Monday, February 21, 2011

Condoms and Abortion in Korea

Dissent in the Korean Church is rare, and when it becomes public is not easily understood, possibly because the history of Catholicism reveals the importance it has placed oneness, in contrast to some of the other religious groups.

A Catholic priest, professor at the Catholic University and  executive secretary of The Committee for Life of the Seoul Diocese, writes in the Peace Weekly about the Church's position on the use of condoms. The secular press in Korea, and in the rest of the world, did not report correctly, he says, the viewpoint of the Pope in the recent controversy over the book Light of the World. 

He quotes from one of the dailies, which commented on the Pope's remarks, as indicating an oversensitive reaction of the Conservatives (contrary to the clarification of  the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), and used the words of some leading Catholic progressives to refute this interpretation.                    

The Catholic Church is condemned for being too conservative and  on the side of  dogma and against life, an oppressive organization.This superficial view of the issue, he says, distorts the position of  the Church on life and on natural law.

The Catholic Church teaches that in the sexual act the partners give themselves to the other in true love and oneness, and if children are born of the union, they are responsible for the children.

The priest says that in Korea, in 2005, for married couples there were 198,000 abortions; for those unmarried 144.000 abortions. And over 95 percent, because of finances or social reasons, did not want children at all, clearly showing that the sexual act was performed without  responsibility for life or that the attempts at contraception failed.
The Institute of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that using the condom precisely as directed results in a 3 percent failure rate, and a 14 percent failure rate in its ordinary use.

Does that mean the Church tells the couple to take the children as they come? The Church does not accept artificial birth control but when there is good reason to space the children, it recommends that the couple avoid the times of her  fertility with the natural birth control method. If the wife become pregnant then it is considered a  gift of God.

The article includes a section (#13) from the encyclical "The Gospel of Life," where Pope John Paul II says, "But despite their differences of nature and moral gravity, contraception and abortion are often closely connected, as fruits of the same tree.... Still, in very many other instances such practices are rooted in a hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and they imply a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. The life which could result from a sexual encounter thus becomes an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and abortion becomes the only possible decisive response to failed contraception."

This is an area that is counter cultural even in Korea. The Church has not been overly active in its anti-contraceptive  teaching in the way it speaks about  abortion. The teaching of the Church in this whole area of sexuality gives a beautiful ideal and  hopes the Catholics will make efforts to live by it for a fuller and happier married life. For many different reasons this ideal no longer attracts even some of  the sincere Korean Catholics.