- Xi Jinping Places Catholic Church in China Under Direct Party Control
- Facebook is Suppressing Pro-Life Voices
- Trump Administration Releases New Rule to Stop Title X Funding for Abortion Providers
Xi Jinping Places Catholic Church in China Under Direct Party Control – The decision means that the proposed Vatican-China agreement would not merely be a surrender of the Chinese faithful to the Communist Party—it would be an utter betrayal of the faith.
PRI President Steven Mosher Reports
On March 22, the Chinese Communist Party announced that all “religious affairs” in China would henceforth be supervised by a shadowy Party office called the “United Front Department.” The former government agency responsible for Catholic and other believers–the State Administration of Religious Affairs bureau (SARA)—has been summarily abolished.
The reorganization attracted little attention outside of China, but it is certain to have unpleasant repercussions for Chinese believers. I believe that this move means that the persecution of Catholics and other believers is about to get much more intense, perhaps rising to levels not seen since the dark days of the 1950s.
The change also means that, in all probability, the draft agreement between the Vatican and Beijing that has been under discussion for years is now a dead letter. In fact, signing it now would mean more than surrendering papal authority over the appointment of bishops to the Chinese state, as bad as that would be. Signing it now would be a betrayal of the faithful into the hands of a new Red Emperor who seems to have a particular animus towards Christians, especially Catholics, and who seems determined to suffocate and extinguish the faith throughout his empire.
It is no secret that religious liberty–despite being guaranteed by the PRC Constitution–has always been severely restricted in the People’s Republic of China. But to understand why putting religious affairs into the hands of the CCP’s United Front Department bodes so ill for Catholics you need to understand the purpose of the Department and its work.
The United Front Department was created by Chairman Mao Zedong to co-opt and control non-Communist organizations and individuals during the Chinese civil war. Its efforts were so successful that Mao called it one of the three “magic weapons” that helped the revolution to succeed. (His other two “magic weapons” were propaganda and, not surprisingly, the Red Army.)
After the civil war, the United Front Department was re-tasked with serving the Party leadership by coercing various groups, such as intellectuals and businessmen, into actively collaborating with the newly established “people’s democratic dictatorship.” Now that Catholics have been brought under the Department’s purview, the same kind of pressure will be exerted on them, and the same kind of active collaboration demanded of the Patriotic Catholic Church with the regime and its goals.
The work of the United Front Department, in other words, will not be limited to merely ensuring that Catholic bishops, priests, and laity comply with the regulations governing religious activity. If that was the only issue then SARA, which was already enforcing such regulations on Catholics, would not have been abolished.
Nor does the move simply mean that the Church will be losing the (already very limited) freedom of action it once had, although this is also absolutely the case.
Rather, putting the United Front Department in charge of religious affairs means that the Party leadership is determined to make the Patriotic Catholic Church into an active “agent of control” for the regime with a single purpose: to subvert and undermine the faith of the millions of Catholics in China, and to prevent them from spreading the faith to others, including their own children. It is nothing less than a hostile takeover—an expropriation if you will—of the Catholic Church in China.
Like Chairman Mao, Xi Jinping hungers for ironclad control over Chinese society and is turning to the United Front Department to accomplish this end. Channeling the late chairman, Xi likewise declared in his October 2017 speech to the National People’s Congress that “United Front work is an important magic weapon for the victory of the Party’s cause.”
Even Chinese officials, who are trying to sell the reorganization as a way of enhancing the “efficiency of government,” acknowledge that it is an effort to assert control over believers. “It means management of religious affairs and ethnic issues will be stepped up,” says Yang Shu of Lanzhou University. “And we could see the authorities taking a tighter grip than before.”
A tighter grip, indeed.
The new “Regulations for Religious Affairs” which came into effect on February 1, are already being rigorously enforced. Students and Party members have been warned not to participate in religious activities. Churches have been told to keep minors from attending Mass, and catechism classes and summer camps are now off-limits.
Churches continue to be defaced by having their crosses and statues removed, or even demolished entirely. Priests in the Underground Church have been ordered to register for a “clergyman certificate” so they can be monitored and supervised. Even the sale of Bibles has been banned as the United Front Department prepares a “Sinicized”—that is, Party approved—version.
Like the other organizations controlled through the United Front Department, the Patriotic Church will henceforth be expected to behave like an arm of the Chinese Communist Party in carrying out the will of the “people’s democratic dictatorship.” Homilies will be expected to praise the existing order (led by “Core Leader” Xi Jinping), and to promote the official ideology (known as “Xi Jinping thought”).
As for the Underground Church, it will simply be annihilated, insofar as it is within the regime’s power to do so.
It is not hard to see that there is an irreconcilable contradiction between the impending demands of the United Front Department and the demands of the Catholic faith.
United Front tactics will be used, as they were in the late 1950s, to complete the subversion of the Catholic Patriotic Church into an agent of the state. Then the Church itself will be used to force the ideological assimilation of all Chinese Catholics into the political order—the people’s democratic dictatorship—that Xi Jinping controls. It is impossible not to conclude that Xi’s ultimate goal is that same as Mao’s was, namely, the total eradication of this “foreign” religion from the soil of China.
The agents of this subversion will be Patriotic Catholic Bishops like Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan, one of three compromised bishops who are members of China’s rubberstamp parliament, the National People’s Congress.
Bishop Fang eagerly promotes Xi Jinping’s call for the “sinicization of religion,” which is the idea that religion should chiefly serve the interests of the Chinese Communist Party that Xi himself leads. The reason why Catholics should support the Party and its leader, according to Fang, is “because we, as citizens of the country, should first be a citizen and then have religion and beliefs.”
Such a formulation—which gives the Chinese Caesar pride of place–leaves no doubt where Bishop Fang’s primary loyalty lies.
Faced with a similar choice between secular and sacred authority, St. Thomas More famously said, “I am the King’s good servant, but I am God’s first.”
Bishop Fang would turn More’s affirmation of the faith on its head. He is saying, in effect: “I am God’s good servant, but I am Emperor Xi’s first.”
While it is true that the English bishops, with the exception of the martyred Cardinal John Fisher, followed Henry VIII into schism, one might add that at least Henry still claimed to be Christian.
Fang and some of his fellow Patriotic bishops, several illicitly ordained, are in effect endorsing the creation of a state church headed by a Communist dictator intent upon its destruction.
This is obviously a nonstarter for faithful Chinese Catholics, whose primary loyalty is to the Magisterium, not to the current leader of the Communist Party. While Bishop Fang may insist that all Chinese Catholics follow him into schism, it is safe to say that most will not do so. Many will continue to practice their Catholic faith in the Underground Church, while others will leave the faith entirely.
If the Vatican signs an agreement with the Party leadership accepting the newly “Sinicized” Patriotic Church, it will only exacerbate an already worsening situation. It will be seen as a rank betrayal by the Chinese faithful, and might well accelerate their exodus from the Church.
Bishop Fang’s new puppet masters at the United Front Department, on the other hand, would be delighted to have the Vatican endorse the schismatic national church that they now control. The demoralization of the faithful that would follow the signing of such an agreement would be an added bonus, since it would help them to achieve their ultimate goal: the wholesale elimination of Chinese Catholicism.
The Vatican needs to stop hobnobbing with those members of the Patriotic Church, such as Bishop Fang, who are wholeheartedly collaborating with the same Communist Party leadership that is daily tightening the screws on our co-believers in China.
Instead, the Holy Father should be leading us in offering up fervent prayers and concrete aid to the suffering Church in China. If the past is any guide, the suffering and persecution of our co-believers in China is about to get much, much worse.
Zuckerberg’s ‘Ministry of Truth’: Facebook is Suppressing Pro-Life Voices: Here’s the Proof
In George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, the fictional government’s “Ministry of Truth” was dedicated to spreading propaganda about the regime and its leaders. The censors who worked there, personified by the main character Winston, were constantly distorting reality to prop up the current party line.
Mark Zuckerberg, who controls Facebook with its two billion users, is attempting something similar. Only this master of the hi-tech universe is not using human censors like Winston, but warehouses full of computers. He has had his computer software engineers design complex computer algorithms–a sequence of unambiguous instructions written in computer code–that direct his computers, on their own and largely without any human intervention, to promote posts by certain groups while suppressing others.
Zuckerberg is a leading member of the coastal elite, so it is no surprise that his new algorithm suppresses the voices of “deplorables” like us who believe in the sanctity of life. Since the algorithm was introduced in early 2018, the Population Research Institute’s main page has seen a 41% decline in the reach of our posts. That means that our pro-life Weekly Briefings are now reaching only a little more than half of the people they reached just a few months ago.
The effect on other pro-life groups, such as LifeSiteNews, has been equally dramatic. In fact, every group we know has seen their reach and influence on social media platforms suddenly diminished. The reason is that Facebook, along with YouTube, Twitter and Google, are deliberately suppressing pro-life, pro-family views while freely promoting Left-wing ideology.
This ideologically driven censorship has hammered not just pro-life groups but conservative organizations in general, including giants like Breitbart News and PragerU. According to a report in The Outline, Breitbart News’ Facebook engagement has dropped by 28% while PragerU’s has fallen by 32%. Both are publishing more content these days–as we at PRI are–yet are seeing an increasingly muted response.
But it is clear that the primary target is not pro-life groups like us or even the conservative news giants. The real target is our pro-life president and the populist movement that propelled him into the presidency. We are just collateral damage.
Zuckerberg, who himself has toyed with the idea of running for president, must have been horrified by Trump’s brilliant use of Facebook and other social media platforms to communicate with and mobilize his base during the 2016 campaign. Certainly many on the Left accused Facebook of unwittingly providing Trump with one of the communication tools he used to win the election.
As Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari has noted, Zuckerberg’s new algorithm follows on the heels of “a year of pressure from left-wing employees and the mainstream media for ‘allowing’ the president to win the general election.”
Given all this, it comes as no surprise that Facebook’s cleverly redesigned algorithm has hit Trump’s Facebook posts the hardest. Our president has seen engagement on his Facebook posts drop by a staggering 45 percent since the new algorithm was introduced. At the same time, the levels of engagement on the Facebook pages of Left-wing icons Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have remained unchanged.
Facebook’s response to these seismic shifts in user engagement has been to deny any ideological bias. Instead, it claims that it has simply decided to promote only “quality news” from “broadly trusted” news sites.
This is clearly just a dodge. What Facebook is really now promoting are the views of Mark Zuckerberg and other liberal coastal elites. Articles from the relentlessly anti-Life and anti-family New York Times and Washington Post will now pop up on your news feed, whether you want them to or not. Articles from us, or from other pro-life, conservative-leaning news outlets such as LifeSiteNews or Breitbart, will not.
Because Facebook is deliberately attempting to silence us deplorables. The social media giant doesn’t “trust” us, “broadly” or otherwise.
We at PRI feel a sense of betrayal. We created an account on Facebook years ago on the promise of an open platform where we would be able to air our views on issues we cared about without censorship by gatekeepers or political elites. Now that the platform has become an essential means of communication, Zuckerberg has decided that he–acting like the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984–is going to impose his views on the rest of us, by dictating what is allowed to be posted and promoted on Facebook. It feels like a massive bait-and-switch operation.
It seems that way to others as well. Axios reports that Vice President Mike Pence has raised concerns about Facebook and Google, “Though Pence isn’t yet pushing internally for any specific regulations, he argues these companies are dangerously powerful,” sources told Axios. “The V.P. worries about their influence on media coverage, as well as their control of the advertising industry and users’ personal info.”
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, according to The Intercept, believes that social media platforms like Facebook and Google should “be regulated as utilities.”
Senator Ted Cruz believes that Facebook may be violating Communication Decency Act’s “safe harbor” provision, which grants online platforms legal immunity from content posted by their users. Why does Facebook need such immunity, the Senator asks, if it itself is censoring the views of people it disagrees with.
Unless and until something is done about Facebook’s abuse of power, what should you do? Is there a workaround to this insidious censorship?
The good news is that there is a way to stay current with the issues you care about, but you have to be even more proactive and engaged.
Be sure to “like”, “comment”, and “share” all the posts of the groups you want to follow. This will help to overcome the bias of the algorithm, and force it to show such posts in your news feed more often.
To date, Facebook has not blocked actual subscribers from receiving posts from us. This means that you can override the algorithm by electing receive “Notifications” for all of our posts, along with those of other groups you want to be sure to receive. Just go to our page, and under the “Follow” drop down menu, hit “on” under “Notifications.”
For the past couples of decades, the Internet has been very effectively to promote respect for Life. Now those Masters of the Universe who have come to dominate it have decided to impose their views on the rest of us.
In China, this kind of censorship is done by the government. It is only slightly less dangerous to have it secretly done by Left-wing ideologues.
I don’t want my views to censored by a tech geek, whether it be Mark Zuckerberg or one of his faceless censors silently working in the bowels of his Ministry of Truth. Such people are not only impervious to correction, they are actually angry at the way unwashed, backwards deplorables like us who “cling to guns and religion” have learned to unite in defense of Life.
“We will scatter them again,” I imagine Zuckerberg saying. “We intended to use our platform to collect their personal information and sell them products and ideas. How dare they use our platform to promote their own ideas.”
If our movement is to prevail, the Masters of the Hi-Tech Universe must not be allowed to succeed.
Trump Administration Releases New Rule to Stop Title X Funding for Abortion Providers
The Trump administration yesterday released a much-anticipated rule proposal to block federal Title X family planning grants from funding abortion clinics and service providers that offer abortion referrals.
The new rule is expected to hit Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers hard. Planned Parenthood alone stands to lose as much as $60 million a year under the rule change if they refuse to disentangle their abortion services from Title X services.
Title X is a federal grant program that provides funding to local public and private clinics exclusively for family planning and contraceptive services for low-income and uninsured individuals.
The new proposed rule will substantially change current federal regulations by preventing Title X grantees from performing, promoting, encouraging or lobbying for abortion as method of family planning. Service providers under the new rule will be required to disentangle abortion-related activities from Title X services and will be prohibited from offering direct abortion referrals or from scheduling abortion appointments for clients.
The proposed rule will also require Title X grantees to comply with state and local laws for reporting cases of child abuse, rape, incest, human trafficking, and intimate partner violence. Planned Parenthood clinics have been known to fail to properly reportstatutory rape, sex trafficking, and other crimes as required by law.
The rule will also prohibit grantees from using Title X funds for building costs for facilities that may be used for providing abortion services.
Due to a rule change from the Clinton administration, Title X providers currently are required to provide information and counseling on abortion as a pregnancy “option,” stipulating that Title X clinics “must” offer abortion counseling to any woman who requests any sort of information on pregnancy options unless she specifically makes it known that she does not want to receive counseling on abortion.
The new rules proposed by the Trump administration this week would remove this requirement, ending discrimination against service providers with moral or religious objections to providing abortion counseling and allowing them to exercise their right of conscience. Service providers may still offer abortion counseling and information but will no longer be required to do so.
The new proposed rule change appeared yesterday evening on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website.
Pro-life allies have been calling the new rule proposal the “Protect Life Rule” for reinstating much-needed reforms to the Title X program to disentangle federal funding from the abortion services provided by many Title X recipients.
Under the Protect Life Rule, Title X recipients that engage in abortion-related activities will be required to maintain physical and financial separation between their abortion services and Title X services. Recipients that perform or promote abortion will be required to keep separate accounting records for prohibited activities. Clinics may not use the same buildings, examination rooms, waiting rooms, phone numbers, websites, personnel, or workstations for prohibited abortion-related activities. Clinics will also be prohibited from displaying or offering literature, posters, brochures, or other materials that promote or advertise abortion services.
While the Protect Life Rule does not specifically prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood and like providers, the Trump administration is providing Planned Parenthood with a choice: either disentangle abortion services from Title X services or lose government funding.
After Medicaid, Title X is the second largest source of government funding for Planned Parenthood. According a report from the Government Accountability Office released earlier this year, Planned Parenthood affiliates spend nearly $60 million a year in funds sourced from Title X grants.
The Protect Life Rule has been compared to the Mexico City Policy due to a number of similarities between the two policies in their application and scope. Much like the Mexico City Policy, the Protect Life Rule prohibits funding for organizations that perform, promote, or lobby for abortion as a method of family planning or that provide funding to other organizations that actively participate in these activities. Like the Mexico City Policy, the rule applies to both direct recipients as well as subrecipient that receive federal dollars through a third party. However, unlike the Mexico City Policy, organizations that perform or promote abortion under Title X may continue receiving funding if they financially and physically separate prohibited activities from Title X services.
HHS has determined that its obligations under federal law on Title X are “most clearly met where there is a clear separation between Title X programs and programs in which abortion is presented or provided as a method of family planning.”
In the supplementary information for the proposed rule, HHS has made clear that it has concerns with requirements under current regulations to provide abortion counseling and referrals contrary to statutory law. HHS also made known that it has concerns with the possible risk of commingling funds between abortion-related services and Title X services as clinics often utilize the same facilities, staff, and resources for both. HHS has also determined that the use of Title X funds for building costs for facilities where abortion services are offered concomitantly creates serious fungibility concerns.
HHS has submitted the rules to the Office of the Federal Register for publication in the Federal Register. The proposed rule will be open to comments from the public for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.