I was just wondering how the Catholic church in Rome views those priests ordained by the Chinese communist government which do not recognize any authority of the Pope?

I realize from an interesting wiki article that there are underground priests that do, but my question is strictly related to those priests that don't recognize the Pope. Are people who receive Catholic sacraments, such as baptism, by these communist government ordained priests considered valid?

I guess another way of asking the same question would be: would a Catholic who was baptized by that priest (who rejects papal supremacy) be considered by the Pope a member of the Catholic church after baptism?

  • There was a great journal article on this a few years ago (either in Economist or Atlantic) that I read but has sadly disappeared from my stack of retained articles. The attempts at reconciliation between the official Church allowed by China, and the Church as headed by Rome, was still working at this reconciliation, and the matter of ordination was a key issue. If I can figure out what I did with that article, I may have some meat for an answer. Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 13:00
  • 1
    If you consider that the Chinese government has actually provided its own Dalia Lama when the real one was forced into exile it is clear that these are mere puppets.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


According to "Letter of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, To the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons, and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church, in the People's Republic of China:"

... sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests are likewise valid.

More details if you don't want to read the whole letter yourself:

In Section 8 of the letter, he talks about the Chinese Episcopate and mentions a few different groups of Bishops:

There are some:

...Bishops who have received episcopal ordination in conformity with Catholic tradition, that is to say, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter, and at the hands of validly and legitimately ordained Bishops in observance of the rite of the Catholic Church.

There are also:

Other Pastors, however, under the pressure of particular circumstances, have consented to receive episcopal ordination without the pontifical mandate, but have subsequently asked to be received into communion with the Successor of Peter and with their other brothers in the episcopate. The Pope, considering the sincerity of their sentiments and the complexity of the situation, and taking into account the opinion of neighbouring Bishops, by virtue of his proper responsibility as universal Pastor of the Church, has granted them the full and legitimate exercise of episcopal jurisdiction.

These two groups are validly and legitimately ordained Bishops, so of course their administration of sacraments would be considered valid.

Then he talks about another group:

Finally, there are certain Bishops – a very small number of them – who have been ordained without the Pontifical mandate and who have not asked for or have not yet obtained, the necessary legitimation. According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, they are to be considered illegitimate, but validly ordained, as long as it is certain that they have received ordination from validly ordained Bishops and that the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination has been respected.

Of this last group, he says:

Therefore, although not in communion with the Pope, they exercise their ministry validly in the administration of the sacraments, even if they do so illegitimately.

The full sentence that I excerpted above is:

Concerning Bishops whose consecrations took place without the pontifical mandate yet respecting the Catholic rite of episcopal ordination, the resulting problems must always be resolved in the light of the principles of Catholic doctrine. Their ordination – as I have already said (cf. section 8 above, paragraph 12) – is illegitimate but valid, just as priestly ordinations conferred by them are valid, and sacraments administered by such Bishops and priests are likewise valid.

In the very next sentence, he says that the faithful should seek Bishops and Priests who are in communion with the Pope, but:

... where this cannot be achieved without grave inconvenience, they may, for the sake of their spiritual good, turn also to those who are not in communion with the Pope.

  • wow great find. really answers teh question well.
    – Mike
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 15:41

If they do not recognize the papacy, they are schismatic. Schismatics can give valid sacraments, e.g., the Eastern Orthodox schismatics have a valid liturgy and priestly orders.

Anyone can validly baptize, provided he or she uses the correct form ("I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.") and matter (water). If those baptized by schismatics also reject the papacy and thus don't hold the Catholic Faith in its entirety, they are not members of the Catholic Church.

Membership in the Catholic Faith requires (cf. Pope Pius XII's encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi §22):

  1. Being baptized
  2. Professing the Catholic fatih
  • this answer seems to match what I know of the situation and makes it clearer to me about the requirement of the person under the Communist assinged Priest
    – Mike
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 22:49
  • hmm... although the answer seemed right to me you might want to notice the other answer that was just posted. almost a little surprising
    – Mike
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 15:42
  • Although this answer might be correct in what it says about schismatics in general, the situation in China is a bit more nuanced. Most of the Bishops and Priests in China have not been and are not now considered to be in schism by the Vatican. Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 16:20

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