Monday, May 27, 2013

Love Needs Justice

Pastoral social involvement in society includes family, marriage, culture, politics, finances. In all these aspects of society, the Church has to protect and foster human dignity, the community of peoples, the common good, dialogue, and to cooperate with others in society in finding ways to achieve these goals. These words began the article in the Peace Weekly by a priest-participant in the symposium on the Critique and Future of Catholic Pastoral Work in Society. This should be, he says, the standard the Church should use to examine its activity in this area of need.

For many, the social gospel is based too much on the hereafter. At times it seems a patronizing blessing after death, the priest says. Instead of working for the common good, it's concerned with the faults of society in an abstract kind of way. The Church has to work to help those who are working to make a just and peaceful society. He can't erase from his thinking that at times the Church seems satisfied to merely serve the weak, being one with them, without the additional effort to better their lot.

He laments the fact that this integral part of the Gospel message is not understood by so many Catholics and is seen as unimportant or, worse, as interference, as something having nothing to do with the Gospel message. Sadly, many see participating in society and living a life of faith as two different divisions of  life.

It has been 20 years now since the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which incorporates the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. The existence of the catechism is not even known in many parishes. The change of life, the engagement and sacrifices we are being called to are not attractive to many. Working for justice is seen as painful and is avoided. We separate the Mass and our liturgical life from our daily life. The obligation we have to love is also the obligation we have to work for justice.

Another participant mentioned how we can say many things in our formal meetings, such as the synods we had 10 years ago in the diocese, but little comes from their deliberations, he said. He also mentioned that the numbers of Catholics in the wealthier areas of the diocese are higher than in the poorer sections. The Church has to model a simpler lifestyle, he said, and be concerned for the poorer areas of the diocese with more investment in personnel and funds.

The priest emphasized that he would like to have all our Catholics be exposed to the teachings of the social gospel. They need to know how we as citizens and people of faith can live the social  gospel in our daily lives. This had to be, he says, part of the teaching for all those in pastoral work.

This has been a concern of the Church in Korea for some time and we are seeing some changes. The "either-or" thinking is still prevalent in many areas where it doesn't belong. The "both-and" thinking is the healthier way of being concerned for the good of all. 

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