has not. I??ll get to Kung’s delusional letter in a moment. For now, it’s worth noting that the Kung website has not been updated to reflect the letter, and still includes references to Cardinal Tomko’s Eight Points as “China Guidelines from the Vatican,?? in spite of the fact that the Pope’s letter revoked them. Instead of sending out press releases, maybe Joseph Kung could should show some true obedience for a change, and actually alter his website to reflect the Vatican’s ” and not his ” perspective on China’s Church.As for Kung’s press release, it is delusional, divisive and deceptive. His opening paragraphs ” where he suggests that the Pope’s letter is ” somehow ” a response to his 2000 letter, is frankly laughable. More serious is his continued use of the term “Patriotic Catholic Church?? when the Pope’s letter clearly states that China’s Church is unified, but a government “entity?? interferes with its operation. That entity is the Catholic Patriotic Association, and no matter how much Joseph Kung hopes, wishes and prays that it be the “Patriotic Church?? he has used to raise thousands of dollars over the years ” IT IS NOT.Here, another misleading statement from the Kung letter: “[H]e declares that the Catholic Patriotic Association’s declared independence of the Holy See is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.??Misleading, because the CPA is independent from the Holy See. The Pope’s letter repeatedly recognizes it as such.

    If the Kung Foundation really wanted to make a contribution to furthering the message and spirit of the Pope’s letter, it would stop sending out this kind of divisive rubbish and instead focus on the explicit recommendations and statements on the underground offered by the Pope.

    For example, underground bishops are ENCOURAGED to apply for recognition by civil authorities. An underground Church “is not a normal and lasting situation?? for the Catholic Church, says the pope. All bishops should now unite so that Rome can finally recognize officially the already existing Chinese Bishops Conference. Till now this cannot be done because the underground bishops are not members while some other members of the conference are not appointed by Rome.

    Father Angelo, please open your heart ” and not just your mind and political biases ” to the true message of unity in this letter. China’s situation is complicated. It needs to be understood sympathetically ” and not in the manner espoused by Joseph Kung and his Foundation.

    AntonioG

    Comment by AntonioG ” 2 July 2007 @ 10:29 pm

  3. [Comment Deleted for Clarity]
  4. Antonio G.Father Angelo, please open your heart ” and not just your mind and political biases ” to the true message of unity in this letter. China’s situation is complicated. It needs to be understood sympathetically ” and not in the manner espoused by Joseph Kung and his Foundation.It is with open mind and heart that I respond to you. The message I espouse is, indeed, one of unity. I will be frank, but charitable.With all due respect, Father Angelo, I had sincerely hoped that the Pope’s letter would have put an end to the divisive and even hateful rhetoric of the Kung Foundation . . .
    As for Kung’s press release, it is delusional, divisive and deceptive.

    Actually, Joseph Kung’s assessment of the Holy Father’s letter is thoughtful and respectful. On the other hand, your demeaning remarks concerning Mr. Kung’s long years of work on behalf of the persecuted Church in China is out of hand.

    As for Kung’s press release, it is delusional, divisive and deceptive. His opening paragraphs ” where he suggests that the Pope’s letter is ” somehow ” a response to his 2000 letter, is frankly laughable.

    Mr. Kung does not, in fact, suggest that the Holy See responded to his letter. However, he does remark, correctly, that he had expressed the need for such a clarification from the Holy See in his letter of 2000. If you read Mr. Kung’s letter fairly, you will see that in 2000 he did indeed ask questions that are answered by Pope Benedict’s letter.

    More serious is his continued use of the term “Patriotic Catholic Church” when the Pope’s letter clearly states that China’s Church is unified, but a government “entity” interferes with its operation.

    Actually, in the letter, Pope Benedict has this to say about the principle of Church unity:

    It is therefore indispensable, for the unity of the Church in individual nations, that every Bishop should be in communion with the other Bishops, and that all should be in visible and concrete communion with the Pope (5).

    And

    Communion and unity ” let me repeat (cf. section 5 above) ” are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church that is “independent” of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine (8).

    Note in the quote from section 5 the words “visible and concrete.” Obviously, not all the validly consecrated bishops in China manifest that kind of communion with the Pope. Those who do not, therefore, lack “indesepensible unity?? with the Church. Furthermore, in connection with the quote from section 6, the Patriotic Association does constitute a “proposal for a Church that is “independent” of the Holy See, in the religious sphere” and is, therefore, “incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”

    You suggest at the end of your comment that the Cardinal Kung foundation should “focus on the explicit recommendations and statements on the underground offered by the Pope.” Here is one that the Foundation has always been calling for that touches upon the unity of the Church in China:

    What is more, some legitimized Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to prove that they have been legitimized. For this reason it is indispensable, for the spiritual good of the diocesan communities concerned, that legitimation, once it has occurred, is brought into the public domain at the earliest opportunity, and that the legitimized Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter (8).

    In other words the Church in China does not enjoy the unity it should, and the Holy Father is making clear the way that unity ought to be achieved. As Mr. Kung states in his assessment, he is very grateful for the clear answer.

    Here, another misleading statement from the Kung letter: “[H]e declares that the Catholic Patriotic Association’s declared independence of the Holy See is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”

    Misleading, because the CPA is independent from the Holy See. The Pope’s letter repeatedly recognizes it as such.

    Here is the passage of the letter to which Mr. Kung refers:

    Likewise, the declared purpose of the afore-mentioned entities to implement “the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church” [36] is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, which from the time of the ancient Creeds professes the Church to be “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” (7).

    Yes, the CPA is independent of the Holy See. This is precisely what the Holy Father, and Mr. Kung in agreement with him, identify as its problem.

    If the Kung Foundation really wanted to make a contribution to furthering the message and spirit of the Pope’s letter, it would stop sending out this kind of divisive rubbish and instead focus on the explicit recommendations and statements on the underground offered by the Pope.

    If one considers the importance of an accurate reading of the letter, indispensable to implementing the “explicit recommendations and statements on the underground offered by the Pope,” it seems to me that Mr. Kung is on the right track. On the other hand, you misrepresent one of the Holy Fathers recommendations:

    For example, underground bishops are ENCOURAGED to apply for recognition by civil authorities. An underground Church “is not a normal and lasting situation” for the Catholic Church, says the pope.

    Here is what the Holy Father actually says:

    There would not be any particular difficulties with acceptance of the recognition granted by civil authorities on condition that this does not entail the denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion. In not a few particular instances, however, indeed almost always, in the process of recognition the intervention of certain bodies obliges the people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and undertake commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their conscience as Catholics (7).

    Hardly an unqualified encouragement to apply for civil recognition. On the contrary, the Holy Father is principally preoccupied with the unity of the Church as it is guaranteed by formal communion with the bishop of Rome.

    And in the context of expressing the irregular situation of an underground Church, Pope Benedict makes it clear that this situation exists in order for pastors and the faithful “to maintain the integrity of their faith and to resist interference from State agencies in matters pertaining intimately to the Church’s life” (8). He also puts the burden of responsibility for restoring unity among Chinese Catholics, not on those who are suffering from a lack of religious freedom, but on the state entities that oppresses them:

    For this reason the Holy See hopes that these legitimate Pastors may be recognized as such by governmental authorities for civil effects too ” insofar as these are necessary ” and that all the faithful may be able to express their faith freely in the social context in which they live (8).

    Antonio, contrary to your assessment, I am very sympathetic to the complex situation of Catholics in China. But, no matter how complicated that situation is, only the truth will set them free.

    Comment by Father Angelo ” 4 July 2007 @ 10:01 pm

Author Fr Angelo

I am Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate, and a priest for more than twenty years. I am now studying in Rome for my licentiate in Theology.

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  • Athanasius says:

    Father Angelo:

    Have you ever been to China, and/or do you know any open church priests/bishop/nuns/laity?

    Thank you in advance for your response.

  • Athanasius,

    I was enrolled in San Carlos Seminary in Manila years ago, which at the time had a number of student seminarians from the Catholic Patriotic Association. More recently, I have come to know a number of Chinese Catholics, some of whom suffered for many years in prison because of their refusal to renounce their loyalty to the Holy Father. However, nothing in my comments indicates that I had any firsthand knowledge of the situation on the ground in China. I am not sure why you would wonder if my argument had anything to do with my personal experience.

    I do not pretend to imagine that situation in China is simple. What I do believe is irrefutable, however, is that there is a persecuted Church in China. I also believe that someone needs to be a voice for underground Catholics, since they cannot speak openly for themselves, unlike the Catholic Patriotic Association which can easily get itself showcased by The Atlantic Monthly. The Cardinal Kung Foundation is to be commended for its persistence in its defense of the voiceless.

    The Holy Father’s letter is certainly conciliatory, as it had to be, though even with its conciliatory tone, Beijing made sure that the letter was taken off of Chinese websites very quickly. If Adam Minter’s assessment of the Pope’s letter is correct, then one ought to wonder why. In his response to Mr. Kung in the September edition of The Atlantic Monthly, he writes:

    On June 30, Pope Benedict XVI issued his long-awaited letter to China’s Catholics. Among other topics the letter includes a discussion of bishops, including those–like Shanghai’s Bishop Jin Luxian–who were ordained without the pontifical mandate but later were “received into communion with the Successor of Peter.” These bishops, the pope explains, were vetted and granted “full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction.” Significantly, the letter’s explanatory notes add that these same bishops “were especially concerned with the good of the faithful with an eye to the future.”

    However, Minter omits an important part of the paragraph of the letter from which he quotes:

    Unfortunately, in most cases, priests and the faithful have not been adequately informed that their Bishop has been legitimized, and this has given rise to a number of grave problems of conscience. What is more, some legitimized Bishops have failed to provide any clear signs to prove that they have been legitimized. For this reason it is indispensable, for the spiritual good of the diocesan communities concerned, that legitimation, once it has occurred, is brought into the public domain at the earliest opportunity, and that the legitimized Bishops provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter (8).

    While the Pope Benedict’s tone is conciliatory and his pastoral awareness is sensitive to the complexities of the situation, what he is saying is at least obvious to the Chinese government.

    During one of his interviews with Bishop Jin, Minter asked him about the underground Church. Jin responded in a way that both denigrates the fidelity of the underground Catholics and gives no real indication of “unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter.”

    [The members of the underground Church] say they are loyal to the pope,” he said. “But I am as loyal as them. Why become bishop? I led the [Chinese] Catholics to pray for the pope and even printed the prayer! I reformed the liturgy. Before me, it was all in Latin. But the underground Church did nothing. If I stayed with them, I would do nothing, too.”

    I wait in prayerful solidarity for Bishop Jin’s restoration to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

    Most of what I have read from advocates of the “open church” have completely ignored the principles set forth by the Holy Father in the first part of his letter and his diplomatically stated but unequivocal call for full communion with Rome. It is as though they concur with the Chinese government, and look upon the question of loyalty as purely a matter of discipline and culture, and not as a matter of the doctrine of the faith. The Holy Father clearly sees it otherwise.

    It is for this reason, Athanasius, that I do not consider my personal experience altogether relevant to the discussion. I do not judge anyone, and I do not presume that I would have the courage of the underground Catholics in China, though I pray I would. However, I find it intolerable to leave the persecuted Church without a voice.

  • Athanasius says:

    In other words, your answer is “no.”

  • AndyH says:

    Angelo – With all due respect, I think it’s time you update your understanding of China’s Church. It is backdated to 1975. Here’s a nice story from UCAN that should help you along:

    CH03151.1458 August 17, 2007 59 EM-lines (693 words)
    CHINA Catholics Reminded Of Papal Letter At Assumption Liturgies

    XUANHUA, China (UCAN) — On the feast of the Assumption, Catholics in northern China were reminded of the call for unity in the recent papal letter to Chinese Catholics.

    The Aug. 15 feast was the first major Church festival since the letter was released on June 30.

    In Xuanhua diocese, Hebei province, about 1,000 parishioners attended the solemn 5-a.m. Mass at Xiheying Church in Yuxian county on the feast day. Yuxian is 160 kilometers west of Beijing.

    Father Xia Shaowu of Xuanhua said in his homily: “Today we celebrate the feast day of our Blessed Mother, the caretaker of our souls. We should also give thanks to all mothers who take care of our material and spiritual needs.”

    He highlighted Pope Benedict XVI’s emphasis on one Church and unity in the papal letter. “No matter which way we have taken before, we should now return to the side of our Blessed Mother on this feast day,” the priest said.

    In a separate Mass that day, some Catholic youth of Xuanhua presented the papal letter as an offertory gift. They later dedicated the letter and their acceptance of it to the Blessed Mother by burning it in a basin in front of a Marian statue. Burning “gifts” such as paper money is a traditional Chinese way of making symbolic offerings to their ancestors.

    The youth, mostly university students, were taking part a weeklong formation activity that ended Aug. 16. During the week, they shared with each other their understanding of the papal letter and of unity in the China Church. They also discussed the role of Catholic youth in the Church and how they could live out their faith in their study and work.

    Chen Chen, one of the students, told UCA News she would strive harder to live Christian virtues from now on and would “bravely admit her Catholic identity in her workplace.” She added that she previously thought revenge was the way to deal with foes, but learned from the pope’s letter that the best way toward unity is love and forgiveness.

    To help Catholics understand Pope Benedict’s message, Father Xia told UCA News, his parish has published 1,000 copies of the letter for free distribution and holds daily sharing on it.

    The latest issue of his diocese’s monthly magazine, Faith Life, published a special issue for the feast day that dedicated the Church in China to the Blessed Mother in the spirit of the pope’s letter.

    Father Xia said the letter has prompted some conservative “underground” Catholics who had refused to enter any church to come to his parish and be in communion with other parishioners. This was also the case in other areas of the diocese, the priest added.

    Conservative underground Catholics, accounting for a small proportion of Catholics in Xuanhua, usually gather at a layperson’s house for Mass and religious activities since they regard all church buildings as belonging to the “open” Church, even though underground clergy manage some of them.

    Laywoman Gao Fufa told UCA News that in the past many underground clergy told her community not go to any open church, and that any sacraments they receive there are invalid. “But now the pope’s letter is clear. If we do not listen to the pope, aren’t we becoming schismatic?” she wondered.

    Another layperson, Zhao Fu, told UCA News: “The late Bishop Philippus Petrus Zhao Zhendong said we can enter any church. But since we had opposed the open Church for many years, we did not listen to him in order to ‘save face.'” The layman continued: “Now the pope has appealed for unity. I cannot disobey him.”

    Father Xia concluded, “The papal letter has induced unity, demonstrating the spirit of love and forgiveness of Mother Church.” He added that a harmonious society is formed by many united communities, including the Church.

    On the feast of the Assumption, a major Church feast in China, some Catholics usually stay in the church compound after Mass to offer special prayers at the Marian grotto. Other major Church feasts are Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. Some parishes hold variety shows performed by laypeople or children who have attended summer catechism classes.

    END

  • Andy H,

    Thanks for the kind help. However, things like the destruction of churches are happening in 2007, not 1975. Actually, the destruction of this church happened AFTER the release of the Holy Father’s letter.

    Yes, Catholics are to seek unity in obedience to the Holy Father, but also in obedience to the Holy Father, the Bishops of China are to lead them to Catholic unity as defined by the Holy Father in the letter:

    It is therefore indispensable, for the unity of the Church in individual nations, that every Bishop should be in communion with the other Bishops, and that all should be in visible and concrete communion with the Pope (5). . .

    Communion and unity – let me repeat (cf. section 5 above) – are essential and integral elements of the Catholic Church: therefore the proposal for a Church that is “independent??? of the Holy See, in the religious sphere, is incompatible with Catholic doctrine (8).

    The suppression of the letter by the government and faulty translations on the Vatican website have been well reported. Has anyone checked the version of the letter now being publicly distributed? That verification would indeed be of interest.

    The following report posted on Fr. Z’s blog seems balanced to me:

    On 2 July in an editorial the SCMP says about the Pope’s new Letter to Chinese Catholics,

    “The letter does nothing to bridge the gulf over the Vatican’s insistence on the Pope’s prerogative to appoint bishops. But its conciliatory tone and gestures symbolic of wiping the slate clean break new ground. Hopefully it will help answer the Pope’s prayers for more productive dialogue. The foreign ministry has reacted by reiterating Beijing’s well-established position on Sino-Vatican relations. A leader of the official church on the mainland has said the Pope’s letter is well intentioned. It will now be interesting to see whether Beijing responds with any action.

    “The Vatican’s scrapping of a regulation that discouraged members of the underground church loyal to the Pope from contact with clergy of the officially approved church is unprecedented. But it recognises the reality that the two have been moving closer together. The Pope’s call for those who have suffered for refusing to join the official church to forgive and reconcile for the sake of unity should add momentum. Forgiveness and reconciliation, however, will test the charity of those who suffered the most from past repression.

    “It is to be hoped that Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is right when he says the letter is a common starting point for dialogue. The sticking point remains the Vatican’s insistence that the Pope’s right to appoint bishops is fundamental to religious freedom and Beijing’s view that this is tantamount to meddling in domestic affairs. In expressing trust that an agreement can be reached, the Vatican has in mind the arrangement in communist Vietnam, where it proposes a few names and the government chooses. Resolution of the dispute would be a victory for religious freedom on the mainland. It would do China’s image no harm either.”

    Yes, the faithful should be docile to legitimized bishops, but the Holy Father expects legitimized bishops to “provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter” (8). Remember the Church works from the top down. Unity begins with the unity of the bishops with the bishop of Rome. The faithful will learn by example.

    My mindset is not locked in the 1970’s. It’s actually locked in the apostolic period. The papal prerogative to teach and govern as universal shepherd is not a cultural or merely disciplinary thing. One may not deny it with out denying the faith as such.

  • AndyH says:

    Well, Angelo, you may not be stuck in the 1970s, but you certainly aren’t in 2007. The AsiaNews article that you cite is dated September 4, 2006, a date nine months prior to the Pope’s letter. Perhaps you are referring to the proposed destruction of the Marian shrine in Tianjiajing? That’s a totally different situation, and you can learn all about it here:

    http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=9625&size=A

    In either case, that proposed demolition most definitely has not taken place. Facts are important, Angelo, but like many people suspicious of the open Church, you seem to prefer that the facts conform to your reality, and not the one on the ground in China. Plane tickets are cheap, now; go and visit.

  • apostolate says:

    Ave Maria!

    Andy,

    Fr. Angelo is on retreat but I will try to answer in his stead. You say "facts are important, Angelo" Yes, Andy, facts are important and so is respect. And so I should point out that its Father Angelo. Second, I don’t have time to list all the persecutions but it is clear that the persecution is being carried out and is being done in 2007 with threats of demolition (as even you admit) and actual arrests, see China’s rough answer to Pope’s message: priests in prison (AsiaNews)(08/02/2007) .

    You say we have to go to China before we can comment. Come on, Andy. You don’t have to crawl inside a fish to know that it’s rotten. The smell gives it away from quite a distance, thank you very much. And the news from China stinks all the way across the Pacific. The only mystery I see is why you have decided to ignore the stench.

    Friar Roderic Mary

  • AndyH says:

    Doge, deny. Dodge, deny. Fact is, FATHER Angelo incorrectly cited an AsiaNews story. He said that it has a date that it doesn’t. nice of you to acknowledge that. Also, nice of you to print an excerpt of Joe Kung’s response without printing the rebuttal in the same magazine.

    You guys cloak your whacked out and ignorant right-wing politics in all of this piety. But politics is what it is. There are brave men in the open Church – braver than a bunch of church bloggers on their sofas back in the US taking shots at them for not being pure enough – and you folks really need to open your hearts to them.

    You want to talk about respect? How about some respect for the DE JURE bishop of Shanghai instead smacking away at him, calling him a commie. Take a look in the mirror, pal.

  • Father Angelo says:

    Andy,

    I apologize for the factual error.Thanks for the correction.

    What do you think, may I ask, a “proposed demolition” means for religious freedom in China, and what about the suppression of the letter?

    Have you read the Holy Father’s letter, and if so, where do I misrepresent it?

  • apostolate says:

    The persecution in China is Continuing … Now

    Unfortunately for the Catholic Church in China and in particular Bishop Jia Zhiguo, the prominent underground Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Zheng Ding in Hebei Province, the Chinese persecution is far too easy to verify. See our post today on yesterday’s arrest of and underground Catholic Bishop And the point of contention seems to be the promulgation of the very letter that commenters here and elsewhere say is an endorsment of the Patriotic Church. Out of respect for these suffering Christians let all denial of these Chinese atrocities cease!!

    Ave Maria!