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Letter to an Abbot
regarding Obedience

May 6, 2009                                                                                       

                                                                                                                       

 

Abbot Joseph

xxxxxx  Monastery
xxx, U. S. A.

 

Dear Abbot Joseph,

 

With much joy and respect, I write this letter to you, the reverend Abbot of a holy monastery, at the suggestion of Ms. xxxxx, who recently came back from a pilgrimage to Naju, Korea.  She sent me a copy of your letter to her dated April 24, 2009, in which you emphasized the need for obedience to the local Bishop in the Naju area. 

 

Below, I write my thoughts about OBEDIENCE, especially, in relation to the situation in Naju, Korea for your review and guidance, as it was the main subject in your letter to Ms. xxxxx.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF OBEDIENCE IN THE CATHOLIC LIFE

 

I fully accept your emphasis on the importance of obedience in our Catholic life.  The main fault of the fallen angels was disobedience and rebellion against God.  The essence of our first parents’ sin was also disobedience.  In contrast, Our Lord was totally obedient to the Father’s Will to the extent of offering up His Life in reparation for all human sins and taught His disciples to carry their own crosses in imitation of His obedience and self-denial.  I also believe that what is causing disorder in the Church and leading the world to more corruption and destruction is the spirit of disobedience and rebellion against God and His Laws.  I believe that it is of paramount importance for all the members of the Church to be truly and totally obedient to God’s supreme authority and His Will as well as to His teachings and authority entrusted to the Church for the goal of restoring order and peace in this world.  This means that, even when we, the individual members of the Church, do not fully understand or agree with the shepherds of the Church regarding their teachings and examples, we must not make rash judgments but remain obedient to and respectful of the shepherds until it becomes objectively and abundantly clear that their teachings and examples seriously deviate from the authentic Church teachings and, thus, our obeying them will make us disobedient to the higher authorities in the Church as well as to God Himself.  It must be recognized, especially in this age of widespread errors and lack of discipline in the Church, that, even though the ministers in the Church are entrusted with the divine mission of and authority for teaching the truths and administering the Sacraments to the faithful and, therefore, surely deserve genuine obedience and respect from the faithful, they are not automatically free from errors and injustice, as they also have their free will and are in the process of working on the difficult task of the sanctification of their souls.  Just as they can reach lofty levels of sanctity by properly cooperating with the special and abundant graces from the Lord, they can become infected with errors if they are not humble and are negligent in cooperating with the graces from the Lord.  When the errors and injustice in the shepherds’ teachings and orders seem serious and persistent based on our consciences and the Faith which we received from the Church, we can seek their corrections, first by communicating directly and quietly with those who are responsible for the problems and, if this does not work, by seeking help from the higher authorities in the Church.  Also, as a major cause of the widespread errors and lack of discipline in the Church has been the faithful’s ignorance about the true Church teachings, a substantial reinforcement of the catechetical education would be essential.  The Church teaches us that we must always be faithful to the truths as follows: 

 

This presence of Christ in the minister is not to be understood as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit of domination, error, even sin.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1550)

 

We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. (2 Corinthians 13:8)

 

A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.  If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. (Catechism #1790)

 

Yet the Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant.  It teaches only what has been handed on to it.  At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church #86)

 

Thus, if our shepherds clearly mislead us with their teachings and examples that are contrary to the Lord’s teachings, we do not owe obedience to them regarding such teachings and examples.  If we do obey them in such cases, we would contradict our consciences and God’s teachings and thus commit sin.  Nestorius of Constantinople in the 5th Century rejected the doctrine of Our Lady’s Divine Motherhood, because he did not believe in the hypostatic union of the Lord’s divine nature and human nature under His one Divine Person.  Should the faithful in Constantinople have obeyed their Bishop (or Patriarch) on this issue?  In the 16th Century, the kings of the local lands in Germany chose either Catholicism or Protestantism and required all their subjects to accept the religion they chose.  In England, the whole nation was ordered by its King or Queen to follow them.  In those cases where the local kings chose to accept the Protestant faith, rejecting the supremacy of the Pope, should the people have obeyed them?  Numerous individuals remained loyal to the Pope and were martyred.  Many of them have been elevated to the Sainthood.  

 

Of course, I am not suggesting that we should develop a habit of doubting every word we hear from our priests and even our Bishops or making an issue of even a minor problem, a slip of tongue, or a temporary confusion that can happen to anyone.  Before we can deal with a certain problem concerning the clergy at the public level, we must first discern if the problem is a truly serious violation of the Church teachings and if the problem is persistent. 

 

SOME ELABORATIONS ON THE SITUATION IN NAJU

 

1.     In the Kwangju Archbishop’s Decree issued on January 21, 2008, there is no mention of the excommunication of Julia Kim.   The Decree only said:  “The clergy, religious or lay people who hold or participate in the administration of the Sacraments or the celebrations of the Sacramentals, which I have prohibited, at the unauthorized ‘chapel’ or ‘the Blessed Mother’s Mountain’ incur the penalty of automatic excommunication. . . This (penalty) applies not only to the faithful who belong to the Kwangju Archdiocese but also to any of the clergy, religious, and lay people in the Catholic Church.”  The Kwangju Archbishop issued this Decree to discourage people inside Korea and abroad from making pilgrimages to Naju.  It is questionable, however, that a local bishop has the authority to excommunicate people (including the Bishops and priests) from other dioceses. 

 

2.     The Kwangju Archbishop’s Decree of January 21, 2008 was only one of the documents he issued for the purpose of defending the Declaration which had also been issued by the same diocese on January 1, 1998.  In this Declaration, the Kwangju Archbishop condemned the messages and signs in Naju on the ground that they violated the official teachings of the Catholic Church.  For example, (1) he said that the alleged changes in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine into flesh and blood were in conflict with the Church teaching that says that the species of bread and wine must remain unchanged even after the consecration by a priest.  This statement in the Declaration, however, is itself an error, because the authentic Church teaching only says that the priest’s consecration has the effect of changing the substances of bread and wine into the substances of Our Lord’s Body and Blood but does not have the effect of changing the species of bread and wine into the species of body and blood.  This Church teaching only explains what normally happens during the Eucharistic consecration and is not intended to explain what can or cannot happen after the consecration is completed.  The Kwangju Archbishop’s Declaration rejects the possibility of miracles by saying that the Eucharistic species must remain unchanged after the consecration, which would violate the teachings of the First Vatican Council on the miracles (DS #3009 and #3034) and distorts the Church teaching on the Eucharist by adding a meaning that the species of bread and wine must remain unchanged even after the consecration, which is not contained in the Church teaching.  (2) Secondly, the Declaration also says that the alleged descents of the Eucharist from above are in conflict with the Church teaching that says that the Eucharist can begin to exist only through the consecration by a validly-ordained priest.  This statement is also an error, because, what the Fourth Lateran Council taught was that the validly-ordained priests only, not the lay people, the clericals of the reformed churches, and others, have received the power of Eucharistic consecration.  The Council teaching was never intended to preclude the miraculous Communions administered by Our Lord Himself or angels.  If the Kwangju Archbishop’s teachings were correct, all of the miraculous changes of the Eucharistic species and all of the miraculous Communions in Church history, many of which have already been officially approved by the Church, would have to be rejected.

 

Since the doctrinal bases for condemning the events in Naju in the Declaration and for the penalties declared in the Decree are the same and incorrect, both the condemnation of the events in Naju in the Declaration and the penalties stated in the Decree can be considered invalid for the same reasons.  It is unthinkable that any laws in the Church that violate the official Church teachings are binding.  Of course, this judgment is, at this stage, a private one.  Nevertheless, this private discernment has been repeatedly presented to the Holy See.  If it is wrong, the Holy See must have cracked it down long ago.  When it is confirmed as the official position of the Holy See, the question of Naju will be resolved.   

 

3.     On February 14, 2008, three weeks after the Decree was issued on January 21, 2008, Fr. Aloysius Hong-Bin Chang (the priest who was excardinated by the Decree from the Kwangju Archdiocese for his continuing belief in the truthfulness of the events in Naju) and myself (as Fr. Chang’s interpreter) visited the Holy See and presented Fr. Chang’s Appeal documents to the three Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Doctrine of the Faith, and for the Clergy. We were warmly received by the monsignors and priests in all three Congregations, who mentioned that they were familiar with the situation in Naju.  We were also informed that the Holy See office that has the competence of handling the Naju case would be the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as this Congregation is primarily responsible for overseeing and guiding the Church in Korea, which is still considered a mission territory.  On February 16, 2008, Fr. Aloysius Chang and I had an audience with His Eminence Ivan Cardinal Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who had just returned from China.  His Eminence was most kind and encouraging, saying, “Do not worry but be patient.   Keep praying that the Blessed Mother may remove the remaining obstacles.”  His Eminence also said that the issue concerning Fr. Chang would be resolved quite promptly, while the general question of Naju would take more time.  On February 18, our last day in Rome, we received an urgent phone call from Naju informing us that the liberal Bishops and priests in Korea were pushing a proposal in the Korean Bishops’ Conference, which was in session at that time, to make the Bishops’ Conference issue a declaration in support of the Kwangju Archbishop’s Decree.  After learning about this through the Apostolic Nunciature in Seoul, Cardinal Dias sent an urgent message to the President of the Korean Bishops’ Conference not to issue any document to support the Decree.  This was an important victory for the Blessed Mother.  A few months later, His Eminence sent a letter to the Kwangju Archbishop informing him that the restrictions could not apply to the pilgrims in Naju, because the events in Naju were considered “private revelations” and also that the penalties on Fr. Aloysius Chang should be lifted and Fr. Chang could celebrate Mass.  This was another victory for the Blessed Mother of Naju.  Below, I quote from the Canon Laws:

 

When there is a doubt of law, laws do not bind even if they be nullifying and disqualifying ones.  (Canon Law: #14)

 

            An appeal suspends the execution of a sentence.  (Canon Law #1638)

 

Despite these, many false rumors are still rampantly circulating inside and outside Korea and numerous people hesitate to visit Naju in fear of excommunication.

 

4.     Julia Kim has been obedient to the Church in the past 24 years since 1985 when the messages and miraculous signs began.  When signs such as tears and tears of blood from the Blessed Mother’s statue are observed and the Eucharistic species of bread and wine turning into visible flesh and blood, these need to be promptly reported to the local church authority and scientific tests need to be conducted without delay, because the miraculous evidence may not last long—tears may dry up, for example.  Throughout the 24 year period, the Kwangju Archdiocese has not ordered a single scientific test, which is a grave neglect and even a despise of the possibility of divine intervention.  The diocesan investigation committee was hurriedly organized at the end of 1994, ten years after the beginning of the messages and signs, after the Apostolic Nuncio made a visit to Naju on November 24, 1994.  The testimonies and opinions of countless witnesses including those of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, several Bishops, and many priests and lay people have been ignored.  Even so, Julia patiently and obediently waited for the objective and sincere investigation by the local diocese.  The investigation committee was dominated by several radically liberal priests and made a negative recommendation to the Archbishop at the end of 1997, but Julia continued to be obedient to the local Bishop, confining herself to a small private room on the second floor of her home and not meeting the pilgrims for five years until 2003.  Only when it became clear beyond any doubt that the local Bishop and priests were not interested in an objective discernment of Naju at all but were only determined to crush and bury Naju, she resumed giving testimonies to the pilgrims.  She thought that keeping her mouth closed further would be to ignore and neglect the call from Our Lord and Our Lady.  Also knowing that the Holy See was strongly inclined to see Naju approved and was seriously disturbed by the negligence and irresponsibility of the Church leaders in Korea, Julia decided that she should be more obedient to the Holy See than to the opposing local clergy.  In 2001, Julia learned that Pope John Paul II had recognized the Eucharistic miracle during the Mass in his private chapel on October 31, 1995 (as explained below).  This does not mean that there were no supporters for Naju among the Bishops and priests in Korea.  Most of the supporting Bishops, however, have retired and those priests loyal to the traditional and authentic Church teachings remain silent, overwhelmed by the younger, secularized priests.  

 

5.     Evidence of support from the Holy See: 

 

a.      During the Korean Bishops’ ad limina visit to the Holy See in 1991, Archbishop Victorinus Youn of Kwangju said to Pope John Paul II, “In my diocese, a statue of the Blessed Mother is shedding tears.”  The Holy Father answered, “In such cases, it is important to observe the fruits.”  Archbishop Youn was friendly to Julia and, even though he never visited Naju, did not forbid others’ visits to Naju.  Eventually, however, he was forced by the liberal priests to accept the Declaration on Naju.  He was succeeded by Archbishop Andrew Chang-Mu Choi as the Ordinary of Kwangju in 2001.  The new Archbishop has repeatedly issued official documents to support his predecessor’s Declaration and imposed more restrictions on Naju.  He also appointed a new Pastor in Naju (Fr. Luke Hong-Chul Song), who vowed to put an end to Naju. 

 

b.     During the Korean Bishops’ ad limina visit in 1996, the Holy Father asked the Korean Bishops to “share the wonderful graces (in Naju) with others in Asia.”

 

c.      During the Korean Bishops’ ad limina visit in 2001, the Holy Father asked Bishop William McNaughton of the Incheon Diocese in Korea what he thought about Naju.  Bishop McNaughton answered that he believed in the truthfulness of Naju.  The Holy Father answered, “I also saw the change of the Eucharist in Julia’s mouth,” referring to what he witnessed on October 31, 1995.

 

d.     On March 31, 2001, I received a phone call from Bishop Paul Kim of the Cheju Diocese in Korea.  He had just returned from the ad limina visit in early March 2001.  His Excellency explained to me for over 30 minutes on the phone describing what had happened during the ad limina visit.  During a lunch meeting with the Korean Bishops, the Holy Father asked, “What is the situation in Naju?”  It was obvious that the Holy Father was asking the Korean Bishops what they had done to carry out his earlier request in 1996 to share the graces in Naju with others in Asia.  A long, uncomfortable silence continued.  What could the Bishops say to the Holy Father after they had condemned Naju (with the Declaration of January 1, 1998), which was a complete opposite of what the Holy Father had asked them to do five years earlier?  Archbishop Victorinus Youn of Kwangju was there, too, with an uncomfortable expression on his face and not saying a word.  Finally, Bishop Paul Kim, sitting next to the Holy Father, broke the silence, “Your Holiness, may I make a detailed report after the lunch.”  So, after the lunch, Bishop Kim spent about an hour informing the Holy Father about the situation in Naju and the Church in Korea as a whole.  After hearing the Bishop’s report, the Holy Father expressed a great joy and satisfaction, making a big smile (despite some difficulty because of his illness) and embracing the Bishop.  The Holy Father said that he would give instructions to the proper office, which probably was the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  This information through Bishop Paul Kim gave a powerful joy and encouragement to many of the faithful in Korea, as it was a clear sign that the official approval of Naju was not far off.  In May of the same year, the photographs of the Eucharistic miracle through Julia on October 31, 1995 during the Mass celebrated by the Holy Father were displayed in St. Michael’s Church, located several miles north of San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, the shrine of St. Padre Pio, along with the photographs of the miracle in Lanciano in the 8th Century and other approved Eucharistic miracles in Church history.  Simultaneously, a major Catholic TV station in Italy aired a program called “Miracoli” all over Italy, which included many photographs and explanations of Naju.  The Italian pilgrimage guide said that such a public display and TV broadcasting involving the Holy Father would be impossible without a prior permission from the Holy See.  We understood these as clear signs from the Holy See especially to the Church leaders in Korea to accept and recognize Naju as soon as possible.  Now, we are in 2009, eight years have passed since the powerful signal from the Holy See, but we still see the Church in Korea adamantly opposed to Naju and defiant to the guidance from the Holy See.  This is really difficult to believe, especially in Korea which had been a shining example for the whole world of fervent and authentic faith as well as overflowing priestly and religious vocations and the home of twenty thousand martyrs in the 18th and 19th Centuries.  A few months after the Kwangju Archdiocese’s Declaration was announced on January 1, 1998, the Holy See (the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) issued a letter to the Korean Bishops’ Conference with a warning to three priests in Korea for their doctrinal errors.  These priests have not repented at all and are still actively spreading their errors.  One of them was a leading member of the Kwangju Archdiocese’s Naju Investigating Committee and played a key role in the Committee’s reaching a negative decision on Naju.  Especially since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church in Korea has implemented numerous reforms in theology, liturgy, and more, to make the Church more acceptable to the Protestant brethren.  Especially, the radically liberal priests, many of whom were educated in Germany and studied the Liberation Theology, have the dominant influence on the Church in Korea.  These priests consider the traditional Church teachings and traditions obsolete and are driven by a spirit quite different than that of the Holy Spirit.  They have criticized The Catechism of the Catholic Church and vowed that Naju would not be approved as long as they live.  These priests are not humble before the Holy Father and even their Bishops, but are demanding blind obedience from the lay people.  They are destroying the Church from the inside with their human agenda and are even proud of what they are doing.

 

e.      Another Eucharistic miracle through Julia at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sibu, Malaysia, on September 17, 1996, was formally approved by the local bishop, Bishop Dominic Su, in his letter to the Apostolic Nuncio in Korea.  This has also been totally ignored by the Kwangju Archdiocese.  Instead, the Kwangju Archdiocese has been sending letters to many Bishops in other countries asking them to discourage pilgrimages to Naju

 

I am enclosing two articles:  (1) A BATTLE FOR THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN KOREA between the Blessed Mother and Satan; and (2) A CHRONOLOGY OF THE CHURCH RESPONSES THE CHURCH RESPONSES TO THE REPORTED SUPERNATURAL EVENTS IN NAJU, which were among the documents submitted to the Holy See. 

 

Since April 2008, the main responsibility of handling the Naju question was transferred from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as it has been recognized by the Holy See that the key issues concerning Naju are doctrinal.  It has also become clear that the Korean Church leaders are resistant and even defiant to the guidance and instructions from their immediate superior in the Holy See, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  So, we are waiting for the official announcement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  The Holy See has waited for the Korean Church to voluntarily correct the doctrinal problems, but has not done so.  The only remaining option is a correction by the Holy See.  We believe that the approval of Naju will be an enormous stimulus to the genuine renewal  of the universal Church and the revitalization of her worldwide missionary efforts. 

 

Thank you so much.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Benedict Sang M. Lee

 

Enclosures

 


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