Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association

From Academic Kids

The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (中国天主教爱国会; designated variously as CPA, CPCA, or CCPA) is the organizational body of Catholics in China as officially recognized by the government of the People's Republic of China.


Political status

The Communist Party of China has decided it does not want to have any organization in mainland China swearing loyalty to any 'foreign influence' (in this case, the Pope, as many Popes have spoken about politics, and the Vatican currently does not recognize the PRC as legitimate). Critics of the CPA argue that its main purpose is to establish state control over Catholicism in mainland China. Officially religious organizations in mainland China today must be government-recognized and approved, although there are a large number of unofficial unregistered organizations.

CPCA and the Roman Catholic Church

According to Catholic doctrine, the CPA is a schism from the Catholic Church. The full Roman Catholic Church, in communion with the Pope, does exist in mainland China, although members are subject to official harassment, and some leaders have been jailed for what are widely believed to be political reasons.

In mainland China there are about 4 million members of the CPA, and 12 million members of the authentic ("underground") Catholic Church—defined as being in communion with the Vatican. However, the two have considerable overlap, and up to 70 percent of the priests in the official church, it is estimated, may have also been reconciled with the Vatican and are secretly part of the unofficial church. One estimate is that among the seventy bishops in the CCPA, all but nine have secretly declared their allegiance to Rome.

The Vatican recognizes the validity of Holy Orders and other sacraments--such as Eucharist--in the CPA because the bishops are episcopal successors of a bishop who received valid orders before the emergence of the schism.

Attitude towards the papacy and Sino-Vatican relations

The existence of the CPA in place of an official local instantiation of the universal Roman Catholic Church under the authority of the papacy in Rome—as well as other reasons from both sides—has prevented the Holy See from establishing diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China; it instead continues to recognize the Republic of China government on Taiwan. The removal of the last government in Europe to recognize that government is seen as a major impetus for Beijing to establish relations with the Vatican.

There have been a number of efforts to reconcile the official Church with the Vatican. According to the New York Times, the status of Taiwan is not a major obstacle and the appointment of clergy can be handled with the Vatican picking clergy from a list that has been prescreened by the government. Most reports indicate that the main obstacle is the fear by the PRC government that the Catholic Church will have the effect of undermining the PRC government. This was particularly an issue with Pope John Paul II who was widely seen as being partially responsible for the fall of communist regimes in Poland and eastern Europe.

China's government also expresses its view that the Catholic Church has not sufficiently apologized for alleged abuses by missionaries and clergy—some substantiated by international scrutiny, others viewed by many outsiders as possible distortions—which occurred prior to the establishment of the PRC. For instance, the canonization of 120 martyrs in China as saints in 2000 was harshly criticized by Beijing, which declared many of the non-Chinese (Westerners) included in that group of new saints to have been perpetrators of abuses and crimes toward the Chinese populace. It also criticized the Vatican for proceeding which this action without securing Chinese input. Some of the tension in Sino-Vatican relations derives from the Chinese state's perception of unilateralism on the part of the Catholic Church.

Following the recent death of Pope John Paul II, churches throughout China engaged in special services and memorials to commemorate and mourn his passing. Many Chinese Catholics have expressed the sentiment that they wished John Paul could have visited China as the pontiff had once indicated his desire to do; journalists report that many of those who expressed these sentiments, though, may not have been aware of the political rift between the two sides.


Among the novel teachings of the CPA are support for artificial contraception and abortion, and a rejection of the Pope's authority. In addition, the CPA rejects Catholic doctrine formulated after 1949, notably the Vatican II council. As a result, for over forty years, all masses conducted by the CPA were according to the Tridentine rite. In the early 1990's, however, the CPA reformed its liturgy to one closely adhering to the Novus Ordo Missae.

Other "patriotic" churches

Other religions in mainland China have established "patriotic" organizations after 1949:

However, the political situation is somewhat different for them--for unlike Catholicism, there is no need for dependence on any authority geographically lying outside mainland China.

The situation in China, with "parallel" Catholic churches — one in full communion with Rome, and one not — brings to mind other somewhat similar historical situations:

See also

External links

zh:中国天主教爱国会 de:Chinesische Katholisch Patriotische Vereinigung


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