Sunday, March 25, 2012

Distinquishing Between Essentials and Non-essentials

Historical dramas depicting the time of the Chosen dynasty are very popular on Korean TV. The desk columnist of the Catholic Times, after being away from the country for a  number of years, comments on seeing one of these dramas and the importance given there to the expression 'royal command' often used.

Before the use of the expression, there would be bickering and discussion among the retainers but once the royal command was issued all were quick to obey. There was no longer a desire to see things differently. They recognized the authority of the king. To do otherwise was to be a traitor.

Why doesn't the king from the very start say this is a royal command? Wouldn't it save a lot of trouble and energy on the part of the king? the columnist asks.  Isn't it  the  king's intention, before using his omnipotent power, to have unity and harmony among his people?

During the Chosen dynasty one of the means of deciding the outcome of any deliberation was to discuss the problems of the country with the retainers and come to an agreement, or to let the crown prince, with the help of tradition, make the decision at some future time. Discussion of ideas led to an agreement on a way to act. Consequent to this we had the royal command which was the  summation and judgement of the discussion that preceded.

The columnist wonders if by overly using the royal command unilaterally, the king's regal authority was not in some way decreased.  He mentions the often cited phrase: "Unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things." These are the words of a 17th century Archbishop, Marco Antonio de Dominis, in his book on the Church.  Necessary things, the essentials,  the columnist considers to be few in number; doubtful things to be many.  However, he points out that where one chooses to place one's attention will result in different understandings. 

We should not be fearful of discussion in areas of doubt. When we combine what is essential and what is in doubt, and fail to make a distinction between them, we are not, he says, being charitable. The columnist clearly has a desire to address the executive part of government and its 'royal decrees.'