Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pope Wants More Secularity In Society

At the beginning of the New Year, each bishop presents his expectations for the coming year to the Catholics of his diocese. The Catholic Times' editorial spells out some of the concerns of the bishops. The problems  are not unfamiliar to Catholics in other parts of the world. The bishops want a new evangelization for a new era. An era that has seen a drop in attendance at Sunday Mass, an increase in the number of tepid Catholics, and a lack of interest in religion among the young. In a word, secularization, as in other parts of the world, is now affecting the Church of  Korea.

The depth of spirituality of our Christians, however, is not the type that will be of much help in evangelization. The Church has shown an exterior growth in numbers, but those who know the problems feel that the growth in spirituality of Catholics and the renovation of the Church have not kept up with its outer growth.

The Catholic Times sponsored a round-table discussion on this topic recently. The participants agreed that efforts have to be made to help our Catholics experience God in the many varied ways this is possible.  Many Catholics lack a  basic  understanding of Jesus, and consequently lack the enthusiasm necessary to train the will to work for change in society. Without the experience of God, Catholics will have little to fall back on in dealing with the postmodern culture we live in.  If  Christians are not themselves evangelized and are only superficially following Jesus, then there can be no evangelization. Those without belief are motivated to make changes in their lives  by what they see Christians doing.

The Pope recalls, again, the problem of secularism in his Peace Day message and states that he sees little difference between fundamentalism and secularism; they both deny the pluralistic society. For the Pope, secularism is different from secularity, which is a positive goal for society. Secularism does not have a place for religion, and that is a position that has become popular in recent years.

Increasingly, we are seeing the effects of this position on our youth. They are seeing their religious beliefs attacked in their schooling, in the books they read, and in much of the mass media. They hear, repeatedly about the crusades, the inquisition and Galileo. Without understanding the secularizing process responsible for these attacks, our youth cannot be faulted entirely for wanting to distance themselves from a world-view our secularist culture considers antiquated and of no use in today's world.

Secularism is the unwillingness to give religion a place in society. This way of thinking goes against the principle of a  sound secularity which respects the opinions of others and treats those opinions with civility. Those who bring up the Galileo issue to show the conflict between science and religion refuse to acknowledge that the contemporaries of Galileo,the Jesuits, introduced the first telescope to China and became the astronomers in the Chinese court. The secularist often fails to see the whole picture, preferring to focus on something that can make the opposition look ridiculous. What is needed is more secularity and less secularism. More openness to others in a pluralistic society.

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