In recent times, Vatican diplomacy in China has begun from the premise that a smoother relationship on ecclesiastical issues will clear the path to what a generation of Vatican diplomats have sought: full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic. These diplomats imagine this will give the Vatican a place at the table where the great issues of world affairs are sorted out. The eagerness with which this putative grail has been pursued baffles many. The failed Vatican Ostpolitik in Central and Eastern Europe during the 1960s and 1970s succeeded only in disabling and demoralizing local Catholic communities, while the Vatican itself was deeply penetrated by communist intelligence services.
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George Weigel is a distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon chair in Catholic studies, and the author of “The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission.”