Monday, July 26, 2010

4th Lateran Council and Drinking in Korea

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same; in the following case that may be true. A Korean priest writing to other priests goes back to the 4th Lateran Council (1215) for advice on problems with drink.

In Canon 15 of the council, "All clerics shall carefully abstain from drunkenness. Wherefore, let them accommodate the wine to themselves, and themselves to the wine. Nor shall anyone be encouraged to drink, for drunkenness banishes reason and incites to lust. We decree, therefore, that this abuse be absolutely abolished. In some localities the drinkers bind themselves suo modo to an equal portion of drink and, in their judgment, the hero of the day is the one who out drinks the others. Should anyone be culpable in this matter, unless he heeds the warning of his superior and makes suitable satisfaction, let him be suspended from his benefice or office.

The prophets were also strong on the dangers of drinking. "Woe to the champions at drinking wine, the valiant at mixing strong drink" (Isaiah 5:22).

In Canon 17, "It is a matter for regret that there are some minor clerics and even prelates who spend half of the night in banqueting and in unlawful gossip, not to mention other abuses, and in giving the remainder to sleep. They are scarcely awakened by the diurnal concerts of the birds. Then they hasten through matins in a hurried and careless manner. There are others who say mass scarcely four times a year and, what is worse, do not even attend mass, and when they are present they are engaged outside in conversation with lay people to escape the silence of the choir; so that, while they readily lend their ears to unbecoming talk, they regard with utter indifference things that are divine. These and all similar things, therefore, we absolutely forbid under penalty of suspension, and strictly command in virtue of obedience that they celebrate diligently and devoutly the diurnal and nocturnal offices so far as God gives them strength."

Drinking is something that Korean men enjoy and is not a small part of the many problems in family and society. The drinking culture is pervasive and difficult to avoid if you want to associate with others. There have been some changes over the years, but the culture still pressures many to partake in the drinking ritual even if they feel it best not to. Relating with others is thought to be easier when everyone is sharing a drink, and perhaps dropping a few inhibitions as well.

Not wanting to be misunderstood, the priest finishes his article by quoting from I Timothy 5:23, "Stop drinking water only. Take a little wine for the good of your stomach, and because of your frequent illnesses."

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