Monday, August 10, 2009
Korean Priest looks at American Catholicism
Many of our Korean Priests have now spent time in Korean Parishes in the States and gone on for degrees . They find it very easy to compare what they see to what they have in Korea and what they have heard from other parts of the world. Some see the conditions in the States as a preview for the Catholic Church of Korea.
Reading one such account I was surprised at what I thought was the accuracy of what he had to say. He was pastor of a Korean Parish and went on for a Doctorate in Theology while in the States.
He mentioned how in the States there is no embarrassment when politicians bring in Christianity, demanded by much of the electorate. This is not the way of Europe, even though it has a longer history with Christianity and a Catholic one. Catholicism due to its decline in Europe gave birth to secularism and was the object of attack from the ideology of the Enlightenment. Consequently he would see The United States as more Christian in the Protestant mode and more religious than Europe.
He goes on to say that Protestantism was a big part in the birth of the nation and capitalism went right along with it. In Europe modernization and secularization were born because of the decline of Catholicism. The Enlightenment was in opposition to Catholicism and for what it stood. In the States, to the contrary, Protestantism became the motivating drive for modernization, democracy and progress.
Catholicism was never the mainstream in the States. There has been prejudice against Catholics from the beginning. It was an immigrant Church from Europe, in recent years from the East and now many Catholics are coming in from Central and South America. In recent years we have the sex scandal of some priests having sexual encounters with minors; this was big news in the States which brought out some of the prejudice that was dormant.
The priest writer believes that not having been in the mainstream of American Society was and is good for the Catholic Church. In Europe, Catholicism was mainstream and dislodged to the periphery where it has little influence in the way things are done.
Catholics in the States are 1/4th of the population and 40% of these Catholics are Hispanics. The Protestants are the white mainstream. In looking over the History of the Church when the Church went mainstream the teaching was distorted. When it is on the fringe of Society the Church is able to speak and not be compromised by the political and cultural situation. He feels precisely because of the problems the Catholic Church faced, it was open to dialogue; the lay people activated to take an active part in the working of the Church. He wondered when the day will come in Korea when we will have a lay person teaching theology in the seminary. He hopes that the Church in Korea never becomes mainstream but feels it is leaning in that direction.