Friday, July 3, 2015

Natural Law Needs to be Understood

One of the questionnaires that was sent out in preparation for the synod on the family was the question on how accepted is the teaching of natural law when it comes to  matters about family. A Catholic Times' article brings this issue to the attention of the  readers. The answer from the bishops of Korea: Confucianism is the  basic understanding of society which  accepts marriage as a bond between one man and one woman, a natural law understanding of marriage similar to the Church.

However, moral questions in society: abortion, marriage, family, sex and related issues are not as clear cut-- relativism, hedonism, individualism and feminism, prevents many from accepting the teaching on natural law. Although the direction of society is not to accept homosexual marriages, the future is far from certain.The international attitude towards homosexuality is changing and  the recent decision of the  United States Supreme Court to legalize  homosexual marriages will bring about discussion in Korea. A movement is already active and  wants to see homosexual marriages legalized.

Natural law in Catholic teaching is fundamental in its teaching on morality but it is, according to the article, not easily accepted by society, and there are many who say we need a new way of explaining what is meant by natural law. One of our bishops returning  from the synod wrote an article for the Times in  which he said: The church needs to use new words to explain the  teaching on natural law: making it understandable when speaking about contraception, and related moral issues.

At the synod it was shown that many felt that a new tone, attitude and way of teaching was necessary if the teaching of the church was going to resonate with the people who are listening.

Natural law and Scripture are the two sources of Catholic teaching on morality. A German legal philosopher, Erick Wolf was quoted as saying the concept of natural law is diverse, and one of its functions is for the natural law to critique positive law and its imperfections.

Reason gives validity to the natural law, consequently, whether you have a  belief system or not, there should be universal validity to our natural law thinking easily grasped by all. There are all kinds of thinking in the areas of marriage, sex and life issues. We are faced with relativistic thinking and ideologies: absolutes are not looked upon favorably,  so efforts have to be made to use words that will speak to the people in today's world.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Spirituality of the World

Spiritual worldliness is a word  seen often in our reading of Pope Francis. In an article in the Kyeongyang magazine a priest professor explains in detail what this temptation to spiritual worldliness means.

We have many problems in society and we who are Christians often pay little attention to what is happening. We are afflicted with a great case of apathy. We are taken up with ourselves and our needs, too much on our own plate to be concerned with others.

He uses the Sewol disaster as an example of this apathy. Certain elements in society have heard enough talk about the tragedy, and when it comes up they coldly dismiss it: the very word is odious to hear and makes them tired.

Last year within Catholicism was a petition to gather names of those who wanted to make known the truth about the Sewol tragedy. The priest shows that only 130 thousand participated out of the 5 million Catholics. Since only about 20 percent attend Mass on Sundays that leaves only about one million 150  thousand that practice. With these figure he says the 130 thousand that participated are only about 11 percent of the number of practicing Catholics. However, he understands for one  reason or another, many did not see the petition so raises the number of those who would have participated to 20 percent of the practicing Catholics. This tells us a great deal about our Catholicism, he laments.

Pope Francis has made  clear in his visit to Korea  that there is no neutrality when faced with suffering. We have to go outside our own interests to the poor and hurting. He wanted the Korean Church to see the  temptation of prosperity and being  concerned only with oneself, and not see the ones who are crying. We can't be the Church of Jesus if we have a spirituality of the world.


Wolves are all around us seeking an opportunity to approach. No longer are they seen as ugly but are refined and attractive with the cloak of efficiency, success and prosperity. Our eyes  should be turned to our neighbor but are turned to ourselves. When we are concerned with the needs of others we are not  ignoring ourselves but more concerned about ourselves. St. Ignatius said that when we are far from self-love, self-will, self interest and our rights, we grow as persons and spiritually.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A One Person Picket

Across from the pharmacy, a woman for seven years was a one person picket with her placard. The pharmacist in Bible & Life writes about his thoughts on the woman who wanted to say something to all those who  passed her way.

On a cold day when she began her picketing she entered the pharmacy to  buy a warm drink.He asked her why didn't she forget about the picketing on such a cold day. With a smile, she said she  didn't notice the cold.

Except for weekends, from morning to 1:00 pm, she was in her place before the clothing exporting company she worked for, after leaving the country, and coming to Seoul some 15 years earlier. In her position before the door of the clothing company she stood with her placard: "Its unfair all I want is to work."  Each day her one-time follow workers and bosses would pass her without a word.

It was a small company, her first  job after arriving in the city after graduating from a girls' commercial high school. The company was small but solid. With her salary she was able to help educate her brother and participate in the life of the city. She married and had two children. The  atmosphere of the company was changing and a labor union began. She was involved in the forming of the labor union. Her apartment head warned her that participating would have a deleterious effect on her  job rating. One day on coming to work her  job had been changed, and no reason given, shortly after she was laid off.   

She was responsible for a family of three. Her husband died in a traffic accident so she was the sole support of the two children and had to take care of the monthly rent for her villa, about 400 dollars a month.  She had taken pride in her job and when she was fired unfairly she didn't want to leave in disgrace, and took to the street.  

Her picketing came to an end without any benefits. She was in debt and had to send her two children to her parents in the country. She worked at anything that came her way: as a janitor in a  bath house, domestic help, selling juice on the street,  tending the sick, in a welfare center and office help-- one day coming out of a restaurant where she washed dishes,  she met her old  boss who fired her; he had been promoted. The news bothered her for some time.

The pharmacist recommended she sell rice cakes in the spot she had been picketing for all those years. She did so, and did very well for there were many who remembered her from her years of  demonstrating. Laughing, she was sorry she didn't stay longer at the picketing; she would have a bigger clientele.

The pharmacist also had  a time in his life when he fought  against  injustice, and he learned  a lot from the fight although he did not win, and the women also has no regrets in the battle she undertook. It has helped her to grow and the pharmacist concludes: marketing her rice cakes shows how the nutrients in  her life have given dignity to life.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lesson from the Sewol Disaster

On April 16th we had the first anniversary of the sinking of the Sewol Ferry. The tragedy is now well know throughout the world and Korea is still looking for answers. 476 passengers and crew were on a trip from Incheon to the  holiday island of Jejudo-- 11 hours after leaving Incheon it sank killing 304.

Bishops' Mass Media Committee and the Seoul Diocese sponsored a forum on the  sinking of the ferry and the Church's role in dealing with the wounds caused by the  tragedy. The topic continues to be contentious for only small steps have been taken to appease the anger of the parents of the victims; the independent inquiry the parents want is  still far from a reality.

The movement to 'live correctly' was one of the  presentations at the forum, and what can be learned from the tragedy. Progress and development are positive goods but they also come with some serious negative results if we forget who is meant to benefit from the progress. The professor recalled the corruption that was involved, the lack of concern for people in the pursuit of financial profits, selfishness, greed, taking the easiest way to the greatest benefits, forgetting responsibility and the need for competency, unfettered competition with no concern for the damage that results prepares for a man-made disaster.

One of the presenters mentioned many of the Catholic laity did not show an interest in the aftermath of the tragedy for the victims. We need to break down the narrow mindedness and concern only for our own needs, and our failure to go out to others who are hurting.  

A mother of one of the victims mentioned many individuals showed solidarity with the victims and  parents. Solidarity was shown from below but she lamented that the government  showed little of this concern.  

A psychology professor mentioned at the port closest to the  place of the disaster there was a lack of sensitivity shown to the victims and the families by some of the government civil servants, which left a lasting wound on the families of the dead. 

Cardinal Yeom, who gave a talk  of encouragement to the forum members mentioned when the ferry sank,   many of our values and societal trust went down with the ferry and the victims. He hopes the tragedy will be a light that will show us our future direction. 

Transparency is a difficult attitude to attain for it allows the truth to appear no matter the harm done to the individual or group. Most of the time it is not something a person or group permits to happen without outside pressure. Hopefully the truth of the Sewol disaster, which is mostly known, will be allowed to be part of Korea's history and a lesson to future generations.     

Monday, June 29, 2015

Church as Institution

Today is the Feast of Peter and Paul, two leaders of the early church. Meditation in the Daily Mass booklet for the feast centers on the  reading of Matt 16: 13-19. Church can be understood in many different ways and thanks to Cardinal Dulles we have his six models: institution, communion, sacrament, herald,  servant  and community of disciples. Besides these six there are many more ways to see the Church but the model that begets the most opposition and loathing, and not only from those outside the community is the  institutional understanding of Church.

In the Gospel for the Mass we hear: "I will entrust to you the keys of the  kingdom of heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven." These words bring to mind a fence,  repugnant to  many in our society.

We speak about the universality of Church-- why do  we need a fence?  We are Christians, is the answer given in the meditation, but can believe and proclaim what is not Christian. In the world in which we live there are many elements that threaten the Christian life. Not a few in the Church who are zealously active and use the  Scriptures as their witness, propose teachings that can't coexist with the teachings of Jesus. Often not realizing this is the reality.

For many in the history of the Church, the institutional model had great meaning. Much of society has lost  trust in institutions, but we still have Catholics who have a great love for the institution, with its failings and weaknesses. Seeing the church only as a  human institution, there is no organization or institution that has done more for humanity. A rudimentary familiarity with world history and a willingness to be objective and see the bad with the good in the context of the times will permit a person to acknowledge that the Church has been a beacon and given hope and meaning to much of humanity. It continues to be a conscience to the world even though few are listening.

The meditation ends with a reflection that the Church continues to preserve us in the visible unity of faith. We who are descended from the Church of the apostles, he hopes, will continue to nourish a love for the Church as institution, but to remember the Church is much more than an institution.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why Does a Person Enter a Cult?

"Father, my child has become a cult member." Laments of this kind are common, says a priest authority on cults, writing in the Kyeongyang magazine on the new religions and their dangers. How to deal with the new religions is no easy task. Numbers of those  involved in the new religions is well beyond what we imagine.

Catholicism has no counter measures in response. We hear often the Church is the  breeding grounds for the  new religions, meaning that members often come from Catholicism. We don't think it deserves our attention, consequently, lack of interest. However, when we meet those who have been involved in cults, we realize it should be a concern, for it shows our failures to be a loving community of faith. Our true character as a community appears, and serious problems in the way we have instructed our Christians.

When he receives a request for counseling his first thoughts are a feeling of helplessness in dealing with the 'new world' they have entered. Parents often get angry but this is of little value. Once the person has been brained washed the chances of success in convincing  them of the error of their ways is far from certain. Much better is preventing them from getting involved with cults.

Those who have become cult members, more than the teachings they are captivated by the community they have entered: the upright life of the members, zeal, they are impressed with the community they have joined,  and moved to give assent to what they are taught. They respond to their cult leader like the apostles followed Jesus; they remember with great happiness the days of instruction. There is a type of addiction and love-sickness response to their attachment.

Many of those who become involved in a cult have a history of problems in family life: lack of self-esteem,  confidence, and looked forward to a future with gloom and alienation. Joining the cult they find themselves, and gain confidence for the future. They find new meaning in the virtual world they have entered. Even when one leaves the cult there remains the problem of identity.

The cults tell us a lot about ourselves. We are not on fire as Christians or believe what we say we do. We live our faith life without passion, and mission. Pope Francis mentions that we have a worldly spirituality. Those who have accepted the cults have usually not been members of their parent's religious community growing up. It was easy for them to give up their faith for it meant little to them. We will continue to have many of our Christians living their faith by habit. Which means we will continue to see large numbers leaving the church. We have to be more concerned in the way our Catholics are educated. There is a need to draw up a new way of instruction that will meet the needs of the world they will enter. We all have to take an interest in making our communities vehicles that will instruct the members in what it means to be followers of Jesus.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What is the Church?

What is the Church? A priest who worked as a missioner in South American tells the readers in his article in the Kyeongyang magazine the answer he heard most often on the missions: "We are the Church," and wonders whether Korean Catholics would express it this way.

Since the II Vatican Council we see the Church not as a vertical structure but as a horizontal People of God Church. No longer seeing the laity as passive, receiving orders  but active, conscious of their rights and duties. "These faithful (laity) are by baptism made one body with Christ and are established among the People of God. They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions of Christ. They carry out their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and the world" (Constitution of the Church # 31).

In many of our parishes we have divisions and conflict: an authoritarian attitude on the part of the priest, and disinterest on part of the laity."In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances" (Joy of the Gospel # 62). Many of the Christians are interest only in money and appearances,

The article frankly states that in most situations the laity have no voice in the parish and are to listen to the priests and religious and follow instructions. The structure of the Church, he says, is the reason for this situation and results in passivity. " Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ (Joy of the Gospel #2).

Conflict between the clergy and the laity can't all be placed with the clergy. Life style of the clergy needs to change but also there is criticism for the sake of  criticism, and lack of honesty in dealing with the clergy. With a little more love and religious faith we will have more understanding and friendship. 

Small Christian Communities have to be promoted;  Christians discussing the work of the Church and their place on the front lines. Priests need to give more  example with their lives  rather than with words. Laity need a way of being Christian no less than the clergy. Daily life of the laity and their religious life has to be one;  they need  to begin sharing and experiencing the Gospel message in the parish setting and bring it to the world.