Wednesday, August 23, 2017

From a Teaching Church to a Learning Church

A seminary professor, working in pastoral work for the bishops writes in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times of his thoughts regarding  two popular books by Yuval Harari, translated into Korean:  Homo Sapiens and Homo Deus. From the books' point of view we go from the 4th industrial revolution, artificial intelligence and into the age beyond God-belief into the superman age that Nietzsche ardently desired.

During the middle ages in the west God was the focal point in society. Christianity was its history with the discovery of the new continents in the fifteenth century we had the Renaissance, the humanist movement, the religious reformation, the enlightenment, and the modern challenge from atheism etc. which couldn't ignore the place of religion: God's existence and transcendence and the teaching of the Church. Briefly, the Church's belief in Christ took their mission seriously: "Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples... and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19).

The tradition and order of the  'teaching church' and its authority was challenged. Believers must listen and learn from the bishops and priests of the Church to preserve God's revelation if not, sanctions and punishment. After the French Revolution of the 18th century and rationalism and liberalism of the twentieth century the Catholic Church defended the Church's secular authority wanting it to be the ark for the people in a turbulent world. 

At the First Vatican Council (1869-70) the primacy and infallibility of the pope was emphasized in a way to offset the loss of secular power and attempted to expand the influence and authority of the papacy and the teaching authority of the church.

The world has changed. Pope Francis reminds us that in order to become a 'teaching church" with authority it must first become a "learning church". The first principle of conversation, to maintain human relationships alive, is to listen but the church has always been more interested in speaking and teaching rather than listening. 

As in the time of St. Francis when he went up against the secularism of the times, Christians began to regain the joy of the Gospel as they lived the life of poverty. In our times  we have the currents of secularization that come from capitalism and selfish individualism. Pope Francis attempts to return the power of the papal authority to the Gospel of Christ by going out to those who are hurting. He wants  to listen to them, extend his hand, hurt with them and give a voice to their situation. The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) which tried to adapt the gospel to modern society is the background for the efforts of Pope Francis in renewal and reform.

Looking over the Korean situation even if we don't examine the statistics we know that not all is going well by listening to the  priests working in pastoral situations. In the past the church was able to teach believers who listened and longed to learn but today there are many things the church needs to learn from those in the world.

The era of dividing the clergy into a 'teaching church' and laymen into 'a passive church' is over. Still more believers are leaving the church because of the attitude of the clergy who are soaked in the  nostalgia of the past but there is hope, in the young and enthusiastic priests and religious who listen and sympathize.

We do not know how the future world will change. But no matter what world comes, the truth of the gospel does not change. Only the way the church  understands the world and adapts to the world will change. The  real task of the church is to "read the signs of the times  and interpret them in the light of the gospel."

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