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Making an honorable choice before God

A pair of upcoming elections means a need to stand up and be counted

  • Bishop Vincent Ri Pyung-ho, Jeonju
  • Korea
  • March 30, 2012
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A general election is just around the corner and a presidential election is coming in December. Amid the fast-changed political and social situation our choice could change our life much more tha it used to.

North Korea got a new leader last year and South Korea will do soon. Our choice this time will play a decisive role in building social justice, democracy and peace on the Korean peninsular.

Capitalism that freely crosses borders thanks to globalization has accelerated the polarization of wealth, resulting in the sacrifice of 99 percent for one percent. Many Koreans have been driven to desperation and the country's suicide rate is the highest among the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

People have been in a state of panic not only financially but also mentally. Some 20 percent of Koreans have mental disorders and need to seek psychological help immediately, according to the government's report.

This situation might have several causes but I think politicians who have power to decide our society's whole direction should be held responsible for it. We are seriously longing for politicians who look at our reality from a long-term perspective and then make the right decisions and act accordingly.

At the general election on April 11 and in the presidential election on December 19, our choice will affect not only economic life but the whole social life including the education for our future generation.

We have the Church's teachings on political, economic and social issues. It was published in the name of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Last October the Korean bishops designated the second week of Advent as Social Doctrine Week, asking Catholics to study and practise the social teaching which the Church has developed over some 120 years.

But some people criticize the Church whenever it expresses its opinion on political and social issues. They justify their criticism citing the Bible's words: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12,17).

We have to clearly understand Jesus' words from the context. The question is what Caesar's is and what God's is.

For domestic government and national defense we need the authority that Caesar signifies. Such an authority belongs to the ruler, and people should acknowledge his authority and abide by his ruling.

But there is an authority more important than Caesar's. That is God's one. Any secular authority or power does not have the right to damage God's authority. Human dignity is a sacrosanct right as it belongs to God. Therefore, believers should raise their voice over an issue relating to human dignity, braving any struggle and sacrifice to protect it.

The Church, which is not a political group, can not and should not support any political party. When human life or dignity is at risk, however, it should side with those trying to protect it. This "preferential option for the poor" has been the universal Church's basic stand since Pope John Paul II issued his encyclical, Centesimus annus (Centenary) in 1991.

If the Church is criticized for supporting one side, it means the Church is going down the right path and we must take the criticism as praise.

For the coming two elections, I recommend Catholics should study the Church's social teaching to make an "honorable and hopeful choice" before God.

A polling booth and a confessional have something in common because both of two are enclosed spaces. As an individual confronts God in a confessional, we should face our conscience, clearly discern what is good for the nation and make the right choice in the polling booth too.

Bishop Vincent Ri Pyung-ho of Jeonju is the president of the Korean bishops' Committee for Evangelization

 
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