Infallibility: Reflections from Roman Catholicism

By Franco Famularo

Should we be guided by our conscience or obey authority? Should one be loyal to the leader or be honest and straightforward? Both? Such questions have troubled human beings since antiquity.

Unificationists have at times been asked if they would obey the Founders without question with queries such as: “Would you do anything Rev. Moon asks of you?” or “Do you believe Reverend and Mrs. Moon are infallible?” After all, “absolute obedience” is a term found in the pledge regularly recited by Unificationists.

Recently, an article on this site by Dr. Michael Mickler discussing a Unificationist position on birth control referenced the 1968 papal encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae and its impact on the Roman Catholic world. As is widely known, Roman Catholics generally do not strictly follow church teachings on birth control and other matters.

Mickler’s article also demonstrated that Unificationists also apply church teachings differently on a variety of issues, including birth control. It can further be assumed that given the international nature of Unificationism, responses to authority vary depending on culture, ethnicity, upbringing, and a variety of other factors.

Regardless of theological differences, it may be helpful to study how Roman Catholics relate to papal statements on matters of faith. This article briefly explores the dogma of infallibility and how it is viewed within Catholicism, and offers some reflections in the hope of stimulating discussion about Unificationism’s relationship to conscience, culture and authority.

It has been almost 150 years since the dogma of papal infallibility was proclaimed on July 18, 1870. During the final public gathering of Vatican I, a bishop received from Pope Pius IX’s hand the document defining “Papal Infallibility.” Pastor Aeternus contains the following statement that has been the subject of intense debate to this day:

“The Roman Pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when he discharges his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals, that is to be held by the universal Church, through the Divine assistance promised him in St. Peter, exercises that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed to endow his church.”

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Korean Reunification: Promise and Perils

By Michael L. Mickler

Rev. Sun Myung Moon (True Father to Unificationists) emphasized the “providential significance” of Korean reunification. To him, unifying the Korean peninsula would be “the final act of bringing the global Cold War to a conclusion” and “the blueprint for the unification of the world.”

He also envisioned a unified Korea as a driver of global development. He taught that the peninsula will provide a platform for oceanic and continental civilizations to fuse together and develop into a new civilization, inaugurating the Pacific Rim Era.

This article attempts to connect his vision of Korean reunification with current economic, technological, transportation, cultural, and political realities.

The Promise

Economy. The most optimistic appraisal of Korea’s economic future is a 2009 Global Economics Paper, “A United Korea? Reassessing North Korea Risks,” published by global investment firm Goldman Sachs. It contends that “North Korea has strong untapped potential, which could be unleashed once meaningful economic reforms start and investment flows in.”

In particular, the study emphasizes “synergies between South Korean capital and technology, and North Korean natural resources and labor.” It points out, for example, that North Korea has large deposits of minerals valued at 140 times its GDP while South Korea “has virtually no mineral resources” and “imports 97% of the energy and mineral resources [it] uses.” Apart from natural resources, the study references North Korea’s “abundant and competitive labor force.” It notes,

  • More than one-third of North Korea’s population (37%) lives in rural areas, as was the case in South Korea in the late 1970s when it began its economic ascent;
  • The labor force could increase substantially given the current large military population (nearly 1.3 million);
  • Pre-college education is compulsory;
  • Experience from the Kaesong Industrial Complex suggests that North Korean workers have a strong work ethic and a good potential for productivity enhancement; and,
  • North Korea’s demographics are relatively young and the population is growing roughly twice as fast as in South Korea.

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Fish Follow the Fisherman

By Allan Hokanson

In the early 1960s, in the little-known land of Korea, a man with a great vision had begun the work of developing the ocean’s resources by tending fish traps on the coastal mud flats.

He then looked toward the oceans of the world with the heart to provide food for all humankind facing the world’s growing population and the shrinking resources on land.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in the USA, and unknown to me, I was being prepared to take up the challenge of a life with God on the ocean. From the day I stepped aboard a boat bound for Alaska in 1966, my life would never be the same.

In a few years, our paths would converge. Rev. Sun Myung Moon came to America in the early 1970s with a plan that included unlocking the secrets of the ocean.

As the first captain of his boat, the New Hope, I had the great fortune to be with him from the beginning of the ocean providence in America. Suddenly I found myself at the controls of a high-performance sport fishing boat with Rev. Moon at my side — his life in my hands.

The hours at the controls seemed unending as records fell to this extremely successful fisherman. Every day the first three fish were released so they could “bring back their friends,” and it seemed to work as we loaded the boat with them all.

However, more important than navigation skills was my need to unite in heart with True Father (as I came to know him). I was determined to keep up and have the boat ready whenever he was ready to go.

Father never slept on the boat for more than three hours a night. Also, he never ate more than one meal on the boat each day.

Sometimes, his directions were contrary to my own thinking or experience. In such cases, it became necessary to let go of my concepts and find a way to accomplish his desire safely.

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Where Does Unificationism Stand on Birth Control?

By Michael L. Mickler

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”), which condemned the use of artificial birth control methods. The arrival of the birth control pill in 1960 triggered Pope Paul’s letter, and it sought to stem the tide of the 1960s sexual revolution.

The encyclical was singularly unsuccessful.

A chorus of dissent, even within the Roman Catholic community, followed its publication.  A recent account recalls that, within days of its release, a group of American Catholic theologians issued a statement saying, “[S]pouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contraception in some circumstances is permissible.”

A year later, a survey found that 44% of Catholic women of childbearing age were using artificial contraception and by 1974, 83% of U.S. Catholics reportedly said they disagreed with the ban. Commentators blamed the encyclical for a decline in people attending mass and for damaging the authority of the papacy, particularly among younger Catholics.

The encyclical also failed to stem the tide of the 1960s sexual revolution.

According to one author,

“[T]he year the Pill went on the market, most Americans lived in nuclear families, the average married couple had four children, and mothers stayed home. By 2000, the average family had two children, one out of two marriages ended in divorce, and almost a third of American children were being raised by a single parent or an unmarried couple.”

Acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation, alternative forms of sexuality and abortion accompanied the trend. In the 2000s, Internet connections facilitated easy access to pornography and dating sites. Smartphone apps such as Tinder encouraged casual sex. However, “hook-up culture” prompted consternation and the #MeToo movement suggested that the sexual revolution had not ended predation but may have licensed it.

These developments prompted Catholic apologists to re-examine Humanae Vitae and assert its “prophetic power.”

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Applied Unificationism Celebrates Its 5th Blog-iversary

The Applied Unificationism Blog was founded five years ago today on May 1, 2013, hosted by Unification Theological Seminary. Its purpose is to explore the application of Unificationism to the wider world, but also occasionally posts significant articles on theology. It generally posts a new commentary article every Monday.

The Applied Unificationism Blog is broadly read by Unificationists in the U.S., as well as in Europe, Korea and Japan. One major leader termed it, “The best thing out there,” referring to its focus and discussion of how to apply Unificationist principles to today’s societal problems. Any article on the site is available for automated Google Translation from English to dozens of supported languages.

In its five years, the AU Blog, as it has become known, has posted over 275 articles nearly every week in 11 categories. It is followed (by email, Facebook or Twitter) by 800 regular readers; is read in 200 countries or territories; has received over 270,000 total page views, posted nearly 2,700 reader comments, and nearly 60,000 referrals to its articles from search engines alone and 27,000 from Facebook. Some articles have generated a large number of site hits in just 24 hours — in several cases over 1,700 in a day.

The AU Blog’s top three articles all-time are: “Morals and Messages from Harry Potter: Lesson Learned,” “The Only-Begotten Daughter,” and “Same-Sex Marriage: A Unificationist Response.” Other popular articles include: “Toward a Headwing Idea for America,” “You’re Not Really an Adult Until Your Father Dies: Reaching the Highest Stage of Filial Piety,” and “God as the Heavenly Parent of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.” Popular regular authors include Dr. Andrew Wilson, Dr. Michael Mickler and maestro David Eaton.

The Blog recently ran a series of commentaries by three different authors on the topic of gun control in America. AU Blog articles are often re-posted by the FFWPU International Headquarters site and by the FFWPU-USA site and gain even broader readership.

Original written contributions of 1,500-1,800 words are encouraged to be submitted by Unificationists, current and former UTS faculty, and interested others. Quality commentary or op-ed pieces are sought, written in a lively manner, on a wide range of subjects in which the writer exhibits a strong degree of familiarity with the subject matter. Broad topics include politics and economics, religion and spirituality, gender issues and the family, and culture and the arts. The Blog especially encourages article submissions from second generation Unificationists. It also posts occasional film and book reviews, and collections of poetry.

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Battle of the Sexes in the Unification Movement

By Michael L. Mickler

The Unification Movement (UM) is embroiled in a battle of the sexes.

It began with the passing of Rev. Sun Myung Moon (True Father) in September 2012 and intensified as his widow, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon (True Mother), consolidated her position as head of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) and the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC or Unification Church).

The battle lines are drawn between True Mother and her eldest and youngest living sons, Hyun Jin and Hyung Jin Moon, both of whom lead break-away organizations. Conflicts among these three leaders and their followers have led to the fracturing of relationships among the movement’s membership and leave-taking by some with little or no resolution in sight.

In this struggle, gender has become a flashpoint of contention. True Mother made it clear after her husband’s passing she would assume direct authority over the UM.  Her sons condemned her presumption and stated definitively that neither she nor any female will ever be in a position to inherit True Father’s authority or lead the UM because of their gender. Thus, the dynamic of gender conflict in the post-Sun Myung Moon UM has been one of matriarchal assertion and patriarchal reaction.

This article outlines patterns of matriarchal assertion and patriarchal reaction in the UM. The concluding section proposes gender-neutrality as an alternative model of UM leadership.

Matriarchal Assertion

True Mother’s assertion of authority followed a four-stage trajectory in the years following True Father’s passing. These included 1) her assertion of leadership; 2) a critique of masculine leadership; 3) altered practices and innovations; and, 4) theological interpretations from a matriarchal perspective.

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Does the Unification Movement Flourish More Under Republican Administrations?

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By Michael L. Mickler

Mickler full-sizePundits and candidates continually debate which of the two major political parties is better for the United States, particularly on the economy and keeping the peace.

During the most recent election cycle, Hillary Clinton claimed, “The economy always does better when there’s a Democrat in the White House.” On the other hand, it has been pointed out that all of the major U.S. wars in the 20th century—World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam—were entered by Democratic administrations while Republicans began détente and ended the Cold War peaceably. Partisans on both sides argue their positions, mostly to the bewilderment of the public.

If the situation is murky with respect to the economy and war, Republicans and Democrats have settled into less ambiguous postures vis-à-vis religion. Gallup Poll research shows, “Very religious Americans are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party,” whereas “non-religious Americans” are significantly more supportive of the Democratic Party, the exception being Black Americans who are “very religious on average” and heavily Democratic.

Pew Foundation research indicates the same. A recent study showed, “About two-thirds (68%) of white evangelicals either identify as Republicans or lean Republican” while “61% of those who do not identify with any religion lean Democratic.” This has led to a “God Gap” between the two parties.

Still, the question is whether Republican administrations lead to the flourishing of religion in general or, for the purpose of this article, to the flourishing of the Unification movement.

Simply put, “very religious” American churches and organizations, which include the Unification movement, do better under Republican administrations but not because of Republican administrations. Rather, the social forces and conditions that sweep Republicans into power are the same ones that reinforce values and goals of “very religious” Americans.

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Mainstream Unificationism

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By Michael L. Mickler

Mickler full-sizeMainstream Unificationism upholds two core affirmations. First and foremost, it affirms Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han Moon as the True Parents of Humankind. Second, it affirms the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC or Unification Church) and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) as the authoritative institutional expressions of Unification faith.

These dual affirmations are central to Unification identity and tradition. They are the sine qua non of mainstream Unificationism. Denial of one or both of them places one outside the Unification mainstream.

For most of its history, few within the movement questioned these affirmations. Members varied in their understanding of True Parents. They also behaved differently depending on their cultural background. But mainstream Unificationists did not challenge True Parent’s authority and did not seek to undermine Unification institutions.

That is no longer the case.

Mainstream Unificationism is now under attack. The most strenuous and ongoing attacks have come from Rev. Moon’s eldest and youngest living sons, both of whom at one time or another were considered likely successors. They have challenged True Parent’s authority, even their identity, and attempted to supplant Unification institutions.

Discord of this sort is far from uncommon in religious traditions. Sometimes, challenges to authority overwhelm communities of faith, especially new ones, driving them to extinction. Other times, religious traditions withstand attacks and root out opponents, stigmatizing them as heretics or schismatics. Occasionally, religious traditions channel dissent and opposition into sharpened or expanded versions of faith.

The intent of this article is to consider the structure, purposes and dynamics of mainstream religion as it pertains to religious traditions in general and Unificationism in particular.

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An Inquiry into “Parallels of History”

Libro_historia

By Michael Mickler

Michael_MicklerUnificationists are, if anything, a people who take their history seriously. Reverend Moon continually spoke of divine providence in his speeches and sermons. Wolli Kangron (1966), translated into English as Divine Principle (1973) and Exposition of the Divine Principle (1996), also focuses to a large extent upon historical matters, devoting more than half its content to a comprehensive survey of salvation history.

Unificationists, likewise, are encouraged to view themselves as being responsible for “all the unaccomplished missions of past prophets and saints who were called in their time to carry the cross of restoration.”

A striking feature of Unification theology is its exposition of “parallels” in history. The basic premise is when a “central figure” fails to fulfill his or her portion of responsibility, God will set up another person in place of the former.

This applies not only to individuals but also to collectives. The Principle focuses special attention on “parallels of history” between Judaism and Christianity. It highlights six specific parallels:

  1. Israelite slavery in Egypt and Christian persecution under the Roman Empire;
  2. Israelite conquest of Canaan under the Judges and Christian conquest of Rome under the patriarchs;
  3. The United Kingdom under King David and the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Charlemagne;
  4. The Divided Kingdoms of North and South (Israel and Judah) after Solomon and the Divided Kingdoms of East and West (Germany and France) after Charlemagne’s successors;
  5. Jewish Captivity and Return (from Babylon) and Papal Exile and Return (from Avignon, France);
  6. Jewish Preparation for the Advent of the Messiah (from Malachi) and Christian Preparation for the Second Advent of the Messiah (from Luther).

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