Ian Johnson on the state of the Catholic church in China

Members of the Catholic community in Dongergou, China (Sim Chi Yin)

This week’s guest is Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ian Johnson, an expert on Chinese religious practices based in Beijing. His latest piece for America is a report on the state of Catholicism in modern China titled: “How the top-heavy Catholic Church is losing the ground game in China.

Ian Johnson told America about the history of Catholicism in China : “[Almost] all religious practice was driven underground or destroyed [under Chairman Mao’s rule from 1949-1976]…. But much to the [Communist] party’s surprise, religion hasn’t gone away and it has thrived over the past few decades.”


However, the future of religion in China remains unclear. “The government wants tighter control over religious organizations in China...they want to make sure that these places of worship are firmly under government control. This is a problem especially for the [Catholic] Church,” said Mr. Johnson. Yet Mr. Johnson is also certain the church will survive: “I think the church is in China for the long haul. It’s played a very long game... it it’s been around through many, many more trying times…. [The] Chinese people kept the church going and it became a real Chinese religion.”

Editor's note: We had some technical difficulties at the beginning of the interview, which are resolved after the first few minutes.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Our Jan. 9 guest is Paul Mariani, S.J.
America This WeekJanuary 09, 2019
This week our guest is Jack Bentz, S.J.
America This WeekJanuary 02, 2019
This week's guest is James Martin, S.J.
America This WeekDecember 19, 2018