July 17th, 2011
05:55 AM ET

Vatican's battle with China over church control heats up

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

The Vatican stepped up its battle with the Chinese Catholic Church this weekend, excommunicating a bishop who was ordained during the week without the pope's permission.

Pope Benedict XVI "deplored" the "illicit" ordination of the Rev. Joseph Huang Bingzhang and expelled him from the church because he was "ordained without papal mandate," the Vatican said Saturday.

He was the second bishop ordained by Chinese Catholics without Vatican permission in the past month, and at least the third in the past year, as Beijing and Rome struggle over control of the Catholic Church in China.

Huang Bingzhang was ordained as Bishop of the Diocese of Shantou in southeast China on Thursday, the Vatican said, although Rome had asked him "on numerous occasions not to accept episcopal ordination."

The Vatican said some local bishops had been forced to take part in the ordination, but did not make clear how it knew that.

It issued a stern condemnation after the Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained as bishop June 29, excommunicating him and saying he was "unacceptable to the Holy See as an episcopal candidate for proven and very grave reasons."

It took a similar line last November, when Joseph Guo Jincai was ordained a bishop without authority from Rome.

At the time, China charged the Vatican with interfering with religious liberty in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said then that the Chinese Catholic Church was independent and that any "intervention" constituted "restriction of freedom and nontolerance."

That was the first time since 2006 that China's Catholic Church was known to have anointed bishops without approval from Rome, the Vatican said in November.

The United States expressed serious concerned about religious freedom in China in its annual global report on the subject in November.

Despite some limited praise for Beijing, the State Department listed China as one of eight countries of "particular concern" on religious freedom.

It accused China of persecuting followers of the Dalai Lama in Tibet and Uyghur Muslims in western China.

Only Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants are allowed to practice their religions legally in China, the State Department said.

The Vatican's excommunication of Huang Bingzhang came on the same day that President Barack Obama met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Washington.

That meeting prompted China to accuse the United States of "hurting the feelings of the Chinese people" and interfering with China's internal affairs.

CNN's Hada Messia and Stephen Jiang contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • China • Pope Benedict XVI • Religious liberty

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soundoff (184 Responses)
  1. Semantics

    The Chinese should be free to conduct their Christianity however they want, but they shouldn't expect to be able to call it Catholicism if it isn't really Catholicism in principle, and that includes cutting the Pope out.

    However, they are free to call it Anglicism or some other Protestantism. After all, Henry VIII followed a similar route as the Chinese and for similar reasons.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  2. michael

    So the Vatican's prefers pedophile bishops over the government choosing bishops.
    I personally think you have a better chance of getting a good bishop by selecting a random name from the phone book.

    July 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  3. T

    The entire thing is comical. Two groups fighting for control of the masses. Both understanding exactly what they are doing.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Response

      China is terrible. They even have their own version of the Dalai Lama. It's like they want to immitate the rest of the world without participating with it.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • devamitta

      the response of "response' is nonsense; the chinese DONT have their "own version of the Dalai Lama"! they might whish so but they dont!

      July 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  4. Jimbo

    Given time and the grace of God, the Vatican will do in China what it achieved in Poland.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Canchi

      Just like what Hitler achieved in Poland

      July 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Canchi

      Or the Teutonic Knights

      July 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  5. Ironore068

    I am sick of being moderated and pre screened when it is clearly written in the terms under post a comment that it does not pre screen!!!

    July 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  6. Jennifer

    It's funny how many people are siding with China. China is welcome to run their churches however they see fit. But Rome does not have to accept China's interference in their organization. Rome isn't in the wrong here. If you think of the Church as a corporation with branch offices all over the world, what has happened here is a promotion that was denied at the head office was given to an employee anyway. They're within their rights to "fire" those involved for not following directives. What I suspect is happening is that people are reading the word "Catholic" and deciding to agree with the lesser evil. Take your feelings on religion out of it and the issue becomes pretty clear.

    July 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The vatican has no authority over the government of China, and in fact is there by the tolerance of a government notable for lack of tolerance. Perhaps they should take a position of humility and endeavor to compromise or simply withdraw, before the state decides to ban catholicism and punish it's followers.

      July 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  7. Stephanurus

    The question is whether the state controls the church (the Chinese view) or the church controls the state (the Vatican view).

    July 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  8. Kyle H. Davis

    Jeezee... I hate having to defend the Chinese again. Look, I criticize them more than anyone (hell I live in the God forsaken place), however there are times when the western world is simply viewing things through their own skewed propaganda.

    Religion is viewed as a business. Period. There is no "Godless Communist government" bent on the eradication of religion in China.

    They do have quite a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to outsiders interfering with religion in China. And, they view the Catholic cult...er... "church" in Rome, as being outsiders. (I was raised on, I'll criticize).

    When a foreign taught Christian can start the Taiping Rebellion, causing the deaths of 20 million Chinese, I think they have more than enough interest in keeping outsiders from controlling religion within China. If Jim Jones killed that many people, I am sure there would be some rules set up in the west as well. Hell, what I am I thinking? The Catholic Church has caused more damage than that.

    They will allow the church in China to ordain ministers, and the ministers are from the same group that the church in Rome would ordain from... it isn't that the government of China is installing "Communist indoctrinated bishops", they simply are removing that foreign control.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Jennifer

      But that doesn't mean that Rome has to abide. That's a critical point people are missing.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Canchi

      Jennifer, the critical point Rome is missing is whoever gave Rome the authority to speak on behalf of the universe, or its mythical big banger

      July 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  9. ForestSound

    Glad the Chinese Catholics were not crazy enough to ordain a female! They should obey the Pope unless he commands something contrary to the Bible.

    July 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  10. Jesse Lee

    It never fails to surprise me how few people can spell correctly on these boards. I guess it doesn't take proper education to become a macho internet critic, eh?

    July 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  11. Jesse Lee

    "At the time, China charged the Vatican with interfering with religious liberty in China."

    LOL at outright hypocrisy! Since when has there been religious liberty in China? That's like freedom of speech in Iran!

    July 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • ForestSound


      July 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • overrated

      You also forgot the fact that "Vatican" and "religious liberty" don't really go hand to hand. Telling ppl not to use condom,because they will go to hell because it.... China may have no right to yap about religious freedom(nor does US, consider how do they "show" that "right"), Vatican has even less right! Consider how much wrong it has done over last 200year. They really should shut it!

      July 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • ForestSound

      Catholics fed the hungry, healed the sick, educated illiterates, took care of orphans and widows, searched the poorest of poors and rescued them, and taught God's truth and love all over the world.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Jennifer

      Overrated, religious liberty refers to the freedom to practice the faith you choose. The Vatican's edicts to their followers don't infringe on anyone's religious liberty, unless they're forcing those followers to be Catholic against their will.

      July 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Canchi

      Catholics also salivate over little unsuspecting boys, cause overpopulation (so there'll be more catholics), polution, continue to propagate this mind-controlling fantasy that they are the only legitmate supernatural order of the universal, and left a trail of blood through the centuries.

      July 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Canchi

      My earlier comment was for ForestSound

      July 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Canchi

      Jesse Lee, China's spat with the Pope notwithstanding, your blanket statement typically reflects a dated ethnocentric view. In China today, you go to any Buddhist temple, Taoist temple there are zillions of adherents who freely visit and worship there. You obviously do not consider Buddhism a religion. Lamaist, there are some restrictions no doubt, but it's political go to the northwestern part of China you would see also zillions of the monks everywhere. Islam, there are muslim temples everywhere in China, from Guangzhou in the extreme south, Xiamen which the Muslims first settled over 1,000 years ago to Xinjiang, Ninghsia in the northwest, they are everywhere, and there's no interference to their worshipping unless they start advocating independence. China probably has the world's 2nd largest muslim population after Indonesia. Protestantism, you see new ultra-modern churches springing up everywhere, and quite high-profile celebrations of Easter, x-mas, etc. They seem to be doing pretty good business. Catholics, they are doing OK, except China would not acceed to have their populace's minds be hijacked by some guy sitting half way round the world wearing a dunce hat and a cape who keeps telling people to reproduce like it's going out of style. Don't know where you've been in the last 30 years, I don't think my observations are unique if you have done any travelling in China more than just 1 business trip a year to Shanghai.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • SoundFromForest

      Canchi, Catholic Church leaderships did make some wrongs, but the Church's massive contribution overweighs all.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Canchi

      SoundFromForest, their "massive contribution outweighs all" – that's just your angle. It sure left a massive trail of blood. You can say the same about anything, Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, Communism, Mormonism, David Koreshism, Jimmy Jonesism. Catholicism is based on a self-anointed role as the one and only interpreter of the universe, a myth, with the ultimate objective of converting the entire human race to that irrational belief managed by a guy with funny hat who sits in Italy.

      July 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  12. frank

    In Communist China, Last Supper eats YOU!

    July 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Canchi

      frank, that's a really profound statement

      July 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  13. China has a point

    China is right. The Vatican just wants more money and control. China is peaceful generally speaking and has every right to ensure its citizens are free from foriegn pressure.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  14. prophet

    I don't belong to a religion I belong to The Good God.

    July 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  15. lol

    time for crusades v2?

    July 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Canchi

      lol, too late, the Muslims are already everywhere. You would get more response with Jihad v2

      July 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  16. asyouaskforit

    The Government should support the house churches whose pastors are not appointed by a body outside China. They are just like any independent organisation or company in China providing a service for the good of the people in China.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  17. JimInTX

    The Catholic priests just want access to China's 330 million children.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  18. prophet

    All these Truths can be found in the original Hebrew Writings that Accept Yeshua Mashiach, but so many Bibles have been translated to suit the religion and the heirarchy of that religion and so don't give The Truth about clergy and who really chooses and in Peters writings this is said who does and its not the catholics. Infact catholic is not even in The Bible at all so this is an invention of the catholics. All Our Salvation has happened in The Hebrew Writing and not latin. I feel very sorry for most of the catholic clergy as they really don't know The Truth but then many do and mislead the innocent.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  19. prophet

    what the catholic clergy religion is doing is not the will of God but the will of man and this is The Tower of Babel and even a Framciscan monk gives talks to people that the catholics are just this, they built a 'tower' to worshp God but yet do their own will.

    July 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  20. prophet

    I don't belong to a religion I belong to The Good God

    July 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • ForestSound

      Read the Bible.

      July 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Zhoukovsky

      Good for you!

      July 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • Canchi

      ForestSound, I read Harry Potter. I agree, the bible is far more fantastic

      July 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • SoundFromForest

      Canchi, the Bible is indeed incomparable in every way, but you need to read the Bible and the classic literature to appreciate modern ones' depth and find their origins. Literature, too, is like a family tree.

      July 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.