At least he didn’t say Planned Parenthood — but this is just as bad, if not worse. The Vatican has gone on a charm offensive to woo Beijing and end a 70-year confrontation over the authority of bishops in China, with some odd concessions in recent days to the communist regime. But this assessment of China’s beneficence sounds more like the output from a satire site like Eye of the Tiber than a statement from a real Vatican official:

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, praised the Communist state as “extraordinary”, saying: “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs”. Instead, there is a “positive national conscience”.

I bet they have the trains running on time, too.

The bishop told the Spanish-language edition of Vatican Insider that in China “the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States, something Americans themselves would say.”

Bishop Sánchez Sorondo said that China was implementing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ better than many other countries and praised it for defending Paris Climate Accord. “In that, it is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned”, he added.

He accused US president Donald Trump of being “manipulated” by global oil firms, and said that, as opposed to those who follow “liberal thought”, the Chinese are working for the greater good of the planet.

In other words, three cheers for fascism/authoritarianism! It dispenses with the messiness of implementing public policy based on self-governance by replacing it with top-down dictates from an elite clique, which is attractive just as long as the clique remains (vaguely) on the side of those analysts praising it. Bishop Sánches Sorondo is hardly the only person to have fallen into that trap. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman famously championed that same impulse when Barack Obama didn’t get things entirely his own way in September 2009.

Of course, the New York Times isn’t supposed to be the Voice of God, even if they get confused about that at times themselves. We’ll get back to that in a moment, but first, Sohrab Ahmari sums up the political problem nicely:

“Liberalism” in this case relates to classic liberalism, ie, the expansion of personal liberty and reduction in authoritarian power. The bishop in this case is using an ends-justify-the-means approach to herald the implementation of a progressivist agenda, which is something quite different — and in many ways, antithetical — to Ahmari’s liberalism.

Even beyond that, this is a ghastly statement. China is still imposing forced abortions for its two-child policy, which was supposed to end with the repeal of the one-child policy, and its bureaucrats use that threat to extort vast sums of money from the working class. Last I looked, abortion is hardly part of Catholic social justice, although the US has its own issues with that practice. In this case, however, these are abortions forcibly performed on women, imposed physically, legally, or economically by the government that Sánchez Sorondo praises.

The record on other human rights abuses is just as shocking, as the US State Department reported for 2016:

Numerous former prisoners and detainees reported they were beaten, subjected to electric shock, forced to sit on stools for hours on end, hung by the wrists, raped, deprived of sleep, force-fed, and otherwise subjected to physical and psychological abuse. Although ordinary prisoners were abused, prison authorities reportedly singled out political and religious dissidents for particularly harsh treatment. In some instances close relatives of dissidents also were singled out for abuse.

The problem of torture was systemic, according to a UN Committee against Torture report released in December 2015 that detailed the extent to which torture was embedded in the criminal justice system. While the UN committee acknowledged some improvements, such as the broader use of surveillance cameras during interrogations, the report stated that torture was “entrenched.” …

Government officials continued to deny holding any political prisoners, asserting that persons were detained not for their political or religious views but because they violated the law. Authorities, however, continued to imprison citizens for reasons related to politics and religion. Tens of thousands of political prisoners remained incarcerated, most in prisons and some in administrative detention. The government did not grant international humanitarian organizations access to political prisoners.

And how does China approach the value of religious freedom? Well

Regulations require religious groups to register with the government. Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) are permitted to register with the government and legally hold worship services. These five associations operate under the direction of the CCP United Front Work Department. Other religious groups, such as Protestant groups unaffiliated with the official patriotic religious association or Catholics professing loyalty to the Vatican, are not permitted to register as legal entities. The government does not recognize Judaism as an ethnicity or religion. The country’s laws and policies do not provide a mechanism for religious groups independent of the five official government patriotic religious associations to obtain legal status. …

On April 15, “underground” Catholic priest Yang Jianwei reportedly disappeared from a government building in Baoding, Hebei Province. Local police said they lacked sufficient manpower to investigate the case and said they would review security footage from the building with Yang’s family once they had enough men. Activist organizations said the arrests of Catholics in Baoding were in possible connection to authorities’ demolition of a prayer venue the previous year. According to the Union of Catholic Asian News, at least five underground priests were detained by authorities in Hebei that month. Two were subsequently released. A Protestant pastor in Henan Province who disappeared reportedly escaped.

In May Pastor Han Zhonglie was found dead in a mountainous area near Changbai County, Jilin Province. South Korean media reported that he was killed by agents from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea due to his work assisting North Korean defectors and helping them go to South Korea through a third country.

According to the human rights monitoring NGO Dui Hua Foundation, as of the end of the year, at least 232 Protestants, 73 Muslims, 25 Buddhists, and 11 Catholics were imprisoned as a result of religious activities, while two Buddhists, six Catholics, and 49 Protestants were detained on charges related to religious activities. Dui Hua reported that at least 3,403 Falun Gong practitioners were imprisoned and 330 were detained for the same reasons during the year, but Falun Gong itself reported significantly higher numbers of its members were arrested and sentenced.

Does any of this sound like, as Sánchez Sorondo claims, China seeks “the common good”? Only by defining “common good” as whatever benefits the communists in Beijing.

The New York Times isn’t the Voice of God, but the Catholic Church and Holy See are the expression of the Holy Spirit in the world. It’s not perfect, but it’s supposed to try to get there. Selling out martyrs and the faithful for a political/social agenda that only partly intersects with Catholic teaching is a disgrace to all involved. That’s a new look as Sánchez Sorondo claims, but it’s one for the Vatican — one which it should renounce immediately.