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Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai Hardcover – September 19, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


An original and insightful study of the conflicts between the Catholic Church and Communist state in Shanghai during the Maoist period. Mariani challenges the widespread conception that the Communist state was able to consolidate its rule with little resistance in the 1950s, sheds light on some intriguing aspects of the Catholic Church under Communist rule, and reconceptualizes the overall Catholic experience in Shanghai. Full of insightful details, often emotionally moving, this is an outstanding contribution. (Joseph Tse-hei Lee, Pace University, New York)

A gripping narrative of how militant Catholics in Shanghai in the 1950s tried to resist the Communist Party and how the Party crushed them. The book contains interesting material, based on internal party documents, on the tactics used by the Communists to organize multifaceted campaigns against the church, to infiltrate Catholic organizations, and to divide Catholics from one another. Mariani also examines the effects of this legacy of persecution on the Catholic community in Shanghai today. (Richard Madsen, University of California, San Diego)

Mariani does more than just recount the manner in which Catholic communities in Shanghai sought to deal with the increasingly harsh pressures brought to bear upon them during the first years of the People's Republic of China. He also illuminates how the Chinese government is able to control the activities of citizens like Nobel Prize-winner Liu Xiaobo and artist Ai Weiwei. While the context has changed, this case study is revelatory for all who wish to understand the behind-the-scenes mechanisms in China today. (Jeremy Clarke, S.J., Boston College)

Solidly based on archival research, Mariani's brisk and compelling narrative has many of the qualities of a suspense novel. This is a book of firsts: the first time this story has been told, the first detailed local history of the Church in China, and the first scholarly blow-by-blow account of the Church's struggle with the Communist Chinese government. A must-read for anyone interested in post-1949 history or religion in China. (Guy S. Alitto, University of Chicago)

[An] enlightening and depressing book...What distinguishes Mr. Mariani's account from earlier ones on Chinese Catholics is his use of recently available Communist documents that make clear the regime's goals and methods. By 1955, he writes, the authorities established these goals: "to establish an independent church under the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), to educate Catholics to support this independent church, and to imprison any who stood in its way." At last, in 2007, Pope Benedict XV1 wrote to the bishops and laity in China suggesting "the great majority of Chinese bishops had already reconciled with the Vatican...and revoked the special canonical privileges that allowed underground bishops to be named and an underground church to grow." Nonetheless, Mr. Mariani notes, Chinese bishops cannot travel to Rome, and can meet as a body "only if called together by the party." He states, too, that Chinese Catholics feel "they have been wounded by the Vatican and its cautious and nuanced policy." Paul Mariani is a Jesuit who sees all sides. No one could accuse him of being Jesuitical. (Jonathan Mirsky Hong Kong Economic Journal 2011-12-17)

Mariani does a splendid and careful job examining this resistance, using not only many Western sources, primarily from France and the United States, but also those from China itself, ranging from the Communist press to a trove of formerly top-secret Party documents that he unearthed in the Shanghai Municipal Archives (undoubtedly many more remain locked up)...Though a fair amount has been written about Christianity in the People's Republic, I know of no one else who has done such a careful job of research in both Chinese and foreign sources in analyzing the Catholic split. Mariani's book is not only essential reading for anyone interested in the subject; it's also an important contribution to our understanding of modern Catholicism and of modern China as well. (Nicholas Clifford Commonweal 2012-04-06)

Paul Mariani, S.J., has given us a first-rate product here. All scholars of modern Chinese Christian history are in his debt, as are all scholars of church history in any part of the world...This is a dramatic story, of course, and Mariani recounts it well, including its inherent drama. There are militant Catholic Youth and Legion of Mary members organizing public demonstrations and operating underground printing presses. There are young priests brutally martyred, sparking renewed Catholic resistance. And there is, most of all, the beatific but unyielding figure of Bishop Ignatius Kung Pinmei (later Cardinal Kung), who was at the center of events during 1949 to1955, from his appointment as Bishop of Shanghai to his incarceration by the authorities. (Daniel H. Bays America 2013-03-25)

About the Author

Paul P. Mariani is Assistant Professor of History at Santa Clara University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674061535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674061538
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Zboray on January 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent book on the struggles of the Catholic Church in Communist China.
I learned alot about the persecution of the Church in China from this book.
The book chronicles the conflict between the Church and the Communist party starting from the defeat of the Kuomintang through the Cultural Revolution.
For me, it illustrated the challenges of staunchly loyal Catholics under attack by an overwhelmingly powerful Communist party.
For me, an American Catholic from a strongly Catholic ethnic Polish Family, it highlighted the difference in the struggles of the Poles vs the Chinese Catholics.
Unlike the Poles, the Chinese Catholics are a tiny minority of the Chinese Population and the techniques to resist suppression had to be different than used by Catholics in Poland.
Ultimately, the struggle for the open practice of the faith in complete union with Holy See was doomed, but even the "Patriotic" Church suffered persecution under the Cultural Revolution.
My heart goes out to the members of the underground Church in China, but after reading about the torture, both psychological and physical of the clergy and laity, I have no animus toward the members of the Patriotic Church.
I don't think I could have resisted as well as the Chinese Catholics.

In some ways, the epilogue of the book is the most interesting. It describes what the authors believe to be the current state of the Church in China and the issues of re-unifying the Church there.
What is perplexing to me is that the current Chinese Communist Party is still unable to release control of the Patriotic Church.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dong Chen on January 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book retelling a time that was tragic, and yet heroic.

I am from Shanghai. I personally know of quite a few people mentioned in this book.

It is a history book. For those not familiar with this period of history, the book presents a detailed analysis on the historical background, very thorough, yet well balanced. The major historical events are nicely knitted together, well streamlined, and are easy to follow.

This is not just a history book. The story telling is powerful, with graphic details that often brought me into tears. There was the sermon of martyrdom right under the nose of the communist government. There was an aging mother publicly telling her priest son that she would disown him if he betrayed the church. There were many catholic youth making their choice of life, or prison life. ...

The book is also thought provoking. The catholic resistance was finally crashed; those ever dared to challenge the mighty government would finally pay with their miserable life. Is there ever a point to resist? Why not!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Julia Ann on November 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist ShanghaiSo far (I've only gotten started,)the book is very well written. The historical background is quite detailed, but not boring as many historical treatises are. There's intrigue that is very suspenseful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ann Lynch on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is rich in data and primary source material. The background and history of Catholicism in Shanghai and the way events unfolded during the Communist takeover is well organized, well written and explained comprehensively. I have always admired those in Communist countries who have held strong in their beliefs, even under imprisonment and torture. The devious methods of the Chinese Communists are described in detail, explaining just how difficult it was for Catholics in Shanghai to hold on to their faith. The example of the young people who resisted their aggressors is most edifying. We are blessed to have the example of those before us who were persecuted for their faith. I feel I owe them a debt of gratitude.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Rose on March 26, 2015
Format: Hardcover
An Excellent book on Shanghai Catholics depicting their indomitable spirit. I have just returned from Shanghai. I visited 4 Churches - Christ the King, St. Ignatius Church, St. Peter's Church and Our Lady of Sheshan on the mount. I read the book before I visited these important places where Catholics resisted secular Government's control over the Spiritual organization of the Church. When I visited St. Ignatius Church, there was a board put up on the main gate, that read, "No Permission for General Public", and there was a watchman to note down all the car numbers that parked near the Church. Such is the situation even now. Marianni's book gives an exact account of what was and is now prevailing in Shanghai. The Communists must realize that they cannot destroy the temple of God (people) and through evil means they claim to have divided the Catholic Church to a great extent. I was very much impressed to witness that about 150 elderly people came to pray at St. Ignatius Church on March 24, 2015, at the time of my visit. It is one of the best history books i have ever read. It is a must read book for all those want to know the true color of Communism. I was in tears when I read about Beda Chang, a great Jesuit. If communism believes in humanism, how could they torture a good man based on religion? When people thronged to the cemetery of Beda Chang, the guards would not allow them. Mariani writes on page 91, "Was it a reminder of another who had guards placed outside his tomb?" pointing to Jesus of Nazareth who was killed unjustly. Kudos to Mariani for this wonderful book. I would love to read it for the second time.
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