Sunday, April 26, 2015

World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Both  editorials in the Catholic papers bring to the attention of the readers the difficulties of the  migrants in Korea. Today Korean Catholics remember the 101st  World Day of Migrants and Refugees along with Vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday.  

The world village in which we live brings the reality of different people and cultures living together. Korea has ethnic Koreans from China, Russia and North Korea and many other migrants with different facial features who have come from poor countries and are here to do the difficult, dirty and dangerous work of the society, often discriminated and shunned. There is also a large number who have married Koreans and are living in the country.

They are often treated worse than those in the lowest stratum  of society: they are  the invisible persons in society.Very basic human rights are not respected, health care, educational aid, and when sick hospital  care is not easily found, and in school ignored by classmates. Even in the Church we see this happening. We have separate Masses for them and they are not relating with the parishioners. When we  don't accept a foreigner we are refusing something basic of a person's humanity. We are treating  another as a commodity and fitting them into the  structures of the society we have made.

In our elementary, middle and high schools one out of a  hundred are children from another culture. This shows that we are becoming a multicultural country. This requires we change the way we think and act.

Many in society do not hear the cry of the weak, and fail to see their pain and the need to find solutions. A survey made  recently found that those married to Koreans, in 2009,  36.4 % felt discrimination and in  2012 it increased to 41.9 %. Three years ago 3.% of the migrants  said prejudice  and discrimination made life difficult, this has now gone up to 7%. A sign that we are not doing  well in our efforts.
Pope Francis  in his message for the 101st World Day of Migrants: "The Church without  frontiers Mother to all, spreads throughout the world a culture of acceptance and solidarity, in which no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable. When living out this motherhood effectively, the Christian community nourishes, guides and indicates the way, accompanying all with patience, and drawing close to them through prayer and works of mercy."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Opening Church Doors to Marriage

In April, for the last two years, we had issues which caused a great deal of public anguish. Last year, the sinking  of the Sewol Ferry, and this year the news of large scale corruption in government, but it is also the month of flowers and weddings.

Many are renewed by the attendance at a wedding with the newly weds expressing their joy in a new life that begins. Peace Weekly, Peace Columnist,  recounts the joy of attending a Wedding Mass and all that is associated with a wedding. He laments, however, this is not something that all can enjoy and precedes to tell us why.

He introduces us to a book by two professors Cabone and Cahn who have written Marriage Markets, which describes  how income of the couples influences the markets for marriage: less marriage when the income is lower and more when higher.

This is also our reality. A  marriage business enterprise, working in the field is quoted as saying,  the average money spent on a marriage including the home would be over 200,000 dollars. Without this kind of money available one can't contemplate marriage.

In Korea those who are not married by 50 are consider unmarried for life. In 1980 only 0.4% were in this category, in 2010 this has increased to 5%. Japan is in a more difficult situation, in 1980 only 2.6% were unmarried, in 2010 it rose to 20.1 %.

This year we will have the population house census made every 5 years. Since Korea, in respect to population transitions, has many similarities with Japan, the writer surmises that there will be big surprises in the numbers who remain single for life--those who have given up on romance and marriage because of money and emotional reasons. 

Last year we had the extraordinary synod on the family and Cardinal Yeom of Seoul was quoted as saying that with the solving of the problems in the family all will be solved. The first  barrier for this is marriage itself and a need for the Church to get involved. The family is what supports the country, society and the church, We don't want to go in the direction of the United States, where marriage   becomes the choice of the elite and middle class.

The Church needs to open the doors of its 1,682 churches to those who are dreaming of marriage. The church needs to lower expenses and start spreading  news to make a new culture for marriage.                

Friday, April 24, 2015

Church Losing Its Prophetic Voice

A survey made by the Catholic Times in 1988 showed how the Church had become middle class. In the 90s the word 'middle-class' was used by religious sociologists, and appeared in many articles written about the church.

A professor and deputy director of the Catholic Cultural Research Center has an essay in the Catholic Times about the weakening of the Church's prophetic role in society and the reasons. Scholars see this as a change in the Catholic situation in society.

By using these words we are saying the majority of the Catholics belong to the middle class. The professor believes we may think the number of  Catholics in the middle class would be about 70%  but it is closer to 45~55%,  5% of this number would be the upper class. With this being the fact is it possible that we are making too much fuss about this? But the reality is that Catholics before 1980 were poor, the results  of the religious  persecution  that lasted for over one hundred years.

In the 1980s the young, highly educated, and economically well-off  began to enter the church. Those entering were imbued with the dynamism  from the church they entered which lasted up to the end of the 90s. Numbers entering began to increase greatly.

Those entering were changing the make-up of the Church, both within and without: numbers of church buildings and their sizes increased, the quality of the material improved, the number of welfare programs improved, shrines for the martyrs were developed, and the exterior of Catholicism was changed.

Catholics with money and time were only half of the numbers registered in the Church, but they were the ones attending the Masses and involved in church  activities, however, the prophetic role of the church  decreased greatly. The symbolism of the old time Catholicism and its culture grew weak.

 Catholics increased, but the quality did not  keep pace and we hear the continual voice for renewal.This, in the words of the professor, explains the present Catholicism with which we are faced.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Preferential Option for the Poor

In April our Korean Bishops made their regular visit to the Vatican; and as  was reported in the press the first thing the pope asked the bishops: "How was the Sewol problem being decided?" The pope on the other side of the world was showing solidarity with those who were hurting.

While here in Korea he showed concern for the families of the victims and  accepted a yellow ribbon which he wore while in Korea. On his way back to Rome on the plane at the press conference he was asked a question about his position on the Sewol ferry tragedy.

 "I put this on (the yellow ribbon given him by the relatives of the victims). After half a day of wearing it, I took it on for solidarity with them. Someone came up and said, it's better to take it off. You must be neutral.  But, listen with human sorrow you can't be neutral. It's what I feel." 

These words and the attitude of Pope Francis shows us what  the Christian essence of love should be. We need to show mercy and solidarity to those who are the sickest, and poorest in society. In our social teaching we express this with a preferential option for the poor.

You can't be neutral in the presence of human suffering. Before the poor become a concern of politics, economics and  culture, the issue is theological and religious. God was on the side of those hurting in Egypt and Jesus: "I was hungry and you fed me" (Mt. 25:35); Jesus identifies himself with the poor.  

"The poor person, when loved, 'is esteemed as of great value', and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. Only this will ensure that 'in every Christian community the poor feel at home. Would not this approach be the greatest and most effective presentation of the good news of the kingdom?' Without the preferential option for the poor, 'the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communication" (Joy of the Gospel #199).  

There are many in society who select those hurting,  and being with them inspire us with their service for the poor.However, it is also true that many do not understand and worry about the results. We have a person who told the pope won't it be better to remove the ribbon since you are to be neutral. It was then  he answered: we can't be neutral in the face of suffering. Work with the poor and the suffering always goes beyond politics.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Changing to Live Like we Should

Koreans enjoy using aphorism, and Catholics using what we  called spiritual nosegays. They were like a bouquet of flowers that we could take out when needed  to overcome other odors that were harmful or at least distracting us from what was important.

Articles in both Catholic papers, mentioned a movement among the different religious groups in Korea to live what we believe: living according to our identity. One writer  quotes Pope Francis in his talk to the Asian Bishops while here in Korea. "If we are to speak freely, openly and fruitfully with others, we must be clear about who we are, what God has done for us, and what he asks of us."

Identity is a difficult word, the representative of the 7 different religious groups did decided in the common campaign to live what we believe: like a mother, like a human, like a citizen, like a Catholic, like a worker, like a believer.  A consensus among the different religious groups in a  campaign to work together is itself of great import.

The declaration of the campaign listed: to look first  for the  reasons for our problems in ourselves, to understand correctly  what we do, and  act accordingly. See our mission directly, and  make it our starting point; pledge to act in the family, in the church and in society like a member of that community should.

Not an easy thing to do. We have to understand who we are and realize how precious we are and live in the way we know we should. Cardinal Kim who was the  ordinary of Seoul is quoted as  saying:  " It  took him a life time to have what his head knew descend to his heart." The effort will be that of a martyr.

Each religious group will have different resolutions that they will explore and carry out according to their beliefs. The hope within the Church is that it will spread to all the dioceses in the country. 

The pastoral head of the  Seoul Parish Council reminds us of the sinking of the Sewol and how easy it is to have all our problems sink like the ferry into the unknown. In order to change the lack of trust in society we need to live according to the  will of God, which is living what we believe.         

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Need For Rest and Leisure

Koreans are tired. They have the longest working hours, and children the  longest hours for study. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its survey of 18 countries showed that Koreans had the least hours of sleep for both adults and children. Korea in the last 50 years was the country that achieved the  fastest  rate of growth,  a sign of their diligence, and if they did not achieve this success with sacrificing even sleep would it have been normal? The  leading role in this leap in progress are now the elders in our society, and of 91 countries, Korea was listed as the 67th  in welfare programs for the elderly, which the columnist considers a big embarrassment.

The columnist is an educator who writes in Window from the Ark of the Catholic Times. Our present competitive society directs us to will what we want to achieve, but at a great price, sacrificing leisure and overworking; often times feeling guilty for resting and becoming addicted to work. The environment  in which they work, pushing for efficiency and production leads a large percentage of the work force to feel burnt out. 

At this stage there is a loss of desire. Similar to an excess of voltage in an electric line which causes the fuse to blow. The worker loses the meaning for life, and runs out of energy.

Burnout Syndrome does not only affect the person but his family, the work place and society.When together with others we have the meeting of a tired society. This becomes contagious, easily spreads and we have the making of psychological problems. 

Rest and leisure are not a waste of time. Why is it that we don't understand the reason for rest and leisure?  He mentions a study made that showed that those who have leisure and sufficient sleep are better able to fight off dementia: the best and cheapest way of fighting off the aging of the brain.

God made us to play. He shows us a number of passages where we have the day of rest, festivities, dancing, and banquets.There is a need for a rhythm in life of work and rest. We are  made to  celebrate-- homo festivus. The Sabbath Day is the best example of this. He concludes the article by asking the church to take notice of the  seriousness and sorrow in  society and help the tired ones to enjoy the creation that God has given us.                                                                          
“I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community” [Augustine]

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trickle-down Effect Of Economics

We often hear our large scale enterprises must do well, if the common people are to live well. Jobs are made, incomes improve: at first glance this makes a lot of sense. A priest sociologist working with laborers, in an article in the  Catholic Times, does not agree.

Government apparently believes this to be true, and does what it can to make the growth of these conglomerates as smooth as possible. Removing many of the obstacles that prevent growth. However, is it true that the workers benefit from this largesse?

When big business does well, and we have the trickle down effect as it is called, the  overflow of wealth from the big enterprises and the rich will  enter the lives of the masses--no proof, only an hypothesis  and common belief.

Government and the Korea Bank Statistics shows something different. Under the government of the  past president the income of the conglomerates continued to increase with the business friendly policy. The income of families on the other hand continued to decrease. Why are the incomes of the families supposedly increasing, and why more poverty?

Pope Francis has expressed the opinion that there is little to warrant this kind of thinking, and said so in Joy of the Gospel. "In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

In 1997 the Catholic Conference of England  on the issue of the common good was sharp in criticism of this thinking-- when the rich get richer the situation of the less wealthy and the poor is improved-- The bishops expressed doubt on this position, and said there is no evidence of this and goes against common sense. This kind of thinking only goes to justify the search for wealth.  

When big business does well this does not translate into the good for the ordinary citizen. For this to happen the government has to get involved with regulations to make this happen, and to  extend the welfare system to include more people. When the  government sides with big business and abrogates many of the regulations this is not only hurting the citizens but not making for an efficient financial market. If the government is to take an interest in the life of the  citizens they have to be conscious of the solidarity of the basic community and the common good.