Jul 21, 2009

China and Catholicism

A most recent and comprehensive article on the growing influence of Catholicism in China, China's Catholic Moment,was published in July 2009 by First Things magazine. I concluded some time ago that China is a developing Roman empire that will eventually rule the world and survive for at least several hundred years.

My previous posts on China have discussed the hopeful and yet often frustrating news that comes from China:
China and "Trajan's Rescript"
China Catholics
China's Increasing Christians
China Embracing Confucian Values?
Saint Martina of China
China--Hope and Frustration
China--Optimism Superceded by Pessimism
The "Guide" of Religions in China
Pope Benedict XVI and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao
Clearly the Vatican believes China's growing influence in the world is going to affect Christianity on a world-wide basis for centuries to come. The First Things article by Francesco Sisci presents the following important observations:
  • At the end of World War II, with a nationalist government supportive of Christian missions, barely two percent of Chinese were Christians. The World Christian Database now counts 111 million Chinese Christians, while an internal survey conducted in 2007 by China’s government puts the number substantially higher: 130 million, nearly 10 percent of the total population.

  • ...this exponential growth of Christianity in China would not have been possible without the forbearance and tacit encouragement of the regime. In recent years, the Chinese government has shifted from persecution of Christians to subtle—and sometimes even open—encouragement of Christianity.

  • ...it is not an exaggeration to say we are near a Constantinian moment for the Chinese Empire, as the government looks to Christianity—particularly Catholicism—for an instrument of social cohesion.

  • Since the discrediting of Maoism twenty years earlier, China had been living with no cohesive set of values.... The successive assault by modern Western ideas and communist ideology erased the old imperial ideology, and the collapse of the communist model left China with a spiritual vacuum.

  • In a now famous essay, one of the youngest important party officials, Pan Yue, argued that religion might well be the opiate of the masses but that the Communist party needs just such an opiate to keep power as it changes from a revolutionary to a ruling party. The party, he argued, needs to learn how to use religion to enhance social stability and to avert rebellions and revolutions.

  • Thus, religion can play an important role in realizing the “harmonious society” that is the new political goal of the party.

  • The leadership views Christianity in a fundamentally different way from how it sees the religions rooted in traditional China. Christianity is inherently open to the modern world and a scientific outlook. Just as China imported science and Western methods of industrial organization, so it could import what Beijing understood to be the spiritual counterpart of Western science. In the view of the party, the naturalization of Christianity in China is not essentially different from the importation of socialist ideology two generations earlier. Christianity, like socialism, can be translated into Chinese characters.
If you find China and its policies toward Christianity critical to the world's future, please read the entire article by Sisci, including the 20+ comments. For a more balanced view of China and Catholicism, Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong reviews The Church in China, Two Years after the Pope's Letter.

No comments: