Thursday, June 30, 2016

All Embracing Love of the Mohists

In a bulletin for priests the writer introduces us to Mo Tzu a Chinese Philosopher who followed Confucius and was in opposition to his ideas. At the time he was as influential as Confucius but not as successful in winning people's hearts. Mohism has almost disappeared.

He uses the book written by a professor who writes about the all embracing love without discrimination, in Mo Tzu's teaching. According to Mo Tzu  that are three things that bring disorder to our society: the hungry have nothing to eat,  those who are cold have no clothes, and those that work can't rest.

When we don't have universal love the  strong will oppress the weak, the majority will bully the minority,  the rich will despise the poor, the aristocracy will  lord it over the lowly, the smart will deceive the foolish, and we have chaos. 

Mo Tzu lived  around the 390 BC and his times are not much different from our own times. We have not been able to heal the wounds of war and have not become any more mature in our love for others. Altruism instead of  growing appears to have decreased. All our attention is on money. We seem to agree that to live better we need to amass more money. Not only true with the wealthy but with those who sorrow with little, but agree that money will solve all problems.

The rich want more and are absorbed in its acquisition while those who sorrow without it want to join the club and are oblivious of those who are left behind. This is the kind of society that we are in and the future doesn't look bright.

With the eyes of faith we see this search for idols as unhealthy, and the teaching of universal love that the Mohist school professed as the solution. Apparently the demise of this philosophy was its impracticality, and unrealistic demands.  In many ways his way of love is very similar to Jesus' way and for many also seen as impractical.

The caption  for the article is Mo Tzu's expression of his all inclusive love. IF UNDER THE HEAVENS WE HAD LOVE FOR EACH OTHER, A LOVE THAT I HAVE FOR MYSELF,  WOULD WE HAVE ANY IMPIETY? Can we imagine what Asia would be today if instead of Confucianism we had Mohism as the mainspring of Asian Culture?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Call to be Salt of the Earth

Not only those in leadership positions in the Church but those who trust the  Church are  concerned with what is happening: seen by some as  a crisis within the Church. A  seminary professor in his column in the Catholic Times gives his readers a reason to be concerned for the privatization and individualization of our faith life.
   
Rate of the increase of believers continues to decrease.  Increase in the second half of the 1980s was a unique event but to explain the decrease is not easily done. Consequently, the number of those attending Mass on Sundays is noticeably not increasing. There is little difference in the numbers that were attending Mass 10 years ago and today.

Those willing to serve in the different organizations are difficult to find. Convents and seminaries have dropped in the number of vocations. Activity of the young within the church is not what it was, and we  have a  change to an aged  European-like church. Even among the devout, many are not following the teachings. The numbers going to confession have dropped. Members of the Legion of Mary who are visiting the sick, and the poor have decreased. Sacrifice and detachment among the members are not easily found. Human nature wants to avoid the difficult, but love, and our faith should overcome this tendency, but we don't easily see it, although he knows it exists.

Many are attending prayer meetings, but individualistic religious life is not abandoned. Pope Francis calls this:"a spiritual consumerism tailored to one’s own unhealthy individualism."  

"Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems, which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy, which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness" (Joy of the Gospel #88).

Development in individualistic spirituality within the church may seem a spiritual maturity, but the professor sees this as a serious corruption and a great danger. We as Christians and as Church are to be the salt of the earth. We need to  continually purify our vision and desires. We are in need of reform and renewal, our answer to the call of the Gospel to be salt of the earth.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Leaving the Community of Faith

Presently in the Korean Church, we have twenty out of one hundred who are coming to Mass on Sundays. Those who have left the community are called tepid, and reasons for leaving are many. They are  listed in surveys and questionnaires that have been made over the years.

We have those who no longer believe and those who need to work or study. Some find confession and the sacramental life difficult. Liturgy has no meaning,  and boring.  Scars from relating to others in community never heal, fester, and they leave. Money for the building  fund, Sunday collections and donations are a burden. Sermons have  little meaning. Christian life brings stress. They are  disappointed by the behavior and words of priests and religious. These are some of the personal reasons, but a lay  theologian in Here and Now Web Site gives us what he feels are the structural reasons for leaving.
 
First, he sees a lack of preparation in the catechumenate. It is a period of at least six months to a year, but this is not always followed. He gives the example in the military where he has seen that less than one hour of study prepared a person for baptism. Those who are baptized lack the motivation and enter the community  for reasons other than a Christian faith life.

Secondly, he sees communities that are made up of core parishioners and the ordinary parishioners. We have those who have been active in church work from an early age who have been hurt and have left. Why should this be the case? Communities should be a place with equality, but we have those who because of merit or wealth become  leaders in the community. There are many who work in the community in many ways of service but are looked upon by the core group as tools, which leaves this group with a feeling of emptiness and lack of belonging.

We have those who enter the community which was not that apparent in the past, mostly not for  a desire for a spiritual life but to find and enjoy recognition. They have had high positions in society and enjoyed wealth and seek to enhance their place in society by entering the community. They can offer services to the community that the ordinary Christians can't.  They join the core group which further alienates  the  ordinary parishioners  who feel an emptiness.  

He mentions the third structural problem is the need to work on Sundays. Many in the community find it  difficult to understand why they don't make the effort to attend Mass. This is a lack of understanding of those who need to work on the weekends to support their families, and the church should be concerned with this group for they are not turned off on the church.  

Article concludes with a need for more than prayer for these who no longer belong to the community. Prayer can be an excuse for action needed to change our community way of life. We have grown greatly as a community, but we need to concern ourselves with the quality of life in community and not only a core group in the community.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Homosexuality in Korea


Same sex sexual relations have been a taboo subject in much of the Korean press up until recent years. Recently we had a Queer Festival with an estimated 50,000 lesbians, gay males, bisexual and transgendered people, and supporters who gathered at Seoul Plaza to demonstrate their fight against homophobia.

In the peace  column of the Peace Weekly the writer gives us his ideas on understanding the meaning for Catholics of the homosexual revolution appearing in Korea.

'Queer' the English word is used: strange, out of the ordinary, to describe a sexual minority whose sexual orientation is not for the opposite sex  and expressed by the word homosexuality. Included in this term are those who are transgendered and bisexual. Accepting the word queer is not surprising.

They are binding together as a group and openly want to have their sexual orientation accepted by the public.This year was the 17th Queer Festival which was the largest in their history. Many of the supporters are fearful of the spread of hatred  for this sexual minority and want society to accept them. At the same time, groups of Protestants were demonstrating in opposition to the Festival.

Catholicism is very clear in seeing the same sex acts as sinful but the orientation is not seen in the same way.  Scriptures are understood to be opposed to same sex acts but at the same time the Church is adamant in demanding respect for each person's dignity.

"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition" #2358  Catechism of the Church.

Let's suppose, he concludes his column, that one of the members of your family was thus inclined what would you do?  This was the results of seeing the news about the queer festival in Seoul, and leaves the reader with his disturbing question.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Assimilation of Immigrants


Catholic Digest has an article about a priest's experience in the United States doing pastoral work for a Korean community. Most of the children don't understand Korean, so he had to prepare sermons for the young people in English. He used this time to work on his English, but he felt a need for outside help.

A young girl Eun Mi, a college student fluent in Korean, helped him. Her parents had immigrated to the States some 30 years before, and undergoing many difficulties, married.  Eun Mi was the first child, born in the States. They started a grocery store,that enabled them to live comfortably. 

During vacation time, Eun Mi started working part-time in a clothing store run by Americans. She wanted to take care of her own expenses and told the priest about her feelings. The work was difficult for her. She had to stand up all day dealing with the customers. After the first day her back hurt, the calves of her legs were swollen,and that night, she found herself groaning.

The next morning she was so sick that she had no desire to go to work and was about to telephone the store to tell them that she would not continue. As she picked up the telephone her parent's 30 years of working everyday doing just what she was groaning about came to mind. She put down the telephone,and with new determination went to work.

Although born in the United States she experienced discrimination because of her yellow skin. She can only surmise the discrimination that her parents felt since they spoke English poorly. While she was saying this, the priest saw tears come to her eyes.

Recently,migrant is a word often heard. In Korea, we have those who come to Korea for a better life. Many are here to support their families back in their homeland. We have the refugees from North Korea and those who are wives of Korean men, mostly in the farming areas. Korea is becoming a multicultural society, slowly; they are working to overcome discrimination which for a society that has been homogeneous is not easy.

Children who come to Korea with their mothers because of divorce and remarriage to a Korean and refugees who come from the North find it difficult to find work and assimilate. Often the difficulty is the way they speak Korean. They may be fluent, but their accents give them away and often that's all that's needed to keep  them from finding work. Efforts are made to rid themselves of the accent, but the need is for the society to accept the refugees from the North and foreigners and assimilate them.

Monday, June 20, 2016

From Success to Service

Korean priests in active service now exceed 5,000, and although we see a drop from the recent past, Korea is doing well. Foreign priests according to Catholic Bishops' Conference still active in Korea stood at 138, which decreased by 20 from the previous year. From the time of the first Korean priest St. Andrew Kim, more than 6,000 were ordained; 536 have died, and 427  have left the priesthood to return to secular life.

How many Koreans in the Diaspora who have immigrated and have become priests in their new homelands is difficult to ascertain, but the two Catholic Weeklies  had articles  about Christopher Eung jin Bae, who was ordained for the priesthood in the Boston Archdiocese in May of this year. He will be the fourth Korean  priest for the archdiocese. He is assigned as the assistant priest at St. Mary's Church, Franklin. On his visit to Korea, he was interviewed by the two weeklies.

The article mentions he was born in Korea; after graduating from middle school the family emigrated to the States. He went on to realize his dream. He went to the University of California at Los Angeles, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduated and got a good-paying job working as an analyst at Accenture, Boston. However, he didn't find the joy he expected, and wanted to know why.

He mentioned he dreamed of marriage and of owning a Lamborghini but with the priesthood, he had to give up this dream. With a group of young people from  his Korean parish, he went to Haiti in 2010 to help the poor and sick for 10 days. He was looking for the meaning of life. The trip filled his head with thoughts he never had before. He considered money the requisite for happiness. Here he was with 9 out of ten of what he thought was necessary for happiness,  searching for the tenth, and unsatisfied. The people  he was working with had barely one and were thankful and happy. 

Returning to Boston and speaking to the pastor the topic of a vocation to the priesthood was mentioned. Three months later, he entered the seminary and took a leave of absence from his work for a year,  just in case....

He was filled with doubt and uneasiness, but all was reversed. He found great joy, the meaning of life and  went on to the priesthood. His favorite scriptural phrase--Psalm 86:12, which he took for his ordination maxim: "I will give thanks to you, O Lord my God with all  my heart, and I will glorify your name forever."

His road to the priesthood was not just adulation, for his mother continually would tell him to think over well what he was doing. Even at his ordination his mother cried uncontrollably from the sadness she felt.  It was this opposition on his mother's part that gave him confidence that his  choice was the right one, and believes his mother will one day agree.

In his own life, he felt like a chipmunk on an exercise wheel and wants to  help  others to find meaning in life, which will depend on his keeping the joy and happiness in life he has found.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Justice and Equity in Society



Among the young people in cyberspace, we hear often the ranking of spoons. What parents pass down to their children in wealth  or place in society  is expressed by gold, silver, brass or earth spoons. A column in the Catholic Times expresses the view of a  seminary professor in social science on a subject which he feels is important because of the influence  on the young, which leaves them with little hope for the future.

He shows statistically how the  reality of our situation is feeding this despondency of the young. The poor are finding it more difficulty to leave their poverty. Inherited wealth of the wealthiest one percent continues to rise and the dividends and interest from invested money: 90 percent of this is received by the richest 10 percent. Money is not the result of work. Position in society, in many cases, is not from effort and labor but what was handed down from parents.

In Korean the proverb: A dragon rises from a small stream-- rags to riches stories-- are relegated to the land of mythology. " Without education, or money with  two hands alone they began." These words in  song are no longer heard and in its place we hear 'Hell Joseon' a phrase which the young use to express the period of the Joseon dynasty where the feudal system determined who got ahead. Many feel they have  inherited an earth spoon.  

In the Church's Pastoral Constitution # 4: "Never has the human race enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources, and economic power. Yet, a huge proportion of the world's citizens is still tormented  by hunger and poverty, while countless numbers suffer from total illiteracy. Never before today has man been so keenly aware of freedom, yet at the same time, new forms of social and psychological slavery make their appearance." Again in # 63:  We are at a moment in history when the development of economic life could diminish social inequalities if that development were guided and coordinated in a reasonable and human way. Yet all too often it serves only to intensify the inequalities. In some places, it even results in a decline in the social status of the weak and in contempt for the poor."

Within this kind of society, the values of honesty, sincerity, labor, diligence the value of community, and  moral life find it difficult to take hold. In the world of finances, the elite minorities are not only influencing their own financial world but all other parts of society. Their values are spread in politics  and in other areas of life.  Each person has one vote is changed to each Korean's ‎₩ (won) has one vote as in a cooperation, and this reality can permeate our social life.
 

Obviously when this happens, we have the death of democracy and with it, the devaluing of the dignity of the person and  labor:  consequently, the interest of the Church in justice and equity. 

Mistreatment of Children is a Crime

At the end of last year a 11 year old girl was reported to the police by a shop keeper who caught the girl stealing  some bread but knew she was not an ordinary elementary school child. She had run away from her home climbing down the gas pipe from her second story apartment. She was abused and tied up and was missing from school for about two years. When the news hit the press the anger of the  public could not be ignored.

A teacher in a Women's Research Center writes about the incident in the Peace Weekly and expresses her opinion on our need to prevent incidents of this type.  Schools and organizations will be more pro-active and when a child is missing from school for any period of time steps will be taken to find the reasons and work to prevent abuse from happening.

Department of Health and Human Services reports over 80% of abuse is from the parents. In 2015 there were 16.8% more reports of abuse than the preceding year. From 5 years before there has been an increase of over 2 times. Since there is now an  obligation to report abuse reporting has increased but those familiar with the situation say the  numbers reported are just a small number of the actual cases.

In Korea only 29 % of the abuses are reported while in United States 58.3%,  Australia 73.3%  Japan 68% are reported. Would strengthening the penalties for abuse result in a drop in the numbers? 

She lists some of the reasons for the mistreatment of children that she sees operative in society. Many of the families are poor, we have alcohol and game addiction, disease and handicapped individuals all combining to make the situation complicated. Those who abuse often have been abused as children and  have little qualms of conscience for their actions.  Pathological behavior is also picked up by children.

Consequently, it is easy for those who are abusers to blame those who raised them for their actions. So better than making the penalties more severe is to show them their actions are not proper and to make them understand in counseling of what their abuse is doing to the children and themselves.

She concludes her article with a need to change the way we are are building our society and the values we emphasize. Pope Francis is speaking strongly about the new liberalism that is spreading throughout the world. Korea is accepting this focus and we have competition without limit, and organizing of society with power. In this kind of environment we have citizens bowing to those with power or determining to have some of this power. With this kind of society those who suffer the most are the weak: children, women and the handicapped. When  society  forgets the moral values  and actions, the weak will suffer and the desire to end abuse and mistreatment of the young will be only a distant dream.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dignity of Labor


A recent symposium on labor, and reviewing a survey made among the young people in the Seoul Diocese, discovered the difference between Catholic youth and other young people was not much different. Noticed was an estrangement between religion and life: helped along by the secularization and middle-class life-style of many. The survey will be a sign post for the direction of the programs for the young people.

Both Catholic papers had articles on the symposium. 1,818 middle and high-school students when asked what thoughts came to mind when they heard the word labor. From a list presented, the following were the percentages for each: effort 30%, difficult 47.5%, devoted 3.5%, shovels and tools 2.6%, employment 6%, strikes 0.5%, capitalism 1.6%, poverty 1.3%, satisfaction 0.8%, humanity 1.5%, politics 0.4%, salary 4.1%.

When the question of who do they see as laborers in our society  the number-one  response was the apartment building security people. Followed by sales people in markets, and those working to set up Internet connections. Labor was something difficult, a not surprising answer coming from  students.

The young people when asked what they wanted to do in life: 14% teachers, doctors 6 %, scientists 4.5 %, policemen 4 %, entertainers 3%. Students selected occupations not considered labor.  This was similar to another survey that was made in 2014.

The Church has not made the message clear that we are in God's country doing God's work as Christians here and now. We are in the world but not of the world. We are to transform society, but we have not made this mission of Christians clear to our young people. We are part of a 'contrast society' that has not been internalized.

Many students take  pride in their Catholicism but when asked would they help a fellow worker who was treated unjustly, only 35 % said they would. Sadness comes when we realize the efforts to give students a Christian value system fails to compete  with what they have picked up from society.  

Only 8 % of the students have had a part-time job during their years of schooling. Study is a full-time job for many and finding time to do anything  else is difficult. Work is something sacred. Most of us will spend more time working than sleeping. However, the treatment that workers receive does not coincide with what we believe about the dignity of work and workers.

One participant mentioned there is still the idea of high and low when it comes to labor. This viewpoint colors the way labor is looked upon and the reason  physical labor does not receive remuneration and respect as other occupations.

A bishop at the close of the symposium hoped that the interest in work, and its understanding will be a long-lasting  influence on the lives of the students.
"Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men" (Colossians 3:23).  These words should apply to all we do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Survey of Catholic Attitudes in Korea

Now Here News Site  has a report on a survey  with shocking results. We are reminded again that we are influenced by the structures of society more than we want to believe. Finances, politics, society, culture, have often a stronger pull on us than our individual wills, personality and even religion.

A news letter from the Inchon Catholic University research center explains the results of a study made on Catholic understanding of  attitudes on family, marriage, support of family, life, sex, marriage satisfaction, suicide, birth rates, divorce, remarriage, abortion, etc....

Four groups were  compared: Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Non-believers. Catholics were second to the Protestants in agreeing that marriage gave more happiness than the single life. To the question if you want children you should get married: Catholics were the lowest of the religious' group. Marriage and children the Catholics saw loosely and was at the bottom.

Catholics were welcoming to divorce, when problems within the family arose; the same as those with no religion. Those who agreed with the statement that for the  good of the children, parents should not divorce, Catholics were  lowest of the three with  religion. Sex before marriage with or without the intention of marriage Catholics were the most open. Catholics did not see much of a difference in one-parent  homes and two-parent homes. When it came to supporting a family, Catholics were very loose in their thinking and in accepting divorce.  

With suicide, there was a shock in what was discovered. Catholics had the highest number of those who have thought of suicide, of harming themselves or attempting suicide. Those with no religion had the lowest rate. The writer wanted us to remember this. The distance in percentage, compared to the other two religions was high.

Catholics  opposed abortion with  the highest rate of all the other groups. However, when the fetus had a defect, the Catholics would be third  after the unbeliever and Buddhist to accept abortion. When financial difficulty was present the result was the same.

Although Catholics were opposed to sex before marriage, they were opened to it outside of marriage. They were also second in agreeing to accept same-sex couples in raising children.
 
When it came to finding satisfaction in marriage, they were the third but when it came for the whole of life, they were the lowest of all the groups: the happiness quotient among Catholics was at the bottom. Results from this study leave a great deal for the Korean Church to ponder.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Reason for the Witch Hunts


A series of three articles in Catholic Digest by a seminary professor treats the topic of Witch Hunts in Europe. Those opposed to religion and atheists during the 19 century inflate the figures of those killed. Most historians would accept a number of around 60,000.

Christianity has always been interested in making sense of religion with our intellectual faculties. Catholicism had no trouble in accepting Greek philosophy while the reformers wanted to remain with the scriptures. Monotheism had only one God and consequently, was made  responsible for evil in the world: a reason theologians wanted to understand the issue surrounding witches.

Consequently, the devil was the instigator of evil.  Those  who were using sorcery, and incantations had sold themselves to the devil so it was thought, and  were called witches. 

Different from religion was  incantation. The practitioners were not interested in thinking about God but used brief magic words, amulets, to influence weather, health, wealth, romance. It is no surprise to have this kind of thinking wide spread when we remember that medicine, and sciences were in their infant stages. Incantations were not considered in themselves anything serious except for the kind that wanted to bring harm to another.

Sorcery was an elaboration of incantations, a development, but here again; it was the wish to bring harm to another that was the problem. Those who worked in  harmony with the devil, were considered  devil worshipers.  

The Church saw many of the incantations as superstitious and tried to Christianize them. Gradually, mementos of the dead martyrs and saints  were used to pray for health and blessings. Shrines and places of pilgrimage were selected, and Christians would flock there for  blessings. Here the Church made clear that it wasn't the incantations or the mementos but God who was giving the gifts of grace. Those who refused to accept this distinction separated themselves from the Church practice, and were the so-called witches.

During the Middles Ages, the Cathars and the Waldensian Church were the two sects that caused the Church anguish. The Cathari (believed the physical world was evil, which conflicted with the doctrines of the  Catholic Church. The physical world and the human body were the creation of the evil spirit).


Catholicism was more interested at this time  in eradicating the heresies than dealing with sorcery. Christians  continued using incantation;  non-believers would be using incantation along with medically  popular practices with some positive results. Catholic priests would also be using these incantations and healing procedures. Most were not interested in the reasons but only in results.

The Church was not opposed because they were superstitions, a waste of money, and energy, but  because they were successful. Why were they successful?

When Christians used the incantations with invocation of the Saints and  their relics and had a positive response they knew why, but when those who were not part of the Church, opposed, and using incantations and received positive results this was attributed to the devil.  

Theology professors at Paris University were examining  this phenomenon, and it was in the university where study of the worship of the devil began. University of Cologne was the university where Jacob Springer  wrote the well-known book Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) published  in 1486, which  taught how to know, find, and question those suspected of witchery.
 
There are those that believe that if this book was not published the problem would not have been as serious as it was. Islam was not caught up in the witch hunt because they were not interested in the reasons for what was happening in society.

The professor mentions that with light, there is also darkness and one of the darkest medieval periods   was also the beginning of science. The irony is that the universities were the reason for the spread of the witch hunts but also the beginning of interest in science and its progress within a Christian setting.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Free Speech and Democracy

Reporters Without Borders has again this year determined  the freedom of the press index for 180 countries and Korea ranks 70th. The RSF (Reporters Without Borders) has criticized the Government for interference in the  independence of the press. Freedom House also criticized the government for censorship.

A column in the Catholic Times brings this news to the readers, and mentions that even if the report of press subordination and control is exaggerated, when  mass media is looking to see what the authorities will say the results on a free press is crippling. In a country like Korea a free press is a requirement for a democratic society.

When the press becomes a big business and is tied too closely to the financial interests of the country, freedom is sacrificed; advertising income becomes an important issue and democratic maturity suffers.

The aim of a democracy is to enable a pluralism to exist. Authoritarianism and totalitarianism don't allow for this and tries to gain a cohesion of the political, finances, military, culture, while democracy is willing to work with pluralism. Free press is a help in attaining this goal and helping to bring about dialogue  between the different segments in society.

Once this is lost big business begins to dictate the direction of society and justify the status quo.

"Participation without an understanding of the situation of the political community, the facts and the proposed solutions to problems is unthinkable. It is necessary to guarantee a real pluralism in this delicate area of social life, ensuring that there are many forms and instruments of information and communications. It is likewise necessary to facilitate conditions of equality in the possession and use of these instruments by means of appropriate laws. Among the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of the right to objectivity in information, special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups. This has dangerous effects for the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishments" (Compendium of the Social Gospel #414)

"In the world of the media the intrinsic difficulties of communications are often exacerbated by ideology, the desire for profit and political control. rivalry and conflicts between groups, and other social evils.
Moral values and principles apply also to the media. The ethical dimension relates not just to the content of communication (the message) and the process of communication (how the communicating is done) but to fundamental structural and systemic issues, often involving large questions of policy bearing upon the distribution of sophisticated technology and product (who shall be information rich and who shall be information poor?)” (Compendium # 416).

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Hansen's Disease

A medical school professor, finished forty years as a teacher and retired; he writes a column in the Peace Weekly on Hansen's Disease, his field as a researcher and medical practitioner.

His life has been his work, and apologizes to those who have worked with him for being stubborn and slow to listen. He, unconsciously, both in word and action has hurt the feelings of many and  asks for forgiveness. 

In his plea for forgiveness he uses a phrase from Confucius ε’Œθ€ŒδΈεŒ, which translated freely: being at peace with others  does not mean that we think the same. This is a sign of a wise person while the small-minded  person wants the other person to be of the same mind if there is to be peace and harmony between oneself and another. The doctor admits that he was slow in understanding this and is sorry.

For the doctor one of the hardest situations to deal with was the way leprosy is used in the Scriptures as a punishment from God. Every time he hears these words it hurts him greatly. The word leprosy appears 83 times in the Bible. It appears both in the Old and New Testaments. When Moses received the mission to liberate the Jews in Egypt, he was given leprosy and cured by God to rid himself of his doubts.

In the English Bible in Leviticus, the word leprosy is used but in the Korean Bible, it is malignant skin disease. In Leviticus chapter 14, we have the purification rite for leprosy.  Since 1943, we have the discovery of medicine that cures the disease. In a period of one to two years, the disease is cured. In one year in Korea, there are less than ten with the main symptoms, and they are of an ordinary infectious disease.

St. Luke who was a doctor mentions in chapter five verses 12-16 the cure of a person with leprosy. In the Old Testament, it was a sign of uncleanness and ungodliness, and here we have a cure. The doctor remarks that the understanding of punishment that was present is no longer true in the New Testament because of Jesus.

We are in New Testament times and hope that the readers will never use the word leprosy as referring to sin and punishment. Hansen's disease used in place of leprosy is an effort of many to disassociate  it from the term leper.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Our Hearts Are Restless

Writing in the opinion page of the Catholic Times a professor in the humanities department of a Catholic University  leads us on a journey of thought that she had in reading the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind  by Yuval Noah Harari.

She begins the article talking about her walks with her sister-in-law along the river bank of the Han River. In the evening, she sees many walking at  sunset with their dogs, and she wonders at times who is leading whom. You have Chihuahuas, Finish Spitz, Poodles walking with their owners, and she was struck with how the dogs have no problem in being attracted to other dogs of different breeds, much larger or smaller than themselves and enjoying each others' company. However, she doesn't recall in the same house where a dog has fallen in love with a cat or vice versa.

The book she is reading on Sapiens (homo sapiens) is one that a Christian may have much to criticize but she found something that she has overlooked in the past that was brought to her attention by the book.

We have the cognitive, agricultural and scientific revolutions  Sapiens has encountered, and Harari wonders whether our ancestors, the hunters and gathers, were happier than our own modern Sapiens. We have had more people who have died from suicide than all the deaths that we have had in wars from the beginning of history. What is the reason that we are now working more hours than the hunters and gathers in our ancestral line? Will our world of cyberspace and genetic engineering bring us more happiness or grief?  

What she liked about the book was the reason Sapiens could  overcome all the other hominids. It was because of Sapiens cognitive powers. In this section, he explains the difference between mating theory and replacement theory.

Sapiens did not live in harmony with the other hominids but in time showed antagonism and competed with  Neanderthals and Erectus (although there may have been interbreeding), they did not settle down with them but even were responsible for their reduced numbers and eventually extinction. We have no place in the planet today where we can find any remnant of where Sapiens and the hominids interbred and remained as a distinct tribe, or species.  We have overcome our different facial appearances, colors, cultures and religions, but we were not attracted to the non-Sapiens.


We are drawn to  God, we can't see,  understanding our history as  made in the image of God, and the attraction that he has put in us for himself is what keeps much of human kind looking for ways to fill our desire for him, by the way we live. St. Augustine expressed this feeling very succinctly and beautifully: our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Living our Prophetic Vocation


After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the war between Protestantism and Catholicism continued with a fight on reason and religion.

Humanity was seen  negatively by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). Our condition: "was a war of every man against every man." A philosophy professor in the theology department of a Catholic University, in his column in the Catholic Times, believes most of his readers would have difficulty understanding Hobbes.
 

He mentions the humidifier sterilizer problem Korea experienced that included fatal chemicals, the cause of death and disease, and  took many years to come to the attention of the public:  an example of money coming before justice and public good. A society where money is necessary for certain jobs, a society where a small mistake made while driving is returned with revengeful acts; a person's feelings slightly hurt by another's action, will respond with violence; a society where the poor in the educational system end up dropping out and becoming losers, and we blame it on them; a society where we don't work for the common good but for the few. Hobbes' understanding of society is not without reason.
 
According to Hobbes, our natural desires are not decisions on good and evil, or concern for the virtuous life but maintaining personal security. This kind of situation makes for a very unstable society. For Hobbes the human condition of mankind was: "a state of violence, insecurity and constant threat." Is this not part of the feeling that many have in  our society?

When our desires control us, and without any examination of our situation, we go in chase of our desires are we not falling prey to the thinking of Hobbes and being controlled by it? 

Meaning of our daily life is not success and great deeds but little acts of concern for others and a virtuous life, which  begins by looking into ourselves. Examining ourselves, we listen to the small voice that is always speaking in us. It is then we recall our vocation.

We need the belief that we are called to heal the sickness of society. It is not the picture given to us by the mass media, but the reality that we  experience daily: facing it positively and objectively.

Trust in our working for the healing of society is not something that comes without a price. We are faced with these many varied desires that come to us daily, and we examine them for their meaning, and continue working for the common good. This requires  effort and a fighting spirit.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mystical Experiences


In the Peace Weekly the head of a spirituality counseling service deals with a question received in his column in which a writer asks: is religion just a question of experience? Every time the questioner brings in theology he is made to feel  his faith life is misunderstood and considered infantile. Faith needs experience he acknowledges but is faith only a matter of experience?


Priest Columnist answered his question, and calls these experiences a strong feeling of being  one with a transcendent being. A person's very self is seen at the center of their being, and gives a person a vision of what life should mean. "The man who learns in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, come to know the invisible companionship of God." Thomas Merton is quoted as saying we are spiritual beings and not material existences. A person with this kind of thinking can expect to have an experience of oneness with God. 


He mentions St. Thomas Aquinas, who is considered one of the greatest theologians of the Catholic Church, who had an experience of God while at prayer.  After that experience, he gave up writing and devoted himself to prayer: Scripture and the cross were all he needed.


Care must be taken, he says, with these experiences. They are not to change us completely but change the direction of one's life. However, we have those who think that what they experienced has changed them into another person, and gathers others to follow them. They expand the way they see themselves, and are under the illusion of being God like. They often leave the church they belonged, and start their own movement. This divine experience becomes the beginning of a personal quest for marketing their own religion.


Second problem is addiction. They become so overcome by the experience it's like an alcoholic who feels he is living only when he is drinking and continues, for everything else seems futile. Often they leave family, and work in search of this addiction.


Our hearts are like a rubber band. We expand and return to normal. No matter how large the experience we will return to normal. It is at that time that our response is important.  When thanks are expressed to God for the experience, all is well, but with those who do not want to return to their daily life. we see many aberrations.


He concludes the column with the example of Peter, who  experienced the transfiguration of Jesus and  wanted to build three tents; he wants us to reflect on Jesus' response.