SEOUL – The archbishop of Kwangju has declared that a woman and her followers who have insisted on so-called divine miracles centred around her have incurred “latae sententiae” excommunication.
Archbishop Andreas Choi Chang-mou issued the decree on Jan 21, saying “for Christians’ healthy faith life, and the unity and communion of the church, I declare as such, though my heart grieves”.
Latae sententiae means the excommunication is not imposed by judgement but automatically results from an action that places one outside the community of faith.
The archbishop explained that he met Youn, 60, and her husband in person in Naju in 2003 and later gave a final warning in 2005, but they have not modified their actions. “Rather, they speak as if the Holy Father approves them,” the bishop said. “They libel me, the Korean bishops and the Korean church through their publications and the Internet.”
These actions prove “Julia Youn and her followers have no will to reconcile with the Catholic Church”, he said.
“Therefore those clergy, religious and laity who preside at or participate in sacraments and liturgical ceremonies in their ‘arbitrarily-called chapel’ and ‘Marian shrine’ in Naju, which I have banned, incur automatic excommunication,” he declared, based on canons 1336 and 1364 of the Code of Canon Law.
According to the website created by Youn’s followers (www.najumary.or.kr), Youn has received Marian “revelations” since her statue of the Blessed Mother “started weeping” in 1985. After that, Youn and her followers established “Blessed Mother’s Mountain” in Naju, 285 kilometres south of Seoul.
However, the archdiocese issued directives in 1998, 2003 and 2005 banning Catholics from visiting and participating in ceremonies there. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea has explicitly supported the archdiocese.
Father John Chrysostomus Kim Kye-hong, chancellor of Kwangju archdiocese, sent the decree of excommunication to all dioceses in the country as well as to secular and Church media on Jan 23.
In a related press release, he asked all dioceses to carry the decree in diocesan bulletins and websites to help prevent Catholics from “straying into a groundless and blind faith”.
Father Kim told UCA News on Jan 24 that despite a televised news report in November 2007 refuting the authenticity of Youn’s miracle claims, people have continued to gather at Naju.
Youn and her followers “insist that the Holy See recognizes the miracles”, the chancellor said. “So now they are reaching beyond our archdiocese’s boundary, and making this the problem of the whole church. That is the main reason for issuing the decree,” he explained.
Father Kim noted that Father Aloysius Chang Hong-bin, an archdiocesan priest who has supported Youn’s disobedience, had incurred automatic excommunication too. “Also in the decree he was excardinated (removed) from the archdiocese and lost his clerical state,” Father Kim elaborated, adding that “there was no consultation with the Vatican before issuing the decree, but we will send related materials”.
Meanwhile, even before the decree, Archbishop John Choi Young-soo of Daegu issued a pastoral letter on Jan 13 appealing to his faithful not to visit or participate in liturgical ceremonies in Naju, which “is not Catholic but defames the Catholic Church”. He wrote that that “they collect much money and do superstitious activities like using or drinking Youn’s urine for a cure”.
Also, he asserted the Kwangju archbishop’s ban would never be repealed “even though some people spread a rumour that the Vatican may overrule it”. Archbishop Choi lamented that although his archdiocese too had issued directives several times on the matter, some priests and lay Catholics continuously visit Naju and support Youn.