In Korea, as in every other country, we have differences of opinion. We have the left, right and middle, words that have taken on meanings that are not difficult to understand. And yet we know that on any issue one can be considered conservative and on other issues, liberal or somewhere in the middle. And with time even these ideological positions can change.
Our acceptance of Christianity can also have different perspectives. It can be accepted with a preference either for the inner life or the life in society-- the Martha and Mary difference, activists and contemplatives. Most would understand maturity as a mix of both, promoting a harmony between the supposed opposites enabling one to function humanly. But it is here that we have much discussion, pitting one against the other by the words we choose to use.
This past month the Catholic Journalist Club met for the 11th Catholic Forum, where participants expressed their views on the role of leadership in the different areas of Korean life. One of the presenters considered the Church to be too much turned-in on itself, believing the existence of the Church is what is all important. He said that this long-held traditional idea has to be discarded. Many clerics are too concerned with the internal life of the Church, with its structure and liturgy, than they are with humanity. The issue of human rights is considered important but, according to the speaker, some continue to maintain the rights of the Church in opposition to human rights. Shouldn't this interest, he asks, also be the aim of the Church as it is in society?
This issue was made very clear by the speaker. This was the way the Church appeared to him, and yet the Church is not here on earth for itself but for the world. That is rather basic, for the Church is Christ's mystical body. Christ's example is normative to all Christians. The goal should be the same for all, but the means taken could be different. Some are action-orientated while others wait for the movement of grace to attain the goal.
It is regrettable that we see the issue in black and white terms--one against the other-- instead of working together in a partnership of gifts to achieve the same goal which both acknowledge. The present Pope, as Cardinal, expressed this goal as teaching the art of living-- the road to happiness--which continues even after death. That not all of humanity is living with the dignity that should be theirs is sad. All of us should see this as our responsibility to improve conditions. This is expressed in terms of love of neighbor. Though this virtue does not immediately energize us for the work here and now, all Christians should have it as the default position in life, and give it practical significance.