Monday, April 8, 2013

Presuppositions for Renewal

Hooked on TV dramas, a columnist in the Catholic Times said he decided recently to watch some old re-runs of dramas he liked. He tells us about a scene where a brother decides to tell his younger sister that he was the one responsible, though accidentally, for her husband's  death. Forced by circumstances to tell his sister about his part in the death, he was prepared to confess but before he could she yelled "Don't tell me what you are going to say."

The sister had already surmised that her brother was involved and never got rid of the hurt in her heart. She was always playing with the idea of finding the culprit, and kept the resentment in her heart for the last twenty years. If he had confessed, she felt the last twenty years would have been spent in vain. She wanted either to have heard him confess when it happened and been forgiven, or to remain silent without the obligation of asking for forgiveness. The sister did not want to see his burden of guilt diminished, which was the reason for not wanting to hear his confession.

In a population of 60 million, it is not unheard of to hear this kind of story.  Although it is necessary that we are sorry for our own faults, the presupposition is that before it is brought to our attention by others, it is necessary to acknowledge what was done and be willing to freely take on the responsibility for the act. When we try to hide and avoid our responsibility, there is less of a chance of our being forgiven and receiving leniency.

The same is true in the sacrament of confession. All sins are forgivable, as long as we are sorry and the sorrow is genuine. We have all had that experience growing up. After doing something wrong and going to our mothers to confess, we often received a smile of approval, knowing all the while what we had done. A response quite different from the one from the sister in our example: "Don't tell me what you have done."

In a recent issue the Catholic Times commented on a survey of theologians, which indicated they saw a need for Church renewal. For a long time, there have been efforts to hide and avoid responsibility for the problems that have recently become public, such as the so-called  Vatican Leaks. This is also true in the West concerning the sexual abuse of minors. The efforts to hide and ignore the seriousness of what happened multiplied the seriousness of the problem and helped it to continue, resulting not only in the tragic consequences of making more youngsters vulnerable to abuse but also in the selling of church property in the effort to pay out the huge sums of money in penalty for what was done.

We have to learn the virtue of speaking, everywhere and at all times, the truth. Even before we are questioned by others, we have to examine ourselves, acknowledge our faults, and  make them known. To make our personal or communal faults known is the presupposition for renewal.  Pope Francis is aiming to do this for the Church. Is this not also what the Korean Church has to do?  Is this not the time for us as a community to strive for renewal and reformation? And to have this aspiration as an urgent topic for serious discussion?