I was looking something up on the internet tonight (15th of July 2012) when I came across the new that China had arrested a Catholic Bishop last Saturday.
Now, this might not be news to you, but we don't have television or papers, so this week old news is new to me.
Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin had been a Bishop only a few hours, and his crime was to resign his membership of the State organisation the 'Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA)'.
He timed his announcement well - during his Ordination in St. Ignatius' Cathedral in Shanghai. His appointment as the auxiliary Bishop of Shanghai had been made by the Vatican and approved of by the Chinese Government there were a number of high ranking Chinese Officials at the Mass together with the 'Catholic Faithful'.
At the end of the ceremony the new bishop addressed the congregation, made the normal remarks thanking those involved, talked of spiritual things, then made the following annoucement that I quote from the report in the washington post: “At this time I’ve been reflecting on what our loving Mother Church reminded me, once you assume your pastoral job . . . your body and heart should be completely focused on pastoral things and evangelization. It is not appropriate to assume other duties anymore. So, from the moment of today’s ordination, it is not appropriate for me to be a member of the Patriotic Association anymore”. The congregation of 1,000, probably to the Goverment Officials chagrin, loudly applauded.
A few hours later Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin dissapeared. Sources state that he is being held in seclusion in the state controlled seminary, others say he is 'free' but has been banned from public ministry. Whatever is true, he hasn't been seen.
I suppose the reason why China approved of his elevation to Bishop was that as the a leader of the state run CPA the State felt that they would be able to control him. They were wrong, God controlled him!
The same thing happened in this Country in the year of the Lord 1162. A priest who held a prominant position in the Royal Court was nominated to become the Archbishop of Canterbury. In this case the State position held was no less than the Lord Chanceller of England. King Henry II thought that he would be able to control the Church if his trusted Chanceller was at its helm. But St. Thomas a Becket, like Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, took his responsibilities seriously, and this lead to his death at the hands of four of the King's Knights. As the saint lay dying he was heard to say: 'For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.' He was killed by another stroke of a sword.
The report in the Washington Post also remarks on how many of the State Catholic and Protestant churches have banners in them saying 'love God, love your country'. In the West we wouldn't do anything like that would we? After all, Christ said give to Caeser what belongs to Caeser, and to God what belongs to God. Surely we wouldn't confuse one with another here?
Of course we would!
We live in a country with a State Church, at least it does not call itself the 'Official' Catholic Church as it does in China. At least, it did not in the past, but now some are openly saying that they belong to the 'Anglo-Catholic' Church. What could that mean but a State run Catholic Church where the bishops are chosen by the Prime Minister and his Officials and the choice ratified by the Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II herself!
If we take the claims of the Angilican communion seriously that they are 'catholic' but not 'Roman', then you can see that in Britain as in China there is the true Catholic Church which is loyal to the Papacy, and the State run Church which is loyal to the State.
For further proof of the simularities between the two Countries go into the Medieval churches in England. Look upwards. What do you see? The depiction of God made man, dying for us on the Cross, with his Virgin Mother and his Beloved Disciple standing near? Before the Reformation that is what you would have seen, the Crucifixion scene elevated for all to see and meditate on, supported by the rood screen. But you are lucky indeed to see that now. Instead, high above the arch there is the
Royal Crest. The earthly royalty usurping the rightful place of the Divine King, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
But you will say that I am forgetting that the true Catholic Church in China is an 'underground' Church due to State persecution of Catholics and other Christians. Yes I agree, the Church is persecuted in China. Britain, of course, is a tolerant society. Well tolerant of anything deemed politically correct! Tolerant of immoral conduct - as long as it doesn't give rise to human babies. Tolerant in theory of people's religious beliefs, as long as it doesn't impinge on polite society. After all it is Ministers of our Government who are argueing at Strasburg that British subjects have no right to wear crosses in public.
On a different point, I see that there is a campaign in Germany to print and distribute anough Korans to put a Koran in every home. Islam is a religion which is actively trying to recruit members. As Christians, we too have been instructed to spread the faith. Christ himself has sent us out to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But, here is the conundrum, we Christians will not stand in the way of the Muslims trying to get us to read the Koran, trying to get us to convert, it is quite simply up to us to be true to our faith and remain Christians, but, if we were to announce that we aimed to put a Bible in every house in Britain, including in Islamic areas? We would be charged with inciting religious hatred, or infringing human rights, or something else.
As in China, we too are persecuted in this country. But it is insidious, subtle. The British Secular Society and others trying to erode our beliefs and practices, tryng to get us to conform to the ways of the world, not the Way of the Cross.
By looking at the wonderful example given by Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin we too may learn how to stand up for our beliefs.
And may God protect him and give him consolation in this his time of trial.
Four days ago (17th July 2012) an article on 'Asianews.it' stated that Bishop Thaddeus Ma had posted something on his blog for the first time since his arrest.
Now it may be that it is not under his control, but that the authorities are doing it and pretending to be him, but, on the other hand let us be positive and take it that it is the Bishop himself.
Certainly the content of it is appropriate, it contains 5 poems by the first native Chinese Jesuit and are by all accounts of a rather melancholy nature. So whether the tone of the poems reflects the Bishops feelings, or whether it is a clever bit of State propaganda, to disuade any other Catholic priests and bishops from following his example, is an unanswerable question at present.
What is certain is that he is still under arrest, still held in isolation, still a living martyr.
To read his actual words at the end of his Consecration for yourself just click on the link here .
Now for a piece of bad news, followed by very good news from South East Asia. A Diocese in Vietnam had been experiencing severe persecution from the authorities, including the occupation of a church and the smashing of a statue of Our Lady. A protest was organised, and ten thousand people marched to call for religious freedom for Chrisitans. This took place despite intimidation including military veicles etc. This time fear was overcome by zeal for the Lord. The link to this story is here.
Update, August 16th 2013
Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin remains under 'house' arrest at the State run seminary and his flock is still asking for his release, especially as the 93 year old Bishop of Shanghi Diocese died this April.