Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Glass Ceiling Index of the Korean Catholic Church

What is the glass ceiling index of the Korean Catholic Church?
※ The analogy of the 'glass ceiling' refers to an invisible barrier that prevents women from entering high-ranking positions in various fields of society.

A religious sister in the Catholic Times brings this topic to the attention of the readers. A few days ago, she heard through a media outlet that at the end of May, a laywoman was appointed deputy vice-president in the German-speaking district of Freiburg, Switzerland. Besides, she heard the news that a lay female theologian applied for the position of Archbishop, which is also vacant in the Diocese of Lyon, France. In May 2019, the 'Maria 2.0 Movement,' led by a women's organization in the Diocese of Muenster, came to mind. This movement is declaring a strike against the church by women believers who discontinued volunteer work for the church.

They did not do volunteer work in the church between May 11th and 18th, but held a liturgy in front of the cathedral, and promoted: "Women in the church, half of the children of God, are treated unjustly" and "women are called equally as men to proclaim the Gospel, they are powerful and influential in the church." The goal was to be able to contribute. The demands of those who lead these movements are women who want to announce their vocation."

Seeing the situation in Europe and the response of the women the writer, as a member of the church, a female religious, looked back on the reality of the Korean church. Korean society, for the last 7 years has the 'thickest glass ceiling of gender discrimination among OECD countries and this is present within the Catholic Church. How is this news received within the country but especially female believers?

Regarding the decision to recognize St. Mary Magdalene's role as the first witness of Christ's resurrection and as a "true and authentic evangelizer" Pope Francis raised the July 22 memorial to a Feast Day in the liturgical calendar. The result was to reflect on the dignity of women, new evangelization, and the greatness of God's mercy.

Woman martyrs, virgins, abbots, missionaries, and medieval prophetic mystics from the time of Magdalena and other female disciples of the Apostolic Era are missing parts of history. However, looking at the hidden history of those who have been unearthed through the efforts of feminist theologians since the 1960s we have a clearer picture of the church.

Also, the beginning of Korean Catholicism, on the peninsula the Catholic understanding of the 'Equality of All People,' was introduced by laypeople, that broke the class system, and formed an equal view of women, making women aware of their own identity and role. The women who showed leadership at the time were widows, virgins, and many female congregations, including Kang Wan-suk Columba. They fulfilled their vocation as witnesses of missionary activities and actively engaged in missionary and educational activities.

However, as the church system in Korea was established and institutionalized around the clergy, female leaders disappeared behind the scenes. The 'Equality of All People' was the ideological basis for the leadership of both men and women in the church, but in reality, the position of the leader was limited to the male clergy, so that most of the female believers and religious believers were positioned only in cooperative roles.

Fortunately, among the responsible clergy of European churches, these recent movements of women believers are seen positively. It will be effective in igniting a debate about the position of women in the church and rethinking the consensus of the church. 

These discourses arose in the 1990s as well in the Korean church, and despite the efforts of female theologians and activists to improve the system and to educate for change through synods in each parish, they struggle with two obstacles: 'Institutional and patriarchal clericalism' and limits of women's consciousness in the church. To overcome this structural contradiction and limitation that revolves like a Mobius strip, all members of the church must strive to form a whole church as the equal people of God.

In conclusion, she believes the  Korean church needs more than ever to take action to bring responsible leaders, men, and women together to hold open discussions for institutional improvement.  She asks herself where and how she can reflect and put into practice what she has 


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