Saturday, August 30, 2014

Neutrality not a Possilbility

Question number three:  When you have a difference of opinion on social issues, and a portion of the citizens  criticizes the Church for being followers of the North and leftist, is it  not better to be neutral?

The professor says the word neutral has a naturally good meaning. However, it is not a word we use when we are concerned with right and wrong. When we are neutral in the face of good and evil, we are saying evil is OK. When it is a question of justice and injustice neutrality is tolerating injustice. We are not living according to the Gospel.

There is a need for all of us to be acquainted with the Social Gospel of the Church to deal with the problems that we have in society. The Social Gospel is concerned with politics, economics, human rights, labor, peace, environment, human life  issues as seen in the light of the Gospel. This is not something we can believe or not believe; it is not a matter of  choice but an obligation. "In so far as it is part of the Church's moral teaching, the Church's social doctrine has the same dignity and authority as her moral teaching. It is authentic magisterium,  which obligates the faithful to adhere to it" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #80).

Pope Francis mentions in the Joy of the Gospel the importance of the Social Message. "This Exhortation is not a social document and for reflection on those different themes we have a most suitable tool in the Compendium  of the Social Doctrine of the Church, whose use and study I heartily recommend " Joy of the Gospel # 184). The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was published in 2004 and is composed of teachings from the encyclical and Church Documents from  the time of Leo XIII.

Pope John Paul II gave the work of compiling the Compendium to the Vietnamese  Cardinal  Nguyễn Văn Thuận who spent 13 years in prison under the Communists. He died in 2002 and will be beatified shortly. His successor was Cardinal Renato Martino, who finished the Compendium.

The current state of affairs and the way the Church views them and the actions taken are based on the teachings  found in the Compendium. Many Catholics are not familiar with the teachings of the Church on these issues, and label those who are following the teachings as pro-North and leftist. If they are going to use these labels, they will have to include the popes and the whole of Catholicism.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Church and Poblems of Justice

The second question: In our Catholic Catechism we are told that pastoral workers should not be involved in politics. Is this not the realm of the lay person?  Number 2442 of the Catechism:  "It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice."

This paragraph does not prohibit the speaking about political matters but that the realm of politics is the mission  of  the lay person. The paragraph is often used wrongly. Public office, party politics or taking a leading role in labor unions is what is being noted as  not the work of pastoral workers, but the work of the laity.

Canon law 285 # 3: Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices, which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power. This is prohibiting the clerics from participation in political activity, although permission may be given. Expression of  one's opinions is not prohibited. In this area, there is  no difference from the rights of the lay person. "It is only right that at all times and in all places, the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine, to exercise her role freely among men, and also to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of a person or the salvation of souls require it. In this, she should make use of all the means—but only those—which accord with the Gospel and which correspond to the general good according to the diversity of times and circumstances" (Pastoral Constitution #76).
In the Joy of the Gospel we hear:  "Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society... An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home, and all of us are brothers and sisters. If indeed 'the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics', the Church 'cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice' All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world." (#183)


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Separation of Church and State

Separation of  Church and State is understood in Korea, but many have problems with the meaning. Not only in society but within the Church, we have a serious difference of opinion. No need to agree with what Catholics  say or do but to deny religion a place in the public square is not the correct response.

A series of  articles in Bible & Life treats the issue with  11 questions and answers on the place of the Church in our present society. A seminary professor has examined the objections he has found in the press and has given answer. The next blogs will treat the other questions.

The first question: Since by law we have separation of Church and State is there not a need to separate the Church and the World? If this is true is it not wrong to get involved in political issues?  Separation of Church and State does not mean they have nothing to do with one another but that there is not to be collusion. If we look at the opposite of the statement, we have some clarity. Unity of Church and State is obviously what the separation wants to avoid.

In the Korean Constitution, all citizens enjoy the freedom of religion, and no state religion may be recognized. Church and State are to be separated. Some feel  there should be no relationship between the two. The original understanding was to have a healthy tension between the two. Example: If one religion by their convictions were to inflict injury on another religion or damage their buildings, the State has to stop this. On the other hand, if the State was doing something against the peace and happiness of the citizens and not working for the common good, it would not be proper for religions to be silent or give consent to the actions.


During the Japanese occupation of Korea some of the leaders in the Korean Catholic Church, embarrassingly, understood the meaning of separation of Church and State to be against  resistance to Japanese rule and didn't join actively in the March First Independence Movement. In the vortex of the times, Ahn Jung-geun (Thomas) with a Gospel understanding was a part of the independence movement. Shooting Horibundo Ito was  for patriot Ahn a religious act.

Either, one understands the actions of Ahn the way  the Japanese Government would see it or the way Patriot Ahn saw it. Which side would you choose?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Remembering the Pope's Visit

The Catholic media will be filled with reminiscences of Pope Francis' visit to Korea and its meaning for the Korean Church for years to come. Our own Maryknoll family here in Korea had the opportunity to meet the pope and shake his hand. The emotional content will remain for years.

One journalist  writing in the Catholic Times mentions during the five days of the pope's visit the word most often heard was 'envy',  for as long as he can remember there was never an occasion for him  where this mood of 'good envy' was present. From the time of the pope's arrival to the Mass of reconciliation on the day of departure--when distant 30 meters, when close less than one meter--close enough to hear him breathing was the good fortune of many.

During the five days, the journalist was following the pope he mentions the many times he was overcome with emotion. At the times the pope was reacting with different people, many were experiencing what the journalist experienced. Tears came to his eyes not infrequently.

Not only Korea but in other parts of Asia, many were feeling the distress of the pope in many of his encounters. What made for this enthusiasm? The journalist feels for him, using one word, the authenticity which he saw.

Poverty is a word that comes easy to mind, not something easily lived. Humility is easy to talk about, but also difficult to have it become part of who we are. Before he became pope, Francis was living this kind of life, and many people were moved by the encounter.

During difficult times when we remember the happiness of the  past, we are given strength to overcome our problems. The visit of the pope to Korea will have different meanings for all of us, and it will depend on the way we remember the visit in the future that will influence our lives.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Reflection on Pope's Visit to Korea

The two main reasons for the visit were the attendance at the Asian Youth Meeting, to encourage the young people, and the  second, the beatification of 124 martyrs. The beatification went  back to the past to give life to the present and future.

At the Asia Youth Meeting, the pope gave the youth hope, dreams and encouraged them to look ahead to joy, not  fear, and put the wisdom of their faith in all the  facets of their lives. He challenged them to be witness to Jesus, and be his disciples.

He urged the Christians to go to the peripheries to meet those who were hurting. In the sermon for the beatification, he wanted us to go back to the dawning of Christianity in Korea, and have the heart of those first Christians, and their joy. The professor stresses that the first Christians did not separate the love of  God and neighbor as our society so easily does today. The pope asked all of those with good will to remember we have been called to work for a just, free and reconciling society.

In the visit to Korea, the pope was kept busy and left behind many messages for the country and the Church. He wanted the clergy to avoid clericalism; the religious to be conscious of poverty and the practice of love. He asked all the Christians to have concern  for the poor, and be in solidarity with them. He encouraged all of us to  have an optimistic hope for the future, and give ourselves to the works of  love, justice and peace.

It may be that  Korean society was hoping the pope would help solve some of their problems, but he asked us to take care of the poor, and the  marginalized.

He did not come to Korea to solve problems but to commiserate and advise.  He applauded those who were doing something to benefit society and left Korea with suggestions that will help us grow to a more mature Catholicism with a blueprint for the future.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Black and White Thinking

Korea is now a first world country; little difference from other countries enjoying material prosperity. A professor writing in the diocesan bulletin continues his discussion with obstacles to communication, and this time it is the black and white thinking: either-or fallacy-- all or nothing. With  material prosperity we seem to be  prone for this either-or outlook.

In society we have: the conservative progressive divide, right and left, the government in power and those wanting the power, the young and old, city and country, the polarization is becoming more serious. The country is divided into camps of black and white thinking.

Logic makes clear that  we are dealing with contradictory positions. There is no middle way. The black denies the white and the white the black. Right or wrong, good or bad they are against. Both positions are not able to exist together-- one has to  overcome the other.This kind of thinking does not allow for co-existence but confrontation and conflict.

In the past when the left confronted the right and the right the left, we talked about the center. Those in the center disliked both positions. Black and white thinkers  saw the center as opportunists without a position.They were not accepted by either group-- objects of scorn and ridicule. When two whales are fighting the squid in between gets squashed. While the fight continues both are hurt as is the society in which they live.

This black and white position does not allow for dialogue and prevents dialogue from happening. Each group is wedded to what they agree, and will not open the door to understanding something new. The idea that communication has to do with what is similar and what is different is a premise for communication which has little value to these two  antagonists, and the reason for using force and violence. This is the reason we have violence in the family, school, society, work place, in politics and religion.

A bird needs both the left and right wing to fly.  When one of the wings  is out of commission the bird can't fly. But even with the two wings the bird can't fly for it is the body that gives the wings the motor power necessary. The wings have to be attached to the body to fly; with two equal wings we have harmony and balance.The wings with harmony and balance are able to carry the bird to where it wants to go. A conflict between the wings brings disaster. 

What is necessary to overcome this black and white thinking is to allow this middle area to have some different in-put. When the black and white join together we have all kinds of different colors that enter into the mix, making for harmony and balance. We have communication and co-existence. We have a healthy society.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pope's Homework for Korea

At the conclusion of Pope Francis' trip to Korea, the Korean Catholic Community has begun reflecting on his message. Editorials, articles in the Catholic press, lectures and sermons convey to us  areas for future effort and hope.The Peace Weekly editorial expresses well the divisions, conflicts, indifference, selfishness, compromises, and values that need to be replaced with justice, peace, and unity.

Pope Francis was the center for this hope in his visit to Korea. His actions were humble and friendly, absence of walls, but not frivolous. His words were both  soft and strong; they matched his actions. From the beginning to the end, he was a  pastor and  yet moved people without overt religion,

He came to Korea and the Church with a very clear message. In every one of the places he stopped: at the airport, the Blue House, with the Asian youth, the beatification ceremony, meeting the Asian Bishops, the Flower Village, the Mass of Reconciliation, with each encounter, there was a united message where the words matched the actions.

He came with a gift. We have a blueprint with which to work with in the future. The Church needs to understand  what to do, and work to realize and implement the pope's message. The Peace Weekly will work, it says in the editorial, to make the pope's message known to the readers in the years to come.

The editorial wants us to understand the message he  left us in his  five days in Korea. There was a unity in all that was done. From the time of his arrival to the time of departure, the message was the same. He met the families of those who died  in the Sewol tragedy. On the plane back to Rome he said we can't be neutral in the face of suffering. When we don't face truthfulness and authenticity and fail to  empathize, we refuse to see. Pope Francis listened to the hurts of those he met and was moved.

We need to learn from humility. Simplicity and  spirit of poverty are closely related to this humility. They have moved  us as a community of faith. In a word, we need to be Christians. The pope was welcomed by many not as a celebrity or a politician, and he did not behave as such. He was a sinner and a follower of Jesus. He did not talk about himself but about  Jesus. He has left Korea, but the message remains, the future work of the community.