Monday, December 10, 2018

Catholicism In Korea

'Do I have to get married?' 'Is not divorce a matter of choice? The perception of Korean society on marriage and family is changing rapidly. According to a 2018 report of the  National Bureau of Statistics: 48.1 percent of respondents thought that one should marry. One in three (30.3%) agreed with the idea that "men and women can live together, have children without marriage",  for the first time, over half , 56.4% agreed that one need not marry.  As for divorce, the percentage of people who think they may or may not has increased to 46.3%, and the percentage of people who think that they should not is down to 33.2%. 

The Church teaches that marriage, childbirth, and nurturing are both important obligations and fundamental rights in the order of God's creation. But in a rapidly changing reality, Catholic bioethics and church teaching are losing power. Catholic believers are more influenced by the social atmosphere than by church teachings. In a survey of 1,000 Catholics, six out of ten believers (59.8%) were in favor of 'conditional divorce', and the understanding of the ethical aspects of specific practical issues such as contraception, abortion, and euthanasia, show no big differences from the general population.

The church can not be ignorant of social change. Pastors must walk together with the believers.  The National Statistical Office conducted a survey of 9,000 citizens over 13 years old in May on the theme of family, education, health, safety and the environment. 

Statistics show that families are changing. The number of members living away from home has increased steadily since 2014, to 20.1%. The reason for living apart from the spouse was mainly due to work (67.3%), and unmarried children often live away because of work (57.3%) and study (35.6%). The number  of parents living with  their children is decreasing to 27.1%, and the proportion of parents living alone is increasing to 69.5%. 

With respect to parental support, the idea that "families should be responsible" is diminishing, and the idea that each are responsible is increasing. 48.3% of parents thought that 'family, government and society should all be concerned with the retired,   family responsiblity (26.7%). In fact, the proportion of parents solving their own problems is increasing to 55.5%, and the percentage of children providing for the parents has decreased to 44.4%. 

How should church pastors respond to the emergence of new and varied forms rather than the traditional home. "It is true that there is a request that the church should be able to provide services in line with a changing world, but what is more important is to rethink the universal and traditional values that the church can give," said a priest working wtih families.  The desire to be loved and to love remains. We need to  experience God and help people feel a sense of belonging to a community. In addition to this, we can look at changes in the areas where the church is deeply interested, such as youth issues, mental health, environment, 

Among Korean youths their biggest concerns were occupation, study, and appearance. According to age groups, students aged 13 to 18: study (47.3 percent), appearance (13.1 percent). Those  aged 19 to 24: working (45.1 percent) and studying (14.9 percent). 49.1% of the respondents said they shared their problems mostly with friends, followed by parents (28.0%) and (13.8%) solved their own problems.  76.7% of the students enrolled in secondary school thought of themselves as worthy, but the rate of satisfaction with themselves was relatively low (64.2%). 

In the past  year, 5.1% of the respondents had at least once thought of suicide. The reason was economic difficulties (37.3%), illness (15.2%), family disagreement (14.1%), loneliness, solitude (12.3% ). For teenagers, the biggest problem were grades and attendance at school (35.7%). 54.4% of the respondents said they were stressed in everyday life, and 71.8% of them  found the stress at the workplace,  49.6%  in school and 40.8% in family life. 

Regarding environmental problems, anxiety about fine dust (82.5%) was the highest. To prevent environmental pollution, efforts are needed in disposing and separating household articles for  recycling (91.7%) and to reduce food waste (83.6%).  Approval for tax burdens for environmental protection was 50.1%.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Wearied With Blind Dating...

In the Catholic Digest, a pianist writes about the results of her blind dating and what she learned. She entered college with difficulty and through graduate school worked zealously on her studies but also played and lived her religious life.

With friends, she visited restaurants, enjoyed the chatter, and when she had the time traveled, like others when the time came she would marry. And all this time worrying about her academic degree and finding work.

Her major was piano. She was happy to be in a field of work she enjoyed and could earn a living. Doing her best would bring success and a job for life.

Going into her 30s her friends began to marry. Two of her best friends married and went to the States and she was left alone. She was preparing her students for college entrance and a musical performance. She was tired and leaving her study practice hall to eat, lost in thought, fell on the stairs and ended up with a cast. If she continued in this way she would have serious problems. She had to start being concerned about her future. And that meant marriage.

Will she be happier thinking about success in her work? Or would it be better to start looking for a mate with whom to spend the rest of her life? Would she be able to do both: look for success and find a mate?

She began to ask all her friends to introduce her to blind dates. In the beginning, she was very nervous but had great hopes. Gradually more than nervousness she was hoping it would not be a bad experience. One of her teaches in college introduced her to the marriage academy. Without any great hopes, she decided to go. She was surprised to see over 200 people there. The talks were not only about marriage but the concerns before marriage and other values in life.

She liked mostly the  talks that dealt with the qualities wanted in a husband. In the past that was never clearly an object of thought but rather what would her parents think about the choice. Although not expressed externally, she wanted a house in Seoul before getting married. Since she was a freelancer, in the process, she desired a kind and capable civil servant with educational credentials greater than her own and a fellow Catholic.

Meeting this kind of mate was difficult. Internally she kept that desire but tried to see everybody that she met, positively, as the right person. In order not to be scarred she hid her inner feelings and judged the occupation, age, appearance etc.  But what she heard at the academy was different she was not to be concerned with the thoughts of others or her parents but humbly to understand the other's inner life and to give attention to that.   

A house in Seoul as a condition, she may end up like a woman in her sixties, who is still not married. Is having a house that important? Material things are important but the other person's thoughts and temperament are more important. Her own mental health and disposition also have to be of concern.

She is praying for her future husband every day. In the future, more important than appearance, she will pay more attention to her mates thoughts, values, and interior life. She gives credit to the marriage academy for changing her thinking.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Future of Catholicism in Korea

One of the bishops, who attended the recent synod on youth, writes in the Catholic Times on his thoughts on the subject.  He feels secularism that surrounds the young makes it difficult for young people to find their role in life. The journey to find what God desires of them in a world that is in pursuit of success according to worldly values makes the task difficult.

The Theme: "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment" was to emphasize the place of faith in the lives of the young people, helping them to see the world with new eyes—not asking them to come out to the church to serve, work in groups. In their own hearts, they are to judge what are true values in life and what a fulfilling life under God would be for them and to go into the world to accomplish this. This is growing in faith. The role of the church is to accompany the young to follow these values in life.

The bishop stressed the synod was not a place to provide concrete answers to difficulties but to examine the situation young people are facing and to see the direction the church should be taking. He has his homework to do, even though the synod was  on the subject of youth, many young people do not even know that we had the synod. Pastors need to share the literature and to listen to young people. Some of the voices of the young people were printed in an accompanying article.

▲ Worn out volunteers, are we considered expendables? Young People working in parishes as volunteers are often overburdened and exhausted. The church is relying too much on its volunteers. If a professional staff is needed they should be hired and allow young people to do real service— volunteers should be gaining strength and deepening their faith while serving.

▲ How old can a young person be and still be considered young? There are so many different categories of youth today. Some marry early and others are single into their 40s.  Many have the enthusiasm and opportunity and desire to serve but because of age feel uncomfortable in deciding. Where is the borderline between youth and adult life.

▲ Pastoral care of the youth without youth. When young people want training or retreats, their support and cooperation in volunteer work are often primary. From childhood I have heard we are the future church. When does this take place?

▲ Pseudo-Religions aiming for Catholic Youth.  Catholic youth lack a  basic catechesis. Looking around, there are many young people who have spent decades within the church community and have not studied the Bible properly. We need to increase the number of small-scale Bible meetings that some of the cult groups use to attract young people.

▲ Life of faith = Taking time? If you plan an event, youth participation is low and you have to beg and entreat. Few companies will give you the time to make a 3 day retreat. Young people with jobs have difficulties finding time to participate in the parish community.  The employed have money but no time; students have the time but no money. Realizing the difficulties the young people have should be understood.

The Bishop told the young people they are the subjects of the pastoral work of the church. It's not the Church teaching and the young learning but the church accompanying the young people to help them  find the right path in their journey of life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Repentance and Forgiveness

Forgiveness is always a big problem for many. Writing in Bible & Life, a seminary moral professor, gives us some thoughts on forgiveness and its meaning for a Christian.  

He recalls seeing the movie 'Secret Sunshine' which opened in 2007. It moved him deeply. A child of a widow had been abducted and killed. She had become a Christian and her new found faith was asking her to forgive; she visited the prison to forgive the killer of her son.

She told the prisoner she was there to forgive him. However, he told her very calmly that he also had become a Christian and had been forgiven by God. She was the one he should be asking for forgiveness and hearing the words of the prisoner, destroyed the little faith she had. "The story of a Bug" on which the movie was based had for its theme: A person who takes away the opportunity to forgive is less than a bug. The movie leaves us with a number of questions.

Who is forgiving and why the forgiving? We all remember cases where harm was done to us either physically or mentally and we found it difficult to forgive. In the confessional, this is one of the more frequent sins confessed. Why is it so difficult to forgive?

Strictly speaking, it is only with the help of God that it is possible. Because the reason for forgiveness is to remove the injustice committed and to return to the pre-injustice situation. Asking for forgiveness, we want to return to the position where we are no longer a sinner. This is only possible with God. Like in the movie 'Secret Sunshine', after we inflict pain on another all we need to achieve peace is to go to God for forgiveness? Obviously not—we can not make our sinful actions disappear. God is the God of truth.

What is necessary is the person who has inflicted pain needs to face the sin and repent and ask for forgiveness. We need humility and courage to ask for forgiveness. However, knowing this, the giving of forgiveness is not easy for we don't do it with the head but with the heart. At times we want to forgive with the head but the heart doesn't want to go along.

Those who refuse to forgive are pained from two sides. One is from the material loss and mental suffering from the action of the other and the breakdown of the relationship with the other. Because of this, there are many who can't live a normal life. Those who can't forgive and those who need to be forgiven both are in pain.

Consequently, repentance and forgiveness, the one who has committed the injustice and the one who suffered both have diminished their freedom and are in search of it. Forgiveness allows one to become free from the scars inflicted and to regain freedom. Forgiveness is the weapon that is to overcome the ever-present sin that spreads in the world. Both the one who forgives and the one forgiven are able to grow in spiritual maturity and in the knowledge of God's love

With this in mind we can speak out like St. Paul in Romans 5:20: "However great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater."

Sunday, December 2, 2018

New York Times and Confirmation Bias

A member of a Korean unification research team writes for the Catholic Peace Weekly column on current affairs. He gives his opinion on an article written for the New York Times by David Sanger, who wrote in a headline on the front page of the Times that "North Korea deceived Trump" showing some photos of a missile site in North Korea. He is a veteran reporter with many honors— both the reputation of the reporter and the authority of the New York Times did not allow doubts about the missile site. (The article can be read  understanding the bias without need to see it as dishonest, but easy to understand why the writer had difficulty.)

However, the New York Times article, which reported the site as a "hidden base," was reported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Korean domestic media that a short-range missile was launched from that site in 2016. The New York Times' news was a bit faded. To attract readers' attention, it is often the practice to add stimulants to an article, and the New York Times is no exception. However, it is a distorted report when the  US-ROK intelligence agencies looked into the military base in the North and maintain that it is an unreported site and a huge deception. (The New York article did say 'suggests' deception).

Even before the date was set for the negotiation with the North in March, they had pictures of the North Korean site. Therefore, this shows clearly the United States' mainstream media's bias toward the North Korean problem. This 'confirmatory bias'  (the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses) is based on the belief that Kim Jong-un will not change, and even if he changes, it will only be temporary. Therefore, they are only interested in finding evidence that their North Korean allegations are correct. If you fall into a 'confirmation bias', you will see only what you want to see, facts become irrelevant and inflexibility overrides logic.

Politicians are the easiest people to fall into 'confirmation biases'— political arguments when to their advantage they deliberately ignore objective evidence that conflicts with their claim. President Trump seems to be an incarnation of 'confirmation bias'.

But in attacking Trump's North Korean policy, we should not ignore the mainstream media's 'confirmation bias' and close our eyes to the facts and flaws of logic. Politically, the 'confirmation bias' has existed since the very beginning of political party politics, and, can be cleaned at any time by the votes of the citizens.

However, we don't have a vote on the media. When the press gets caught up in the 'confirmation bias', it relies only on processed information for political attacks, instead of working to find the facts. The coverage of the media exists breathing in the political and social context in which they exist.

Professional journalists will not dispense themselves from the  "5W1H" way of reporting.  Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, who uncovered the Watergate affair, says he still advises his juniors to "bite the hand that feeds them". The media should not jump into political battles but only objectively report the conflicts.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Cry of the Poor

Every year at this time we hear the warm sound of the bells from the Salvation Army's red charity pots ringing in the distance. This has been part of our street culture for some time. A ringing bell waiting for a warm hand to help those in difficulty during the cold winter. It is much more than a symbol—a call to help our neighbors in need. The Peace Column of the Catholic Weekly by a welfare authority calls our attention to the cry of the poor.

The Salvation Army charity pot is said to have originated in 1891 in San Francisco, USA, where a large pot used in the kitchen went out to the street to help 1000 people who were suddenly hit with a disaster. The sign said: "Let' s boil this pot". It has evolved into a way to raise funds to help neighbors struggling during this time of the year.

It's good to pass on such a good custom. However, the reality is that even poverty continues to be passed on. Inequality and poverty have increased in our society since the financial crisis and in the process of escaping from the crisis, we have increased the gap between the rich and the poor.

The problems of industry, exports, stocks, employment, and income have increased as the middle class has become thinner and poverty has increased. As a result, some of the poor have not been able to pay their premiums and will not have the benefits of public pensions.

Such poverty leads to a vicious circle that leads to deeper poverty. Without educational opportunities and good health benefits, matters continue to get worse. It is estimated that about 321,000 households will be born in 2035 that will have grandparents responsible for the grandchildren because of the divorce or sickness of the parents. These are blind spots in the welfare policy.

There are a few grandparents who are excluded from living expenses and medical services. Even with economic support policies, however, grandparents may not be able to access information and may not be aware of what they are entitled to receive.  Furthermore, caring for a handicapped child is not easy for grandparents who do not have the knowledge and whose strength is weak.

These problems continue until the children grow up.  And the fear is present that they will pass on these problems to future generations. The grandparents are confused by various factors they face: their poverty, emotional estrangement, and the generational conflict.

Pope Francis, has made concern for the poor, disabled, homeless, prisoners, and refugees a big part of his message to the church. By eating with them and listening to their pain and hopes he has given us an example. He wants the church to act decisively before injustice and inequality.

Last winter was cold. The winter faced by the poor is always colder. A miracle of love is not only for the few, but an action that anyone can do. We have all been invited to participate in such miracles.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What Learning Do We Need to Live?

The educational fervor of Korean society is well known worldwide. President Obama while in office praised the Koreans for their educational aspirations. However, the excessive zeal for college entrance, competition, academic cliquism and the like are reasons for some of the headaches and problems in society. The understanding of learning in society can't be ignored—beginning words of an article in the Catholic Times by a priest sociology professor.

What is the learning we need in our culture? What we thought important and searched for and what we need to jettison is something that we need to look at very humbly, he stresses.

The word for learning in Korea is made up of two words—learning that has become part of oneself. However, in reality, it's what teachers have learned, transferred to the heads of others, without being digested. Consequently, no matter how impressive and elegant, in a short period of time, it disappears. It hasn't been transformed into wisdom. It's when what is learned (knowledge) becomes part of our lives (wisdom) that we have valuable learning.

During the 500 years of the Joseon Dynasty when Confucianism was ascendant and family rites and disputes about tradition were common, we had an alienation from daily life, a way of thinking deeply embedded in society. The emphasis on ritual and the traditional community had many beautiful qualities but with the scholar, farmer, craftsman and trader division of society: holding up the scholar and the examination tradition that made it possible are leftovers in the cultural memory.

Society with its never-ending competition remains unchallenged, giving birth to fatigue, anxiety, and strain that continues into the future, only makes the colleges and universities places to prepare for a job. Not a place to search for truth, wisdom and learning about life and its meaning but to get the tools for a future job.

We all have desires of many types, a very natural and complicated reality. The flow of the culture only increases this natural desire. The economy is not doing well, and we are living in uncertain times, earning money, getting a job, getting educational credentials, finding success is the ever-present thirst and desire. The desire of parents and of all of us will make us Zombies and we will fail to find peace. All of us want to be recognized. We are all invited to the spiritual life—a life in search of wisdom.

The desire to show others that we have succeeded will be there, especially if we have scars from our early years, but the spiritual orientation gets rid of the worldly aspects and directs our eyes to God and the search for wisdom. No longer wanting to do better than others, but trusting in God's love for me and the happiness he wants me to have.

Thinking that education, wealth, and honors, without God and with our efforts we will be living the comfortable life is nothing more than reverie. With  God in the picture all the scars are healed and
feelings of inferiority disappear.

The writer finishes his article mentioning that he has lived 25 years in a religious community and has experienced God's mercy many times over the years. He felt the lack of learning, and has had difficult times over the years but he can still say in prayer: "If I should die today I do not feel I am missing anything" because of God's mercy, it's a prayer that comes from deep inside his heart.  He will never give up on the road of learning that he has traveled.