Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Catholicism and Equality of Women

The Catholic " Now Here News Site" gave an account of a lecture in Taegu on the influence of the Catholic Church on the lives of women. It's a series of talks by professor Kim Theresa: "Women  Encountering  the Catholic Church: The reason for the enthusiasm  of the women of the  Joseon Dynasty."

Why were the women of the Joseon Dynasty enthusiastic about the Catholic Church? The professor starts by telling us the  advice given to  women going to live with their husband's family: to act as if deaf, dumb  and blind for three years. They were not able to live an independent life and be respected as an individual in that society. Coming in contact with the Catholic Church was truly spreading the Gospel--the good news.

Progress was being made in every area of life when the Church entered Korea, but even though the thinking remained the same, society received a new concept of equality. And, in addition to welcoming the material progress, there was the intellectual satisfaction experienced by those who accepted the Church.

During the liturgy, both men and women answered the prayers together. In the marriage preparations, both men and women were asked the same questions. However, more importantly, the Church did not allow concubinage, which shocked many. The culture had no difficulty with the practice, since widows were not allowed to marry, this fostered the practice.                            

This change in the thinking of women came at the close of the 19th  century, when the Catholic Church was gaining acceptance by large numbers of Koreans. The professor makes clear that not all recently baptized Catholics understood the faith as presented in the catechism of the Church. Even before the entrance of Western material civilization, there was the influence of modern thinking in society through the Church. Women were given responsibility in the Church and were asked to respond to this responsibility which was not readily accepted by Korean society.  

The professor mentions that all these reflections mean little to us today, but if you go back into history the acceptance of Catholicism  required a great deal of courage to overcome the cultural difficulties. The efforts of women to enter the Church were more difficult than it was for the men, but the men also believed, evangelized and practiced their faith.  It's easy for us to consider this insignificant, not knowing the difficult times they lived in.

The article concludes with the professor expressing her hope that women turn their dream into reality by helping to free us from our conflicts and lack of communication, and, ultimately, to change  our society, so all can enjoy the benefits of the equality of the sexes and of all humankind. Also, to make clear that God is giving his grace to all, desiring that we spread this love to all--just as the women ancestors in the faith did so well.

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