Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Church and State Problems in Korea

The involvement of the Catholic Church in politics has received strong censure recently by the government and certain segments of the mass media.  A member of the Catholic Priests Association of the diocese of Jeonju, who called on the president to resign because of the intervention of state agencies in the presidential elections, was the occasion for this latest conflict. The priest expressed his opinion that the government is making North Korea an enemy and gave examples which, according to the National-Security Law of the country, would be seen as illegal. This is the back-story for the editorial comments in the Catholic Times.

The editorial speaks about the different political views held by members within the Church being no different than similar views held by members of the same society and how the mass media distorts the situation to serve their own purposes. Expressing its dissatisfaction with how the government and the media are pursuing this issue, the editorial was headlined: "Don't Use the Church."

Outside of its authoritative teaching on faith and morals, the Church, having no desire to support or criticize any particular political policy, does not demand conformity of thinking or foster a similar worldview, both neither possible nor desirable, says the editorial.  And when the mass media makes it seem that differences of opinion on political issues indicate conflict and division within the Church, the editorial points out that this is not only inaccurate but deceptive.

It does concede that when a priest, a pastoral minister, speaks out on a controversial political position more discussion is necessary. What should be the extent and limits of political involvement of the Church, when questions of unfair elections, societal injustices, media deception, and other grave societal problems arise? In a democracy, the editorial says that such subjects should be openly debated, not only outside the Church but within the Church as well.

However, when the government and the mass media speak out against a member of the Church and uses his personal views
to condemn the whole Church and to foster division and enmity within the Church community, this activity needs to be addressed and denounced. They should also refrain, the editorial continues, from using the words of the pope and the bishops of Korea, their documents and the Scriptures, whenever they wish to bolster their position and to serve their policies.

A spokesman for the archbishop of Seoul was  quoted:  "There is no one Catholic position on this issue....There are many different opinions...the government authorities, to serve their own purposes, are  using this issue as a tool for their political aims, which is wrong. " The editorial concludes  that Catholics themselves, who have been called to follow in the footsteps of our Lord in justice and love, should not fail to be prudent and humble in the firestorm of these contentious issues. 

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