Catholic lay people are beginning to show an interest in the social principles of the Church, and showing this in their actions. Three years ago they started their own web site, Civil Action for Social Justice: www.casj.or.kr, showing concern for the powerless and working for the common good.
Since the end of the Second Vatican Council, we have a better understanding of what Christians are expected to do in society: work for dignity, freedom, peace, justice and solidarity. We also have the standards to examine our actions, and judge where to act.
An article in the Catholic Times by a member of the bishops' committee of Peace and Justice mentions that the Church had a great deal to do in bringing democracy back to Korea. All of us have the job to work for democratization of society and human development. And he stresses this is not only the work of the leaders in the church.
This is the work of the laity. We need the participation of lay people in groups and as individuals to work for justice. There is a place for the leaders of the Church and those in groups of service to foster this work, but it will be the lay people with their expertise working concretely in the many areas of society that will bring about the change.
Pope John Paul II in Christifideles Laici: " two temptations can be cited which they (lay people) have not always known how to avoid: the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political world; and the temptation of legitimizing the unwarranted separation of faith from life, that is, a separation of the Gospel's acceptance from the actual living of the Gospel in various situations in the world."
The Church in Korea has become conscious that many of our lay people are very much involved in the work of the Church but are forgetting that their work is mainly to be in society and in the transformation of society. We are beginning to see more lay people activity in cyberspace and groups that are trying to bring about a change in society. There are more books and seminars on Catholic social teaching, which should cause a change in the participation of Catholics in the work of justice and peace.
The efforts of Korean priests in works dealing with human rights has been very clear, but it may have convinced the laity that the leadership will be working in that area, and they can continue with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The works of mercy are important, but it is not the only work that is expected of our laity.