Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Intellectualism in the Korean Church

"Since the Church got caught up in intellectualism, we have had a decline in church attendance; the faith has not descended to the heart," said a local Jesuit superior, quoted by Father Maryknoller in Korea who notes, "The Church in Korea knows that the Church in the West is on a downhill slide and that if something is not done here to stem the slide, this could be a self portrait of the Korean Church in the near future" — A Movement from Intellectualism to Matters of the Heart.

Arturo Vasquez of Reditus: A Chronicle of Aesthetic Christianity opened my eyes to the fact that the kind of intellectualism alluded to is in reality a form of Protestantization of the Faith, and in America, it has been spearheaded by converts. Of course, there is no greater intellectual tradition than the one that backs up the Catholic Faith, but it is not the Faith itself.

Korea also has her Protestants, as the world knows. While converts from Protestantism here don't form a special subgroup in the Korean Church as they do in America, Protestantism exerts influence from without. One Korean colleague I tried to steer into the Church from her Protestant ecclesial community after she had dreamed about the Virgin Mary told me she was disappointed by Catholic homiletics, which she found too simple.

"When we experience the risen Lord in our lives, we will see the Church come alive," said the quoted Jesuit superior. That, too, sounds very Protestant, almost like saying something about "a personal relationship with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." That, of course, is fine for believers as individuals, but for the Church to really come alive, it needs to take root in the culture.

Of course, this is a project that takes centuries, and the Korean Church is really only 226 years old. However, Father Maryknoller ends on a hopeful note: "In Korea, unlike the States, on many topics, like spirituality, there is unanimity." This is crucial, but, assailed by modernism within and without, is it possible for a Korean folk Catholicism to develop?

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Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

Re the woman disappointed with the homiletics, that reminds me of a difference someone once pointed out between Protestant and Catholic worship services. In a Protestant service, if the sermon is a dud, the whole hour is pretty much a wash. Not so with the Catholic one: there are more opportunities for worship.

2:10 AM  
Anonymous Hoanyeon said...

Korean "folk" Catholicism seems to me an oxymoron. Catholicism for Koreans was first an intellectual exercise.

5:59 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Inspector, right you are.

Hoanyeon, maybe your right. Anyway, Koreans are a smart people, so maybe the intellectual approach suits them.

8:56 AM  

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