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Mixing sand with rice

HONG KONG (UCAN): In recent years, whenever a government-backed bishop not approved by the Vatican appears at an episcopal ordination along with Vatican-approved bishops, Chinese Catholics mock it with the saying “mixing sand with rice.”

A priest writing under the name of Father Peter Peng, who describes himself as an observer in northern China, said that the first time he heard the phrase was from the late Father Yan Wenda in 1984.

He explained that owing to the socio-political situation at that time, the dominating official ideology denied the supremacy of the pope. As a result, he said that the New Testament was published with explanatory notes that had been tampered with by some so-called Chinese theologians.

Since a copy of the real bible was a scarce commodity in those days, priests had to allow their parishioners use the corrupted version

Father Peng says that Father Yan told him, “We are beggars. We know the rice is mixed with the sand, but we must eat or we will starve to death.”

After listening to this metaphor on the need for spiritual nourishment, Father Peng said that he too decided to get a copy of this bastardised New Testament.

He explained that later, the unofficial Church community published an erratum to be read along with the New Testament to dispel the confusion caused by the twisted version.

He explained that for Chinese Catholics, it is a serious blasphemy for a bishop who is not recognised by the pope to take part in any ordination. But Church people in China nowadays have become so accustomed to the sacrilegious act that they do not feel surprised or shocked any more.

In the two recent episcopal ordinations in Chengdu and Xichang dioceses in southwestern China, some media also turned a blind eye to the appearance of a bishop who has been declared by the Vatican to have excommunicated himself by not bothering to mention him.

One outlet even came to the conclusion that since the Chinese government and the Vatican had approved the newly ordained bishops, the ordinations are positive signals that reflect a “smooth cooperation between China and the Vatican on the issue of bishop appointments.”

Father Peng added that what is more regrettable is that some Church people in China are so accustomed to eating rice mixed with sand that they claim such a meal looks appetising and delicious.

The self-described priest commentator said that we do not know whether these people have a special habit of eating sand, or if they are trying to ingratiate the government officials who reward them with this bowl of sandy rice, even though it may violate their consciences.

“Perhaps, I was deeply influenced by Confucianism, which teaches that an upright man does not drink water that is stolen from others or bear insults in order to have a meal to stuff his belly. Is it stupid not to do so?” he queries.

Father Peng compares imposing a bishop under excommunicated on an ordination with a robber taking away all your clothes, leaving you only with your pants. “Should I say thanks to the robber?” he queried.

Although the Church in China has gone through a bitter history and unbearable suffering, the priest believes that people should not accept blasphemy as something that happens as a matter of course and let it become a tradition.

Chinese Catholics know well that imperial culture influenced China for 5,000 years. It and the benevolent philosophy of Christianity are two sets of ideologies that are difficult to reconcile.

The monarchy under a Confucian culture set as a theoretical basis for China’s social classes that the son has to obey the father and officials have to be loyal to the emperor.

Father Peng says that this played a decisive role in maintaining the rule of the feudal dynasty. He added that in Christianity, the son of God is incarnated into a human body, telling us that we are all children of God, so we should love each other. “We are all equal before Christ,” he says.

China’s deep-rooted imperial culture has created a slavish mentality often accustomed to the shouts of long live the king.

“It is ironic that when someone criticises something as blasphemy they get attacked as religious Taliban or for following legalism,” he said.

“In the face of this bowl of rice that is mixed with sand, I just want to say that I cannot swallow it, but how is it that in the Church in China anyone who points out the wrongdoing is convicted for his or her comments?” he concluded.

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