Monday, July 11, 2011

Misconceptions on the Place of the Social Gospel

After looking over Church statistics for 2010, a university professor and vice director of a Catholic research center, in an interview with the Catholic Times, had some interesting things to say about the Church in Korea.

He gives credit for the growth of the Church to the competition with Protestantism and Buddhism rather than to any internal reasons. He feels that until the image these two religions have in society changes, Catholicism will continue to do well, with a membership of 6 million possible in the near future. However, he believes that an increase in numbers without an accompanying growth in the depth of one's faith life will create serious problems.

Currently, the situation is not promising: the numbers attending Mass is at a standstill, the majority of our Christians are older and their activity in the Church is less, the semi-tepid  number 50 percent of our membership, and there is not enough concern for the aged. These problems have been around for almost 30 years and little has improved over the years. To have maturer Christians, the professor said, the methods of evangelization have to change.

A statistic that is especially disturbing is the lack of young people coming into the Church, while those in their 50s and 70s have seen an increase. The professor sees this as a serious problem for the future.

The statistics for the last ten years show that the number of women entering religious life has decreased, even though the number of single women has increased. A similar decrease will also be seen in the number of men entering religious life, and diocesan seminaries in the future. He feels that the present lack of vocations for the religious life results from the Church not being concerned enough to publicize the life sufficiently and see its  importance in the life of the Church.

He also blames parents and their lack of a mature faith life for the drop in the number of children coming to religious instructions. To change this situation will require, he says, a stronger evangelization of those entering the Church.

To the question, what should  the Church do to change the trend? It will require, he answers, that the Church take a greater interest in the social concerns of society.  He believes that  Cardinal Kim and  Fr. John Lee Tae-suk have done a great deal to  give the Catholic Church its currently favorable image. But the professor notes that in the Church today, we see the beginning of a polarization we did not have in the past; this is disconcerting to many who have looked upon the Church with favor. The professor feels that the problem comes from a lack of understanding of the Social Gospel, and a tendency to see religion solely as an individual relationship with God. To correct this misconception, he would advocate for a Church-wide strategy to  show the importance of the Social Gospel in the lives of all Christians.