Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Politics Is Not About Numbers But Issues

A Catholic University professor of Sociology mentions in her column in the Peace Weekly that she approaches the subject of live broadcasting of public opinion surveys and exit polls with trepidation. 

Number of those questioned is very small, and the response is smaller still. Humans quickly change their minds. This makes the predictions unreliable, but they continue to take the pulse of the electorate. Exit polls are also often wrong. Why do they continue when the expenses are so large? The reason is that live broadcasting of the results gets many viewers and the price of  advertising increases:  making the surveys and those who broadcast the results all benefit.

Many years before we began converting  public opinion into  political numbers, we were doing it in the financial field. Numbers become the reality with which we think we are dealing.  We forget what the numbers represent, and only remember the numbers. This is what happened in 2008 during the financial crisis.

Korea's history with political parties is short and consequently; changing of party names continues. It takes about ten years to determine exactly what  a special area of study is all about. In politics, newcomers are welcomed and the learning begins.
Election time brings the nominating of candidates for the different parties, and pressures begin, for they again use numbers often to select the candidates. Difference of candidates, policies, the meaning of reform all is figured out by numbers. Going from quantity to quality takes time and is difficult. All of this is determined by public polls and surveys: policies and discussion yield to numbers. When one candidate leads another by just one percentage point, all discussion disappears.

We were all surprised at the results of our recent election on April 13th. We saw that the results of the surveys and polling were not accurate. Very little was said about this except that  polling used home phones rather than mobile homes ( the younger generation was not contacted). Political words were translated into numbers, and numbers were converted into our social reality. No one gave this any concern. 

Voters this past election were alert, and they made a collective appeal to intelligence. It's  nonsense to think that live broadcasting of  public opinion will help us understand issues. She hopes public opinion numbers will be ignored, and we go directly to discussing politics. This past election helped us to wake up.

Monday, May 23, 2016

No Longer To Be Hidden

Families are faced with many problems, and domestic violence is one of them. Kyeongyang magazine has in its recent issue a number of articles on Domestic Violence: a sin and a crime.

The writer is a woman who has  been working as a social worker and counselor with one of the dioceses helping families. She begins the article with the story of a woman who lived with an abusive husband and mentioned how before marriage some of the signs were present during the period of courtship, but she didn't recognize them.

After being out with him for an evening, he would always be attentive in her getting home  without mishap, and she saw this as kindness and concern. When she wore a short skirt,  he would complain, and she saw this as his  ardent nature. She accepted everything as signs of his love: a person who was strong, and she could  trust  but after marriage,  she realized that it wasn't love but extreme possessiveness and jealousy: lacking trust in her faithfulness to him.  

He would beat her on coming home from work routinely. He would bring up a relationship she had for a short period of time with a boyfriend, after  mentioning  it to him, and it would often come up in conversations. He even brought this up when she gave birth to their first child without reason and out of the  blue: "this is my child isn't it?"  His verbal abuse was hard to accept. She would be hit without reason, even in the most common everyday issues  communication was missing, put briefly all was hell.

One day, he didn't return home after work; she received a call  from him early that morning to come out to where he was. He was in his car, and she began to fear for her life. He began beating her, abusing her sexually, and she  broke away and ran to the nearest house which happened to be a rectory unbeknown to her. The priest brought her to a shelter. Her face was swollen,  broken bones and nose; it took some time to recover her former appearance.

They were a young virtuous  couple who were envied by those that knew them. She was 33 years old and a member of a research team in a large enterprise, and the husband worked for a big company.  Who would believe that an  attractive  educated  and professionally qualified mother with two children would be the victim of domestic abuse?

From 1998, there has been a law on the books to prevent this kind of domestic abuse, but most have not paid much attention and  has remained a family problem. The present government sees it as  crime.  More than twice in a period of three years,  perpetrators  may be confined to prison. If the victim  does not want the confinement, he will have to attend a program, and will be given a stay of prosecution.

According to one agency in 2014,  69 women were killed by their spouses and 57 were nearly killed. With this 57, family members and friends were also killed or injured. These are the ones that have been reported. In 2013, less than 1 percent have asked for help in domestic violence incidents.

In 2014, the women's family bureau reported about  48,000 cases of domestic violence, the previous year 38,000  were reported. For the last three years, there has been on  average 562 cases reported daily. The main reason for not separating is the children. However, studies show that it is better for the raising of children to leave this situation for their emotional health. Children living in these situations show uneasiness, depression and anti-social-behavior.  

Many women find finances a reason they can't leave.  Beatings have taken away their self-confidence:  "they are not capable of anything." A woman who has been abused for many years has a feeling of powerlessness and without the help of others they find  leaving the situation difficult.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Communication: Listening and Openess

Whenever we have a blockage, signs appear but are not quickly apparent. If we don't catch it at the beginning, the signs will become more obvious. When a drain is plugged, and  water drains slowly or the drain is completely clogged and returns the water, we know something is wrong. In the Peace Weekly, a columnist begins his article on communication with these words on clogged drains.

Road congestion is similar. In the beginning, we have slow progress, followed at times by stoppage and loss of time and harm. Wisdom is to prevent blockage or  fix  problems as soon as possible. Isn't this the  wisdom when communication between persons is not working correctly.

Between persons when we have an impasse, we look for ways to communicate: finding ways to understand one another. What is the reason for the breakdown in communication?  Persons in positions of authority are at times obstacles to the free flow of ideas and communication:  found in political  societies, communities, religious societies  and in  families.

Authoritarianism on the part of the person on the top is often the reason for the lack of communication. What has to happen is the one on top has to stop being bossy. How does the one on top stop being bossy? We who are Christians have Jesus as our example of the ideal communicator.

What enabled him to be such an example? He was willing to sit down and eat with anybody. The columnist  mentions two qualities that are necessary for communication to happen: to listen and  be open to what the other one is saying. Jesus was always opened to prompting of the Spirit.

In our society,  communities, parishes and families when we have problems with  communication we need to work on hearing and being open. Those in positions of authority should be less captivated by their authority and bossy ways. When we listen to God's voice and the voices of others, the results  will be communication.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Living Well and Dying Well

德 is the Chinese character for virtue. The ideogram  explains  clearly what is necessary for a natural human life in all its fullness: a good subject for meditation. Before economic development we often saw on  school gates the Korean word for virtue: few school children would now know its meaning.

The left side ㄔcould be seen as a person walking: a leg and a foot. We can understand it as our bodily behavior. The top of the right side 十目 are the characters for ten and eye. Before we do anything, we have to use our heads and examine well what we do: right thinking. 一心, the character for one and heart. We need a singleness of purpose.  Body, mind and heart need to work together in harmony.

When we make the sign of the cross, we acknowledge  these three aspects of our earthly life, but we also add the spiritual, our souls which infuse all. We touch the head, the heart and the shoulders, our bodies. Thinking, working and practicing the virtues make us open to the gifts of Grace. As Christians, Jesus comes into our lives with his death and Resurrection and gives meaning to our existence.

An article in a diocesan bulletin a priest tells his  readers before taking his medical exams, he  feels some trepidation but when he receives word, there is no problem, he is elated and has boasted about his good health to  the parishioners. One of the women responded: "Father, do you want to live a long time?" Receiving this question he was shaken and  embarrassed.

Was he so lacking in other areas that he had to brag about his health? He mentions, he exercises his body each day. There is time for nurturing the mind and the spirit. He knows that life is more than the body and just living a healthy life, but what we do with the health that we have is what is important.

"Stop worrying, then, over questions like, 'What are we to eat, or what are we to drink, or what are we to wear?' The unbelievers are always running after these things.  Your heavenly Father knows all that you need. Seek first his kingship over you,  his way of holiness, and all these  things will be given  you besides" (Matt 6: 31-33).

He concludes the article  with the phrases 'Well Living' and 'Well Dying'. When we live well we will die well, and for a Christian to live well does not mean a long life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Living In The Real World

A TV drama was the talk of Internet news for some time. Philosophy professor in a Catholic University in his article in the Catholic Times, was surprised hearing the drama was a fantasy. He praises the writer, director and cast for their efforts in producing a drama that has moved the hearts of many viewers.

What is the reason for this interest and message  conveyed?  We see this with myths and classics in which reality, for the most part, is missing, but people return to them repeatedly. To hear the present drama is full of wisdom, may embarrass the writer and producer. 

We are attracted to what we lack, and most don't know why. Do I really desire what attracts me, and consider it  a good or is it others who gave me the desire? Rarely do we bother to find an answer. What we desire is it true and good? In many cases, we prefer fantasy, and  relegate our daily lives to the back burner and search for beauty in the unreal.
Our lives may be seen as purposeless and empty, and in the world of drama, we try to fill  the void. In the real world, love, fellowship, and even family are reduced to a question of finances. We don't find this ideal love in our lives, and envy and try to find it in the fantasy world.  

What do we look for in drama? Entertainment, but if that is all, it's only temporary and merely sentiment.  We want to love and trust like the heroes and heroines but are confined to the real world. However, continue to dream of a harmonious world, and see ourselves as narrow-minded and cowards.  

If this is the case, in a drama, the actions  and words quickly pass through our minds and leave us with an  afterimage, and he would like us to see this as a mirror to look at ourselves who live in the real world.

There is a danger of living vicariously in watching fantasy dramas and movies. Creating our real world is more difficult but a Christian has a world view that makes the reality more exciting, and satisfying.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Helping to Change the World

A broad understanding of the social teaching of the Church is the way a Christian sees the world, and wants to change it to correspond to the teachings of Christ. A professor at a Catholic University gives us a brief introduction to this Social Gospel.

"There are three stages, which should normally be followed in the reduction of social principles into practice. First, one reviews the concrete situation; secondly, one forms a judgment on it in the light of these same principles; thirdly, one decides what in the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles. These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: look, judge, act" (Mother and Teacher, Pope John 23rd).

Christians are looking at themselves and  God's word and wanting to change the world to correspond to this thinking, which is also the way we become more spiritual. 

Narrowing the point of view, the social teaching is part of the magisterium of the Church's prophetic voice. The universal teaching office of the Church: "It is the expression of the way the Church understands society and of her position regarding social structures and changes" (Compendium #79).

This teaching comes from the scriptures and tradition, revealed to us by God  in our consciences,  intellects and the natural law. "This is not a marginal interest or activity, or one that is tacked on to the Church's mission, rather it is at the very heart of the Church's ministry of service" (Compendium # 67).

This is why Paul VI established the Committee for Justice and Peace in the Vatican. "This doctrine in turn is integrated into the Magisterium of the Bishops who, in the concrete and particular situations of the many different local circumstances, give precise definition to this teaching, translating it and putting it into practice" (Compendium #80).

Whether the Christian wants to follow the teaching or not is up to the individual conscience, but at least they should not speak out at the bishops for being 'followers of North Korea'  and telling the priests 'they are involved in politics'. This is not the correct attitude of a Christian. At  least, they should listen and have respect for the teaching, even if they are not able to follow it.

There are also many non-Catholics who have respect for this teaching and try to make it part of their vision of society. In the recent election in Korea, 77 Catholics were elected to the parliament, and  the hope is they will be working for the common good of society. 

Today is the Church's birthday: Happy Pentecost.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Catholic Spirituality in Korea

Writing in the Peace Weekly the columnist, a professor of spirituality, ends his 50-week  series on spirituality and feels academically speaking, it is still a subject that is not well understood in Korea.

Christianity has a history of 230 years but for the first 100 years, it was persecuted. Up until 1950, our society was in great unrest. Catholics, for the most part, did their duties and had little time for anything else. It was with the opening of the Second Vatican Council that in the 1960s, we saw growth and activity in the mission of the Church.

At this time, we had according to the teaching of the council begun educating in scriptural studies and our tradition. Persons were studying scripture and theology; programs were started for the laity with the impetus from the Council.

With an increase in the number of  priests in the  20th century even though they were attending Mass in Latin, parishioners were praying the rosary and memorizing their prayers; up until the end of the 20th century, there were no big problems in the  spiritual life of the Catholics.

In the last part of the 20th century, he says we saw indications of heterodoxy which the Vatican pointed out, and we had a movement within the church to train specialists in spirituality. However, since we started late there are many issues that have to be faced.

Books  published in the past were well written, moved the emotions: essays and miscellaneous writings but few were written on spiritual scholarship or the spiritual classics.  In Korea, we have many spiritual  classics that were popular before the Protestant Reformation translated into Korean but not well-known to our Catholics.  

Efforts are needed to  introduce Catholics to a mature spirituality and church authorities should help with  finances. Living the spiritual life does not mean we ignore the study of spirituality.  

His opinion is that we do not separate spirituality from Systematic Theology and make it only a part of Practical Theology as is done in Korea. St. Thomas Aquinas considered Spirituality a part of Systematic Theology.

Ideas in our heads are going to end up in our actions. When we do not have a foundation in spiritual theology,  we will often lose our way, and our spiritual life suffers. We will not have love, peace and joy to motivate us to give ourselves to Jesus' mission.