By 1952 the Chinese Communist Party had suppressed all organized resistance to its regime and stood unopposed, or so it has been believed. Internal party documents—declassified just long enough for historian Paul Mariani to send copies out of China—disclose that one group deemed an enemy of the state held out after the others had fallen. A party report from Shanghai marked “top-secret” reveals a determined, often courageous resistance by the local Catholic Church. Drawing on centuries of experience in struggling with the Chinese authorities, the Church was proving a stubborn match for the party.
Mariani tells the story of how Bishop (later Cardinal) Ignatius Kung Pinmei, the Jesuits, and the Catholic Youth resisted the regime’s punishing assault on the Shanghai Catholic community and refused to renounce the pope and the Church in Rome. Acting clandestinely, mirroring tactics used by the previously underground CCP, Shanghai’s Catholics persevered until 1955, when the party arrested Kung and 1,200 other leading Catholics. The imprisoned believers were later shocked to learn that the betrayal had come from within their own ranks.
Though the CCP could not eradicate the Catholic Church in China, it succeeded in dividing it. Mariani’s secret history traces the origins of a deep split in the Chinese Catholic community, where relations between the “Patriotic” and underground churches remain strained even today.
Paul Mariani, S.J., has given us a first-rate product here. All scholars of modern Chinese Christian history are in his debt, as are all scholars of church history in any part of the world… This is a dramatic story, of course, and Mariani recounts it well, including its inherent drama. There are militant Catholic Youth and Legion of Mary members organizing public demonstrations and operating underground printing presses. There are young priests brutally martyred, sparking renewed Catholic resistance. And there is, most of all, the beatific but unyielding figure of Bishop Ignatius Kung Pinmei (later Cardinal Kung), who was at the center of events during 1949 to 1955, from his appointment as Bishop of Shanghai to his incarceration by the authorities.
Mariani does a splendid and careful job examining this resistance, using not only many Western sources, primarily from France and the United States, but also those from China itself, ranging from the Communist press to a trove of formerly top-secret Party documents that he unearthed in the Shanghai Municipal Archives (undoubtedly many more remain locked up)… Though a fair amount has been written about Christianity in the People’s Republic, I know of no one else who has done such a careful job of research in both Chinese and foreign sources in analyzing the Catholic split. Mariani’s book is not only essential reading for anyone interested in the subject; it’s also an important contribution to our understanding of modern Catholicism and of modern China as well.
[An] enlightening and depressing book… What distinguishes Mr. Mariani’s account from earlier ones on Chinese Catholics is his use of recently available Communist documents that make clear the regime’s goals and methods. By 1955, he writes, the authorities established these goals: ‘to establish an independent church under the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), to educate Catholics to support this independent church, and to imprison any who stood in its way.’ At last, in 2007, Pope Benedict XV1 wrote to the bishops and laity in China suggesting ‘the great majority of Chinese bishops had already reconciled with the Vatican…and revoked the special canonical privileges that allowed underground bishops to be named and an underground church to grow.’ Nonetheless, Mr. Mariani notes, Chinese bishops cannot travel to Rome, and can meet as a body ‘only if called together by the party.’ He states, too, that Chinese Catholics feel ‘they have been wounded by the Vatican and its cautious and nuanced policy.’ Paul Mariani is a Jesuit who sees all sides. No one could accuse him of being Jesuitical.
An original and insightful study of the conflicts between the Catholic Church and Communist state in Shanghai during the Maoist period. Mariani challenges the widespread conception that the Communist state was able to consolidate its rule with little resistance in the 1950s, sheds light on some intriguing aspects of the Catholic Church under Communist rule, and reconceptualizes the overall Catholic experience in Shanghai. Full of insightful details, often emotionally moving, this is an outstanding contribution.
A gripping narrative of how militant Catholics in Shanghai in the 1950s tried to resist the Communist Party and how the Party crushed them. The book contains interesting material, based on internal party documents, on the tactics used by the Communists to organize multifaceted campaigns against the church, to infiltrate Catholic organizations, and to divide Catholics from one another. Mariani also examines the effects of this legacy of persecution on the Catholic community in Shanghai today.
Mariani does more than just recount the manner in which Catholic communities in Shanghai sought to deal with the increasingly harsh pressures brought to bear upon them during the first years of the People’s Republic of China. He also illuminates how the Chinese government is able to control the activities of citizens like Nobel Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo and artist Ai Weiwei. While the context has changed, this case study is revelatory for all who wish to understand the behind-the-scenes mechanisms in China today.
Solidly based on archival research, Mariani’s brisk and compelling narrative has many of the qualities of a suspense novel. This is a book of firsts: the first time this story has been told, the first detailed local history of the Church in China, and the first scholarly blow-by-blow account of the Church’s struggle with the Communist Chinese government. A must-read for anyone interested in post-1949 history or religion in China.
- 310 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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