Thursday, July 17, 2014

Catholic Life In Korea

Introspection is a popular subject in the Catholic Church of Korea in anticipation of the visit of Pope Francis. A full page article in the Catholic Times is  headlined: Believers in Search of Material Comfort, Pastoral interest in External Growth, Superficial Spirituality, greets the reader. I don't believe the Korean Church is any different from the Catholicism in other countries, but they have a confidence in expressing themselves since the country is still basically one people and one culture.

The light of faith, says the article, is no longer something one easily sees. A cross section of the Church has become worldly. Individualism, ethical relativism,and the like, makes the Catholics feel uncomfortable with the teaching of the Church. Even the pastoral workers have put the Gospel values on back burner. Materialism, success, functionalism, are the values that are used in the management of the Church. The  spread of an  ornamental spirituality continues.

These words are used to report on a  questionnaire on Church renewal sent to 300 persons in preparation for the pope's visit to Korea. 33.88 percent said that worldliness within the Church is the number one issue for renewal. The second biggest problem according to the questionnaire was authoritarianism and clericalism within the Church. More than the confrontation with the challenges that come from the quick changes in society many of the Christians are content to have the feeling of joy that comes with being saved.

The baptized find it difficult to live the Christian life and many have retreated to an individualistic  understanding of their faith. No different from other countries they are looking for psychological consolation. Anything that will give them this peace of mind is the object of their search This is the reason for many leaving the Church, not  going to Mass and frequenting the Sacraments, the ebbing of the faith life of the young people and wanting to be middle class.

In one of the dioceses in answer to a questionnaire, only 15.6 percent thought religion was the most important value in life. For 43.5 percent the most important value was health. In the Seoul Diocese a questionnaire among the young found that 61.7 percent considered psychological consolation  the meaning of religion. There is the tendency to use God to enjoy what this world has to give. We have become this world orientated for our own satisfaction. Priests at times foster this kind of thinking among the parishioners, which, says the article, is another great problem.

In regards with the culture of life we see the great failure in understanding the teaching of the Church: in a survey that was made in 2004, 87.7 percent said  abortion has to be accepted and 77 percent had no problem with euthanasia. There are many who look upon their religion as a leisure time activity, a way of belonging, and finding satisfaction.

There is also the exterior growth in numbers and buildings used as a  means of judging the strength of  religious faith.This is the way the business world has entered the thinking of the Church. Pope Francis  by his words and actions is giving a great blow to this way of thinking. 

The Catholic Church of Korea has grown quickly externally. but we have not examined closely our mission as Church. We have to be able to see the Church's life from many different angles and draw up a plan of action that does not only include education programs. The article concludes with a quote from  Evangelii Nuntiandi: [Evangelization] "for the Church is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation" (# 19).

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