By BAO FOJIAO
Religious Affairs Correspondent
BEIJING (China Daily Show) – A high-profile spat between the Vatican and Chinese Communist Party has split opinion among critics who normally simply dislike both.
Relations between the two, long strained, were plunged into further crisis by the dramatic resignation last week of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin.
Bishop Ma announced his withdrawal from the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) at his ordination in front of a congregation of 1,200.
The Vatican claims the sole right to appoint bishops worldwide; Beijing insists that any sovereignty within China belongs to the Party.
The conflict has divided supporters of neither.
“At the end of the day, the Catholic Church’s support for universal human values must be the deciding factor for me,” sighed Stephanie Pence, a legal clerk in Milwaukee. “Even though they must bear huge responsibility for the proliferation of AIDS in places such as Africa.
“No, wait: I need to think about this.”
Last year, the CCPA forced clergy loyal to Rome to take part in the appointment of three of its bishops, an act seen by many abroad as indicative of Beijing’s persecution of religious freedom.
Physicist Sundarshan Gupta disagrees. “No, no, no,” Gupta said, wearily, his red-lined eyes betraying a sleepless night debating the issue.
“An essentially secular government, such as in post-Mao China, is the bedrock of a healthy, pluralistic society,” Gupta insisted. “No more matter how corrupt or self-serving… I’m pretty sure about that.”
Those who wish to worship outside state auspices must do so in underground churches that face regular disruption by authorities. Bishop Ma has since been allegedly detained and banned from performing ceremonies.
“It’s kind of weird to find myself getting worked up about Beijing’s attitude towards Chinese Catholics,” admitted graduate student and self-confessed ‘slut’ Helen Getty. “Especially when you consider that I spend a lot of my time defending myself against these religious nutjobs.”
Getty admitted that it was extremely hard to choose between two aging, rigid, deeply unpopular institutions.
But as she debated whether to dress as a ‘tarty bishop’ or ‘promiscuous official’ at a rally in support of religious freedom that evening, Getty said that, as conflicted as her opinions were, ultimately, her belief in the absolute freedom of expression was the deciding factor.
“I guess what I’m saying is, I think Catholics should be free to channel their sexual frustration and self-disgust into vindictive personal attacks on me if they want, and I should be free to tell them to go shove it right back where they don’t want it,” Getty declared, as she polished off a small glass of wine and settled on the ‘tarty bishop’ look.
For some, the issue is not just one of human rights as outdated, superstitious ideology.
“It’s extremely hard to take seriously anyone that believes in the tangible existence of foreign devils,” said Tsinghua Professor of Sociology He Fang.
Professor Fang says the Vatican and Party represent two large opposing forces who nevertheless share much in common.
“When two ostensibly evil powers clash, that can be a very confusing moment for all of us – especially for those who normally couldn’t give a shit about either.”
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