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[Editorial] Korean Catholic Church's repentance

Posted December. 01, 2000 20:34,   


It is an act of courage and gallantry for an individual or a social group to admit its wrongdoing and feel repentant about it. This promises the opening of new directions in the future of the wrongdoer.

The Korean Catholic Church's decision to issue a confession to the nation is of no small significance, as it has repented for its past wrongdoing since the foreign religion¡¯s first propagation in Korea some 200 years ago. The Church's apologetic statement will officially be released at the special Mass for repentance on Dec. 3. The open letter of confession contains seven specific items of penance detailing, for instance, the Church's sanctions against its believers who spearheaded the nation's independence movement during the Japanese colonial occupation.

It is, indeed, an epochal move for the Church to openly confess and repent for its past wrongful conduct. The religious community is better known for its conservative stance than any other social group or organization. Of particular significance here is our appreciation that the confession has the effect of refuting the Church's long-standing doctrine of infallibility.

Now that the Church has lightened the heavy burden of its wrongful past by its repentance, it has embarked on a new course in the Church's development. As the Church stated, it is now ready to meet the challenges of the new millennium through its own purification and self-renewal. In addition, the repentance is an indication of the unceasing, internal efforts the Catholic Church is making to counter the increasingly disconcerting trend toward secularization and, thus, to change the minds of critics of the religion. Apart from the Catholic faith, this will have a positive impact on other religions and churches.

To be sure, there are many voices in our society that call for self-examination and purification of our various religions and denominations.

The true, religious mission for our turbulent times should surely be the creation of a society that is inundated with `rivers of justice and peace,' through penance and rigorous self-examination.

Some critics point out that the Catholic Church's repentance lacks thoroughness and concreteness. They say that the confession falls somewhat short in terms of its depth of thought and fails to suggest better visions for its future. They add that this was a rather marginal move by the Korean Catholic Church, only intended to agree with what Pope Paul II said last March when he asked the world to forgive the Church for its past wrongful conduct.

Such criticisms, however, should not distract us from the fundamental cause and rationale that necessitated the Church's repentance. We hope that the Church will be able to overcome its inadequacies through concrete action following the confession. The repentance taught us a lesson: although bad behavior is wrong, the act of admitting it and asking forgiveness for it is laudable and beautiful conduct.

This is also an opportune time for us to reflect on our society, which has existed thus far with no sense of remorsefulness or regret for its errors.

Have we not too easily forgotten about our erroneous past and been too lenient on ourselves when it comes to our wrongdoing? The Catholic Church¡¯s repentance should provide all individuals, groups and leaders of our nation with fresh momentum to engage in self-reflection and examine their own consciences. No reforms can be made feasible without thorough retrospection and rigorous repentance.