Chapter III - Cultural And Theological Aspects Of Division And Reconciliation

Resources »EAPR »East Asian Pastoral Review 1997 »Chapter Iii Cultural And Theological Aspects Of Division And Reconciliation

Culture covers everything in human life.  It consists of all learned behavior.  It is an integrated system of beliefs, values, customs, and institutions expressing those beliefs, values, customs and which give a group of people a sense of identity, security, and continuity.  It is our way of living and a style of being and becoming human (person) in community.  Culture is also second nature to us.  We are socialized by society from childhood such that we view our own cultural heritage as "natural" and"normal."  In this sense culture may be spoken of as a collective gut feeling (Arbuckle 1990, 1).  Culture is created by people for their own well-being.  It expresses their desire for humanization.  What is created in terms of beliefs, values, customs, and institutions becomes part of a people's design for living.  Thus, if there is a culture there must be a tradition.

We need to look at culture not as static but as dynamic because it keeps evolving.  Further, in considering culture as a pastoral agent, we must look at culture descriptively and from a particular perspective, always considering the wider context of other disciplines and social changes.  In other words, culture must be viewedwithin the context of society.  It is for this reason that we have been describing at length what has been going on within the Chinese Catholic Church (CCC) and the Chinese society in general.

In the following section we will first and foremost attempt to penetrate into the traditional Chinese culture.  We will then consider some differences between the Chinese and European cultures in order to deal with the issue of impasse and division which we encountered in the previous chapters.

Traditional Chinese culture is still deeply rooted in  the minds and thoughts of most Chinese Catholics. Christianity has been greatly influenced by Western culture, which in turn has been injected by the former into other cultures, including the Chinese.

I believe that there is a cultural dimension to the present difficulties.  Therefore, cultural investigation is necessary in order to solve the outstanding issue.  Differences between the Western and Chinese cultures require we approach them from different angles and examination of the differences between cultures can play an important role in the course of reconciliation.  When we appreciate the excellence of Chinese culture and its difference from the Western, it does not mean that we want to cover up its negative aspects or ignore other cultures.  Cultures are susceptible to corruption, hence there is a need for reformation from within (Hillman 1989).  There are surely weaknesses in each culture including the Chinese, but this is not our concern here.  Our main task is to consider the ways in which the Chinese cultural heritage might aid us in removing division.  We shall also look into the matter from the perspective of the Christian faith.  Appropriate to both our heritage and to the matter at hand would be to begin our investigations from a Christological standpoint.  Certainly a God-centered/Jesus-centered knowledge and practice must replace a Church-centered understanding for Chinese Catholics at this time.


China is an immense country with a great civilization: fifty-six ethnic groups with a thriving population of more than 1.2 billion people.  The peoples of Europe and North and South America combined have not been more numerous than the Chinese.  And there is another, more important difference: a billion or so Europeans and Americans live divided into some fifty separate and sovereign states, while more than a billion Chinese live in only one state.  Why is there a strong sense of unity for Chinese?  What is the key motive force of China's unity?


China's ancient unity was a triumph of human institutions over geography.  Other contributory factors such as population, economy, politics, and culture have been noted by John Fairbank (Twitchett and Fairbank 1989, 14-17), a historian who identifies in China a cultural nationalism instead of the usual political nationalism we meet elsewhere.  It is generally agreed that historically a massive population gives people a propensity for order through political unity.  This consensus is buttressed by administrative arrangements.  However, in Chinese political life, unity of the state is considered part of the order of nature.  The disorder of the centuries before 221 b.c.e. was punishment for the Chinese; while cultural nationalism has constantly been a core element of China's unity.  Near Twenty-five hundred years ago, Confucius spoke on four subjects for the Chinese: culture, conduct, loyalty, and trustworthiness (Tsai 1989, 40).  It is noteworthy that culture was placed first and morality second by China's greatest teacher.

Further, China accepts and integrates other ethnic groups into its heritage.  It is wellknown that China has acculturized and absorbed other peoples, such as the Mongols, Manchus, and Jews, making them give up their own traditions and ways of life and eventually become a part of the Chinese (Chen 1972, 17-18; see also Bloodworth 1967, 344; Chan Sui-Jeung 1983, 32-42, 73-84).  In contrast, the Chinese diaspora were able to live in freedom, peace, and friendship with other cultural people whilst retaining their Chinese cultural identity.  How many Chinatowns are there in the world which are engaged in cultural development and exchange?  This characteristic of the Chinese culture, its all-embracing appetite to absorb and influence other cultures, has been a prime obstacle for the Christian faith.  Dennis Bloodworth likens this Chinese characteristic to the way "stomach juices will treat a steak." Ralph Covell (1986, 13) opines that Christianity, itself an exclusive religious doctrine, confronts an unbending, exclusive culture in the Chinese.

China emphasizes not only national unity but also family harmony and village friendships. Chinese tend to regard the family as the center and foundation of their culture.  "China observes that the basic unit for the organization of state and society is the family and protection of that basic unit is therefore the fundamental obligation of the state and society" (Chen 1972, 18).  The family is a basic unit of the nation so that the nation as a mirror of family is regarded as a large family.  Thus, the Chinese are quite proud of their national unity and consider a prosperous and peaceful nation a blessing.

Harmony and moral excellence within the family are also extended into the society and the state and desirable in the practice of political life. As a Chinese scholar says,

China has insisted that only men of virtue and wisdom can hold the rein of government. . . .  Any rule by force will eventually lose the support of the ruled and be doomed to failure. . . .  Only moral excellence is fundamental. Thus the maxim  "Virtues first and riches last" is in her code of high principles (Chen 1972, 18).

The political life is closely connected with moral excellence, which has been the true power for the Chinese in the past two thousand years.  Thus it is not surprising that Chinese culture is moral and humanistic rather than juridical.  A Chinese scholar has summarized the Chinese moral culture and thought as expressed in different areas of life.

In my study of Chinese history I have often observed that our humanistic thinking,  more than anything else, has been the determining factor in our way of life. Name  anything Chinese, chances are that it is more or less linked with our moral conceptions. In politics, we like to talk about the importance of virtue in the art of government instead of technique of promoting administrative efficiency. In military science, our thoughts revolve around brotherly love, faithfulness, and mutual trust as superior weapons to heavy armament and trained warriors. Our attitude toward different religions is conditioned by how much good each of them can accomplish rather than limited to the narrow confines of prejudices and persecutions.  Regarding literature, we judge its merits by the moral lessons it contributes to the readers.  In painting the scenes of nature, it is the artist's ability  to absorb the spirit of nature which counts most.  It seems that everything concerning China is somehow connected with either the meaning of living or the purpose of life. No one will understand us unless he knows first what we have been thinking and how our thoughts have affected our life (Wang 1968, 4).

Now some necessary questions may be asked.  In this huge country and varied society, conflicts of various natures and degrees have been common in government institutions and in family life.  Therefore, how could China, whose history spans five thousand years of continuous and uninterrupted cultural development, have maintained its unity as a big family for over two thousand years from 206 b.c.e. until today?  Where did its strong sense of unity originate?  For five millennia we had a society which had not ceased to emphasize family values.  How, then, did people resolve family quarrels and maintain harmony?  Doubtless, as we see above, we must ascribe this ability to their rich cultural traditions and moral excellence.  Moreover, reconciliation within friendships was looked upon as a virtue.  It certainly played a large role in maintaining national unity and family well-being.  We will see it in the next section.

The Confucians who consider ren (the quality of being a compassionate and benevolent human being) as the central virtue, understood it as loyalty to the family clan, the underpinning of the filial piety owed to one's parents and teachers, the basis for a deferential respect for others and the ability to maintain harmonious relations with nature and other human beings.  In their day to day activities, people who constantly based their lives on intimate, loving relationships would include their parents and teachers within these bonds.  This made it possible for them to maintain good relationships with their families, neighbors and with society at large.  The family was the basic unit in which these relationships were formed and from which they interacted with those outside the family.  As the Analects say: "From the close to the remote, from the intimate to the distant." Thus are formed the five relationships -- between rulers and ministers, fathers and sons, older and younger brothers, husbands and wives, and friends with friends.  The Analects exhort the relations of humanity: how, between father and son, there should be affection; between sovereign and ministers, righteousness; between husband and wife, attention to their separate functions; between old and young, a proper order; and between friends, fidelity" (Mencius 3:1:4 in Legge 1989, 630-31).  In the light of these five relations, the Chinese not only regard their nation itself as a large family but also "within the four seas all people are brothers."  (Analects 12: 5: in Legge 1989, 282).  These loving relationships will enable one "not to do to others, what one would not want done to self"(Analects 12, 2:279) and "wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others" (Analects 6, 28: 199).  From this will grow an ideal world commonwealth.


Ancient Chinese scholars believe in the cyclical nature and interpretation of history.  Mencius enunciated this principle on a five-hundred-year cycle (Wu 1980, 9; see also Twitchett and Fairbank 1989, 12).  The author of Sanguo Yanyi (the Romance of the Three Kingdoms), a well-known Chinese historical novel of the fifteenth century, put it a different way: "Affairs of the world are such that when they are divided too long they must unite, when united too long must divide."  Whether in political or personal human life, division happens very often so that there must be some ways and means to handle it.  In general practice, reconciliation is always achieved through the mediation of the elders who think it their responsibility.

From a negative viewpoint, reconcilers or peacemakers are important for families, communities, society, and even the country.  Chinese people especially pay respect to senior persons and elders who often can play very important roles as mediators in various divisions.  When an elder pleads for mercy for person A to person B, this entreaty must be taken into consideration or even granted by person B due to the peacemaker's "face" as a venerable elder.  To pay respect to elders is a virtue for the Chinese.  On Chinese lips, "those who build bridges, repair roads and patch up divisions are public-spirited persons."  As we have seen earlier, Confucius and Mencius strongly opposed violent control and instead preferred cultural and moral reign in political life.  Through the ages, most dynastic or modern governmental changes have always been caused by their non-ren rule (noncompassionate; tyrannical).  Thus reconciliation plays an effective role in the unity of the nation as well as the family. It is a virtue rather than a strategy.

Positively, harmony and union in Chinese families, villages, communities, and society are greatly emphasized by sages and practiced by people.  For example, the life of harmony has a special place in Chinese poetry and art.  Chinese paintings often depict man in the serenity and vastness of nature and the rhythm of harmony.  Harmony within a family and society depends upon right relationships: "Treat with the reverence due to age the elders in your own family, so that the elders in the families of others shall be similarly treated; treat with the kindness due to youth the young in your own family, so that the young in the families of others shall be similarly treated" (Mencius 1:7 in Legge 1989, 456).  Union is very important for the government to rule the nation peacefully.  In the words of Mencius, "Opportunities of time vouchsafed by Heaven are not equal to advantages of situation afforded by the earth, and advantages of situation afforded by the earth are not equal to the union arising from the accord of men" (Mencius 2:2:1 in Legge 1989, 559).  The union of human beings is more important than anything else while in a sense, division is an outcome of disharmony.


Western culture is the composite manifestation of the Hebraic-Graeco-Roman cultures in which Western civilization has its deep roots. There is a particular emphasis in each of them: Hebraic tradition emphasizes the relationship between God and human beings; Greek culture, knowledge; and Roman custom, law. The emphasis in Chinese traditional culture, which has its roots in the Far East, is just the opposite.

It talks a great deal about man but little about God, therefore emphasizes human-heartedness, Ren which as the Character shows, is the relationship between man and man.  And the love of man is the highest manifestation of human-heartedness. Chinese traditional culture does not emphasize law but singles out Li, propriety, as the measure of conduct for society as well as for the individual in all his behavior towards men and affairs.  Chinese traditional culture does not give too great a heed to knowledge but pays particular attention to morality (Wu 1980, 16).

This emphases on morality can lead us to another perspective through family and filiality.  Every family is established on the closest form of unity which constitutes the basis of Chinese society.  The following are some differences from the family values of the West:

If the center of the Western family is founded in the relationship of husband and wife, the center of the Chinese family is founded in the relationship of father and son. The West is concerned more for youth than for the aged, while China is concerned more for aged than for the youth. The West encourages personal freedom and independence, while China stresses family solidarity and interdependence. In the West much more humor is related to mothers-in-law; in China it is more often related to sons-in-law. To the Chinese, the aged should be respected in all circumstances; only the younger generation may be bantered (Makra 1961, viii).

We do not distinguish the two cultures through their differences in order to claim that one is correct and the other wrong, since cultures are made and reshaped in response to the demands of the natural environment and historical period in which people find themselves.  Every human act is historically conditioned by culture.  Therefore cultures are not comparable in terms of better or worse. Each culture is a unique contribution to humanity (Hillman 1989, 22).  What is excellent for one culture may be unsuitable for another.  There is neither simply right nor wrong.  However, misunderstandings in this area often arise, especially regarding religious matters. For example, the Chinese Rites Controversy, which lasted three hundred years, was an outcome of the encounter between Christianity and Chinese culture. Our purpose will now be to probe these differences in cultures as a way of lighting the way to reconciliation.

A difference in the ways of thinking: For more than one and a half millennia, China stood in the Far East as the unique "Middle Kingdom."  Europeans, however, put down their roots not only in Europe but also in the New World by seafaring and conquering.  As a historian points out, "China grew by implosion, while the states of the West were the products of explosion" (Twitchett and Fairbank 1989, 15).  Ethnic and geographical differences would necessarily lead to a divergence in the Eastern and Western ways of thinking, even though they might have interacted with and learned from from each other in the course of history.  This divergence can be seen from two perspectives: language structures and cognitive approaches to reality.

Chinese is different from the Indo-European languages in writing, grammar, and pronunciation.  For instance, there is no close and detailed correspondence between the written and the spoken word in the Chinese language.  Classical Chinese is a written language but it is not tied to any system of pronunciation.  Thus there are many dialects which share the same words and grammar (Kwok 1995, 23; see also Chao 1976, 72-83, 263).  Further, inflection to indicate case, number, person, tense, and so forth in Chinese is different from that in Indo-European languages.  These differences make Kwok (1995) believe that the way our language is structured does influence our mode of thinking.  She takes Chang Tung-sung's view (1939, 165, 169) as evidence to prove her point.

Chinese logic is very different from Aristotelian logic because of the difference in language structure.  The traditional type of subject-predicate proposition is absent in Chinese logic.  Western logic is very closely related to the verb "to be" in western languages: Because the verb "to be" has the meaning of existence, the law of identity is inherent in Western logic.  In the contrast to the "identity-logic" of West, Chinese logic can be referred to as "correlative-logic."  Chinese thought puts no "emphasis on exclusiveness, rather it emphasizes the relational quality between above and below, good and evil, something and nothing.

From the difference of languages and their structures which make people think in very different ways, we now move to cognitive approaches to reality of Chinese and Western cultures. The basic characteristics of Chinese, Indian, and Western thinking processes is summarized by F. H. Smith (Hesselgrave 1978, 204-9) in the following figure:

China = Concrete relations→ concepts→ Psychological experience
The West = concepts → Concrete relations → Psychological experience
India = Psychological experience → Concrete relations→ Concepts

Obviously, the Chinese way of thinking is significantly different from the Western.  In western thought priority is given to concepts. In contrast, the Chinese give concrete relationships priority as its basic approach to reality.  Concrete relationships are the key to understanding and approaching the Chinese.  We conclude this section with a Chinese's description which, may help us to see this point and lead us into the next section.

The Chinese tend to have a light regard for logic. The understanding of life for them comes not from attacking the world with reason and science. For the Chinese, understanding the world comes primarily through relationship. To be born Chinese is to be born into a world of subtle and complex relationships.  There is no need to search for one's identity, one is born with it. There is only the need to harmonize these relationships, not only the relationships between men, but also man with nature and with the divine. The goal of life for him is harmony, not conquest (Joanna Chan 1981, 42).

difference in approaches to justice and human relationships:  Usually culture has a direct connection to the geographical environment out of which it originated. Chinese culture was born on a continent adapted to an economy of small farming communities.  Therefore it readily evolved a set of social relationships based on the family or clan where its members appreciated intimate, face-to-face social relationships.  "It was not given to disputes, but was more tolerant and willing to make concessions.  Harmony was its value. Union was achieved through natural ties of intimacy and not through any benefits that could be clearly calculated" (Zheng 1989, 199-201; see also Cooley 1962, 24-25).  Western culture, in contrast, originated on the Greek peninsula and in a Mediterranean environment suitable to commerce.  It definitely did not form the clan-based villages of Mainland China, but the city-state as idealized by Plato.  Because human groupings were limited by conflicts of interest, their relationships were not too intimate but more indirect in nature.  In this larger urban complex, people became accustomed to using a commercial type of calculation in their dealings with each other.  Therefore the concept that "each does his best to earn what will be his own" gave rise to a "justice" that was the highest norm for the organization of the state.

The Catholic Church and its canon law have been greatly influenced by Western culture and morality, especially knowledge of jurisprudence.  The resolution of legal issues, such as the appointment of bishops in China, is perhaps often decided primarily through the unconscious use of Western interpretations of these concepts.  We recall that culture is second nature to us.  The impasse that the CCC today is facing today includes structural and legal aspects.  One main reason for this is that the Chinese and Western cultures do not give the same answers when dealing with legal and political problems and those arising from interpersonal relationships.  The church, using justice (understood in the Western sense), a separation of church and state, and already existing democratic social structures as its bases and criteria, makes repeated legalistic demands upon Chinese Catholics who live in a culture and legal system distinctly different as well as in an isolated situation from the universal Church.  Such a church emphasizes adherence to principles, legal structures, and fulfilling of responsibilities that produces results. In the continuity of conflicts between the Chinese Communist Government (CCG) and CCC, the principle of ecclesial legality continues to be invoked and stressed.  These principles have emerged not only as the main means for judging the loyalty of Catholics and quality of bishops, but have also become weapons in the hands of people both in and outside China as they decide whom to support and whom to challenge.

In the 1980s when news of Roman legal principles and guidelines brought in by overseas visitors became known, Catholics within China gradually began to take legal principles as starting points toward solutions.  In my opinion we should not be too ready to place all the blame on Chinese Catholics alone, when outside observers fault them for being too concerned about emphasizing loyal obedience to and a strict observance of law and thus limit the spiritual life.  We must also consider the external reasons that led to this legal impasse.  Have not those outside authorities -- who granted a series of exemptions -- and observers -- who introduced and placed special emphasis on fidelity to law and obedience to the hierarchy -- somehow forced the Church into this impasse?

China is in the process of industrialization today.  Many are moving to the cities (Inside China Mainland 1995, 54), and there is a shift towards an emphasis on law within the society.  However, the emphasis on human relationships still exerts a great influence on Chinese Catholics.

For the Chinese, human relationships in the family, in the community, and between individuals are primary in organizational affiliation. Law is secondary.  This is the big difference between the Chinese and European approaches to justice, especially legal justice.  A clue to the difference lies in the fact that there are comparatively few lawyers in Mainland China as well as in Taiwan.  In fact there has not been a tradition of lawyers in China throughout history.  Justice for the Chinese is heavily influenced by Confucian ethics which encourages persons to solve disputes among themselves rather than imposing their problems on the public.  Unlike Westerners who may be prone to settle in court hoping that the law will quickly and fairly decide their case when a dispute arises, the Chinese do not look upon this judicial procedure as the best and as the last resort.  In fact they see it as a loss of face and a disgrace to the family.  This is why even today Chinese have little liking for taking their disputes to court unless there is no other way to settle the matter.  There are, after all, Chinese sayings such as "Family disgrace must not be spread abroad" or "Do not wash your dirty linen in public" (Lai 1970, 10).

A difference in attitude to law in practice: In the common law tradition of the Western world, laws are kept to the minimum necessary to preserve the good order of society and to protect the rights of the individual.  Thus, one is free to do anything unless the law clearly forbids it (King 1989, 192-93).  But in the Chinese tradition, one is free to do something if the law permits it.

This difference in attitudes towards law may explain how  Bishop J. Fan interpreted the Roman privileges and started to ordain so many bishops and priests without the required training.  Exemption No. 7 for ordination says

Bishops can choose men who will receive the priesthood for the service of the church and of Christ's faithful. Such men must be notable for sound judgement and charity, firm in the faith and faithful to Peter, possessing sound Catholic doctrine -- even if they have not entirely completed the course of theological studies -- outstanding in virtue and ready to observe the state of celibacy (translated from the Latin by Geoffrey King).

This kind of Western privilege permits such ordinations in China's "special time."  The Vatican may have unknowingly given the Underground Church (UC) the opportunity to be born and to develop through this exemption. Did these granters of exemptions consider the Chinese Catholics' understanding of the law when they granted them these privileges?


Some Chinese Catholics who follow the Church's Western juridical principles are firmly loyal to the law and hold this as the basic principle for their faith.  For them the bishop, whether he belongs to the UC or Open Church (OC), must first of all be legitimate.  But there are those who rely on their trusting and affective relationship with the bishop.  A number of Catholics suffered with their bishop and priests during the Cultural Revolution.  Although some have realized that their bishop is not legitimate, they still support him as they have done in the past.  Some even work in his chancery or for the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), visibly testifying to their trust in him.  Some newly ordained priests and many Catholics unite in working together even through the CCPA.  In these examples, relationship and affection are the key to mutual growth in trusting and communication.

Even if most Catholics today support the UC or OC solely on the basis of legal standards of right or wrong or upon their observance for or disregard the law, their reasoning is most likely off the mark.  We must realize that all the bishops of both underground and open churches claim they are in the right before the law.  And who among average Catholics today can obtain a thorough understanding of the law's complexmeaning?  Furthermore their support for either side can hardly avoid be detached from the way Chinese form personal relationships including affective ties with fellow Christians.  As mentioned above, one cannot overlook the trust and deep affection that people feel toward their bishop and consequently how far they will go to forgive and support him.  People do not regard this as a mere legal question, but a moral one that governs personal relationships.

Today we must be compassionate and benevolent human beings (ren) and be able to establish close relationships with others in order to work for reconciliation.  The law must not be our sole consideration.  Once these personal relationships are established, especially those founded on our Christian faith, we shall have the courage to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others and, what is more, to use the ties of affection founded on Christ "to outdo each other in showing respect" (Rom. 12:10).

Furthermore, although Christian culture has, as far as law is concerned, absorbed Western culture's sense of justice, its basic component -- the ability to sacrifice oneself for others -- does not conflict with the Confucian morality that treats human relations as "not putting self before the good of others."  Jesus was not an advocate of legal principles.  On the contrary, he offered an unconditional loving sacrifice for the personal good of all  and wanted everybody to imitate him.  His way was a way of ren, compassion.  The way to reconciliation will be to unite Christ's spirit with Chinese culture.


After reflecting on the reality of the Chinese Church's division and the importance of reconciliation within Chinese culture, we focus on the importance of Christology in the process of Christian reconciliation.  Christological and ecclesiological reflections on reconciliation need to be present.  We may start our reflections by contemplating the concept of an apostles' community, Jesus's command, and the teaching of the Church on reconciliation.


All the members of the OC and the UC claim that they are Catholics and there are no problems or obstacles arising from on their fundamental religious doctrine (South China Morning Post 1996, 11; see also Tripod 1996, 21-35).  If so, the very foundation of Christianity, Jesus, can be a very good basic starting point for Chinese Catholics in the course toward reconciliation and unity.

However, there is a matter that needs to be tackled. Most Chinese Catholics, including the clergy, studied Christology and other theologies from the pre-Vatican II viewpoint.  The image of God taught was that of a "strict judge" rather than a compassionate God.  God for many of us is someone who is angry, who is out to "get" us; he is a God who makes us feel guilty and worthless (Fuellenbach 1993, 231).  Since many of us look at reality as indifferent, as hostile, something we have to protect ourselves against, a judge that has to be appeased, the result is a constant search for security on all levels of our life.  This is exactly what happens to Chinese Catholics.  For instance, many Chinese faithful are afraid of committing sin, for example, by approaching or receiving sacraments from the members of the Patriotic Association (PA).  In their eyes, Jesus seems a merciless watcher and stern judge who carefully observes from heaven a human being's every deed, especially one's errors.  They fear a very severe punishment.  It is not surprising then to find that "eternal life" for many China Catholics means "gaining the happiness of heaven and avoiding the pains of hell" (Yangni 1994, 22).  From "13 Points," we may also discover a dread of such consequences. 

Question 3: Is a sacrament or a mass celebrated by the priests of the Patriotic Association valid?  Do they have the power to forgive sins?  If Catholics were allowed to attend these masses and they did attend, did they commit a sin? Bishop Fan: . . . Catholics cannot receive sacraments from them or attend their masses.  If they do, they commit a sin.  If they confess to these priests, not only can they not obtain forgiveness but they will have committed another sin (Fan 1993, 142-44).

To questions 7 and 9 which relate to sacraments, administered by members of the PA, Bishop Fan replies emphatically that "whoever receives and participates commits sin."  Validation and legalization of ordination and their faculty are also specially emphasized in the course of the conversation.  The merciful God is mentioned only once in answer to the question of "if those who follow the patriotic organization go to hell."  The concerns and worries of  Chinese Catholics and clergy are derived to a great extent from their understanding of Jesus Christ through pre-Vatican theology, especially Christology.

Certainly this kind of Christology has had an effect on ecclesiology.  The UC regrets the OC's "degeneration."  Many a time some of them treated the others as "heretics" or "enemies."  From most of the documents and articles of the UC and OC (see Tang and Wiest 1993), we may discover that their arguments, struggles, debates, discussions, concerns, worries, and efforts are first for "the Church"or its safety rather than for Jesus or the faith.  It appears that the "one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" is also emphasized more than Jesus -- the very center of our faith.  Being loyal to the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Holy See, is a widely accepted sign of being a good faithful Chinese Catholic.  In consequence, bishops as representatives of the church are regarded as symbols of organizational unity and power.

Therefore, division makes Chinese faithful and church authorities lay more stress on the Church rather than on Jesus, apart from seeing the Church also as a haven from the dangerous.  This inward-looking Church is being challenged by an outgoing, compassionate Jesus.  Jesus-centered ecclesiology has not yet been built up among China's Catholic community.  Thus the groundwork for a Christology which centers and focuses on Jesus Christ needs to be laid first.  As Asian bishops have claimed,

The whole importance of the church derives from her connection with Christ. The church makes herself more credible if she speaks less of herself and ever more preaches Christ crucified (Asia Focus 1985).

I do believe that the common faith of all Catholics and their fellowship in Christ, who is the foundational reality of Chinese Christianity, will aid them in overcoming their obstacles and difficulties.  The mission for the CCC of the Church including the Holy See, bishops, faithful, and missionaries is to simply lead Chinese people so that all turn to Jesus Christ, the savior.  That is our common task.

A new image of Jesus, the reconciler in the context of division and reconciliation:Both the Vatican and Beijing, in fact, are taking steps toward unity of the CCC.  But many questions should be raised concerning these efforts: What are the motives of the CCG and the Vatican in their efforts toward unification?  Does the CCG think about a reconciliation for the two groups where underground Catholics are arrested? Does the Vatican's emphasis on Church unity overshadow her concern for the needs of Catholics in China?  Do outside visitors encourage the inside Catholics to seek legitimation rather than seek new ways of understanding each other and surviving together in their special situation?  Do some members of the OC realize their past faults?  Are some members of the UC aware of their extreme adversarial accusations?  Do all the Chinese Catholics realize that Jesus is their model of a real reconciler?  How does Jesus reconcile the observance of the law and the needs of the people?  How can they as Jesus's followers be reconcilers within their own context of division and misunderstanding?  All Chinese Catholics and those who concern the CCC must learn a lesson from Jesus, the true reconciler in today's situation of division and need for reconciliation.

Chinese Catholics today may not be satisfied with the classic Graeco-Roman expression of Jesus.  The impasse of division is probably a symptom of their dissatisfaction with the classic Christology.  There is a need to articulate a Judaeo-Christian Chinese Christology.  This lack of articulation contributes to the CCC's onus of division.  We need a new Christology to aid us in the reconciliation of Chinese Catholics.  Seeing Jesus in a Chinese manner and his role as reconciler would assist the Chinese church in dealing with the issue of division.  It would also be helpful in evangelization -- the proclamation of Jesus as the one who desires the unity of all, among the Chinese people.  Thus in this process of doing Christology, Chinese culture in a wider theological context may finally actively contribute its richness to the unfolding of Christianity within China, as well as for the whole world.  This image of Jesus as reconciler or unifier will be dealt with in chapter 4.

Jesus, division, and unity:  It is not difficult to understand Jesus's sadness over division.  In the Gospels we come to know that this serious problem was experienced by Jesus's disciples.  Though a new community, one of them, Judas, would separate from it.  Perhaps this was what led Jesus to make a special prayer for unity in a very human way.

Father, keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you give me, so that they may be one just as you and I are one (Jn. 17: 11).

This was the first time Jesus spoke about unity in John's Gospel. John, one of the disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was told directly by Jesus that Judas would separate from the community because he was going to betray Jesus (Jn. 13: 21-26).  This prayer is stressed so strongly as it was a burning issue for John who knew how sorrowful Jesus was about the division.

The theme of unity in John's Gospel, started at this point, is repeated when future believers are introduced.

I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. I pray that they may all be one.  Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me (Jn 17:20-23).

The language of "being one" has its roots in the early history of the Johannine community.  "Unity" implies a group of persons.  Those who were part of the new covenant were called to be "a unity."  This relationship between Jesus and those who believe in him plays an important role.  Furthermore, the Johannine community, in its understanding of Christ, transformed the grounds for such unity from a sociological or covenantal context to a reflection of the relationship between Jesus and God (Perkins 1990, 978-79).

"That they may be one."  Jesus looks beyond the immediate circle of disciples to those who will believe as a result of their testimony.  There are two dimensions to the expression of unity as it emerged in the four Gospels (Perkins 1990, 978-79).  The vertical dimension grounds unity in the relationship between Jesus and God.  The horizontal dimension sees in the command to love one another the expression of that relationship among members of the community.(Jn. 13: 34-5; 15: 12).  The basis is the relationship between Jesus and the Father.

In John, Jesus prays intensely for unity (Jn. 17: 21). What does Jesus want for his apostles and those who come to believe in him through the preaching of love and brotherhood?  That they shall realize that faith brings them into the real spiritual unity that exists among Jesus, the Father, and the present brotherhood. In this unity of brothers and sisters, a human community on earth which is in a real relationship of unity and love with the transcendental Jesus and the Father, is a bridge community between heaven and earth (Taylor 1983, 211).  Further, this community can be a witness to Jesus and can lead the nonbelieving world to believe in the mystery (Jn. 17: 21, 23) because the community projects the mystery of love and unity to the world.

In Jesus's prayer for unity there are two kinds of unity in love (Ellis 1984, 244).  Jesus prays that the apostles may be one as the Father and Son are one (Jn. 17: 11).  First, Father and Son love each other and so that they are one.  The apostles should also love each other and be one.  The second unity envisioned is a unity in self-sacrificing love (Jn. 17: 21) which is similar to the love of the Father and Son.  This unity is a sign and proof to the world that the Father has sent Jesus.  Viewed from this perspective, such love embodies discipleship (Ellis 1984, 245).

Barnabas Lindars (1986, 529-30) lays stress on two levels of relations in unity: Jesus's own relationship with the Father and the Church's relationship with himself.  In other words, his unity with the Father must be reflected in the life of the Church.  It is the doctrine of mutual indwelling, in which Jesus himself is the middle term of two overlapping unities, his union with the Father and his union with his brother in the world.

Reconciliation and unity are like twin brothers. They have a very close and intimate relationship.  Reconciliation is the beginning and the process of unity. Unity is the purpose and goal of reconciliation.  When we focus on reconciliation we have to reach unity -- the final destination of reconciliation.  Here we start talking about reconciliation from unity, our objective.


Reconciliation is salvific, it makes us friends instead of enemies of God, it makes us new persons.  "To be reconciled" means to appear sinless before God, it to live in peace.  As Paul says,

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things,  whether on earth  or  in  heaven,  making peace  by  the blood of his cross. . . .  He has reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him (Col. 1: 19-20, 22)

For Paul the sinner is not just "weak" or "ungodly" but actually an "enemy" of God. But the death of Christ brings about the reconciliation with such an enemy (Rom 5: 8).  So we can have peace with God by faith (Rom 5: 1). Reconciliation is the restoration of the estranged and alienated sinner to friendship and intimacy with God (2 Cor. 5: 18-20).  Such friendship and intimacy with God inspire and empower us to reconcile with one another  when we find ourselves in division.

In proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, Jesus became in word and deed the divine instrument of reconciliation. And this is what he taught his disciples.

If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that someone has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother/sister and then come and offer your gift (Mt. 5: 23-24).

In his preaching, on many different occasions he elaborated the steps whereby reconciliation was to be achieved: do not judge (Mt. 7: 1-5); love your enemies (Lk. 6: 27-36); forgive others with gladness (Mt. 18: 21-35); mercy is greater than sacrifice (Mt. 9: 13); love is greater than law (Lk. 6: 9-10).  To reflect conscientiously and often on the good news of the kingdom and how to put it into practice is to nurture and promote  reconciliation in our own lives.

The Church, though holy, is also human.  And if the truth be told, it is we its members who are the chief cause of the obstacles that plague our efforts to reestablish unity.  We find this tendency to break up into hostile factions within the community present even in apostolic times.  They are vividly recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles of St. Paul.  History also bears witness to the many heresies that tore at the structure of Church unity in those first centuries of its existence.  The first of the two most serious divisions in Church history took place during the eleventh century when the great body of Eastern Orthodox churches went into schism over the issue of Papal authority.  The second and more painful split, of course, came with the Protestant Reformation in Europe during the early sixteenth century, which gave rise to an ever increasing number of Christian sects as we know them today.  Despite these divisions both Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Churches are still considered members by virtue of our common baptism. In the words of Saint Augustine ("In Ps. 32"; see also decree on Ecumenism No. 3), "All the baptized form one body with Christ and are to be considered as our brothers and sisters in the Lord."  Because of this, reconciliation and eventual unity were still hoped for by Vatican II.

Vatican II's position on how to effect a reconciliation among Christians as found in its Decree on Ecumenism might be summarized as follows: (1) resist all forms of judging others and avoid all words and actions that might cause new or perpetuate old divisions; (2) promote authentic dialogue characterized by mutual openness, trust, and understanding; (3) widen the areas of social cooperation for the common good; (4) encourage self-examination, reflection, and personal spiritual renewal; (5) nourish a just and sincere fraternal love; (6) foster genuine bonds of friendship with others; (7) and above all, pray sincerely for one another (Unitatis Redintegratio 4).

 Paragraph 5 of the decree calls for the promotion of Church unity: "Everyone should strive with all their strength to manifest the oneness of Christ in their daily lives."  (Unitatis Redintegratio 4) And paragraph 7 underlines the value of interior conversion:

For it is from new attitudes of mind, from self-denial and unstinted love, that desires for unity rise and develop in a mature way. We should therefore pray to the Holy Spirit for the grace of genuine self-denial, humility, gentleness in the  service of others, and having an attitude of brotherly generosity towards others. . . .  Thus in humble prayer we beg pardon of God and our separated brethren, just as we forgive all those who offend us (Unitatis Redintegratio  4).

The Decree makes evident the direction our lives should take, which is to strive with all our energies to achieve an authentic reconciliation.  This is the chief mission and responsibility of the church, to be reflected in its every attitude and expressed in its every form of service to others.

The church is interested in one thing only -- to carry on the work of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for He came into the world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served (Gaudium et Spes 3; see Mt. 20: 28).

Paul urged his own Christians to adopt this very same attitude as a means of counteracting the nefarious divisions that constantly threatened the unity of their communities. 

In doing theology in China today, we will first start with something common to both the Judaeo-Christian heritage as seen in the Scriptures and Chinese culture, in particular, human relationships.