Monday, March 21, 2011

A Lesson on how to Alienate People from the Church

A diocesan priest, professor at the Incheon Catholic University, writes in the Pastoral Bulletin for priests that one of the big issues confronting the Church in Korea is the large  number of tepid Christians. We also call them "on holiday Christians"  but by whatever name they're called, they have distanced themselves from the Church. Whether it's the weakening of their belief or someone in the Church they dislike or for some other reason, they find going to Church  a burden.

To blame this situation on selfish individualism or the materialistic society we are living in, the priest assures us this is not the proper perspective. In the last  years of the  20th century, many Europeans, he reminds us, still believed in God and in his goodness, but felt a growing dislike for the Church and a conviction that it was no longer relevant in today's world. He wonders if this  perspective would not be  a better way of describing the situation we are facing in the Church today.

The Church has become not a place of hearing the "happy news" but a place where those facing  difficulties and worn out by life have been given more and heavier difficulties to contend  with, without the necessary understanding. The Church, for a growing number of Catholics, has become not a place of rest but a place where they are considered sinners, treated coldly, a place of many words and much weariness. Let us put aside whether they are treated like  adults, he says. They are required unconditionally to obey their priests if they are to be considered good Catholics. Their emotional life often is  treated lightly, and when they are people with little money, power and honors, they often are disregarded and made to feel alienated. Is it any wonder, he says, that the Church has become a place where we cultivate tepids.

The Church should be, he says, like a mother, a spiritual oasis. A place where the mind finds rest: a place of religious experience, of sharing. A place where through sacrifice we become acquainted with grace. A place where we don't look for money or material things but happiness and freedom.

For those of us who believe in Christ, the Church should be a place where the cross is not an embarrassment but a sign of the resurrection and of our salvation. This world is the place we are to find liberation, to feel the great love of God and his providence. To give ourselves fully to the quest for fulfillment, we turn naturally to the Church. If the Church can change into this kind of refuge, then it is not only God that becomes believable and good but the Church as well.

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