Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun has harshly condemned pastoral guidelines concerning the registration of clergy in China, calling them “immoral and against the Catholic conscience.”
In a blog post published on March 21, the former bishop of Hong Kong targeted a document entitled “Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China,” and its place in the Vatican’s attempts at reconciliation with Beijing.
“The most serious problem is not the secret Agreement of September 2018,” Cardinal Zen said, in reference to the Beijing-Vatican accord, which was intended to help build ties between the Vatican and China’s officially-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPCA).
“The ‘Pastoral Guidance’ of 28 June is more blatantly evil, immoral, because it legitimizes a schismatic Church!” wrote the 88-year-old cardinal.
“There is much confusion and contradiction in that document.”
As noted by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), Cardinal Zen has regularly argued that that these guidelines help legitimize the “false notion” that there is an independent Chinese Catholic Church not under the auspices of the Holy See.
The guidelines, among other things, expressed the Vatican’s desire to find a formula for the civil registration of bishops and priests in “the complex reality of China” that “would respect not only Chinese laws, but also Catholic doctrine.”
While the document stated that operating in a clandestine condition is “not a normal feature of the Church’s life,” it added that the Holy See does “not intend to force anyone’s conscience.”
Following the issuance of those guidelines, reports of an intensified crackdown on conscientious objectors who refuse to join the state-sanctioned CPCA have surfaced.
Meanwhile, in his blog post Cardinal Zen reiterated previous claims that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, is “manipulating” Pope Francis in regards to the Vatican’s policy with Beijing.
“My personal impression is that [Cardinal] Parolin manipulates the pope, at least in things regarding the Church in China,” Cardinal Zen said.
Cardinal Zen has long criticized Cardinal Parolin for what he believes are misguided efforts at rapprochement with Beijing.
Cardinal Parolin is the main architect of the Vatican-Beijing deal.
In February, Cardinal Zen warned that the underground Church in China, which has sworn its allegiance to the Holy See, is “doomed to disappear.”
Cardinal Zen’s message posted March 21 came as a supplement to an open letter he wrote to the dean of the College of Cardinals earlier this month.
In it, Cardinal Zen challenged earlier claims by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re that Pope Benedict XVI had given his blessing to a draft version of the controversial China-Vatican accord, calling for the release of archival evidence to back up those claims.