China and Christianity – A Follow-up

A recent post (Chinese war on Christians) discussed charges of a war on Christianity. John Allen, the editor of CRUX, warned that “China is a danger zone for Christians,” and claimed this was part of a global war on Christianity. I challenged his claim, noting a dearth of factual support.

Reuters/RNS reported that the Vatican is currently trying to establish diplomatic relations with China. Prior relations were severed after China’s Communist revolution. The Vatican’s secretary of state said, “One has to be realistic and accept that there are a number of problems that need resolving between the Holy See and China and that often, because of their complexity, they can generate different points of view.” While the article did not go into details, there was no indication that they included persecution that endangered Christians.

Mr. Allen’s own journal, CRUX, also covered these negotiations (here), and included additional information, noting that the Vatican’s Secretary of State spoke of “a spirit of good will” on both sides - hardly indicative of religious persecution. The article also noted: “Observers have long spoken of a rift between Catholics who participate in the ‘Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association,’ the government regulatory body for the Church, and those part of a clandestine Catholic community, which has pledged its faithfulness to Rome.”

This is an important distinction, and one which Mr. Allen failed to mention. It is understandable for the Chinese to have reservations about a group that has pledged its loyalty to a foreign country. Throughout most of American history, Catholics faced similar charges. Just half a century ago, when Senator John F. Kennedy was running for president, he felt it necessary to make a lengthy speech insisting his first loyalty was to the United States, and stressing the separation of Church and State.

The article in CRUX makes no mention of Mr. Allen’s previous article on China, nor did it present any evidence which remotely supported Mr. Allen’s charges. This is consistent with my earlier charge of yellow journalism. The line between faith and zealotry is easily blurred.