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Rule of law plays rule of man

The Church will be a healthier institution if all within it stick to the rules - unlike Chinese society

  • Chen Qian, China
  • China
  • June 14, 2011
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Guanxi or interpersonal relations are deep-rooted in Chinese culture. It is like a cobweb, interlinked with many aspects of our life.

China has made progress from the “rule of man” to the rule of law. It has created many rules and regulations to show it pays importance to the latter.

However, these days, with economic interests dominating society, many people regard money as being more important than any other thing in their lives. Thus some want to retain the rule of man as it is about personal connections, which is used to protect each other’s interests, or a popular word – win-win!

The struggle between rule of man and rule of law continues to surface in our lives from time to time. Sometimes we just don’t know whether to laugh or cry while feeling helpless.

The Chinese government bars its officials and their families from doing business, but everybody knows almost all large restaurants and entertainment venues have connections with government officials. If not, they could start business today, but close down tomorrow.

If you do not have friends in official circles, you cannot get even the smallest things done even if you possess good skills.

What is the reason? People usually give a job to one who has good guanxi with the officials because they know that the officials have more power than the people who manage the work.

Since the rule of man speaks louder than the rule of law, a lot of power, money and even sexual acts occur in modern society. Many senior officials have lovers outside of wedlock simply because they have power and money.

Imagine if they lived in the early Communist era in the mid-20th century, when senior officials did not have much money in their pockets, would they do the same thing? Corrupt officials were punished severely during that time. But today, Chinese officials can keep their rice bowls after being transferred to another post as long as they do not commit grave crimes.

To change this situation, I think the fundamental thing is to transform the bureaucratic system and ensure the rule of man becomes the rule of law.

Reflecting on the situation of the Catholic Church in China, it is more or less the same as in secular society. While humanistic management is necessary as we are brothers and sisters in the Lord, if the Church lacks a management system, it will turn corrupt gradually.

Even though the Church talks about tolerance and love, it should maintain its principles so that it can develop in a healthy way. To this end, all Catholic bishops, priests, Religious brothers and sisters and laypeople should not only enhance their spiritual life, but also follow the Church canons and teachings to maintain the oneness and universality of the Church.

The issue of electing and ordaining bishops is a serious ordeal for the China Church. This is a holy and grave issue, as a good or bad bishop will directly affect the development of his diocese. Thus, the Church should hold fast on its principle to help every diocese select a suitable candidate.

After a bishop is ordained, he should develop the diocese infrastructure and distribute work appropriately so that all members in the diocese can contribute their effort.

I hope every diocese in China can develop their pastoral work in normal and better conditions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When the Church achieves institutionalization of its management system, it can serve as an example for society.

Chen Qian is the pen-name of a mainland Chinese Catholic who prefers to remain anonymous

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