Sunday, February 6, 2011

Is He a Seminarian or a Soldier?

One of the professors from the Incheon Catholic Seminary, writing in the recent Kyeongyang Magazine, applies the teachings of the Social Gospel to military life in Korea. In a divided country like Korea, serving in the military is obligatory for all males, and, given the on-going difficulties between North and South, it is understood as necessary, though a burden they would like to avoid.

The professor spent three years in the military, and they were not happy years. In order to abide by the regulations and orders from superiors, he had to give, along with the other soldiers, tacit approval to  beatings and to ignore basic human rights--the experience left him with emotional scars. A great deal has changed under democratization but many of his concerns, especially for seminarians, are still part of the military scene.
After ordination, he went to Italy for studies. Among the seminarians he met there, none had spent time in the military. In the West, those who had chosen the religious life were considered 'God's sons,' and were given the opportunity to choose an alternative service. His fellow seminarians found it difficult to understand why a seminarian would be given a gun and be on active duty. He agrees; one should be a seminarian or a solider, not both, if we are to follow the teachings of the Social Gospel. 
The Church's teaching on violence is also very clear: It is not a proper countermeasure. Resorting to violence is an evil. Catholicism teaches that war is barbarous and other options must be utilized to settle disputes. However, there is justification for using force, as a defensive measure, in order to keep the sovereignty of one's country, or to defend one's personal safety.
What about the rights of conscientious objectors? They have the right, says the professor, to refuse to bear arms or to participate in war, provided they accept some alternative service for the community. 

In conclusion, before being a soldier a seminarian is a follower of Jesus, and if he is called up for military service, his duty as a soldier comes after his first duty: to be a follower of Jesus and to make known Jesus' love and to teach the way to true peace.The professor feels it is wrong to make a seminarian take on the duty of a soldier. He discovered this during his years in the military.

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