Letters to the editor

The Church in China

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” This message has echoed throughout the Catholic Church’s history. Its authority rests upon Jesus’ teaching “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Unfortunately, this message is not echoed in Adam Minter’s profile of Jin Luxian (“Keeping Faith,” July/August Atlantic). The message in that story is “Political expediency is the seed of the Church.”

In the course of conveying that message, Minter distorts a great number of things. For example, he depicts Ignatius Kung Pin-mei as a troublemaker, and Jin as a peacemaker. But Kung, Bishop Peter Joseph Fan Xueyan of Baoding, Bishop Dominic Deng Yiming of Guangzhou, and thousands of other living and deceased clergy, religious, and laypersons continue to be the symbol of Catholicism and the source of strength for Roman Catholics in China for two reasons: first, they either laid down their lives or are still suffering for their Roman Catholic faith, and second, they spent time in prison for refusing to renounce the authority of the pope and for refusing to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. Their martyrdom and suffering, together with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are the reasons that the Roman Catholic Church in China has survived—“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”—and not because of Jin’s “get[ting] things done now,” as Minter describes it. Statistics verify this truth: The underground Church has approximately 10 million faithful, while the government-sanctioned Church has only 4 million.

Minter also fails to point out that Jin stole the authority of the bishop of Shanghai from Kung while Kung was not yet retired. Kung was Jin’s bishop, and Jin should have been obedient to Cardinal Kung. Instead, in collaboration with the Chinese Communist regime, Jin betrayed him and stole the diocese. Minter accepts Jin’s explanation that “reject[ing] the appointment would not only place the seminary at risk, but also open the Shanghai hierarchy to a priest more inclined toward the CPA and the Communist Party.” Jin made this self-serving excuse because he wanted to be perceived as the irreplaceable savior of the Catholic Church in China.

Foreseeing what would happen to the Catholic Church under Chairman Mao, Kung in 1954 led all his priests and seminarians—including Father Jin Luxian—to Sheshan Basilica, where they prayed and took an oath never to do anything to compromise their Catholic faith. The next year, Kung and Jin were among those imprisoned, and efforts were made to get each of them to join the puppet Catholic Church, now known as the Catholic Patriotic Association. Kung was unwilling to defect and was eventually given a life sentence. Jin was more pliable, however. In his book The Catholic Church in China, the late Father Ladany, a renowned China expert, made the following reference to Jin Luxian:

Several families suffered because of his confessions … The court verdict (we have the text of the verdict) stated that he was given “only” eighteen years because in jail he was willing to reveal the crimes of others.

Because of his collaboration, Jin earned the trust of the Communists and worked as a translator under the government’s Ministry of Security. One does not need too much imagination to visualize how comfortable a translator’s “jailed” life must have been.

As is well known, Bishop Kung, while still in a Communist prison, was named a cardinal in secret in 1979. He was publicly proclaimed a cardinal in the consistory of 1991. When he received the cardinal’s insignia, the ovation lasted seven minutes. Upon Kung’s death, John Paul II called him “this noble son of China and of the Church.” In him are fulfilled the words of the Gospel: “Well done, good and faithful servant; … enter into the joy of your master.”

Joseph Kung
President, Cardinal Kung Foundation
Stamford, Conn.

In his profile of Jin Luxian, Adam Minter writes:

Christianity first reached China in the 7th century, carried by Nestorians via the Silk Road, but it wasn’t until the mid-16th century, with the arrival of the Society of Jesus, that the Catholic Church established a permanent presence in the Middle Kingdom.

Actually, during the early years of the Pax Mongolica (roughly 1268 to 1368), Khubilai Khan, the son of a Nestorian mother, invited the Italian Franciscans to establish a Latin Christian presence in China that lasted well into the 15th- century Ming era. This presence produced large churches with thousands of converts, and Franciscan-introduced imagery of the Madonna of Humility made a lasting impression in the form of the Child-giving Guanyin, south China’s beloved folk goddess. This image, which seemed so “Marian” to Ricci and his followers (it was!), indicated the strength of the Franciscan-nurtured faith among the Chinese—a faith that sprang back into full blossom with the help of the Society of Jesus. The great irony is that the Jesuits were unaware that their Franciscan brothers had been in China two centuries before them.

Lauren Arnold
Mountain View, Calif.

Adam Minter replies:

On June 30, Pope Benedict XVI issued his long-awaited letter to China’s Catholics. Among other topics, the letter includes a discussion of bishops, including those—like Shanghai’s Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian—who were ordained without the pontifical mandate but later were “received into communion with the Successor of Peter.” These bishops, the pope explains, were vetted and granted “full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction.” Significantly, the letter’s explanatory notes add that these same bishops “were especially concerned with the good of the faithful and with an eye to the future.”

The contrast between the pope’s letter and Joseph Kung’s letter is stark. Where the pope is conciliatory, Kung is bitter, going so far as to accuse Jin of stealing the Shanghai diocese and joining “the puppet Catholic Church, now known as the Catholic Patriotic Association.” The former point overlooks the fact that Jin’s 1985 ordination was attended by two foreign priests with the express knowledge and tacit approval of Pope John Paul II. The latter point is factually incorrect (the pope refers to the association as “desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church”), and implies that Kung is better able to judge Jin’s character than the two popes who have recognized him as the de jure bishop of Shanghai.

Kung’s claim that the underground Church has more adherents than the open Church has no basis in fact. No reliable census of China’s Catholics has been taken since the late 1940s, and as a result, figures on China’s Catholic population are notoriously unreliable. Hong Kong’s Holy Spirit Study Centre, the preeminent clearinghouse for information on China’s Catholics, claims that roughly 12 million Catholics live in China, and pointedly does not list a breakdown between the two Church factions. The simple fact is that nobody knows.

Any researcher who delves into the complicated life of Jin Luxian will confront rumors that he collaborated with the Communist regime after his arrest in 1955. I call them “rumors” because by the mid-1990s, they had been largely discredited—including those propagated by Father Laszlo Ladany in 1987—as part of the long process whereby Jin was reconciled with the Vatican and the Jesuits. Kung repeats the allegation that Jin, as a reward for his collaboration, lived as a pampered translator during his prison sentence. Jin did, in fact, work as a translator for Baoding’s Public Security Bureau, but only after spending 18 years in prisons and reeducation camps. Even during the post-sentence period, Jin remained in government custody—hardly a situation that could be characterized as a reward for collaboration.

There is little question that Cardinal Kung suffered greatly for his faith, and that faith was rightfully recognized by the pope in 1979 and 1991. But there is also little question that the foundation that bears Kung’s name has long been out of touch with the conciliatory tone that Pope John Paul II began to cultivate in the early ’80s, and which Pope Benedict XVI’s letter has codified.

Finally, Lauren Arnold is quite right that the Franciscans established a thriving mission in Mongol China. But it was not permanent (it ended in 1368), and that is why I chose not to mention it.

Condi’s Grand Strategy

I was disappointed with David Samuels’s whitewashed profile of Condoleezza Rice (“Grand Illusions,” June Atlantic). Any discussion of Rice’s ability to advance peace in the Middle East must begin with an analysis of her role in the Iraq War. The job of the national- security adviser, the position Rice held during George W. Bush’s first term, is to referee the various foreign-policy arms of the U.S. government, and to balance the advice and interests of the Defense Department, the State Department, and the CIA. This places her at the very heart of the administration’s failure to plan for the post-invasion period. Rice either agreed with the philosophy and approach of the neoconservatives or had neither the competence nor the courage to stand up to them. Either way, her prior failures make her singularly unqualified to lead peacemaking efforts in the region today. It is not clear why Samuels does not deem this dismal track record relevant to his analysis.

Ely Ratner
San Francisco, Calif.

I appreciated David Samuels’s thoughtful piece on Condoleezza Rice. However, the panting descriptions of her “long, athletic legs” and “sophisticated clothes” as early as the third paragraph struck me as irrelevant. The emphasis Samuels places on her figure and dress disappointingly reminds the reader that what the press values in a woman, no matter her status, is her looks.

Samuels even calls Rice’s “bureaucratic side”—which turns out to be her political savvy and intellectual acumen—“boring.” To the contrary. Her junior Sovietologist credentials and her “ability to master briefing books” are more compelling to me than her “lemon-meringue- colored” suit.

Arline Welty
Chicago, Ill.

David Samuels replies:

I am puzzled by Arline Welty’s objections to my brief acknowledgment of Condoleezza Rice’s “long, athletic legs” and “sophisticated clothes.” It is a fact that Rice has great legs, and she shows them off by wearing skirts that would be at home on a 25-year-old assistant editor at Vogue. The idea that the physical appearance of female public officials is somehow off-limits to journalistic description is a relic of ’70s-style equalitarian feminism that would insist on deliberate gender-blindness as the only conceivable road to equality. Rice is making a statement about who she is: a vital, attractive Western woman who works out religiously and is proud of her body and her taste in clothes—aspects of her public self that are no more and no less available for proper journalistic description than John Edwards’s silky mane and Barack Obama’s awesome abs.

As for the war in Iraq, there is plenty of blame to go around. While I stated that most observers regard Rice as one of the least-effective national-security advisers in history, it is silly to hold Rice—then a relatively junior member of the president’s foreign-policy team—primarily responsible for the many failures of American policy in Iraq, a policy that was largely shaped, often in competing directions, by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell, and other powerful senior officials.

The question of whether Rice is “qualified” to lead peacemaking efforts in the Middle East today is simply offensive. Of course she is. The likelihood of her diplomatic efforts’ succeeding rests not on her “qualifications” but on the larger philosophical and practical approach to the problems of the Middle East that she shares with President Bush. While I am sometimes tempted by the more hopeful-sounding aspects of their shared vision, I think that reality is simply not on their side.

Hollywood Pirates

Matthew Quirk’s short piece on movie piracy (“The Movie Pirates,” June Atlantic) was eye-opening, but it disappointed me in a few respects. The article cites statistics of questionable provenance. For instance, Motion Picture Association of America head Dan Glickman is cited as an authority regarding Chinese DVD piracy, but his objectivity on the subject is comparable to Jack Valenti’s when discussing Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. BayTSP, an antipiracy tracking company, is cited as the source for data on the pirated movie described in the article, and while I have no specific reason to question BayTSP’s data, the company obviously has a commercial interest in emphasizing the severity of the piracy problem.

The article says, “Dozens of other illegal versions of the movie [were] posted to other file-sharing networks,” but it doesn’t discuss the crucial issues—quality and reliability—this raises, which may pull customers toward legitimate downloads. Different pirated versions of a single film can vary widely in quality and come in formats that may or may not play back properly. Downloading software, such as the cracked version of Microsoft Windows Vista mentioned in the piece, poses a huge danger as a vector for viruses, spyware, etc.

But the article’s essential point—that content owners have yet to fully seize a great opportunity posed by Internet distribution—is vividly illustrated by a recent experience of mine. After downloading a pirated copy of a new episode of The Sopranos, I received a notice—triggered by a tracking company such as BayTSP—from HBO threatening legal action. As one of the millions of Sopranos addicts, I would happily buy a legitimate download, if only that were possible.

Why isn’t it possible? One reason is that movie studios and TV networks are just as subject to “channel conflict” as other businesses: The Internet and other new distribution methods threaten their existing sales channels, such as theater chains, affiliate stations, and cable/satellite providers. Accelerating DVD releases of movies may make sense for the studios, but not for cineplex owners. Putting The Office online may make sense for NBC, but not for KIOU-TV in Peoria.

Ken Broomfield
San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Military Politics

Andrew Bacevich argues (“Warrior Politics,” May Atlantic) that it is “shortsighted and dangerous” for our society to permit a group of soldiers to join the debate over the Iraq War. It would be absurd to tailor national-security policy to the whims of men and women in uniform, whether officer or enlisted. However, the context of campaigns such as the Appeal for Redress—a movement I co-founded comprising service members who have chosen to voice their opposition to the war in Iraq—must be considered before judgment can be cast.

The proponents of this war, and sadly even the so-called opposition in the halls of power, are justifying the continued funding of the occupation of Iraq because to do otherwise would be, in their words, “abandoning our troops.” As long as the men and women of the military are being used as political human shields in the debate over war funding, troops are a component of the national dialogue, whether they want to be or not. The Appeal for Redress, which is entirely legal, becomes justified when politicians use the aura of the troops as a means to solidify their agendas. It is unconscionable that policy makers are using troops as their rhetorical Monopoly money, flaunting an imaginary moral authority while they continue to put our young service members in a position where they must kill or die for a lie, for oil, or to preserve the remaining shreds of presidential credibility.

Therefore, the Appeal for Redress is not the military seeking a more prominent role in politics; it is troops renouncing the role being projected onto them. Bacevich claims, “Although [the soldiers, sailors, and marines driving the Appeal for Redress are] sworn to obey, they have undertaken to obstruct [their commander in chief].” What he neglects to clarify is that we, as members of the armed forces, are sworn to do more than simply obey; we are sworn to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

All people, especially soldiers, are bound to their consciences before their commander in chief. Accordingly, when I served in Iraq, I was a human being first and an American second. Further, troops are bound to serve their Constitution before their orders. Accordingly, I was an American first and a marine second. This philosophy is what protects humanity from militaries in the wrong hands.

Liam Madden
Co-founder, Appeal for Redress
Boston, Mass.

Still evolving

Your glowing review of Jeffrey J. Kripal’s Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion (Cover to Cover, July/August Atlantic) does handsome justice to the book, but not to the institute itself. Where does your reviewer get the idea that “Esalen itself ultimately couldn’t sustain” its early achievements? Now in its 46th year, Esalen continues to offer some 500 programs to over 15,000 seekers each year. Our visiting faculty is made up of the world’s most cutting-edge authors, activists, and field leaders. Our subsidized initiatives incubate social change through citizen diplomacy, political activism, consciousness research, cultural and spiritual studies, interfaith dialogue, and leadership education. Check us out on the Web, or better yet, visit us in Big Sur and see for yourself.

Gordon Wheeler
President/CEO, Esalen Institute
Big Sur, Calif.