Friday, June 24, 2016

Homosexuality in Korea

Same sex sexual relations have been a taboo subject in much of the Korean press up until recent years. Recently we had a Queer Festival with an estimated 50,000 lesbians, gay males, bisexual and transgendered people, and supporters who gathered at Seoul Plaza to demonstrate their fight against homophobia.

In the peace  column of the Peace Weekly the writer gives us his ideas on understanding the meaning for Catholics of the homosexual revolution appearing in Korea.

'Queer' the English word is used: strange, out of the ordinary, to describe a sexual minority whose sexual orientation is not for the opposite sex  and expressed by the word homosexuality. Included in this term are those who are transgendered and bisexual. Accepting the word queer is not surprising.

They are binding together as a group and openly want to have their sexual orientation accepted by the public.This year was the 17th Queer Festival which was the largest in their history. Many of the supporters are fearful of the spread of hatred  for this sexual minority and want society to accept them. At the same time, groups of Protestants were demonstrating in opposition to the Festival.

Catholicism is very clear in seeing the same sex acts as sinful but the orientation is not seen in the same way.  Scriptures are understood to be opposed to same sex acts but at the same time the Church is adamant in demanding respect for each person's dignity.

"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition" #2358  Catechism of the Church.

Let's suppose, he concludes his column, that one of the members of your family was thus inclined what would you do?  This was the results of seeing the news about the queer festival in Seoul, and leaves the reader with his disturbing question.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Assimilation of Immigrants

Catholic Digest has an article about a priest's experience in the United States doing pastoral work for a Korean community. Most of the children don't understand Korean, so he had to prepare sermons for the young people in English. He used this time to work on his English, but he felt a need for outside help.

A young girl Eun Mi, a college student fluent in Korean, helped him. Her parents had immigrated to the States some 30 years before, and undergoing many difficulties, married.  Eun Mi was the first child, born in the States. They started a grocery store,that enabled them to live comfortably. 

During vacation time, Eun Mi started working part-time in a clothing store run by Americans. She wanted to take care of her own expenses and told the priest about her feelings. The work was difficult for her. She had to stand up all day dealing with the customers. After the first day her back hurt, the calves of her legs were swollen,and that night, she found herself groaning.

The next morning she was so sick that she had no desire to go to work and was about to telephone the store to tell them that she would not continue. As she picked up the telephone her parent's 30 years of working everyday doing just what she was groaning about came to mind. She put down the telephone,and with new determination went to work.

Although born in the United States she experienced discrimination because of her yellow skin. She can only surmise the discrimination that her parents felt since they spoke English poorly. While she was saying this, the priest saw tears come to her eyes.

Recently,migrant is a word often heard. In Korea, we have those who come to Korea for a better life. Many are here to support their families back in their homeland. We have the refugees from North Korea and those who are wives of Korean men, mostly in the farming areas. Korea is becoming a multicultural society, slowly; they are working to overcome discrimination which for a society that has been homogeneous is not easy.

Children who come to Korea with their mothers because of divorce and remarriage to a Korean and refugees who come from the North find it difficult to find work and assimilate. Often the difficulty is the way they speak Korean. They may be fluent, but their accents give them away and often that's all that's needed to keep  them from finding work. Efforts are made to rid themselves of the accent, but the need is for the society to accept the refugees from the North and foreigners and assimilate them.

Monday, June 20, 2016

From Success to Service

Korean priests in active service now exceed 5,000, and although we see a drop from the recent past, Korea is doing well. Foreign priests according to Catholic Bishops' Conference still active in Korea stood at 138, which decreased by 20 from the previous year. From the time of the first Korean priest St. Andrew Kim, more than 6,000 were ordained; 536 have died, and 427  have left the priesthood to return to secular life.

How many Koreans in the Diaspora who have immigrated and have become priests in their new homelands is difficult to ascertain, but the two Catholic Weeklies  had articles  about Christopher Eung jin Bae, who was ordained for the priesthood in the Boston Archdiocese in May of this year. He will be the fourth Korean  priest for the archdiocese. He is assigned as the assistant priest at St. Mary's Church, Franklin. On his visit to Korea, he was interviewed by the two weeklies.

The article mentions he was born in Korea; after graduating from middle school the family emigrated to the States. He went on to realize his dream. He went to the University of California at Los Angeles, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduated and got a good-paying job working as an analyst at Accenture, Boston. However, he didn't find the joy he expected, and wanted to know why.

He mentioned he dreamed of marriage and of owning a Lamborghini but with the priesthood, he had to give up this dream. With a group of young people from  his Korean parish, he went to Haiti in 2010 to help the poor and sick for 10 days. He was looking for the meaning of life. The trip filled his head with thoughts he never had before. He considered money the requisite for happiness. Here he was with 9 out of ten of what he thought was necessary for happiness,  searching for the tenth, and unsatisfied. The people  he was working with had barely one and were thankful and happy. 

Returning to Boston and speaking to the pastor the topic of a vocation to the priesthood was mentioned. Three months later, he entered the seminary and took a leave of absence from his work for a year,  just in case....

He was filled with doubt and uneasiness, but all was reversed. He found great joy, the meaning of life and  went on to the priesthood. His favorite scriptural phrase--Psalm 86:12, which he took for his ordination maxim: "I will give thanks to you, O Lord my God with all  my heart, and I will glorify your name forever."

His road to the priesthood was not just adulation, for his mother continually would tell him to think over well what he was doing. Even at his ordination his mother cried uncontrollably from the sadness she felt.  It was this opposition on his mother's part that gave him confidence that his  choice was the right one, and believes his mother will one day agree.

In his own life, he felt like a chipmunk on an exercise wheel and wants to  help  others to find meaning in life, which will depend on his keeping the joy and happiness in life he has found.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Justice and Equity in Society

Among the young people in cyberspace, we hear often the ranking of spoons. What parents pass down to their children in wealth  or place in society  is expressed by gold, silver, brass or earth spoons. A column in the Catholic Times expresses the view of a  seminary professor in social science on a subject which he feels is important because of the influence  on the young, which leaves them with little hope for the future.

He shows statistically how the  reality of our situation is feeding this despondency of the young. The poor are finding it more difficulty to leave their poverty. Inherited wealth of the wealthiest one percent continues to rise and the dividends and interest from invested money: 90 percent of this is received by the richest 10 percent. Money is not the result of work. Position in society, in many cases, is not from effort and labor but what was handed down from parents.

In Korean the proverb: A dragon rises from a small stream-- rags to riches stories-- are relegated to the land of mythology. " Without education, or money with  two hands alone they began." These words in  song are no longer heard and in its place we hear 'Hell Joseon' a phrase which the young use to express the period of the Joseon dynasty where the feudal system determined who got ahead. Many feel they have  inherited an earth spoon.  

In the Church's Pastoral Constitution # 4: "Never has the human race enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources, and economic power. Yet, a huge proportion of the world's citizens is still tormented  by hunger and poverty, while countless numbers suffer from total illiteracy. Never before today has man been so keenly aware of freedom, yet at the same time, new forms of social and psychological slavery make their appearance." Again in # 63:  We are at a moment in history when the development of economic life could diminish social inequalities if that development were guided and coordinated in a reasonable and human way. Yet all too often it serves only to intensify the inequalities. In some places, it even results in a decline in the social status of the weak and in contempt for the poor."

Within this kind of society, the values of honesty, sincerity, labor, diligence the value of community, and  moral life find it difficult to take hold. In the world of finances, the elite minorities are not only influencing their own financial world but all other parts of society. Their values are spread in politics  and in other areas of life.  Each person has one vote is changed to each Korean's ‎₩ (won) has one vote as in a cooperation, and this reality can permeate our social life.

Obviously when this happens, we have the death of democracy and with it, the devaluing of the dignity of the person and  labor:  consequently, the interest of the Church in justice and equity. 

Mistreatment of Children is a Crime

At the end of last year a 11 year old girl was reported to the police by a shop keeper who caught the girl stealing  some bread but knew she was not an ordinary elementary school child. She had run away from her home climbing down the gas pipe from her second story apartment. She was abused and tied up and was missing from school for about two years. When the news hit the press the anger of the  public could not be ignored.

A teacher in a Women's Research Center writes about the incident in the Peace Weekly and expresses her opinion on our need to prevent incidents of this type.  Schools and organizations will be more pro-active and when a child is missing from school for any period of time steps will be taken to find the reasons and work to prevent abuse from happening.

Department of Health and Human Services reports over 80% of abuse is from the parents. In 2015 there were 16.8% more reports of abuse than the preceding year. From 5 years before there has been an increase of over 2 times. Since there is now an  obligation to report abuse reporting has increased but those familiar with the situation say the  numbers reported are just a small number of the actual cases.

In Korea only 29 % of the abuses are reported while in United States 58.3%,  Australia 73.3%  Japan 68% are reported. Would strengthening the penalties for abuse result in a drop in the numbers? 

She lists some of the reasons for the mistreatment of children that she sees operative in society. Many of the families are poor, we have alcohol and game addiction, disease and handicapped individuals all combining to make the situation complicated. Those who abuse often have been abused as children and  have little qualms of conscience for their actions.  Pathological behavior is also picked up by children.

Consequently, it is easy for those who are abusers to blame those who raised them for their actions. So better than making the penalties more severe is to show them their actions are not proper and to make them understand in counseling of what their abuse is doing to the children and themselves.

She concludes her article with a need to change the way we are are building our society and the values we emphasize. Pope Francis is speaking strongly about the new liberalism that is spreading throughout the world. Korea is accepting this focus and we have competition without limit, and organizing of society with power. In this kind of environment we have citizens bowing to those with power or determining to have some of this power. With this kind of society those who suffer the most are the weak: children, women and the handicapped. When  society  forgets the moral values  and actions, the weak will suffer and the desire to end abuse and mistreatment of the young will be only a distant dream.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dignity of Labor

A recent symposium on labor, and reviewing a survey made among the young people in the Seoul Diocese, discovered the difference between Catholic youth and other young people was not much different. Noticed was an estrangement between religion and life: helped along by the secularization and middle-class life-style of many. The survey will be a sign post for the direction of the programs for the young people.

Both Catholic papers had articles on the symposium. 1,818 middle and high-school students when asked what thoughts came to mind when they heard the word labor. From a list presented, the following were the percentages for each: effort 30%, difficult 47.5%, devoted 3.5%, shovels and tools 2.6%, employment 6%, strikes 0.5%, capitalism 1.6%, poverty 1.3%, satisfaction 0.8%, humanity 1.5%, politics 0.4%, salary 4.1%.

When the question of who do they see as laborers in our society  the number-one  response was the apartment building security people. Followed by sales people in markets, and those working to set up Internet connections. Labor was something difficult, a not surprising answer coming from  students.

The young people when asked what they wanted to do in life: 14% teachers, doctors 6 %, scientists 4.5 %, policemen 4 %, entertainers 3%. Students selected occupations not considered labor.  This was similar to another survey that was made in 2014.

The Church has not made the message clear that we are in God's country doing God's work as Christians here and now. We are in the world but not of the world. We are to transform society, but we have not made this mission of Christians clear to our young people. We are part of a 'contrast society' that has not been internalized.

Many students take  pride in their Catholicism but when asked would they help a fellow worker who was treated unjustly, only 35 % said they would. Sadness comes when we realize the efforts to give students a Christian value system fails to compete  with what they have picked up from society.  

Only 8 % of the students have had a part-time job during their years of schooling. Study is a full-time job for many and finding time to do anything  else is difficult. Work is something sacred. Most of us will spend more time working than sleeping. However, the treatment that workers receive does not coincide with what we believe about the dignity of work and workers.

One participant mentioned there is still the idea of high and low when it comes to labor. This viewpoint colors the way labor is looked upon and the reason  physical labor does not receive remuneration and respect as other occupations.

A bishop at the close of the symposium hoped that the interest in work, and its understanding will be a long-lasting  influence on the lives of the students.
"Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men" (Colossians 3:23).  These words should apply to all we do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Survey of Catholic Attitudes in Korea

Now Here News Site  has a report on a survey  with shocking results. We are reminded again that we are influenced by the structures of society more than we want to believe. Finances, politics, society, culture, have often a stronger pull on us than our individual wills, personality and even religion.

A news letter from the Inchon Catholic University research center explains the results of a study made on Catholic understanding of  attitudes on family, marriage, support of family, life, sex, marriage satisfaction, suicide, birth rates, divorce, remarriage, abortion, etc....

Four groups were  compared: Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Non-believers. Catholics were second to the Protestants in agreeing that marriage gave more happiness than the single life. To the question if you want children you should get married: Catholics were the lowest of the religious' group. Marriage and children the Catholics saw loosely and was at the bottom.

Catholics were welcoming to divorce, when problems within the family arose; the same as those with no religion. Those who agreed with the statement that for the  good of the children, parents should not divorce, Catholics were  lowest of the three with  religion. Sex before marriage with or without the intention of marriage Catholics were the most open. Catholics did not see much of a difference in one-parent  homes and two-parent homes. When it came to supporting a family, Catholics were very loose in their thinking and in accepting divorce.  

With suicide, there was a shock in what was discovered. Catholics had the highest number of those who have thought of suicide, of harming themselves or attempting suicide. Those with no religion had the lowest rate. The writer wanted us to remember this. The distance in percentage, compared to the other two religions was high.

Catholics  opposed abortion with  the highest rate of all the other groups. However, when the fetus had a defect, the Catholics would be third  after the unbeliever and Buddhist to accept abortion. When financial difficulty was present the result was the same.

Although Catholics were opposed to sex before marriage, they were opened to it outside of marriage. They were also second in agreeing to accept same-sex couples in raising children.
When it came to finding satisfaction in marriage, they were the third but when it came for the whole of life, they were the lowest of all the groups: the happiness quotient among Catholics was at the bottom. Results from this study leave a great deal for the Korean Church to ponder.