Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Ecclesiastical Colony: China's Catholic Church and the Trench Religious Protectorate

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Ecclesiastical Colony: China's Catholic Church and the Trench Religious Protectorate

Article excerpt

Far Eastern Ecclesiastical Colony: China's Catholic Church and the Trench Religious Protectorate. By Ernest P. Young. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2013. Pp. xii, 383. $74.00. ISBN 978-0-19-992462-2.)

This is a sad and frustrating story of how the political and economic interests of European colonialism retarded and corrupted the development of Catholicism in China. It is a story tainted by the belief in European superiority and Chinese inferiority. However, it has a happy ending due mainly to the remarkable leadership of Chinese Catholics like Ying Lianzhi (1867-1926), radically pro-Chinese missionaries like Vincent Lebbe (1877-1940), and reform-minded popes like Benedict XV (r. 1914-22) and Pius XI (r. 1922-39).

Ernest P. Young has made a thorough study of numerous French and Chinese documents related to the French Religious Protectorate. He describes how this institution had no clear basis in either law or formal delegation of power from China or the papacy, but was "extrapolated" (p. 255) from the Sino-Western unequal treaties by French diplomacy and military power. It was strengthened by the frequent requests for assistance from different nationalities of Catholic missionaries. Its continued existence depended on perpetuating the organizational weakness of the Catholic mission in China and preventing the creation of an indigenous (Chinese) clergy. Most nonFrench Catholic missionaries in China, given the greater power of France to represent them with the Chinese government, preferred to hold French passports.

It began with the Sino-French Treaty signed at Huangpu (Whampoa) in 1844 that gave the French rights in the five treaty ports. If the missionaries proceeded beyond the five treaty ports and were arrested in the Chinese interior, they were to be sent unharmed to the French consul in the nearest treaty port. In this way, limits were placed upon the Chinese officials to control the missionaries. Article 13 of the SinoFrench Treaty negotiated at Tianjin in 1858 re-established the toleration of Christianity and assured the right of missionaries with special French passports to enter into the interior of China (pp. 28-29). Article 6 of the Beijing Convention (1860) established property rights for the French in the interior of China, even though differences in the Chinese and French versions of the treaty gave rise to disputes over its exact meaning (pp. …

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