MSNBC: Vatican excommunicates four Chinese bishops — Two had been ordained by China, not pope

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Thursday excommunicated two bishops ordained by China’s state-controlled church without the pope’s consent, escalating tensions as the two sides explore preliminary moves toward improving ties.

The Vatican also excommunicated the two bishops who ordained them, saying church law mandates excommunication for bishops involved in ordinations without Vatican approval.

. . . The Vatican statement said officials had received information indicating that “bishops and priests have been subjected — by institutions not related to the church — to strong pressures and threats, in order for them to take part in the ordinations that, because they were not approved by the Vatican, are illegitimate and go against their conscience.”

“We are therefore faced with a grave violation of religious freedom,” Navarro-Valls said, adding the Vatican “had thought and hoped that such despicable events belonged to the past.”

I’m very glad to see the Catholic Church take this stand for the seperation of church and state, but I wish that the church (as well as other Christian denominations — unfortunately even the Mennonites are beginning to confuse things too) would take this stand more seriously in the west as well. Followers of Christ are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven first and foremost. For too long have we allowed our loyalties to be compromised. In many ways it is easier for Chinese Christians to see how their loyalties are risk of being compromised because the actions of their government are so obviously evil. In our place and time it is much more complicated, as the evil is more subtle but yet all the while present. I think because of this, in some ways we have the greater challenge.