Occasionally, we hear of people dipping into history to persuade others of the correctness of their position. Surprisingly, this has been attempted in a recent article in a Catholic publication discussing the invasion of Korea by the Japnanese in 1592. Such articles, often seen in the West but in Catholic matters rare in Korea, are usually attempting to ridicule the actions of those who are "conservative" in thinking.
History is filled with serious failings of Catholicism to live up to the teachings of Jesus. This is a fact no one wants to deny, but at the same time it is necessary to see the context of that history in order to make a fairer judgment on what happened; not to white wash but to make sense of what was done.
The article mentions that in the invasion of Korea in the Imjin War under Hideyoshi, one of the Generals, Konishi Yukinaga, the first General to enter Korea, was a Catholic with a large force of Catholic troops. He was an 'outstanding lay person' (said in an effort to emphasize the point being made) and important enough to ask the Jesuit superior in Japan to send him a chaplain for the troops. The Spanish Jesuit Gregorio de Cespedes (1551-1611) was sent, the first European attested to in history to have set foot on Korean soil.
The article mentions that at the height of the invasion there would be more than 2,000 soldiers attending Mass each evening. In later years, when Konishi returned to Japan, he was Catholic enough to refuse to commit suicide after being defeated in battle and was willing to accept the humiliation that came with his refusal, which was worse than death. He finally was decapitated.
Konishi was a very zealous layperson, who during the daytime would be out slaughtering the innocent Koreans and in the evening going to Mass. There was also a quote to this effect from a popular historical novel of recent times. The article admitted that few today would see him as an example of what a Christian should be. It was not the likes of Konishi that brought the faith to Korea, the article goes on to say, but young scholars who went to the poor with open hearts.
The point is that here we have a very zealous Japanese layperson following the Church's teachings and yet killing thousands of innocent Koreans. There must be a better way of making this point without going back into history, forgetting the context and cultural values of the time, and using a person's Catholicism to show 'hypocrisy'.
Many of us do not live up to the teachings of Christ even though in our daily lives we try to follow what our religion teaches. Most often our thinking is influenced by the cultural values of our society. There is no need to go back into history to find examples of this; we have plenty of them in our own day, which clearly show a failure of religious maturity, of understanding and a weakness of character. We can be seen as hypocrites by those who are not seeing the effects of culture, life styles and values on our thinking and actions. It is not honest to dip into history, without seeing history in context, to find examples to revile those who are trying to live what they deem to be the guidance of their conscience in today's world.