Urgent Issues Facing Modern Korean Catholicism and Their Subtext
(Vol.52. No.3 Autumn, 2012 pp.91~118)
PARK Moon-Su
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This paper aims to analyze the features, causes, and consequences of issues that Korean Catholicism faced in and since the 1990s. Along with a rapid, continuous increase in the size of its congregation since the 1990s, the number of parish churches, priests, and religious also have grown rapidly. Even in the social welfare sector, Korean Catholicism has experienced the sharpest quantitative expansion among Korean religions. Catholicism’s pronouncements and engagement in social issues, on the other hand, have decreased. Participation of Catholic-based civil organizations in social movements has also plunged. Due to the increasing number of priests, lay believer’s participation in church activities has become relatively passive, which is indicated by ebbing religious commitments. Solidarity of the congregation has weakened and the number of tepid Catholics has grown. Church vitality has diminished markedly with the continuously declining number of the young generation and the sharp surging proportion of the aged. Moreover, with growing wealth as well as social and
political influences, the Catholic Church is being criticized, from inside and outside, as a “religious power.” Korean Catholicism has mounted reform drives to deal with such problems, but to no avail. As a consequence, the possibility has risen for Catholicism to accommodate the demands of the middle class congregation, whose degree of commitment is low, and to incur negative societal criticism in place of positive appraisal of the past.
Keywords: Korean Catholicism, congregation increase, religious conservatism, religious authority, Catholic social participation, Catholic reform
Types: Special Topic
Subject: Religion , Korean Studies
About the author(s) PARK Moon-Su is Vice-President of the Catholic Academy for Korean Culture. He received his Ph.D. in Religion from Sogang University. His publications include Gatollik sahoe bokji unyeong jipyo gaebal (Catholic Social Welfare Management Index Development) (co-authored, 2010) and “Cheonjugyo-e daehan hanguk sahoe-ui insikgwa cheonjugyo-ui gwaje” (Korean Social Recognition on Catholicism and Issues of Korean Catholicism) (2010). E-mail: franciscus0906@daum.net.