- Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai by Paul P. Mariani
Mariani is an assistant professor of history at Santa Clara University, California. He is also a Roman Catholic priest of the Society of Jesus (SJ). In Church Militant, he gives a blow-by-blow account of the contest between Communism and Roman Catholicism in the metropolitan city of Shanghai, largely in the first half-decade of the newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC). Both the religion of the Roman Catholic Church and the antireligion of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the time required of its members absolute adherence. That they would inevitably clash was certain. Shanghai, the enclave of Western presence and a stronghold of Catholicism (and Protestantism as well), is a good place to see where this happened in the early 1950s.
Because of his access to hitherto unavailable internal party documents, Mariani was able to fill in many of the missing pieces of the puzzle and confirm what had already been known of Communist tactics against the Shanghai Catholics. His reconstruction of events is vivid, because he actually provides the names of the different actors on both sides, along with dates and times. However, the general stories of persecution of Catholics were told decades ago in written accounts of expelled missionaries and those who wrote about them.1 Through the Party’s internal documents, Mariani shows the methodical intentionality of the [End Page 370] overzealous cadres of the Chinese Communist Party in Shanghai to destroy the Roman Catholic Church. They did it, not as direct onslaught of the church, but under the pretense of clearing the church of “imperialists who hide under the cloak of religion” as well as their Chinese “running dogs” (p. 68).
The strength of Mariani’s book is the concrete revelations from the internal documents. Its strength is also its weakness, for it locked the author into the religious struggle of both the People’s Republic of China and Rome in the early 1950s, when both were equally searching for their respective modus vivendi of how to act vis-à-vis one another. It was Pope Pius XII (1938–1958) who decided on an uncompromising stance towards Communism. With its first internuncio in China in the person of Archbishop Anthony Riberi (1947), Rome was already in a state-to-state relationship with Nanking, Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China. The Vatican is a political as well as religious entity, insofar as its internuncio in any country functions as an ambassador. The irony, which persists to this day, is that the Vatican as a state does not recognize the People’s Republic of China. Its diplomatic relation is with Taiwan, perceived in the United States as free China.
Mariani is cognizant of China’s wounds of imperialism. He mentions the dominating role played by Westerners in China vis-à-vis Chinese, including the Roman Catholic priests in Shanghai, where French Jesuits were prominent. He cites that, in 1900, there were twice as many Catholic foreign missionaries in China as Chinese priests. A similar situation can be said of Protestant Christianity, with their national headquarters also in Shanghai, staffed by foreigners as seniors at 169 Yuan Ming Yuan Road. It was common knowledge that Christianity, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, was perceived by the general populace as a foreign religion. Mariani, however, does not center his book on this imbalance.
The Shanghai patriotic Catholics’ use of the Protestant three-self principle, as depicted by Mariani, needs amplification. It was a concept of the missionary movement of both Britain and the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, not just for China but for the entire world. Under this principle, all missionaries were to go to foreign lands and plant a church that would eventually be self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating.2 Being essentially poor, as were many developing countries, China and its churches could never match the material resources coming from the...