You can't bargain with the devil. This should be clearly understood by Vatican officials who persist in establishing - at all costs - improved relations with communist China ("Vatican row brewing over bishops," Briefly/Asia, June 24).
The Chinese government will never openly accept the real Catholic Church. It will never recognize anything other than state-backed churches with bishops sympathetic to the communist regime. Essentially, the true Catholic Church must remain an underground institution in China.
Chinese Catholics recently have been encouraged by some Vatican officials to seek government recognition as members of the "official" or "open" church, a step that would require them to join the government-run Catholic Patriotic Association. This has emboldened authorities in Beijing to appoint bishops without papal approval and has managed to sway many Chinese Catholics to the government's side. This strategy of compromise is of a piece with the old "Ostpolitik," Pope Paul VI's controversial policy of accommodating communist governments in an attempt to obtain better conditions for Catholics behind the Iron Curtain during the 1960s and '70s. The policy of compromise failed in Russia just as it is failing today in China.
The church is called to evangelize, and so it must try to work with the world's governments and with various peoples and those of different faiths. Nonetheless, Pope John Paul II reminded us, "In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God, who is Truth." In his pro-life encyclical "The Gospel of Life," he further stated, "In the proclamation of this Gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world's way of thinking."
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