Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Social Gospel In Catholicism

Leaders in the Catholic Church in Korea, from before 1987, have been interested in the consequences of what has been called the social gospel of the Church--applying the truths of the gospels to solve or alleviate social problems. This has spread to the lay Catholics, helping to democratize and humanize culture, according to a professor writing in the Catholic Times.

He goes on to tell us that this is the way we make the Gospel live in society, in the family and in the Church. The Church in Korea started teaching its social doctrine to lay people after the Asian Lay Assembly in 1994: a 15-year history of the social gospel. In many areas of the Church's work--the family, moral life issues, pastoral youth work, welfare, justice and peace issues, ecology, working with immigrants, mass communication and national unity--it is the social gospel which gives the principles on which to judge and the guidelines to direct the activities.

The professor laments that there are only 5 dioceses in Korea that have programs for teaching the social implications of the Gospels. Seoul has been the leader in this area, and over the last 15 years they have had 65 different courses, with nearly 4,000 attending.

In recent years there has been a drop in attendance. An effort needs to be made to reverse this trend by recruiting interested Catholics to attend and also to find teachers who will conduct programs throughout the country.

The term “social doctrine” goes back to Pope Pius XI and designates the doctrinal teachings concerning issues relevant to society which, from the Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII, developed in the Church from 1891. This Encyclical Letter marks the beginning of a "new path" for the Church.

Those who have been educated in this new way of seeing our society become our modern day Apostles. They see something they did not see before. The Catholic Church is considered by many to be part of the anti-Democratic and anti-humanistic elements in the modern world. This viewpoint is easy to understand: the Church's record was far from prophetic. In attempting to preserve the good it was seen as against.

The Church was not the first to change to meet the problems that developed but neither was it the last. Becoming acquainted with the Church's Social Teaching does open up areas of our Christian life that goes back to the Gospel, and gives us a theology that shows how we are to look upon our society and be leaven, salt and light in today's world.

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