The Vatican is complaining that some bishops in China have "usurped" the Catholic Church's authority and are confusing the faithful.
The Vatican warned Thursday that bishops who were consecrated without the pope's blessing yet work among the faithful as if they were legitimate are only making their legal status worse.
The admonition came in a statement issued at the end of a Vatican meeting on China.
The relationship between Beijing and Rome has been tense since 1951, when China severed ties with the Holy See after the Communist Party took power and set up its own church outside the pope's authority.
The issue of who should appoint bishops has been a key obstacle to Pope Benedict XVI's goal of improving relations with Beijing.