Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Vatican and Taiwan

How many divisions has the Pope? Enough to be a major propaganda coup for China if the Vatican switches to the authoritarians in Beijing. The National Catholic Reporter reports on the new US Ambassador and the old struggle between Taipei and Beijing:

After a wait of nearly nine months, the new American Ambassador to the Holy See touched down in Rome on Sunday, Oct. 23. Francis Rooney arrived at Rome's Fiumicino Airport shortly after 8 a.m., where he was greeted by Msgr. James Green, head of the English department in the First Section of the Secretariat of State, on behalf of the Vatican.


During confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in late September, Rooney made brief comments about a couple of issues he'll tackle as ambassador. Rooney said Benedict XVI has made it clear he intends to continue John Paul II's work in promoting human dignity and "building bridges to the Muslim world."

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., who presided over the hearing, said he was concerned about reports the Vatican is considering severing relations with Taiwan. Allen said he didn't want to see the Vatican recognizing China over Taiwan.

Rooney said he would make it a priority to ensure the Vatican has "a sensitivity to the feelings of our government" on the issue.

He'll be facing an uphill battle, especially in light of recent comments from Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano to the effect that the Vatican is ready to cut ties with Taiwan right away if it can be assured of the immediate launch of relations with Beijing.

The Catholic Church has historically backed the authoritarians -- recall Catholic support of Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Peron, and Chiang Kai-shek, and here we have no exception. As soon as Taiwan becomes democratic, the Church decides that it is time to shift recognition to the Communists. (hat tip to Vatican Watcher)


Sun Bin said...

that is a great observation in correlations.

Anonymous said...

You might want to look at history before making such broad generalizations. The Catholic Church never supported Hitler; just check out some of bishop Clemens August von Galen's speeches for some evidence of how Catholic leaders responded at the time.

I know you are critical of Christianity, and there is much to criticize. But the charge of complicity or cooperation between the Catholic Church and the Nazis is simply not fact.

Michael Turton said...

You are incorrect. The Church in fact helped put Hitler into power, agreeing to disband the Catholic opposition in exchange for recognition of Church privileges and extension of said privileges. Many current Catholic Church privileges in Germany date from the Nazi period. While there was some opposition among lay Catholics and in the Catholic trade unions, especially in later years when Hitler's anti-Christian plans were at last unveiled, the Church leadership itself never opposed him. Instead, it served him, singing Te Deums in all the cathedrals when he survived assassination attempts, for example. It also worked with pro-Nazi rightists elsewhere, in Yugoslavia, for example, where a death camp was run by a cleric, and in Slovakia, where the dictator was a Catholic priest who cooperated with Nazi anti-Jewish policies. Remind me, though, what happened to people like Von Papen and Cardinal Stepanic after the war -- and what status Stepanic has now.....


Anonymous said...


Look it up. In real sources.

Clemens August von Galen was a Church leader -- one of the most important in Germany -- who spoke out in strongest terms against Nazism. Like I said: look it up.

And please give some of your sources -- real sources and not atheist websites or anti-Catholic polemic -- for this propaganda you're spewing. The Nazi accusations are anti-catholicism straight out of the Bible belt. Like I said: look up Clemens August von Galen, read some of his speeches, and see how the Church in Germany actually responded at the time.

Whether or not individuals acted in sympathy or concert with Nazis is another question (but then so did some Americans -- again, another question). But there was no official Church support for Nazis.

And then take a look at the activities of the Church establishment in Latin America and say again that the Church "always" sides with authoritarians.

Michael Turton said...

But there was no official Church support for Nazis.

Perhaps things are different on your planet. On mine, the Church disbanded its own opposition parties in exchange for privileges which it still clings to.

I notice you didn't answer my question, anon, so I'll ask it again. Please explain to me what the current status of pro-Nazi Rightist Cardinal Stepanic is.

And then take a look at the activities of the Church establishment in Latin America and say again that the Church "always" sides with authoritarians.

Oh yes, individuals, as always, outshine their Oscar he a saint yet? No? Why not, one wonders.....

And speaking of Latin America, JP II moved against liberation theology decisively in the 1990s, removing its exponents from their posts. The Church's flirtation with progressive social justice alas, remains a movment of individuals rather lower down the ladder....

Sun Bin said...

It is all about money and power.

This one is what $600M cannot buy.
The potential tithe collected from, and the power associated with, 1.3bn of religious market, far outweighs whatever billion of dollar either side can spend.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Well you didn't look up von Galen or provide any real sources, either, so we're even.

I will just repeat that the actions of a few individuals do not condemn those of the whole, and do not represent "official" policy.

If we look at historical examples, the bloodiest regimes of the 20th c. were all atheistic. Including the PRC itself. Does this means all atheists are morally bankrupt? Of course not.

Romero is of course a good example in Latin America. John Paul II was also an important part of an anti-authoritarian movement in Poland.

Although I strongly disagree with the idea of giving up diplomatic relations with Taiwan, methinks it's a numbers game. If it were just a fondness for authoritarianism, why wait so long? The US caved a long time ago.

But there are very few Catholics in Taiwan-- and many more in China. The Vatican thinks they can achieve something by setting up relations with the PRC. This is of course erroneous. But so is to attribute the decision to some penchant for authoritarianism.

Carr said...

First of all congratulation for your website and your blog,

let me clear a little the Vatican historical position. Before that let me add that I was born and raised catholic and I'm happily atheist now, genuinely hating the church from the bottom of my heart.

Every time we read Church history we should not consider them as a political motivated organization. And not because it is not so, but because the ideology under it changes with different popes. When we look at catholic church we have to examine it as a power-hungry organization with one and only objective: maintain and increase its power base.

That's why you will find conflicting and different claims on Vatican history. Now, some of the events are absolutely undeniable, for example, Church blessing to Franco's butchers in Spain Civil war, or the political backing of the Pope to Pinochet regime. But things are quite more tricky when referred to totalitarian regime. Not because they are ideologically conflicting (the blessing of God awaits everyone who's kind enough to increase His revenues), but because both the totalitarian regime and the Church demand only one god. The world is not big enough for both.

That's why Vatican's position in WWII was so particular. The Church despised Hitler power (for the simple reason that it meant less power for the Pope), but by using Vatican's words: “Between Nazist paganism and Communist atheism we have to choose the lesser evil, and that is paganism”.
To make it very clear how Church can flip flop just look at Italy. Fascists and Priests supported each other for 20 years, and when Mussolini was arrested which party emerged as opposition? Christian Democrat party, political tool of the Vatican.

I'm quite surprised Vatican's stance on PRC lasted so long, the only reason has to be the late pope personal feelings for communism. After all China is a huge market, even for lies-seller.

Thank you

dan said...

Good post, Michael. The Vatican would love to switch to big huge China as soon as possible, in order to have a much bigger pool of unredeemed souls to recuit, and leave poor faithful Taiwan out of the picture. Sad.

Sun Bin said...

it was reported vatican wanted to dump taiwan a long time ago. the issue was not about breaking tie with taiwan.

what has been stopping them was PRC insists the bishops be approved by them.

Mutantfrog said...

Sun Bin is right. The issue has nothing to do with supporting Taiwan and everything to do with opposing the PRC's control of the Catholic hierarchy in China.

Michael Turton said...

Sure. I never said it was about supporting Taiwan. But it is indicative of the way the Church thinks that it cuts off Taiwan...taking the easy way rather than the ethical way. Why? Because the Church likes authoritarians, and hates democracies. Pluralist societies create competing value systems and permit a free flow of information that lets individuals access histories that give a more robust view of the Church's own history than it would like. The Church knows this well -- look what happened to the Catholic Church's clout in Spain and Poland after democracy arrived. In a fair market the Church cannot compete. So it needs one in which the game is rigged somehow.

Authoritarians, properly managed, can be a boon in controlling information access, enforcing Church doctrine and unity, making the Church attractive as alternative to the government, and, if the jackpot is scored, adopting an official policy of promoting the Catholic religion. There's little to lose in cooperating with authoritarian governments.

And before anon goes off on some blowhard rant, I urge him to read some old Christianity Today articles in which missionaries pine for the good old days of the cultural revolution, when there were plenty of converts. Propping up authoritarian governments is a useful conversion strategy for religions -- look at the way Protestants in Cuba have made inroads both by being an alternative to the Catholics and to the Communists, yet their refusal to oppose the regime means that they, not Catholics, get to make Easter and Xmas broadcasts on the radio. I suppose we could add the Batista regime there as yet another corrupt old authoritarian regime supported by the Church.....