Friday, May 17, 2019

Renewal: A Gift of Poverty

The Vatican each year on Buddha's birthday sends congratulations to all the Buddhists all over the world. It's a message of greeting to work together in achieving the universal values of humankind. The Buddhist Jogye Order also lights up the Christmas tree before Christmas on their property; a beautiful sign of respect for a neighboring religion. In the Catholic Peace Weekly, a journalist reviews the changes in relationships with other religions since the Council.

Catholics were not as flexible from the beginning. The Second Vatican Council, which ended in 1965 made the difference. The council adopts the declaration of  'Nostra Aetate' which summarizes the position towards other religions. One passage of this document is as follows. "The Catholic Church does not reject anything that is right and holy in these religions. She looks with sincere respect upon those ways of conduct and of life, those rules and teachings which, though differing in many particulars from what she holds and sets forth, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men."

Until then, Catholicism was seen as a judging church. It did not compromise in defending doctrine and excommunicating heresy. But it is not surprising that there is truth in other religions. The document further declares: The Church, therefore, has this exhortation for her sons prudently and lovingly, through  dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions and in witness of Christian faith and life acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men as well as the values in their society and culture." This is embarrassing. Not to only recognize the values of other religions but to protect and promote them. How unprecedented.

The Second Vatican Council was the modernization of the Church, the watershed of reform and renewal. It adopted 16 documents that interpret the call of the times. From then on the Catholic Church changed. It turned into an open church that communicates with other religions and not one that monopolizes the truth. It is not a church that only teaches and condemns but a church that embraces human suffering and defects. Historians today are not hesitant to consider this Council as one of the great events in Catholic history.

Church renewal did not come until the Second Vatican Council, the church suffered pain. The first Vatican Council was held in 1869, more than 100 years ago. The ideological confrontation and confusion were severe. During the Council, the Italian troops occupied the Papal States. As a result, the Pope lost a large territory that had been ruled since the Middle Ages and became a poor church. Today's Vatican City is a land that was reestablished in 1929 under the agreement of the Vatican and the Italian government. The renewal of the Catholic Church may be a gift of poverty—the bitter experience to lose all secular territory and left to trust in the existence and essence of the Church. This urgency prompted the Second Vatican Council to convene, creating a tremendous new wind both inside and outside the church.

The writer reflects on Korean Buddhism on Buddha's Birthday May 12th. Remarks about neighboring religions require care and are risky but the concern is needed. The place of Buddhism in our culture and way of thinking is great. Buddhism has had members who have desired restoration which may be synonymous with the Catholic revival. In Korea, the relationship between the two seems to be healthy.

These words do touch a sore spot in the thinking of many Catholics, seen since the Council, and continues within the Church. Reformation is not a word that many Catholics like to hear and the reason we have many who sympathize with the SSPX  (Society of Saint Pius X) movement of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. 

Some of the modern tendencies which the archbishop opposed were ecumenism—a viewpoint which considered all religions as beneficial and valid— collegiality and the change in the liturgy of the Mass. What is essential and what is accidental to the Church will continue to be discussed; hopefully, we will be able to change the 'either/or' thinking to 'both/and' in areas of church life which are not of the essence of Catholicism.

St. Vincent of Lerins said it with great wisdom in the Divine Office for Friday of the 27th Week of Ordinary Time: "Christian religion should properly follow these laws of development, that is, by becoming firmer over the years, more ample in the course of time, more exalted as it advances in age."

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