Thursday, March 20, 2014

Finding Reasons To Hate

An advisory member of the Central Emergency Response Fund writes in the Bible & Life Magazine about her experiences as a world traveler. Han Pia recalls a trip to southern Spain where after attending the midnight Christmas Eve Mass she decided to have an early breakfast. At the same table was a German woman in her 50s. Seeing Pia making the sign of the cross before eating, the woman blurted out: "Are you are still going to church?"

Anna, the name of the woman, greatly agitated, then listed the "crimes" of the Church: " In Europe the Catholic Church went witch hunting, tortured and killed hundreds of thousands without any good reason, they built St. Peter's Church by selling indulgences, they protected the slave trade  in  West Africa, they were silent during the second world war at the atrocities against the Jewish people, the clergy were only interested in  money and power, and recently in the United States we've learned of the sexual sins of the clergy"--finally ending with "How  monstrous all this is." She spoke as if Pia was the one responsible for all these crimes.

Even in Korea, Pia mentions in her article that she often gets pushed into a corner with the recital of Catholic faults such as: Why do Catholics worship Mary when the Scriptures say we should not have any idols...if God is the only one who can forgive sins why do Catholics go to a man to have their sins forgiven...Catholics perform the sacrificial rites of Confucianism...they drink liquor and compromising with the world, Catholicism shows itself to be a weak religion.

She has also been approached and told that she was a heretic and an anti Christ. Sometimes she answers in a heated tone and other times she keeps quiet. Since that meeting with Anna occurred the morning after Christmas Eve Mass, she decided to be silent, keeping all these thoughts to herself.

" You are right," Pia responded, "I also know about our history. Let us drink to the Catholic Church that we never see those things happening again. Cheers!" With a faint smile on Anna's face she too lifted her glass and they both toasted the Church. As they continued to talk she learned that Anna was a professor in a German university and had just recently  been divorced. She apologized for being so rude, saying that she was feeling depressed and when she saw Pia making the sign of the cross and seeing her expression of contentment, she was overcome with cynicism and out came those harsh words in  broken English.

"Anna, yesterday was the Eve of Christmas," said Pia. "If it wasn't I would have attacked you like a fighting chicken." She began to feel affection for Anna and wanted to tell her of the history of Catholicism in Korea, which she was proud of.  In Korea, Catholicism is respected, she told Anna, and went on to give a brief history.

Korean Catholicism started without any missioners about 250 years ago, Pia began. It was self-generated growth, the only place in the world that this has happened. Lee Seung-hun went to China, was baptized, returned and started to spread the faith among his friends and relatives. The numbers began to grow. Catholic teaching that we were all equal, men and women, nobles and commoners, was breaking down the traditional values of the country, which brought on the persecution. Catholicism  was  considered to be against our society and our morals and  needed to be  eradicated. Many thousands were killed with great cruelty and and yet they refused to deny their faith. The example of these  early Christians was among the major reasons for the respect the Church has received. She added that the papacy of Pope Francis has also added to the respect the Church is receiving in Korea.

Anna, a professed atheist, has no difficulty with Pope Francis and is in fact a fan. Pia is a great fan of Francis reading all the books that come out about Pope  and looking for news about him on the internet. As a lay person she has some worries about his health and the resistance that he may encounter as he carries out his "reformation."

She concludes her article with the incident that happened a few weeks ago. After Mass some doves were released and they were immediately attacked by large black birds and sea gulls. Pia saw this as a symbol of the resistance that Pope Francis could be getting from those who are not in sympathy with what he wants to do. Since she is a great fan of the Pope she keeps him in her prayers daily. To the question that she received from Anna--Do you still go to church?-- the answer is, she says, an unequivocal yes, and she will continue to go to meet the one who loves us so much.

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