Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reviewing the Catholic Press in Korea

A columnist reflects on the impact the Catholic Times has had on the Korean scene, since making its first appearance in print in 1927.  One of the missions of the media is to criticize the misuse of power but the Catholic press goes beyond that and yet does not achieve much in that area; it's not easy dealing with authority in a critical way. Usually the religious press is concerned with general principles of truth that are manifested in our daily activities. This self-imposed limitation of the Catholic press causes frustration but at the same time pride in the work we are able to do.

What is done by the Catholic press, sometimes out of habit, has to be looked at objectively, he says. It is necessary to see if we  have been prophetic in dealing with the news. Some will say we have gone along with the times because of social and political pressure, and that we should be open to hearing this criticism. The paper has almost spent a hundred years reviewing modern church history.

Reviewing this history, the columnist was of necessity also looking over the  history of the paper, and by reading the important articles during this period, he got a feel for the period. Even though there were many times that the paper was not free to oppose what was happening in society, reading between the lines he was able to understand the darkness of the times. There were incidents that we have criticized in the past but do not see them referred to in recent times.

Among them were the Japanese occupation and its cruelty, the problems during liberation, the political  dictatorship--all events that have been duly criticized and examined. There were church leaders who, instead of siding with the citizens, were on the sidelines. Lay people who were involved with the citizens were criticized by the Church authorities. An example of this would be patriot Ahn. Church authorities were for the most part passive during these hard times; it was the laity that entered the fray.

In the Church today we have the opposite happening. Most of the bishops are very open to speaking about problems in society, while many of the laity are passive or against the church speaking out.

However, it's clear that during those times, the Church separated itself from society, which is not the teaching of Jesus or the Church. Just recently Pope Benedict, during his trip to Mexico and Cuba, made it clear that the Church has to do more in advancing justice in society, that we have to discuss more in detail  what constitutes a just society.

Recently we have had religious people, priests and ministers, arrested for breaking the law by demonstrating against the naval port in Jeju. There are those that are not happy to see the bishops remaining silent about the arrests and imprisonments. Here we have a difficult position for the bishops to deal with.  Prudent judgements about the matter and determining what is clearly an unambiguous truth for a Catholic are not always easy, and no doubt have contributed to the bishops' public silence on this issue. Speaking out on matters involving prudent judgements on the part of Catholics is respected, but to what degree should this be encouraged or defended are matters that may have to be decided by one's own conscience.


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