An event that is being followed “with sorrow and concern” because it is contrary to “the unity of the Universal Church”: this is how the Director of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, commented on the news that Father Joseph Huang Bingzhang had been illicitly ordained bishop in Shantou, China. A number of bishops, who are in communion with the Pope, were obliged to participate in the ceremony.
With the illicit ordination of the bishop of Shantou, in China’s Guandong province, a new wound has been inflicted on the Catholic Church in China. Two weeks ago, the Church was faced with the ordination of the bishop of Leshan, celebrated in the absence of a Pontifical mandate. Reports say that a number of priests who are in communion with the Pope were pressured to take part in today’s ordination ceremony, despite their previous refusal to do so. The event renews the deep sorrow felt by Benedict XVI when he learnt of last month’s Episcopal ordination in Leshan. On that occasion, the Holy See expressed disappointment and concern, recalling that, in a declaration published on July 4, a bishop who has been ordained “without Pontifical mandate, and therefore illegitimately, lacks the authority to lead the diocesan Catholic community”. For that reason, “the Holy See does not recognize” him as bishop of the diocese entrusted to his responsibility.
An illegitimately ordained priest, together with all the consecrating bishops, risks excommunication by “latae sententiae” for violation of norm 1382 of the Code of Canon Law. In fact, the Holy See’s declaration affirms that “an Episcopal ordination in absence of Pontifical mandate is directly opposed to the spiritual role of the Holy Father and damages the unity of the Church”. It is an act that “produces divisions and tensions in the Catholic community in China”. “The survival and the growth of the Church” – according to the declaration – “can only take place in union with him to whom the Church itself is entrusted and not without his consent”. “If the Church in China is to be Catholic, then the doctrine and the discipline of the Church must be respected”. The Vatican document ends by expressing Benedict XVI’s desire to “send a message of encouragement and hope to the beloved faithful in China, inviting them to pray and to remain united”.