China and the Catholic Church are disputing the positions of approximately 30 underground priests who are not registered with China’s state church nor were they approved by the state. This is an example of the continuing debate between the Catholic Church and China about the role of religious freedom, patriotism, and religion.
2/18/2017 China (Herald Malaysia) — The most difficult problem in the dialogue is, perhaps, how to deal with the more than 30 underground Bishops.
The legitimacy of the government-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China depends on the inclusion of all legitimately ordained bishops, not just some of them.
Undoubtedly, the Holy See will make the request that all the bishops from the unofficial communities be recruited into it as well.
The underground church is the result of a special political and historical period. The underground bishops only choose to act differently from their counterparts in the open church according to their understanding of Catholic doctrine. As a matter of fact, the government attitude towards the unofficial communities has changed a lot in recent years.
For most, only their identity and administrative rights are unrecognized.