«Yin-Yang» Interplay

A Renewed Formation Program for the Catholic Seminary in China

by Bit-shing Abraham Chiu (Author)
©2015 Monographs 153 Pages
Series: American University Studies , Volume 333


«Yin-Yang» Interplay: A Renewed Formation Program for the Catholic Seminary in China puts the spotlight on the design of a renewed formation program for the Catholic seminary in China. Without any renewed formation, transformation becomes pessimistic in the Chinese Catholic Church (CCC). Though the road marching to spiritual transformation in China is long and winding, «Yin-Yang» Interplay offers those who are interested in laboring in this special vineyard vision a dream, and, more profoundly, hope.
Indeed, this hope is based on the analysis of the political and religious background of the CCC and the data collected from twenty-six interviewees, especially the seminarians whose sincere sharing substantiates the author’s academic research and simultaneously opens a window to the world for understanding the CCC. On the foundation of theory and experience, the author suggests a renewed formation program that customizes the special political and religious situations in China. The program integrates traditional Confucianism, modern educational theory, and contemporary Chinese culture in order to foster a seedbed for the clerical formation of the CCC.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • Purpose and Significance of the Study
  • Purpose of Study
  • Significance of Dissertation
  • Christ and Culture–Political and Religious Confrontation
  • The Separation–Political and Religious Factors
  • Political Factors
  • Religious Factors
  • Household and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association
  • Household in General
  • Household in China
  • Religious Persecution and Seminary Formation: Consequence of the Conflicts between China and the Institutional Vatican
  • Methodology
  • Review of Literature
  • Part One: Chinese Sources
  • Part Two: Theological and Educational Sources
  • Part Three: Dissertations
  • Part Four: Church Documents
  • Synopsis of the Dissertation
  • Chapter Two: Educit Obstetrix–Rebirth of Seminaries after the Cultural Revolution
  • The Tension between Politics and Religion in Comparison with John 18:28-19:16
  • The First Scene: John 18:28-32
  • The Second Scene: John 18:33-38a
  • The Third and Fourth Scenes: John 18:38b-40, 19:1-3
  • The Fifth Scene: John 19:4-7
  • The Sixth Scene: John 19:8-12
  • The Seventh Scene: John 19:13-16
  • Seminary Formation under Political Domination–the Process of Developing the Hidden Curriculum
  • Theological Rigidity
  • Spiritual Desensitization
  • Political Domination as the Hidden Curriculum
  • Rebirth in the Soil of Confucianism
  • Summary
  • Chapter Three: Educat Nutrix–Nurturing Childlike Sagehood in the Chinese Catholic Seminaries
  • Nurturing Sagehood–the Ideals of Education of Confucius and Moran
  • Confucian Concept of Heaven (天, Tian) and Humanity (仁, Ren)
  • Heaven and Humanity in Confucian Philosophy of Education
  • Self-Cultivation to Heaven–the Way to Humanity by Education
  • Childlike Adulthood–Interplay: A Theory of Religion and Education
  • Childlikeness vs Childishness: An Exegesis of Jesus’s and Paul’s Sayings
  • Jesus’s Child (παιδiov) in Mark 9:33-37, 10:15; Luke 9:46-48
  • Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48 (NRSV)
  • Mark 10:15 (NRSV)
  • Paul’s Child (νńπιοs, παιδiα, τέkvα) in 1 Cor 13:11, 14:20; Eph 4-5
  • 1 Cor 13:11, 14:20 (NRSV)
  • Eph 4-5
  • Childlike Adult or Adultish Child
  • Nurturing Childlike Sagehood in the Chinese Catholic Seminaries
  • Sagehood in Confucianism
  • Sagehood in Christianity: Francis of Assisi as a Model–Humanity is Returning to Ritual by Self-Cultivation (克己复礼为仁)
  • Childlike Adult Education for the Catholic Church in China
  • Childlike Sagehood–the Null Curriculum
  • Summary
  • Chapter Four: Instituit Paedagogus–Seminary Formation under the Essential Tension between Politics and Religion
  • Interview Report of Two Catholic Seminaries (Y and Z) in China (2009-2011)
  • Theological Education
  • Spiritual Formation
  • Ministerial Training
  • Visions of Future
  • Discussion of Interviews
  • Intellectual and Spiritual Formation
  • Community Life
  • Communication
  • Vision of Missio Dei
  • A Response to the Discussion of the Interview Report
  • The Incarnational Model as the Beginning and the End of Seminary Formation–Truly Catholic and Truly Chinese
  • The Incarnational Model
  • Truly Catholic and Truly Chinese
  • A Spiritual Long March–Theological Education for Political and Religious Dialogues
  • Academics of Seminaries
  • Spirituality of Seminaries
  • A School of Formation and Transformation
  • Summary
  • Chapter Five: Docet Magister–Showing How and What a Renewed Seminary Formation Program Should Be
  • Yin-Yang Interplay–Balancing Political Domination and Religious Subordination
  • Interplay of the Null and the Hidden Curricula
  • The Null Curriculum and the Online China Project
  • The Null Curriculum
  • The Online China Project
  • Education of Justice in the Chinese Catholic Seminaries
  • A Tripod Formation Program–Self-Cultivation, the Good Shepherd, and Missio Dei
  • Self-Cultivation
  • The Good Shepherd
  • Missio Dei
  • A Tripod Formation Program–Practical Suggestions
  • Summary
  • Bibliography
  • Chinese Sources
  • Electronic Links

← 10 | 11 → PREFACE

The time might be opportune for a thaw in the chilled relationship between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China. Pope Francis has manifested a healthy and accommodating attitude to deal with both church and world problems. He has called for needed reforms in the Catholic Church and in society, especially in the economic sphere. He has expressed openness not only to religious people but also to secularists and atheists. In the past May he warmly greeted Chinese Catholics encouraging them to remain faithful to the church teachings.

The Chinese government sent greetings to the Pope at the time of his election in March. It made clear that they were not backing down from their criticisms of the Vatican’s China policy of insisting on naming new bishops in China. Notwithstanding their clear message, one can point to some signs of hope and developments in China that make Dr. Abraham Chiu Bit-shing’s work particularly relevant. Fr. Abraham’s work taps into the recovering of respect for Confucianism that has emerged in China after its rejection in the days of Chairman Mao’s when his grave was dug up, hundreds of temples were destroyed, and Confucianism was called a wandering soul. Today Confucius’ writings are widely available, notably on a National Web site; Confucian academies flourish; tourists flock to Confucian temples. Confucian values are promoted by the government to inculcate self-confidence and patriotism. The 2008 Olympic Games did not mention the Chairman but did stress the values of harmony and the classic texts. Millions of copies of a best seller “Confucius from the Heart” are in circulation.

The importance of Fr. Abraham’s work is that it takes an indirect approach to the Vatican-China problem. He focuses not directly on the policy issues but rather on philosophy, theology and ideology. He proposes that the Catholic Church in educating priests (one would extend this to all its educational endeavors) should make extensive use of dominant Confucian themes of personhood, sagehood, education, ethics, Heaven, spirituality by correlating them with Christian and Catholic theology and spirituality. Doing this would counter to a helpful degree the charge that Christianity and Catholicism are something foreign to Chinese culture.

Fr. Abraham’s proposal thus represents a small step in what will necessarily be a long and difficult trek. But the road ahead has many potential twists and turns. While it was a hopeful sign that the government had plans to build a large Christian church in Qufu, Confucius’s home town, arguing that there was a precedent for this, it dropped the project due to protests from Confucian associations and Web sites. This event tells us the true meaning of Confucianism is still being debated. It is often asked whether Confucian harmony is consistent with the politics of negotiation and an honest clash of ideas. There exists rigidly orthodox Confucianism as well as open and inquiring Confucianism. Fr. Abraham’s study, which tries to correlate Confucianism with the tolerant elements of Western philosophy, theology and education, can be a valuable partner in the ongoing dialogue on ideas and policies.

Dr. John L. Elias, EdD, Emeritus Professor
Religion and Religious Education
Fordham University, Bronx, New York
Fall, 2014 ← 11 | 12 →


The reputation of the Religious Education Program of Fordham University (Fordham) attracts me, like flowers to bees. My desire of pursuing a Ph.D. degree of religious education grew since I finished my Doctor of Ministry at Episcopal Divinity School, Boston in 2007.

China has been casting itself on the international political stage, and it has already opened up to the whole world. A window to religions is simultaneously open. Because of this deep concern for the future of the Chinese Catholic Church, and I have been teaching in nine seminaries and directing retreats and seminars for bishops, priests, nuns, seminarians, and lay people since 1996, I decided to specialize in the study of religious education. With this academic study of religious education, I will be able to serve the Chinese Catholic Church with missio Dei.

I wish to express my gratitude to all those who have contributed, in one way or another, to my studies in Fordham. First and foremost, I wish to thank my mentor, Dr. John L. Elias, who has labored with me throughout the whole time of my research and meticulously read my text. My heartfelt thankfulness in particular goes to the two readers, Dr. Gloria Durka and Dr. Aileen Giannelli for the intensive reading of the text. Sincere thanks from me also go to all the professors who inspired my studies by their good examples and hard works. To the staff of the secretariat and the library, to all who have shared their time and warm friendship with me at Fordham, I owe my deep gratitude.

I wish to remember in a special manner Rev. Capistran Polga, O.F.M. and Mr. George F. Chanduloy who have suggested stylistic improvements of my English. In addition, Mr. Joseph Lo offered his knowledge of computer for the format of this work. I am grateful for the support from my family and friends especially my late mother who died on September 28, 2011 while I was teaching in Beijing. Last but not least, I have to express my wholehearted thanks to my beloved students in mainland China, for without their spiritual friendship, I would not have successfully finished my doctoral studies in Fordham, New York.

Deo gratias et Mariae!

Chiu, Bit-shing Abraham
Fall, 2014 ← 13 | 14 →

← 14 | 15 → CHAPTER ONE


This introductory chapter highlights the importance of fostering a renewed formation program in the Chinese Catholic seminary in particular the Online China Project that this researcher has successfully accomplished. Because the Chinese Catholic Church (CCC) still mainly relies on the quality and quantity of the clergy and the lay ministers who are not maturely developed at this time, the formation of clergy is crucial to the ministries of the CCC. In addition to the teaching experience in the Catholic seminaries in China since 1996, the situation of this special vineyard inspires this researcher to write this dissertation in order to create dialogues between the east and the west, the past and the present, and in particular the political and the religious.

Section A indicates the purpose and significance of the study and section B, examines the background of political and religious confrontations between China and the Vatican. Thus, this researcher has to acquaint himself with the historical, political, cultural, and religious conflicts between the two entities. Section C describes what methodology this researcher applies in writing this work. A review of literature is offered, especially the Chinese sources of renowned sinologists, in Section D. Finally, a synopsis of the dissertation in section E portrays how and what the dissertation contributes to the formation of the Chinese Catholic seminarians.

Purpose and Significance of the Study

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this dissertation is to critically analyze the current formation program of the seminary in a “Chinese-characteristic” socialist country.1 The government restricted all religious activities during the ten years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Since the Chinese government labeled the Vatican an imperialistic entity of the West, it persecuted the CCC even more harshly than other religious denominations. All seminaries were closed and “remodeled” by the government for other purposes, e.g., warehouses and factories.

Immediately after Deng Xiaoping returned to the political stage in late 1978, he launched the “four modernizations” (agriculture, industry, technology, defense), formally marking the beginning of an era of political reform. Though all seminaries were allowed to reopen in the 1980s, they were found deficient, academically, spiritually, materially, ← 15 | 16 → and financially.2 In addition to this, formation programs maintained an outdated style. For instance, blind obedience to superiors was considered a virtue, while at the same time, the government assumed absolute control and inspection of these seminaries. Thus, there was no room for fresh air in the seminaries. These situations impressed on the Chinese Catholic seminaries the importance of fostering quality theological education and spiritual formation.

In this special sociopolitical area, the Olympic Games 2008 and the Expo 2010 opened a window in China to the world. This dissertation proposes some principles of renewed formation for Chinese Catholic seminarians. It suggests that these principles will produce a renewed clergy who will be midwives of spiritual rebirth in China. Their religious ministries, when renewed, will interplay with the political and religious policies of China in a “Yin-Yang” pattern.3

Significance of Dissertation


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (March)
spiritual transformation dream hope theory experience
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 153 pp.

Biographical notes

Bit-shing Abraham Chiu (Author)

Bit-Shing Abraham Chiu has been serving the Chinese Catholic Church by teaching theology in major seminaries and conducting retreats in various dioceses since 1996. He earned his doctoral degree of ministry from Episcopal Divinity School, Boston, where he was awarded the best paper prize. He earned his PhD degree from the School of Religious Education, Fordham University, New York. His enriched teaching experience and quality academic formation foster the creation of this book.


Title: «Yin-Yang» Interplay
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156 pages