John Allen on the Pope’s Deal with China

His CRUX editorial: “The central point to be clear on is that there’s not really much to think about.” “What the Vatican announced today is that a deal has been signed, but no hint about what it actually contains.” This is nonsense. Allen, a long-time Vatican correspondent, knows this is revolutionary, even if details are omitted.

Pope John Paul II hated communists, and would never have signed such an agreement. While Allen fails to mention it, the agreement almost certainly throws Taiwan under the bus, acknowledging that there is only Communist China, and Taiwan – which the Vatican currently recognizes as a sovereign nation - is just a province of the People’s Republic. Pope John Paul hated communism so much that he sided with right-wing juntas in Central and South America that killed Catholic clergy and terrorized his flock, causing many to flee the Catholic Church.

But while Allen insists that we have “no hint” what the agreement says, he also insists that “however you slice it, this is a diplomatic win for Pope Francis and his team.” Why? “It’s a top priority for Francis.” In other words, since Pope Francis was desperate to get any sort of deal with China, there is no such thing as a bad deal. This is a peculiar argument. Is it a bigger win than the Vatican’s Concordat with Nazi Germany?

While Allen insists this is a diplomatic win, he admits “things could get worse [for the Church and its flock] before they get better, given the notorious ‘one step forward, one step back’ policy of the Chinese government.” A strange kind of victory.

Pope Francis is desperate to have a shot at converting over a billion people to Catholicism. He probably dreams they will reverse the massive losses among the current flock. But this is a delusion. First, the Chinese government always exercises control over religions, such as the Uighurs, Tibetan Buddhists, or Falun Gong. Second, Catholicism has existed in China for centuries, and has made only modest inroads; a massive influx is unlikely. Third, principles matter, especially in a religion which claims to represent God. While the Vatican has yet to release the details, there is good reason to believe the devil’s in them.


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