The Roman Curia has excommunicated two bishops Chinese officials elevated to that position without the sanction of Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican also excommunicated the two bishops who performed the ceremonies. The Chinese state-run church ordered the ordinations in defiance of canon law which calls for the automatic excommunication of anyone who ordains a bishop without Papal approval. This censure constitutes Pope Benedict’s first substantial political battle with the Chinese government. A Vatican spokesman said the pontiff has expressed ‘great sadness’ over the affair.
This, of course, is not the first time the Catholic Church has clashed with secular rulers over the installation of religious officials. This situation brings to mind the Investiture Controversy of the 11th century. But, whereas that dispute pitted the Pope against the Holy Roman Emperor in Germany, the current battle makes the Vatican fight a world away. Can the Catholic Church and China come together again since their fracture after the Communist victory in 1949?