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Some Questions for Archbishop Andrew Chang-Mu Choi of the Kwangju Archdiocese in Korea

May 9, 2005

 

Your Excellency, 

We express our deep respect and love for Your Excellency, who is a successor of the Apostles personally chosen by Our Lord and the supreme shepherd in the diocese.  We are lay people of the Church who are justly called to totally accept and follow Your Excellency's teachings and directives on Naju and other matters.  Unfortunately, however, we have been experiencing some confusion and pain, as we have not been able to reconcile some of the contents of Your Excellency's announcements concerning Naju with our faith and conscience.  Even so, our respect and love for Your Excellency will remain unchanged, as it is inseparably connected with our loyalty to the Lord and His Church.  It is our ardent desire that we can always accept and follow the teachings and guidance of the shepherds without any hesitation or doubt just as children follow their parents' words with love and humility.  We also know that our life in the Church can be peaceful and secure only when we follow our shepherds with trust and love.

At the same time, we realize that our faith and obedience in the Church cannot be a blind one but must flow from a free exercise of our intellect and will, aided and illuminated by the graces from the Holy Spirit.  The faithful will experience true joy and gratitude when they can see the pure beauty and power of the truths being taught by the shepherds and embrace them willingly and fully through a free use of their minds and hearts, without any coercion from the outside.  It is unthinkable that a forced faith and an imposed obedience are what Our Lord wants.  The Church has been unequivocal about the importance of freedom in the life of the faithful:

To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to "hear or listen to") in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #144)

To be human, "man's response to God by faith must be free, and . . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will.  The act of faith is of its very nature a free act."  God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth.  Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #160)

Men tend by nature toward the truth.  He is obliged to honor and bear witness of it: "It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth.  They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2467)

"Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone, or in association with others, within due limits."  This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2106)

Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #900)

All the faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth.  They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them and guides them into all truth. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #91)

"The whole body of the faithful . . . cannot err in matters of belief.  This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, 'from the bishops to the last of the faithful,' they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #92)

The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others.  This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth.  Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2464)

In the light of the above-quoted Church teachings, it seems obvious that the faithful should listen to and follow their shepherds with love and humility but this obedience must not be a blind one that precludes free exercise of the faithful's intellect and will.  God, who is the truth itself and the infinite love itself, will never give us what is untrue; and the shepherds in the Church also, who teach the faithful with the truths from God and distribute to the faithful the sacramental graces from God must always make their best efforts not to misrepresent God's truths by distorting, diluting, blocking or omitting them.  The Church teaches concerning this subject:

"Yet this 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 Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully.  All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #86)

This means that the divine teaching authority entrusted to the shepherds in the Church is not intended to appoint them as sources of the truths or judges over the truths, but only to authorize them to officially discern whatever is proposed as truth in the light of the Lord's own teachings and to propagate faithfully what has been received from the Lord.  It is essentially an authority with which the shepherds can serve the Lord and His people.  Also when the faithful have any questions or concerns about any of the teachings or actions by the shepherds, they can freely but sincerely bring their questions to the shepherds and also share their concerns with other faithful to help each other in the search of the true teachings of the Lord.  The Church declares on this subject as follows:

"In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, [lay people] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence towards their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #907)

Based the above Church teachings, we would like to present the following questions to Your Excellency:

1.     In the most recent declaration of May 5, 2005 and the previous similar documents issued by Your Excellency, the importance of obedience to the teaching authority of the Church was strongly emphasized.  It was also indicated that Julia Kim and her supporters were disobedient by refusing to abandon the messages and miraculous signs from Our Lord and Our Lady.  But, if Julia Kim and her supporters are convinced that these messages and miraculous signs are truly coming from God, how can they comply with Your Excellency's demand to desert them?  Is it not requesting a blind obedience from them, as there has never been any clear and valid explanation of the reasons of why the events in Naju are in conflict with the Church teaching and, therefore, are not coming from God?  Of course, Julia and her supporters wish to be obedient both to God and to Your Excellency, but what if they see that the two are in conflict with each other?  To them, neglecting and abandoning the messages and signs from Our Lord and Our Lady would be the same as betraying Them. 

2.     With letters, in publications, and in sites on the Internet, we have repeatedly raised a number of specific questions concerning the Kwangju declarations on Naju, but have not received any answers yet except the repeated demands for unconditionally accepting the decision to condemn the events in Naju.  Do the faithful not have the right to receive sincere and sensible answers and explanations from their shepherds to their questions on important religious issues?  Is it right and fair that they only keep hearing demands for blind obedience without ever hearing any valid reasons that can justify these demands?  The following is a summary of the questions we have raised concerning Naju:

a.      The number of people who have personally experienced or witnessed miraculous signs in Naju may be in the hundreds of thousands or more.  The Naju investigating committee only briefly interviewed 14 people who were not all direct witnesses of the miraculous signs.  None of those who have been miraculously healed of serious illnesses and have test results and doctors' statements have been invited.  Does this not indicate that the Naju investigating committee ignored and neglected to examine the fruits of the reported supernatural events in Naju, which in fact is one of the most important standards for discerning the reports of supernatural events?  

b.     Pope John Paul II, two Korean bishops, and at least five foreign bishops have personally witnessed miraculous signs through Julia Kim and have expressed their opinions verbally or in writing.  Nevertheless, none of these Church leaders have been consulted or their views taken into consideration by the Kwangju Archdiocese.  Is this not a violation of the principle that important decisions concerning the faith must be made in the spirit of unity in the universal Church?  Can a local church choose and maintain a position on the faith tailored to its local conditions and tastes but not in tune with what is upheld in the universal Church?

c.      There have already been many scientific tests on the evidences from Naju, conducted both inside Korea and abroad.  These include brain-wave tests on Julia to determine her mental condition; DNA tests on the blood samples taken from the Eucharistic miracles and also from the blood descended on the thousands of little rocks on the Blessed Mother's Mountain in Naju; and medical records on the reported cases of miraculous healings.  All these tests have indicated that the reported phenomena in Naju are genuine and beyond the doubts of human fabrication or accidental coincidences.  However, none of these test results have been considered by the Kwangju Archdiocese; nor have any other tests been ordered by it.  Is this not a radical deviation from the traditional methods of investigation used by the Church?  Does it not also mean that the investigation of Naju by the Kwangju Archdiocese was seriously insufficient?

d.     In the first declaration on Naju issued in the name of Archbishop Victorinus Youn on January 1, 1998, it was mentioned that "the strange phenomena surrounding Julia Kim" such as tears and tears of blood from the Blessed Mother's statue, fragrant oil from the same statue, the sufferings and Stigmata endured by Julia, the fragrance of roses, and so on "may have been caused by some preternatural power."  Is it responsible and appropriate to make such a statement in an official declaration of the Church without any valid, factual grounds?  In the Gospel, we read that even Our Lord was accused of performing miracles with the power of Satan.  Making accusations without any substantiating evidence does not belong to the proper agenda of any committee in the Church. 

e.      Your Excellency has stated several times in writing that our salvation comes from believing what is in the Creed and not from chasing after miracles.  We never believe that messages and miracles are new truths from the Lord.  The only purpose of God's giving us messages and miracles is to help us deepen our faith and move away from moral laxity, especially in times of massive erosion of the faith and moral decays.  In the Gospels, we read that Our Lord performed countless miracles to strengthen people's faith.  He did not perform a single miracle when people asked for a miracle out of curiosity and frivolity, but worked many miracles before those with childlike minds to help them believe more strongly that He was truly the Son of God who became incarnate to be their Savior.  Even after His Ascension, He continued to work miracles through His Apostles and disciples as they were spreading the Good News of Salvation (Mark 16:20).  Also, in the lives of the Saints, we can easily find records of miracles, which were signs of God's omnipotence and love.  Even though miracles are not revelations of any new teachings, they are works of the Lord intended to prod us to repent of our sins and reform our lives according to His teachings already entrusted to the Church.  This is why we can never ignore or belittle the genuine miracles from God.  In these times of advanced science and technology, there is a widespread tendency to despise the supernatural works of the Lord, but this thinking does not conform to the 2,000-year Catholic tradition that urges us to accept the Lord's teachings and works with simple and humble minds and hearts.  Regarding the significance of miracles, the Church teaches as follows:

"So that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit."  Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motive credibilitantis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #156)     

In the light of the above teaching, has the Kwangju Archdiocese not been taking miracles too lightly and negligently and guiding the faithful to do so as well?  The First Vatican Council gave a stern warning to those with a modernist mindset that despises miracles:  "If anyone shall have said that miracles are not possible, and hence that all accounts of them, even those contained in Sacred Scripture, are to be banished among the fables and myths; or, that miracles can never be known with certitude, and that the divine origin of the Christian religion cannot be correctly proved by them: let him be anathema."  (DS #3034)

f.       Many times already we have indicated that some doctrinal errors seem to be contained in Archbishop Youn's declaration and subsequent documents on Naju issued by the Kwangju Archdiocese.  For example, Archbishop Youn's declaration stated that the species of the Eucharist must remain unchanged even after the consecration by a priest, and thus condemned the Eucharistic miracles in Naju and, by implication, condemned all the previous Eucharistic miracles in Church history, many of which were officially approved by the Church.  Until now, we have heard nothing from the Kwangju Archdiocese on this issue.  A misrepresentation or distortion of a Church doctrine is an extremely serious matter—especially when it was publicly presented by a bishop.  It may be a case of misusing the teaching authority.  Also, if no swift and complete correction is made even after it becomes clear that a doctrinal error has indeed occurred, there is a possibility of heresy.  We anxiously await a reply from Your Excellency.

g.      We have indicated the possibility of several additional doctrinal errors in the documents issued by the Kwangju Archdiocese.  For example, it was stated that the Eucharist could begin to exist only through the consecration by a validly-ordained priest, and, based on this, the miraculous descents of the Eucharist from above in Naju were condemned.  Of course, normally, there is no question that the existence of the Eucharist requires the consecration by a priest during Mass.  But does this mean that even Our Lord Himself cannot come to us in the form of the Eucharist?  Is the Eucharist not Our Lord Himself?  What about the many cases of the Saints in Church history having received Communion directly from the Lord or an angel without requiring consecration by a priest?

h.      Rev. Soon-Sung Ri, who participated in the Naju investigating committee of the Kwangju Archdiocese as a dogmatic theologian, contributed an article to the Pastoral Care magazine (the March 1998 issue) published by the Korean Bishops' Conference, two months after the pronouncement of Archbishop Youn's negative declaration on Naju on January 1, 1998.  In it, Father Ri proudly stated that the real reason for the negative decision on the Eucharistic phenomena in Naju was to pursue the grand proposition of unity with the Protestant brethren.  In other words, the Eucharistic miracles in Naju, which attest the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, could not be accepted, because they might hurt the feelings of our separated brethren, who can only recognize the symbolic presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist, and thus reduce the prospect for reconciliation with them.  We believe that sacrificing the truth in seeking unity will only lead to false unity and represents an outright betrayal of God, Who is the truth itself and wills that we live a life of truth.  The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council warned us against this dangerous idea of unity at all costs:  Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism which harms the purity of catholic doctrine and obscures its genuine and certain meaning (Unitatis Redintegratio, November 21, 1964). 

During one of the interviews with Julia and Julio Kim a few years ago, Your Excellency mentioned that the purpose of Archbishop Youn's investigation was not to determine if the miracles were genuine but to see if they harmed unity in the church community.  In our opinion, the focus of this investigation was totally misplaced.  How can the unity among humans be the standard in discerning the divine messages and works?  Must we accept compromise of the truth and abandonment of the facts so as to achieve an external and superficial unity? 

We believe that the serious current conflicts in the Church in Korea concerning Naju are not a question limited to Naju or the Kwangju Archdiocese only but a surfacing of a much wider problem in the Church in general with deep roots that began spreading a long time ago.  Especially since the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the precious teachings of the Council have been interpreted and applied by many progressively-minded theologians and their followers in their own prejudiced context that has lacked respect for and loyalty to the Catholic Faith and Tradition and has promoted new ways of accommodating to the secular ideas and values and placing human agenda ahead of God's.  We have already seen the emergence of many heretical teachings and reforms proposed and implemented by the progressive forces in the Church.  The authentic Catholic teachings on Christ Himself and His Church, the Holy Eucharist, the Blessed Mother, the importance of the Sacrament of Confession, the need for our self-denial and participation in the Lord's work of atonement for human sins, the importance of liturgical discipline as well as moral discipline, the need for unity with and obedience to the Pope, the value and dignity of priesthood, the sanctity of marriage and family, and so on have been under constant attacks by the liberal members of the Church.  The supernatural messages and miraculous signs in Naju, as those in other Marian manifestations of the past centuries, must be stern and urgent responses from Heaven.  They are warnings that urge us to reform our lives and also are encouragements and offers of special help for us to overcome the present crisis.  Defeating the deep-rooted errors, pride, apathy, and abuse of power will not be easy, and the devil and his forces will continue interfering and inflicting harms.  We can be successful, however, if we realize the seriousness of our times and offer up our entire lives to the realization of the Lord's Will, totally relying on the Blessed Mother's immaculate power which God has entrusted to her for the purpose of achieving victory in this spiritual war.

May the Lord and the Blessed Mother bless Your Excellency and everyone who works with Your Excellency.

 

Sincerely yours,

Witnesses of Our Lady in Naju


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