[Viewpoint]No sanctuary for the priests

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[Viewpoint]No sanctuary for the priests

The Catholic Priests Association for Justice has made yet another disclosure. This time, it’s about the people who joined the new Lee Myung-bak administration. The association made a similar disclosure right before the last presidential election. The group even ignited the independent counsel investigation into Samsung.
All of the accusations come from the same source, but the Catholic Priests Association for Justice is making separate statements. Since the priests are supposed to be doing divine work, it is hard to argue with them, especially when they say they are trying to bring about justice. In addition, picking a quarrel with the association could be considered a form of patronizing Samsung, so we are all reluctant to do so. However, Samsung’s wrongdoings are separate from the problems of the Catholic Priests Association for Justice. They should not be given sanctuary just because they are priests.
The Catholic Priests Association for Justice was formed in 1974, when Diocese of Wonju Bishop Tji Hak-soon was detained by the National Security Planning Office for having opposed Park Chung Hee’s Yusin reform. During the authoritarian regime, the organization was a light in the darkness. It helped expose the case of Park Jong-chul, who was tortured to death in 1987.
The priests stood up when no one else could. Doing so earned them respect from the citizens. As time went by, the activities of the priests changed. The group’s current list of activities, according to its Web site, includes controversial events such as Pyongyang visits by Im Soo-kyung and Father Mun Kyu-hyeon, fasting and praying for the abolition of the National Security Law, media reform, a prayer and march to save the Saemangeum Tidal Flat, a press conference demanding the release of Professor Song Du-yul, an investigation into the cause of the Korean Air airplane bombing by Kim Hyon Hui and anti-war masses.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the social works of the church in the second Encyclical to the faithful and the priests in November 2007.
“Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution... Jesus... was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or BarKochba. Jesus, who himself died on the cross, brought something totally different.”
On another occasion, Pope Benedict XVI criticized liberation theology. He said what we need is the theology of a martyr, not the theology of liberation. The core of Christianity is sacrifice, he argued.
Mahatma Gandhi considered worship without sacrifice to be one of the seven deadly sins, along with politics without principle and wealth without work. Are the latest activities of the Catholic Priests Association for Justice based on sacrifice? An executive member of the association enjoyed mundane power while serving in a secular position in the last administration.
The core of Christianity is love, forgiveness and peace. Are the priests working to plant peace in the world or spread division, discord and hatred? The association is acting as if it is fighting on behalf of a righteous man being persecuted.
A man who has been paid tens of billions of won in salary seems to be a righteous man in the eyes of the priests. Why are they not showing love and compassion for the suffering of the people whose names were disclosed? Until found guilty in trial, everyone is presumed innocent and has a right to be protected. However, the association is releasing names without confirming the allegations or providing evidence. The men of the cloth have to abide by the law, as well.
If the truth is being revealed, politics shouldn’t be an issue. When a political purpose is involved, the truth is bound to be distorted. So why do the Catholic priests always make disclosures right before an election? Can they say for sure they don’t have any political intentions?
With the emergence of modern states, religion and politics have separated. The state takes care of mundane activities while divine works are left for the religious. Of course, religions cannot neglect real-life problems altogether.
When a real problem reaches an unbearable point, the religious people step forward. But religions should be working for the weak, the suffering and the oppressed. Christians participated in the March 1st movement during the Japanese occupation and Catholic priests resisted Yusin for that reason.
Is today’s Korea a nation of oppression and injustice, in which priests need to come forward? I do not believe so. Korea deserves praise for having accomplished industrialization and democratization in the short period of 50 years.
Times have changed. Without the priests crying out for justice with bloodshot eyes, we already have a democratic system to run the nation. What the priests should do for the country is trust the system and laws and cooperate with the authorities by sending all of their evidence to the independent counsel. Now, the priests need to be more devoted to their role of preaching heavenly peace rather than meddling with mundane justice. Someday, the Catholic priests will be working to realize peace rather than justice.

*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial pages of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk
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