Ordinarily, we tend to view religion as being concerned about what is happening in society, but now we have a society upset with what is going on in religion. Editorial director of a newspaper and past president of the Catholic Publishers Conference, writing the lead article in our premier Catholic magazine, presents his views on the subject.
"Religion has become the worry of the citizens." These words, spoken by a Buddhist monk, were picked up by the press and circulated widely. And our writer, on reading these words, had to agree, and believes he's not the only one who agrees with the monk.
Some of the larger Protestant churches in Seoul were too involved in what many saw as playing politics: trying to sway the recent vote in Seoul by their actions. Also in the press recently, we have been reading about one of the largest churches in the world, where one family was seen as trying to make it their personal fief. And there are stories of churches receiving privileges from the government to build their churches. Putting it bluntly, the Church was seen as too close to the party in power.
The writer then considers the Catholic side of the issue, and looks at our problems. During the democratization of Korea, Cardinal Kim, and the impetus of Vatican II thinking and the foresight of the priests won the respect of the citizens, he says. And this respect is still operative but there is a change. We should keep in mind the words of the Buddhist monk. The increase in the number of Catholics has reached a plateau. There are different ways of looking at this but our writer thinks that Catholicism is becoming the religion of the rich.
A Protestant newspaper, in a 2008 survey of the wealthiest area of Seoul, found that the Catholics outnumbered the Protestants. That many Catholics are rich is not a bad thing, but that the poor find it difficult to approach the Catholic Church because of this fact is a problem. The poor Catholic going to church may say, "This is not a place where I feel I belong." Though said in jest it's a truth seen and expressed by many. The weak and poor of society find the threshold of the Catholic Church too high, and so turn away.
The Church is for the world and not the world for the Church is a teaching we all accept; it is the teaching of Vatican II. Saying the world worries about the church and not the church about the world is said sarcastically, and leaves one sad and embarrassed. But the thought points to the very reason for the Church. For Catholics to have a proper faith it is necessary not to be content with the present world situation but to work for a just world society and when necessary, to raise our voices, so we, as Church, can be heard.