Totalitarian regimes allow for no authorities higher than the state, so they are typically aggressively atheist and persecute Christians and believers in other religions. Communism, when permitting churches, insists on bringing them under strict state control, punishing members of the unauthorized “underground churches.” This is the case in China today, which for all of its economic dynamism remains ideologically communist.
China regulates Protestantism by restricting it to the government-controlled “Three Self Patriotic Movement.” And it regulates Catholicism by restricting it to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. This organization is controlled by the Communist government–hence, by party members who are required to be atheists–which goes so far as to appoint alternative bishops unrecognized by Rome. This group does not recognize any Catholic teachings formulated after its organization in 1949, including the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the Second Vatican Council, though it now has a vernacular mass.
Many of China’s 10 million Catholics, insisting on being orthodox, worship in an underground church that has secret bishops appointed by the Pope. These Catholics, as with the exponentially-growing numbers of protestant Christians who meet in house churches, are subject to severe persecution from the Communist government.
In effect, the Pope is unifying the Catholic church in China by granting authority to the heterodox Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. The underground church that made a point of being loyal to Catholic teachings and to the pope himself is thereby eliminated. Catholics who risked their lives by committing themselves to the underground church are hung out to dry, abandoned by the very pontiff to whom they had pledged their loyalty.
Ironically, the pope often preaches against oppression. And yet he is collaborating with one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.
Which raises a more general question: Progressives are always inveighing against oppression. They consider Donald Trump to be oppressive. They even consider George W. Bush to be oppressive! But they tend to give a pass to regimes that are actually and overtly oppressive (e.g., China, Cuba, Islamic republics). Why is that?
Photo by Benhur Arcayan (Malacañang Photo Bureau) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons