Monday, January 31, 2011

On the Spot Experience of Poverty

Writing in a newsletter for priests, the writer recounts  a visit to one of the poorest sections of Manila. He wanted to experience  poverty  first hand, and tells us he did it with  'pure motives,' although he did put a question mark after the word. His plans were to live with three families during a period of 15 days. In retrospect, he  confesses that he had a romantic notion of poverty  and  a very immature mindset. He was not able to last a week before he raised the white flag of surrender. Poverty, he now realizes, is not the simple back-to-nature condition he imagined but tends to create hopelessly difficult living conditions.

The life of poverty for this Korean, an 'alien' in a foreign land, meant not only being deprived of food, shelter and clothes, but being affected in spirit as well--he was frightened. One of the houses was built on water with logs used as piles for a foundation, making a four-square meter small house. Eight people lived in the house. Drinking  water, which looked whitish, from a nearby well, was  bought for 10 cents. The toilet, a square hole in the floor at the water's edge, was open to the sight of all.

He changed his plans  not because he didn't eat well or wasn't able to sleep in the small quarters. The decision came because he feared a  typhoon would sweep the house into the sea. He left because he was afraid.

That he was not able to live up to what he had planned did bother him.For him now, poverty is an impossible dream. It's no longer the ideal he had envisioned. However, he knows that not all react in the same way to poverty.  He remembers the laughter of the inhabitants of a poverty-stricken village. The poverty he saw there did not make the villagers miserable, maybe a little uncomfortable, but it was not the cause for making them unhappy.

Seeing the life of these people living like they did, he realized the falseness of the belief that money makes for happiness and the more you have the happier you will be. He acknowledges that even though he's not living the poor life, he can appreciate the life of poverty of many who are. In his own value system he does not want poverty for its own sake, but for the peace and freedom it can give. Jesus said, "Happy are those who are poor in spirit." Is this, he asks, really the case? This will be his topic of meditation for some time to come.

In Korea, there are many who want to experience the life of those with whom they are not familiar. Bishops go to farms and mines for an on-the-spot experience. Seminarians come to Korea to see what mission life is like. German bishops have been here to experience the small community group meetings. This learning experience is acknowledged as the best way to understand a way of life foreign to one's own--better than reading, hearing, or seeing pictures about it.  There is nothing  like an on-the-spot experience to move the heart and to change the way we see reality.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Helping to Build Bridges With North Korea

This coming Sunday we observe, as we have since 1993, Overseas Aid Sunday when  what we collect in all the Churches is shared with the poor in the world. This year, however, a new organization, Caritas Korea International, formerly Caritas Korea, will help with this work and will have a broader global outreach than in the past.
Caritas Korea International began originally in 1974 with the name "Human Development Committee," becoming Caritas Korea in 1991. Most of the relief work was done here in Korea but for the last 18 years $21 million has been allocated for foreign aid, some of it, in recent years, going to North Korea. The domestic relief services will now be conducted by the Bishops Social Welfare Committee.
The two Catholic papers, in front page articles, described the beginnings of the new organization. The Bishop responsible  said there are many difficulties that have to be surmounted when setting up a network for receiving donations from the Korean Church. "But from now on," he said, "Caritas Korea International is going to take charge of these international dealings and pave the way for humanitarian aid to North Korea, which is currently at dead lock."
Father Gerard Hammond, the Maryknoll local superior, was asked to form the new group responsible for helping the North. Fr. Hammond has been to North Korea 60 times  since 1995 and is familiar with the difficulties of working to the help the North. "The people are poor, the children and the women and the old are especially in need of unconditional help."

During the many times, he has made trips to the North, he and his group have brought aid to TB patients, given advice on farming methods and seed distribution, provided farming equipment and many other aids for self-help projects. Fr. Hammond  said there is much poverty, and TB is a big scourge. He regrets that more help is not available for the North.
Expressing himself on the rigidity that exists in the present relationship with the North, he said   help that was given by Korea Caritas and now International Caritas was sorely needed humanitarian aid. He hopes that it will not be distorted by the political infighting that goes on.

He wants to build more bridges of communication with the North and to see more flexibility on both sides of the relationship. He will do his best to be a bridge builder.




Saturday, January 29, 2011

Going in Search for the Lost Sheep

The effort the Church is making to return the lost sheep to the fold is impressive. It is also old fare, said the Peace Weekly in its  editorial, with results leaving a great deal to be desired. One third of registered Catholics are no longer seen at Church.

One diocese was given their marching orders by the bishop in his pastoral letter to all the Catholics: "Let all the parishes and districts of the diocese work together in harmony, and with all our energy in the work of evangelization." 

One parish makes clear that this pastoral work is not new and is rather simple: You go to them and bring them back. The key is the will and the effort of the pastor. It is no easy task, especially when there is not a good feeling toward the Church, so wholehearted effort is required.

The lead article in the Peace Weekly profiled a pastor who visits all the families within his parish area, often hearing confessions for those interested, and when the visits are finished, he has a Mass in the village where they all gather. If you listen to them and show them a warm interest, the pastor says emphatically, they will return.

The Sisters mentioned that a woman blocked the priest from entering her house with her body at the front door, telling him to go home. The priest had telephoned in advance and was told that he would be greeted with insults. He asked only for 5 minutes of her time; the sisters say that in most cases of this type there is a change of heart.

Those who don't want to talk to the priest will often say, "I will be going out soon." This is a Korean way of not being blunt and at the same time saying no. However, there does seem to be a difference between the tepid in Korea and those from other areas of the world. It  seems to be, for most of them, not a question of loss of faith, but rather circumstances that make it difficult to go to church--sometimes it's work-related, and sometimes it's difficulties within the church community.

The culture in Korea does not  seem to have accepted the ideas of the West when it comes to truth, authority, relativism, objective reality and skepticism. They may do what the West does but with a very Korean state of mind and with a feeling of guilt. The young may have accepted more of the Western ideas, which means that we will be seeing a change in our society soon.                            

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pilgrimage--Seeing Life In a New Way

The Joong Ang Ilbo recently interviewed the lawyer Kang Keum-sil (Esther) who was Minister of Justice in the  past administration, the first woman to hold that position. At that time, she was not a Catholic but always thirsted for knowledge from the time she was in college. The interviewer notices the bookshelf in her office where one can see  her present interests: Korean Philosophy, The Upanishads, The Origin of the Species, The Spiritual Diary of Thomas Merton, among many others.

During the first years of college, she seriously considered switching her major to religion, and attended a program in ascetic practices at a Buddhist Temple, read many  books on theology, and books on philosophy by Erich Fromm.

A turning point in her life occurred in a museum on a trip to Russia. She saw a painting of a man prostrated on the ground, surrounded by dark trees. The moment she saw the painting, there was a heart-felt response. Because of the dark tones of the painting, she  didn't know at first what she  was looking at and then realized it was Jesus in the garden of Gethsemini. She was baptized the following year, and subsequently wrote "An Old Soul," her reflections on a religious pilgrimage in Italy.

"Why did the painting move you so?" the interviewer asked. "It was," she said, "the words: 'If it is possible, let this cup pass me by.' These are the words of a weak human being; they moved me deeply."

"After leaving politics you started your own law practice. What was it like?"  She answers that those who come to her are hurting. It may be financial problems, it may be family, it may be problems in politics--all who come are in a crisis situation. She is like a consultant, she says, and finds the work rewarding and also provides her with the opportunity to learn a great deal.

She is disturbed, she tells the interviewer, that there is a great deal of discussion about politics but no clear idea of what we should be doing in politics or where we should be going as a society. The concerns of society are going to be the agenda for government policy, which means one does not have the opportunity to put into some sort of order the government departments in which one is working. You are always trying to fix and don't have the time to prevent the problems from happening.

Those who are deeply troubled, she feels, are the ones who often turn to religion. Religion starts from our roots; it deals not only with our inner world  but with all of life. That is where we get our world view. She feels she is just beginning the journey and hopes that our society will come to have more dignity in the future.

"How has she changed because of the pilgrimage?" She says that when she drank coffee in the past, she just drank coffee, and that was that.  Now, after visiting a coffee farm, when she has her cup of coffee, she sees in her cup not only coffee, but the history, the labor of all those responsible for growing, harvesting and preparing the coffee for market. The  coffee tastes different.  In the same way, her pilgrimage allows her to see life in a new way.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

When Something Good Can be a Burden

There are many Catholics in Korea who feel an extra burden when someone in the family is in religious life. The writer on spirituality in the Catholic Times discusses this often troubling situation. 

The pressure they feel is many times more than what others are likely to feel because of what they see as a deterrent in doing what they feel they should. When living in an impossible situation, liked a failed marriage where divorce seems out of the question, they are depressed not knowing what to do  because they have a religious in the family.

And there are difficulties not only with divorce. When there is a suicide in the family, an abortion, a mental problem, they have difficulty talking about it with others because of the self-imposed  burden. It is something that they brood over and speak about only within the family circle.

Yes, it is a fact, says our writer, that those with religious in the family are faced with pressures that others don't have. Even if they are not living an exemplary life they are concerned about what others will be thinking, and it affects their life. The religious person may tell the family to go about their lives and forget about having a religious in the family, but these are just words and do little to relieve them of their concerns. 

There are times when a  priest or a religious, even though choosing the life he wanted, has difficulties of his own; where can he go to complain? Often, during vacation or when free he can go home and unburden himself with the family. He can then give vent to his irritation, complain, lose his temper and find relief in the family. The family also has to endure these outbursts and pray that he continues in his calling.

The writer figures that with the number of priests and religious in Korea, the  immediate families would be about 100,000. If  you include the close relations the numbers would be much larger. Having a person devoted to this way of life, though most often a cause of joy, can at times bring pain. All this may be overcome with prayer, and these  efforts deserve our applause.

He feels that there should not be a burden on others in these situations. Those who are neighbors or friends of these families should  pray for their happiness and relate with them naturally, casting  away all uneasiness. Though the writer knows it may not be that easy, with right effort and prayer he knows it can be done.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Death of a Fighter for Freedom

Both Catholic papers  had articles on the death of Lee Don-myung (Thomas More), who defended democratization and the human rights of many during the politically dark days from 1970-80. At the Funeral Mass, they quoted the words from Isaiah, which exemplify what he stood for during his long life, "Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard."He was 89 years old. 

The bishop who heads the Peace and Justice Committee said, in his funeral message, "The deceased, a  human rights lawyer, worked wholly for democratizing Korea. He was the mouthpiece for those who suffered unjustly. He lived as a disciple of Jesus and now is gone." He was to all of us like a zelkova tree, whose widely spreading branches provide relief to all those who come to rest in its shade.

When he was a judge in Daejon he became a friend of a priest of the diocese, and soon took an interest in the Catholic Church. He was baptized in 1974.

In his own life, he suffered much for being a spokesperson for those whose rights were being ignored and trampled on. He was threatened with death and followed by detectives; his phone was tapped and he was finally interrogated and imprisoned. But he never gave up his quest for the rights of citizens, although suffering during this time from many ailments: heart problems and cancer and was operated on for a leg condition. He considered all his problems as badges given to him by God.

During the movement for democracy, beginning in June of 1987, at the age of 65, he walked with the young people to the Cathedral, demanding the end of the dictatorship. As far back as 1978, as a  member of the Justice and Peace Committee-- becoming chairman of the Bishops' Committee in  '86--he never lost sight of his goal. Respected  and an inspiration to all who fight for citizen rights, he was truly a disciple of Jesus. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Foot-And-Mouth Disease in Korea

A columnist in the Catholic Times tells us about the meeting held in Seoul with representatives of Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, Won Buddhists and the Chondoists. The message inviting the participants to the urgent meeting follows below.

 "From November of last year, when the foot-and-mouth disease began to spread, about 200,000 cows and pigs have been buried alive; since the disease continues to spread, we don't know how many more will be buried alive. Because they do not have the appropriate medicines, they say it is necessary to bury them alive. We want to meet because of this gruesome offense against life: to show our deepest regret for this loss of life, and to discuss the situation and learn why these steps  were taken, and to find ways to prevent it in the future. We need also to find out why our livestock policies have brought this on us. And to talk about the problems with our food supply."

The columnist reports that the Catholics were the largest group attending the meeting. It was a strange feeling, he said, to see Catholics lamenting  the death of  animals, more strange than seeing the different rites. However, our columnist was not put off by the ceremonies but respected the other religions for their display of sympathy.

He feels that the animals became the scapegoat for the financial concerns of the live-stock policies of the government. Seeing on TV the holes being dug and animals being buried alive was heartbreaking. It was, said The Peace Weekly, criticizing the government policy, a man-made calamity. If the situation had been handled properly, the editorial states, it  would not have developed in the way it had.

The editorial goes on to say that  animals are not allowed a natural life, are confined to small spaces and given antibiotics, growth hormones and preventive injections--all because of the industrialization of farming (the factory farm system), which has further diminished the animals' immunity. But the ultimate culprit may be the consumer's demand for more and cheaper meat.

It was reported that a woman, called the 'mother of pigs,' was so upset by seeing the burial of live pigs that she fell into a deep depression and had panic attacks; she took to her room and would not leave.

The government does reimburse completely for the financial loss, but it will take time. In the meantime, the farmers will not be able to start again for six months, and perhaps even more time before they will be able to buy younglings in the market.

Although the columnist cannot lessen the pain of what has happened, he said that he can in some measure share that pain and lament with those who have been so afflicted in this difficult period.

This outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease is extremely contagious and demands swift action on the part of the government. Because of the  disease, Korea cannot  trade  in meat products with the rest of the world. The reaction of many in Korea would be quite different from other parts of the world because of the Buddhist influence on our culture. Many of the farmers, along with the government officials involved in the massacre, are suffering from some traumatic stress disorder, which is easily understood when so many innocent animals have been killed in such a brutal way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gift of Power

The columnist writing on spirituality for the Catholic Times starts his column with a story of a king who gives two of his retainers a seemingly simple task. He tells them that the neighboring king has invented a knife and has given him two for his use. He wants each of them to take a knife and after a month explain to  him how it is to be used.

One retainer tells him that because the knife is very sharp and pointed, it can be used to threaten and to kill. The other retainer tells him that because it is sharp and pointed, it can be used to cut and trim food before eating.

The columnist says that whatever we have can always be used well and that should be the first intention that comes to mind. Even something sharp and pointed can always be used for the benefit of others.

This story of the knives was mentioned to introduce the controversial subject of authority and power as experienced by most of us in the smallest of groupings in the many different communities to which we belong. Those in a leadership role responsible for these communities have  been given authority and power so that these groups can operate more efficiently.  However, when this mandate is abused and  not used according to right reason, the lives of people are  threatened, and the  spirit of the individual dies.

If we are in a position to receive this 'sharp and pointed'  power and authority as a gift, how should it be used? It will depend on our understanding and the value we place on the life we enjoy. When we are at peace this will go out to others and prevents us from abusing what we have received.

Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Although he had problems with the power of the Catholic Church--and it must have  bothered him greatly--he attended Mass regularly and received the last Sacraments before his death. He knew intimately how easily the gift of power could be abused, but also greatly appreciated its potential for serving the good of mankind.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Feeling Useful in Her Retirement

A columnist in the Catholic Times tells us of the joys of retired life. She has so many things to say, she doesn't know where to begin. But begins by saying she now has no need to get up to go to work, no must-do plans for the day, go where she wants when she wants, see who she wants, go to the movies or study at her leisure...and being free to watch some good programs on television.

Like watching the Peace Catholic programs. Her faith life, she says with no exaggeration, has blossomed from all the talks she has heard by priests, sisters and, especially, lay people who have given talks on their own faith life.

Recently, she has been watching the "Dandelion Faith Classroom," which gives advice on how to evangelize both those who were former members of the community, and those who have no connection with the Church. Their advice is that we need to be more like the dandelion, whose seeds are spread all over by the wind. We start by being guided by three principles: be enthused by what we have received in grace and blessings; be evangelizing at all times, not limiting ourselves by any borders; and doing it all with fidelity.

Our columnist, with a group of like-minded Catholics has been visiting parishes, giving talks and appearing on television, discussing her own faith life  experiences.  From the time of her baptism in 1964, she has received all kinds of blessings, and continues to give thanks and continues to listen to God in the study of Scripture. She is happy that she continues to be used even in her years of retirement--as laughable as it may sound, she says with a chuckle.

She tells herself that honoring God and doing it all by herself is not all that God wants. He wants her to give to others what she has received. That is the very essence of  filial piety.

She concludes her column with a prayer: "Lord, I have overcome my embarrassment and have taken my place before others. Have the words that come from my mouth, like the seeds of the dandelion, find a resting place in the hearts of those who hear me. Amen."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Remarkable Christian: Dr. John Chang Myon

Those of us who came to Korea in 1960 studied Korean at our Seoul House. One of the illustrious guests whom we had the pleasure to meet during that year was Dr.John Chang Myon, who was the Prime Minister of the Second Republic and actual head of state until the Second Republic ended with the coup of Park Chung-hee.  
Our Regional Superior was greeting an old friend in Dr. Chang, who had been the language teacher at the center house in the Diocese of Pyongyang where the regional  worked for many years before coming South after the war. Dr. Chang taught the new missioners the Korean  language, was  office man for the diocese and responsible for the young Catholics of the diocese besides doing translation work.  He translated many books into Korean, including "Faith of Our Fathers" and "Gemma Galgani." The book we used to  help us with Catholic terms was written by Dr. Chang.
When he went to the United States for studies, he spent 6 months at the Maryknoll Seminary where he learned English before going to Manhattan College. It was this relationship with Maryknoll that brought him to Pyongyang for 5 years before returning to Seoul and beginning his teaching career, and later getting into politics.
Dr. Chang was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and helped to build the foundations for this Order in Korea. He will be the first person profiled in a series of articles in the Peace Weekly on the members of the Order--men and women who want to live the Christ-like life in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. 

He became a third order Franciscan when he was in the States in 1921 at St. John the Baptist Church in New York. Although his family helped with some of the expenses of his schooling, his part-time jobs helped defray the cost of tuition and food.

It was surprising to hear that many of those who were leading figures in the Second Republic, moved by the example of Dr. Chang, entered the Church during the very difficult times after the coup of May 16th.  He was a devout Catholic and went to daily Mass in spite of his many duties.
In 1965, a year before his death, he wrote: "We are in very dark times. With dissatisfaction and  maledictions, we will not disperse the darkness. With each of us lighting a candle-when hundreds and thousands begin to do this--it will get brighter. We will have hope and find the way to go. With Christ, the light of the world, lighting the way in front of us, and each of us with a candle in our hands, we will be Jesus' crusaders."

Friday, January 21, 2011

From the Cathedral to Seoul Station

In the Catholic Times'  column "Window from the Ark," one of the visiting writers gives us an account of a walk from the Cathedral to  Seoul Station--a 10 minute ride on the subway. 

He remembers seeing the place outside of the Cathedral grounds where he was part of a street singing group some 23 years before. He recalls playing the guitar in the freezing cold; everyone's face feeling the bitter cold. Those that have followed the custom are no longer doing it periodically. In his day, it was every 3 or four times a week; they were happy days.

A little further on he remembers seeing a middle-aged woman within a vinyl-like tent, with 3 large microphones singing  gospel songs sure to be heard. In large red letters a sign proclaimed: "With Jesus heaven, unbelief hell." On that day, seeing the sign, he found it bizarre, and wondered how many would find what they saw and heard  helpful in believing in Jesus?

Next, he came to the  Exchange Bank, in front of which were a small group of picketers with signs: "Let us run the Exchange Bank ourselves." The manager of the  branch office, said  the night before, while drinking together with the columnist, that he felt for the employees who feared a merger was eminent. If the  writer didn't have a scheduled meeting to go to, he said, he would have joined the picketers.

A little later he sees street vendors with their stalls on wheels being chased away from their sidewalk places of business. The writer can't help but sympathize with these vendors who are trying to make a living outdoors in the cold weather. The effort of getting their carts to the place to hawk their wares is a problem in itself,  and then being chased away by those that have the job to regulate the street population is a sad situation.

Entering Seoul Station after the two hour walk, he sees that most of those in the waiting room are street people--people who have not washed, with clothes that have been worn too long, with dirty faces and the smell of alcohol; they were smells he was not accustomed to, and it was difficult to accept. Those who had been drinking were adding to the commotion by exchanging insults. He remembers the words of Jesus to the apostles when he was asked about the man born blind. This is to make known the glory of God. But he also remembers  the words that God made us in his image.

The writer says he faces the same dilemma that Jesus' disciples faced when they asked about the man born blind. What is he to make of this scene? He had difficulty thinking of embracing anyone in that waiting room.

Life is full of a great deal of sadness and pain; a natural response is not to want to see it. Even if we do not have ready answers, it's good for us to face  the pain and sadness and reflect on their inevitable presence in life. To take a walk into it, as our writer has done, may make it easier to remember the part all of us  play in the world we live in. It is an on-going challenge for all of us. The writer ends his article telling us it is like a 'mobius strip'.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Don't Cry for me Sudan"

In  Letter of the Editor's Column of the Chosun Ilbo there was a short account of Fr. Lee Tae-suk, a Salesian missionary, who went to southern Sudan which was  ravished by war. Working there as a priest, doctor, teacher and musician, he also started a hospital, a school, and a youth movement. He died a year ago this month of colon cancer.

The writer mentions that the documentary film made of Fr. Lee's life , Don't Cry for me Sudan, was seen by over 300,000, and moved many to tears. There is also a best-selling book, Will You Be My Friend?  

When reading the book he was stunned to learn that he attended the same church that Fr. Lee attended: the St. Joseph  parish of Song Do in Pusan. It was a parish built for the poor and needy of Pusan, after the Korean war left many unemployed.  The writer was one year older than Fr. Lee, so he believes they both attended the same religious classes when in grammar and middle school.

At that time the pastor of the church, he tells us, was Fr. Aloysius Schwartz, who always had a desire to serve the poor. Although he studied  as a Maryknoll seminarian, he decided  to leave  for a life more dedicated to poverty, and was ordained a priest in 1957 in the United States. He came to Korea the same year and became a priest of the Pusan Diocese and then pastor of the Song Do Parish.

It was in this parish that Fr. Schwartz devoted himself to the poor, many of whom, because of the war, had to sell rags and waste paper and lived by begging. He founded the Sisters of Mary and later the Brothers of Christ, all the while living like the poor people around the parish. He established a  Boys town and a Girls town to care, educate and help children of the poor, orphans and the handicapped, receiving many awards for his service to the poor and was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. Later he went to the Philippines to work for the poor and where he is buried. 

The writer reminds us that Fr. Lee had Fr. Schwartz as his pastor and that it was his life he wanted to emulate. He did so in the Sudan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seeing the Unique Self We Are

In our society, we are continually presented in advertisements, on TV and in the movies, with the beautiful faces of our brothers and sisters. This continual bombardment of  physical attractiveness is bound to have a deleterious effect on many who have difficulty looking into a mirror and seeing a face that doesn't quite measure up to what they are seeing everywhere around them.

A columnist in the Catholic Times tells us that he was surprised to see the number of middle and high school students that are suffering from depression. He thought that was a problem of adults: often an inferiority complex that comes from rejecting their outward appearance.

He tells us what the antidote for this lack of self-esteem should be. Those who have a faith life are in many cases conspicuously lacking in self-esteem. It is not that easy to change our outer appearance, although not impossible. But the possibility of changing our attitude is always available and always free.

We are told that each one of us is a unique individual, and this in itself is a value given to us by God. More valuable than physical beauty is the value of the unique me in which I should have confidence, and value it as a gift from God. When I look in the mirror and do not see what I would like to see, remember that we can go deeper and see who we are as members of Jesus' body. This should make all the difference.

The columnist feels that we do not appreciate the meaning of self-esteem: love and respect for ourselves. Those who are able to look within, appreciate this. The degree of our love that we have for ourselves is a sign of spiritual health. It makes for a  correct relationship with God, with the self and with others. The recovering of this self- esteem, if there was a break, makes for good relationships.

None of us is perfect and without dealing with our imperfections, we cannot  become a mature person. The externals do not make for a person of faith. When we consider the inside of us as well as the outside spiritual growth will come. We are reminded to look at what we think a life of faith should be, and see if we may be lacking its true meaning.

Recovering of our self-esteem is not always easy. However, the moment we recognize some small aspect of  the problem we are on the road to personal growth. As a Christian, we know we are not given pain without reason, and pain without growth is not God's way. With the will to overcome our trials and despair, we will grow in maturity.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Difficulties in Trying to Help the Poor

"Truly, many things have changed for me. For 20 years I was not part of the world, and then by accident I heard about "Delight" and  purchased a hearing aid. Now I'm beginning to live a normal life." These are the words of a mother from Taegu, who was the recipient of a 340 dollar hearing aid.

This story would not have been possible if eight students had not joined together, while  at the Catholic University of Korea, Seongshim Campus (Bucheon), and started a business to sell hearing aids to the poor. The founder of the business noticed that the poor who were hard of hearing would rarely have a hearing aid.  From a young age, he had wanted to do something for the poor; now in college, he was able to realize that wish. The company offices, located within a university building, have many letters of thanks displayed. The Peace Weekly recounts the early years of the business in the recent issue.

The early years were very difficult. They tried to get help from many public groups but with no success. They were told the hearing aid field would be difficult to break into. And, in fact, the attempt to get financial aid proved to be impossible.  But they didn't give up, finally receiving help from a group in Seoul that helped young entrepreneurs.

Also helping out is a government stipend of $340 to the poor who need to buy a hearing aid. Since the company has little overhead and the difficulties of distributing are minor, they can keep the price low to take advantage of the stipend. And the product can be compared favorably with hearing aids on the market. (The market price ranges from $900 to $6000.)

Word is spreading about the product, which has resulted in a great deal of opposition from the companies that have brand name hearing aids. "Delight" has made it clear that the customers they are dealing with are different from the clientele of the big companies. The company goal is simple: that those too poor to afford a hearing aid should have the opportunity to receive one. The founder of the company laments the fact that too many companies are only interested in making money, and that they will probably make it more difficult for them to stay in business. But he will not give up. When the pressure builds up, he goes to the chapel to pray.

"Delight" is facing the same the problem that Lotte and E-mart experienced when selling their products cheaper than the competition. Lotte gave in to the pressure and stopped selling their cheaper chicken, but E-mart continued to sell their cheaper pizza.  The "Delight"  enterprise, the company stresses, has a completely different objective in mind. They hope that those who are opposed will be able to see the difference. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Eating in the East and Sleeping in the West

A collection of meditations, written by a priest from Pusan, that first appeared in the Peace Weekly  has now been reprinted in a book, On the Road to Emmaus.  One of the meditations has to do with "straddling the fence" and not being authentic.

"Eating in the house of the East and sleeping in the house of the  West" is a well-known Chinese expression which in a dictionary would be defined as a vagabond. The origin of the expression, taken from one of the Chinese Classics, is quite different.

A young girl of marriageable  age received on the same day a proposal from a man living in a house in the East, and a proposal from a man in the West. The problem was that the man in the East was from a very wealthy family but was extremely ugly; the man in the West came from a very poor family but was the handsomest man in the county. The parents did not  know what to do and wanted the daughter to make the decision.

If she chose the man from the East, she was to uncover her left shoulder, and if she chose the man from the West, her right shoulder. She  also was in a quandary for some time, but finally decided to uncover both shoulders. She said she would eat with the man in the East and go to sleep with the man in the West. This is the origin of this famous expression.

Today this kind of thinking is called straddling the fence or being an opportunist. The author believes many Christians do the same thing. They go to Church on Sundays but the  rest of the week live without thought of who they are. They serve both God and the world. With the head and the ear, they believe one thing but with their actions something else.

In life, there are many times when we are tempted to straddle the fence. This is not the attitude of a follower of Jesus. In the Gospel of John 3:15, we hear:  "I know you are neither hot nor cold. How I wish you were one of the other--hot or cold!" One would think that being neutral would be a wiser way of acting, but taking a position, and being transparent and authentic with others, requires honesty. It is easier to talk with one who hates what you love but is honest, than to talk with one who is indifferent.  It is said the opposite of love is indifference, and that the distance from indifference to concern is often greater than the distance from hate to love. Straddling the fence may at times be unavoidable. Most of the time it is avoidable and  to "uncover both shoulders,"should not be the response.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Religions Existing In Peace

At the winter solstice,  a group of men dressed in military uniforms entered a Buddhist Temple, interrupting their prayer service.  They were demonstrating against the Buddhists. It  was considered a terrorist attack by many religious groups and condemned. The Peace Weekly and The Catholic Times reported on the support the  Buddhists received from many Christian groups.

Fundamentalist Protestants have entered the grounds of a Buddhist temple in the past, disrupting  their service but later apologized for their actions; this left a bad impression on many in society. The Buddhists have had trouble with the present government because of what they feel is the President's Protestant bias. The government did cut a  subsidy that was going to the Buddhists for their temple-stay program, and they then refused  to accept  anything from the government. They will also boycott any participation with the government in the future.
Representatives of ten Christian associations strongly supported the Buddhists, signing a statement that expressed their feelings on the recent incident at the Buddhist temple. The statement included the demand that the government show how public power was being exercised in this situation and asked that those who were responsible apologize for their actions and be punished.

In the statement, they pointed out that this problem exists not only between religious groups but between many sectors of the society. When we add the discord between religions to the discord we have in Society how can religion be shown as needed?

Korea has a history of harmony between religions and this kind of behavior is an embarrassment. No government or political party should be allowed to interfere with a simple matter of faith practice.

In the words of the Peace Weekly editorial: "Discord between religions comes when we do not attempt to understand  the other as different and are not open to the other. Religious groups should work together, before things get worse, to help to solve the problems we face. It's not only important to have public statements but also important, within the world of believers, to respect one another and to encourage one another to communicate and be educated in the peaceful ways of living with others. If those who have a religion continue to worry the citizens of the country, it is not only an embarrassment. We lose our reason for being."                                                                                  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Difference Between Cutting and Untying

In the recent Bible Life Magazine, a pharmacist who worked closely with a doctor in a charity hospital in Seoul recounts the story of a Mr. Kim, the first son of a poor tenant farmer. At the age of three, he lost his hearing because of sickness and found it difficult to help out around the farm. Being of little use to his father, he was often the  target of his anger and cruelty. Even when it came to eating, the son had to be careful on the amount of food he ate. His life was unbearable, and at the age of 16, he ran away to the big city of  Seoul. 

He worked around the Seoul train station, delivering Chinese's noodles with bean sauce. Since the young man never attended school, he made many mistakes, lost his job and was never paid. During his five years in Seoul, he worked at many jobs: washing dishes, cleaning kitchens, picking up trash.  He found it difficult to keep a job no matter how hard he tried.

It was time, he thought, to return to the country, his nostalgia for home overcoming the fear of his father. The house was no longer there; his mother had died and his brothers and sisters were in an orphanage. His father's whereabouts unknown. He returned to Seoul.

All his efforts to find work were unsuccessful. He was not very adept at judging others and was taken advantage of by many. The problems were too much for him and he tried to alleviate the pain of loneliness with alcohol.

He was treated like a dog. He was called every name you can imagine and finally because of drink ended up at the charity hospital. He was  quickly given an entry to the hospital as a patient for life. On his visits to the hospital, the doctor would give him a look of  displeasure  every time he appeared and would not say a word on his departure, but there was great love shown to the young man which  Mr. Kim did not return. This began to change over the years, and he gave up drinking and started getting work. No longer drinking even brought back some hearing to his right  ear, and he was outfitted with a hearing aid that allowed him to relate to others.  With the first 20 dollars he earned, he wrote a thank you note to the doctor, with a scribble: "Thank you, I will not drink anymore."
Everyone who remembered the old Kim commented on the change, and many thought he would make a good subject for a  documentary on what could happen to a "loser." But it was not to be; the doctor suddenly died. Shortly after, the pharmacist heard that Kim committed suicide.

The pharmacist ends the story with an incident that happened when he received a package that was tied with string. He looked for some scissors to the cut the string, but  the doctor, who happened to be present, told him you don't cut string; you untie it so you can use it again. If you cut, said the doctor, it  goes into  the wastebasket.  The pharmacist compares this untying of the package with Kim's dealing with the difficult 'package' of his life that was bound up with many knots. He was not able to disentangle himself from what bound him, said the pharmacist. The knots were too many and too difficult. The doctor had done his best to untie those knots but after the doctor's death, Mr. Kim was not able to continue the work of disentangling, and felt the only option left was to cut. If he had found someone who cared about him, like the doctor who attended him in the hospital, the end may have been different.



Friday, January 14, 2011

The Dark Side of Internet Games

A professor, writing in the Peace Weekly on the culture of life, discusses the current popularity of playing internet games indulged in by our youth: another affront to the dignity of the human family. More than 10 percent of the young are addicted to these games and the number continues to grow.

In 1997, when the country was having difficulties with foreign exchange and the economy, the government tried to remedy this by fostering interest in the internet and in other worthwhile activities. This has enabled most of us to have high speed internet access and an infrastructure that makes Korea one of the most sophisticated internet users in the world.
This has given the makers of internet games a profitable enterprise, but we are now beginning to see the abuses and problems that have come to the fore in this new cultural development: problems for society and for the individual. Many of the games deal with violence: the use of guns, knives and other lethal weapons. And the graphics and sound that accompany the games increase the sensation of violence. Because of the immaturity of those playing the games, control over their actions is not easy; they often have a problem differentiating  the real world from the world of imagination.

The government, although concerned with these abuses, has helped the makers of these games by legislating in their favor. Germany has gotten involved in dealing with the unacceptable consequences of playing these games by rating the games and limiting the making and distribution of some of them.

Because parents are often away from home, working for most of the day, their children are left unattended at home with the computer always available. The professor feels that parents and schools should make sure there are other possibilities available for children to use their leisure time more profitably. Prevention is easier than the treatment of the addiction.

Pope John Paul said, in the "Gospel of Life," "There is too much concern for efficiency and pleasure to the neglect of the more profound dimensions of life."  The professor would like to see the Church put the Pope's words into action by encouraging the makers of these games to develop games that are not against the culture of life and designed only to bring in more money. Their responsibility, as socially concerned members of society, should be not only to maximize profits but to create  games that will help our youth develop into mature, responsible human beings.



Thursday, January 13, 2011

Win-Win Free Enterprise System

During December, two discount stores were selling very popular items below the average price of the competition. First, it was E-Mart with their low-priced pizza, and then Lotte Mart joined in with their low-priced buckets of fried chicken for one third the price of the leading chicken delivery franchises.

What  was to be done? many were thinking.  'Dumping' to get people into the store is breaking the fair competition rule. E-Mart decided to keep selling its pizzas but Lotte decided to discontinue the sale. There was, according to Lotte, too much confrontation in society about the wisdom of selling at such a low price. Both discount stores only sold  a limited amount of the product, and they did not deliver. Many consumers had difficulty understanding why Lotte decided to discontinue the sale. It was the consumer who suffers and even the President agreed that the fried chicken on the market was too expensive.

The Catholic Times entered the discussion with an article on the issue, written by a  professor of economics. He agreed with the position that Lotte took to discontinue the sale of the fried chicken. It was going to put out of business many small stores. In the free enterprise system, success comes to the one who has a better product and competition is the driving force that makes this possible.  Much of the press sided with the discount stores in favor of the consumers. The professor saw another value.

The professor was happy to see that Lotte decided to be altruistic in its decision to stop its low-price campaign. He sees that as a healthy sign of our society, and dubbed Lotte's decision a win-win decision for all involved and a sign of introspection and self regulation. It was  a sign of  basing our actions on the dignity of man--one of the principles of Catholic spirituality-- and of the possible appearance of a new kind of capitalism. Since the beginning of  industrialization  of economic life, the professor goes on to say, the constant voice of the Church has been there to remind us to respect man's dignity. This would make for a healthy enviroment.

When the big corporations show this concern for the low-income competition, they will also receive acceptance and trust in return from the consumer, which will help them to  continue to excel in their field. This is enlightened self-interest, and good business practice. 

This way of thinking, the professor believes, is part of the Social Gospel. It shows a preferential option for the poor, the paradigm that we as Catholics should have not only in the world of big business but also in our daily lives. When those who invest, who consume, who produce, who employ and are employed--when all of us have a spirituality that takes this into account, we will have a win-win society.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A First For the Catholic Church of Korea

The Diocese of Incheon will commemorate its 50th anniversary this year by announcing that a church is being constructed specifically for the hearing impaired: the first Catholic church of its kind in Korea. It will not have parish boundaries but include the whole of Incheon for its pastoral work.

The church will seat 100 hundred and the priest now responsible for working with the deaf in the diocese will be the first pastor. The ground breaking ceremony was held recently, and construction is scheduled for completion in April of this year.

The parish will use not only sign language for the Mass but all that contributes to a vibrant parish life: teaching catechism, studying scripture, providing retreats and  a meeting place for the hearing impaired to socialize.  The Catholic Times' editorial chose to  recognize  this work for the alienated as a very important step in the growth of the Church. We now have a sensitivity to the handicapped in our midst by having toilets readily accessed by wheelchairs and by having signs with braille.  We have still a long way to go but there is increased interest to include the handicapped as valued members of our society.

Up until now the hearing impaired had to read the lips of the priest. It had  been difficult for parishes to provide the necessary aids to deal with their particular needs, such as setting up a monitor screen in the sanctuary for those in the congregation to follow the liturgy, teaching sign language, hearing confession, scripture study, and putting aside enough extra time to counsel those who wanted to become Catholic. Even though each diocese has a priest responsible for working with the deaf, there is a  limit to what can be done. This difficulty will be solved when the hearing impaired have their own  parish.

The  pastor of this new parish said the prospect of ministering to the needs of the hearing impaired in a church-friendly environment is giving him the greatest happiness in his  last ten years of priestly life. Because of their inability to hear, the deaf feel more alienation than those who are blind because of the lack of communication. That the diocese did see the importance of what was needed, and responded in such a marvelous way is a wake-up call to the other dioceses to put more effort and money into removing the walls that separate us from the alienated.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How to Determine the Health of a Country?

In the recent  Chosun Ilbo, a survey report of 5000 people from Korea and nine other countries did not surprise: Koreans were shown to be the most attached to material prosperity.

One of the survey questions was to select from a list of eight celebrities the person you thought the happiest, including yourself.  In most countries the persons surveyed selected themselves. In second place was the Dalai Lama; in  Korea the  top pick was Bill Gates, considered by many to be the richest person in the world.

Responses to the question: What degree of happiness do you have? revealed the "happiest country" to be Brazil, with 57.2 percent considering themselves very happy and nearly 92 percent considering themselves happy. Korea had slightly over 7 percent who considered themselves very happy, and 70.3 percent, happy.

To the statement that there is no relationship between money and happiness, only 7.2 percent of the Koreans agreed.  Which was, again, the lowest of the ten countries.

A professor reviewing the results said that, according to some, after reaching a certain level of prosperity the law of  diminishing returns begins to operate. You sacrifice other values to achieve material prosperity. The work necessary to gain this prosperity takes away leisure time that could be spent with family and friends. The desire for the material comforts of life in Korea is three times that of the  States and twice that of Japan. Since the beginning of 1960 Korea has increased its per capita GDP(Gross Domestic Product) 250 times. A world record. Despite this remarkable achievement, the happiness index of Korea is the lowest of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.  This is an indication, he feels, of an unconscious desire for material satisfaction.

The positive conditions for happiness in Korea are many compared to other countries. Although Korea faces increasing unemployment, an aging population with its attending health concerns, and the destruction of the environment, which will impinge on the degree of happiness of our citizens, the professor feels the conditions are there  to see a change in the index of happiness.  "However, it is not only an individual  task," he says. "Without a happy society, we will not have  individual happiness. Happiness in society can  be achieved only by working with others."

Many see the GDP as a good indicator of material prosperity but a poor gauge to determine the well-being of a society. A better way to indicate the overall health of a society is needed. A way that would also take into account the non-material areas of life--that would be a happy change.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Equality Of the Sexes In The Church

The Catholic Times' opinion piece on the Bishops Sub-committee on Women Issues had some interesting things to say. Written by a Religious Sister, who is the secretary of the Sub-committee, discusses what she would like to see happening within the Church: more equality between the sexes, leading to a healthier relationship of men and women.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the sub-committee and many suggestions were made to celebrate the event: inviting a well-known woman theologian from the States to give public lectures, conduct a seminar to discuss what women have done in leadership roles in  Europe and the States,  invite women groups to meet together in a symposium talk-fest to discuss their various positions regarding women and the Church. They are dreaming, planning and imagining many other possibilities.

In the past,  they have had  informal gatherings with other women groups to discuss  what women have given to the Church and society. They have attempted to deal with topics in a moderate way. They avoided the topics of equality within the Church, the efforts to achieve equality, the use of women for works of service and not leadership roles and the alienation of women within the community and also  topics that dealt with the deepening of women spirituality, the discovery of the mothers' instinct,  and the development of the  value of life -- areas of confrontation.  They considered the uncontroversial area of what women can contribute to the Church and society with creativity and wisdom.

On one occasion the person who chaired the discussion summarized the talks and  concluded with the question, "Can it be understood that  from today, there is no need to consider equality within the Church or change of structures as a topic of discussion?" A long-time member of the sub-committee quickly responded, " We have and it has been useless. We have given up." One could see, the secretary said, many heads nodding in approval.

She ends her opinion piece by saying that the committee has tried, though feebly, within our patriarchal society to enhance the condition of women in the Church, but with little success. With all their seminars, symposiums,  events, surveys, printed materials, talks and reports over a ten-year period, she has seen little improvement in the status of women within the Church.

Society has made great advances in this area with many of the walls crumbling. However, in the Church, the patriarchal Confucianism of our society and the hierarchical  structure of the Church have prevented any meaningful change.  The Church suffers a  great loss when women's gifts and efforts are not used;  Sister wonders what God would think.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit

At the start of this year of the rabbit, a columnist in the Catholic Times recalls the sermon he heard at Mass on New Year's day. The priest asked the parishioners what they thought of when hearing the word rabbit associated with the year 2011. Most of them thought of fecundity, simple, beautiful, cowardice, among others.

The word rabbit brings to mind all these traits but the priest selected 'growth' as possibly the most important trait. The hind legs of the rabbit are longer than the front legs, which make going up  easy but going down rather awkward. So this year, he suggested that all of us should make strides to better ourselves, to grow in some way during the year, striving for another level in our personal  growth.

The columnist points out that each of us has a different meaning for growth. After Mass, during the time for fellowship and refreshments, she asked several acquaintances in what area of life would they like to see more growth during the year. To increase the number of friends to twenty was one response. Another, to increase personal development by reading 30 or more books. No one mentioned having financial or material goals; all were more interested in internal growth. She was pleased with what she heard and surprised. She will also be working for growth in maturity during the year.

At this time of  the year, Koreans have already celebrated the solar New Year; the dress rehearsal for the real thing, the lunar New Year, will be on Feb. 3rd. What interest there is in Chinese astrology is difficult to judge. The past year was the year of the Tiger, not a good year. This year of the  rabbit is more propitious for those who believe in astrology.  North Korea is also influenced by the same beliefs; hopefully, the traits of the rabbit will be shown in the way they will treat each other this year. Since the sign of the rabbit is one of the more fortunate of the twelve signs, it might signal something worthwhile to both the North and the South. Let us pray that we do have a growth in efforts to bring peace to Korea. And finally a peace treaty.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Why Prefer Noise Instead of Music?

Fr. Cha Dong-yeop of the Future Pastoral Institute, in the recent Incheon Diocesan  Bulletin, talks about a premise that should inform all that we say.  The color gray can be found in nature but some see it as black; others see it as white. One of the failures of our society, he says, is that nobody wants to see  the  gray.

In his class in the seminary there were two groups that interacted like oil and water. One believed it important to participate in the struggle for democracy-- the group for justice. The other group emphasized the importance of prayer-- the spirit group. For unknown reasons they could not come to an understanding of each other's position.

Fr. Cha mentions that he held a middle position. When he felt that his conscience directed him to participate with the justice group, he would do so; when he felt it necessary to join the prayer group, he would. He couldn't help but ask himself on what side would Jesus be on? He would be on both sides, he decided.  "Do not the  two positions develop  from the same  root, and are they not branches of the same tree?  Why should  they be in opposition?"  The thought brings tears to his eyes.
Why do we avoid the gray areas in deputes of this kind? he wonders. "Why can't we be in the middle? Together. When we are not together," he says," we are again nailing Jesus to the cross."

The Church, says Fr. Cha,  is like an orchestra, with many different musicians playing together in harmony. The woodwinds do not wonder why the strings play the way they do. In the Church there should be an appreciation of each other's gifts, welcoming others who may be playing in a different mode but still in harmony. This should be  the main premise of the Diocesan Church Community.

We have the words of our Lord encouraging us to be One. However, the examples we use to explain this idea leave too much to the imagination. Though the idea is certainly understood, the simplification that is necessary creates more questions. When we have opposing ideas within the Church community, it is noise that we hear and not music. Talking to each other, being civil and respectful, making efforts to  understand, humbly and willingly open to seeing  another harmonic possibility is a desire of many.                         

Friday, January 7, 2011

Preciousness of Good Memories in Old Age.

On the spirituality page of the Catholic Times, the columnist tells us how a couple, after raising their children, are spending their declining years.

They live  together in a small house, take care of their plants and a garden, and  stay close to the Church. Life is quiet and orderly; they are now preparing to meet God. The columnist, with a smile, asks,  "Fighting makes the life of most couples interesting. Both of you live a simple life. It must have been boring!"

"We fought when younger, but  we are weak now and don't have the energy; words are not necessary to have a life full of joy."

"What do you mean you can be happy without talking?"

"Of course you can. We talk very little but we have great joy in life. From a very young age, we have taken out a wonderful  insurance. We are now benefiting from the policy."

"Insurance!  What  kind do you have? Are you getting insurance returns every month?" 
"Getting a return every month on your insurance is not the only kind. We as a couple from early on have considered memories a very important part of our insurance. We are a simple and ordinary family, but we traveled a lot as a family. We  climbed mountains, looked up at the heavens and saw the beauty of the ocean. Together as a family, we faced and solved our problems. Even now our children, with the grandchildren, come to visit us here in the country. It seems they are also interested in this kind of insurance."     
"Do those memories come back to you now?"

"Yes, with the years not all remains but one thing that is strong and vivid is that it was done with my spouse. And with the passing of the years, we have, without needing words, these wonderful memories which brought us much happiness."

The reminiscences we have of our life are the best insurance for old age. This should be the expectations of all of us.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One Person's Reason For Failure in Life

A columnist in the opinion page of the Catholic Times gives us a very helpful lesson in how not to be a failure in life. As the head of a psychological  counseling service, she has helped many, and believes that those who need the most help are the ones who usually refuse it and  bring unhappiness into the lives of  others. They can be considered, she says, 'blind' in their relationships: Seeing what is in their own world, hearing what they want to hear, understanding  what they want to understand. 

Their  problems, they insist, come mostly from unlucky circumstances or are caused by others. When they hurt another by word or action, they defend themselves by saying it was not their intention or--a common retort--they don't remember saying or doing anything hurtful. No matter how much sympathy and empathy we have for those who are caught in these destructive behaviors, it  is difficult, she admits, to continue counseling such persons.

Often in Korea when things don't go the way we want, we use the word nang pae (낭 패) to describe this difficult situation. When we look at the origin of the word, however, we come up with a different understanding of its meaning. Nang and Pae were two imaginary animals.  Nang had no hind legs, and Pae had no front legs. (It is thought that they were similar to wolves.) Nang was courageous but had no cleverness; Pae was very clever but was a coward. When they went walking or hunting, they needed each other. When they were separated, they could do nothing.

A similar relationship usually exists even in the smallest of human groups. When two or more persons are planning to do something, each gives of his strong points, and the weak points are complemented  by the other's strengths. Understanding, concern, communication and tolerance are the elements that allow for harmonious personal interactions and an efficient running of society, but there are many who are blind to this relationship, which brings about this nang pae, 

The columnist ends by asking us if we have this relationship with others. Do we strive always for understanding and magnanimity?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Accidents and the Culture of Life

The statistics show that in Korea deaths from traffic accidents are one of the highest in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) with twice the number of deaths than the average. A professor at the Suwon seminary writing in the Catholic Times says this is a sign of callous indifference to traffic safety.

One  of the reasons for traffic accidents is driving while intoxicated. All  know it should not be done. It is accepted as a basic principle of morality that we are to do good and avoid evil. If one drives while intoxicated and foresees the possibility of something going wrong, he then is morally responsible for the results.

This holds true for the owner of a factory who out of carelessness pollutes the surrounding rivers; owners of coal mines who don't show care for the safety of miners, and the makers of medicines who are not attentive to the adverse reaction of their products. When the results of these actions are evil, we must try to avoid the action itself.

Does this mean, the professor asks, that we must avoid any action when there is a  possibility that the results of our action may be evil?  Should we not use electricity because of the potential danger of a short circuit? Should we not drive because of the fear of accidents? Should we not allow children to use the computer because they may see porn?

These questions are easily answered, he says, by the application of the principle of the double effect  If the intended good is greater than the possible evil that may occur, and does not directly follow from the good, we are acting morally.

When driving after drinking even though we do not have an accident the possibility for an accident was there, and we have done  something we shouldn't  have done. If there is an accident the principle of the double effect is not applicable  because the act of driving intoxicated is an evil act.

The professor no doubt knows of cases where the principle of double effect was used by those driving drunk. In recent memory this principle was even used by many commentators as an explanation for what the Pope said on condoms in the book Light of the World. The clarification from the Vatican makes clear that the Pope was not using the double effect principle. To understand another  person is no easy task, especially when you are not sympathetic to the person speaking and his ideas.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pope Wants More Secularity In Society

At the beginning of the New Year, each bishop presents his expectations for the coming year to the Catholics of his diocese. The Catholic Times' editorial spells out some of the concerns of the bishops. The problems  are not unfamiliar to Catholics in other parts of the world. The bishops want a new evangelization for a new era. An era that has seen a drop in attendance at Sunday Mass, an increase in the number of tepid Catholics, and a lack of interest in religion among the young. In a word, secularization, as in other parts of the world, is now affecting the Church of  Korea.

The depth of spirituality of our Christians, however, is not the type that will be of much help in evangelization. The Church has shown an exterior growth in numbers, but those who know the problems feel that the growth in spirituality of Catholics and the renovation of the Church have not kept up with its outer growth.

The Catholic Times sponsored a round-table discussion on this topic recently. The participants agreed that efforts have to be made to help our Catholics experience God in the many varied ways this is possible.  Many Catholics lack a  basic  understanding of Jesus, and consequently lack the enthusiasm necessary to train the will to work for change in society. Without the experience of God, Catholics will have little to fall back on in dealing with the postmodern culture we live in.  If  Christians are not themselves evangelized and are only superficially following Jesus, then there can be no evangelization. Those without belief are motivated to make changes in their lives  by what they see Christians doing.

The Pope recalls, again, the problem of secularism in his Peace Day message and states that he sees little difference between fundamentalism and secularism; they both deny the pluralistic society. For the Pope, secularism is different from secularity, which is a positive goal for society. Secularism does not have a place for religion, and that is a position that has become popular in recent years.

Increasingly, we are seeing the effects of this position on our youth. They are seeing their religious beliefs attacked in their schooling, in the books they read, and in much of the mass media. They hear, repeatedly about the crusades, the inquisition and Galileo. Without understanding the secularizing process responsible for these attacks, our youth cannot be faulted entirely for wanting to distance themselves from a world-view our secularist culture considers antiquated and of no use in today's world.

Secularism is the unwillingness to give religion a place in society. This way of thinking goes against the principle of a  sound secularity which respects the opinions of others and treats those opinions with civility. Those who bring up the Galileo issue to show the conflict between science and religion refuse to acknowledge that the contemporaries of Galileo,the Jesuits, introduced the first telescope to China and became the astronomers in the Chinese court. The secularist often fails to see the whole picture, preferring to focus on something that can make the opposition look ridiculous. What is needed is more secularity and less secularism. More openness to others in a pluralistic society.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Another Viewpoint on the North-South Relationship

A professor  at the Catholic University and a member of the Seoul Diocese National Reconciliation Committee discusses in the January issue of Kyeongyang Magazine the efforts of the Church to heal the wounds that have developed between North and South Korea. 

Since 1988 the Church has worked  pastorally for  reunification. They ceased using the word evangelization of the North because this would be looked on negatively. It was an effort on the part of the Church to heal the wounds of the past and express themselves in a manner that would not antagonize the North.

Another example of the efforts of the Church to begin working on a  spirituality for  unification is the change they made in 1992 to  the wording to the prayer for the Silent Church. This was seen as an  affront to North Korea so  we pray now for National Reconciliation  and Unity. This change that has taken place in the Church has  not yet according to the writer become the spirituality of the Catholics.

The  Church in the North at Liberation had three dioceses: Pyongyang, Hamhung and the Benedictine Abbey in Tokwon. (The territory of Hwanghae-Do Province was part of the Seoul Diocese.) The Catholic population of North Korea at that time was over 50,000. In 1949 the Abby at Tokwon was closed,the bishop and all the priests were taken into custody and the whereabouts of the bishop of Pyongyang was unknown. The structure of the Church in the North was destroyed. 

In 1980 the North changed their treatment of religion. Seven years later a group in Pyongyang invited representatives from the Vatican to come for a visit. The Seoul Diocese formed a group representing the Church and met five Catholics  in Pyongyang. In April of 1988, two of the five Pyongyang Catholics had an audience with the Pope and attended Easter Mass. Later that same year, plans were made to build the Changchung Catholic Church in Pyongyang. When the church was completed, the first Mass was celebrated by a group from Seoul.

In 1995, the 50th anniversary of liberation and division, there was a stirring for more pastoral concern for reconciliation. The Cardinal was making preparations for a visit to the North, and the parishes were putting aside 3 percent of their income to help in unification. And there were efforts to give the North humanitarian aid: A factory for making noodles was started and a place was set up for distributing food to  children.
The Church has recognized the de facto division of the country, their history and socialistic government, and in humility will deal with this reality. However, from 1995 until the present the only efforts that have been made are material help to the North. No other efforts have been made by the Catholics in the North and the Church in the South. There were  plans for building a center for reconciliation but  because of money difficulties nothing has developed. Although more than 10 million dollars have been set aside, it will not be used to help in reconciliation but to help later, after unification.
The professor feels that the North is not solely responsible for the North-South problem; the South also can be faulted for not continuing ts pastoral initiative to the North. He wonders how God would look upon the way we have let things go instead of working along with the providence of God with regard to the North.    

Here again we have the conflict between those in favor of the Sunshine policy and the present policy of the government. Our writer in his article shows us clearly where he stands, even though  faced with the current  problems with the North.