There is nothing new under the sun! Everyday we hear of some new scandal or public failing. I’m sure they’ve always been happening it’s just that our modern news and social media cycles make it more obvious. What is strange is that for all its repetitiveness many of our social and political ‘leaders’ want us to believe that we can construct some kind of utopian society where these behaviours will cease to exist.
In this short message I talk about a major sporting scandal that is making news rights now and how much it reveals about the basic nature of being human. In recent weeks I’ve been talking a lot about how Catholicism has what I call a ‘gritty realism’ that captures the very essence of the human condition. As Christopher West once said. “We are ‘angemals’ – part angel and part animal. This sporting scandal just once again highlights our capacity to do dumb stuff when we think we can get away with it.
What drives these choices? A gritty Catholic realism simply recognises that since the fall we all carry a proclivity toward sin. We all lack, at times, the ability to act in virtuous ways. Virtue is simply the drive toward choosing what is good, what is the ‘right action’ in any given circumstance. Catholicism recognises that without grace we will constantly be drawn toward, and often choose, what is not good. This current sporting scandal is simply a lack of virtue. Cheating is a lack of virtue. It is a lack of the virtue of honesty. It is the choice to fail to act within the laws of the game.
One of the crucial things we do in a Catholic school is to help develop our student’s capacity for virtue. All those endless moments when we call them toward effort, goodness and what is right, play a crucial role in shaping the culture we all inhabit. It’s very understandable that during those individual moments when you have to sanction a behaviour or provide a consequence you can lose sight of the real weight and value and enormity of what it is you actually do as a Catholic teacher. It is in all these small moments that characters are being shaped and that you are building the world of tomorrow.
I think it’s also important that we provide a healthy inoculation for our students against the kinds of utopian thinking they are immersed in. The admirable desire that most young people have to create some level of change in the world is often hijacked by progressive political agendas based upon the idea that virtue can be legislated. It can’t. History is littered with the carnage wrought by utopian ideologues who thought that through law or force or both they could alter the human condition. We need our students to leave with a deep awareness of the truth of our creation in the image of God as well as the very real impact of original sin. This is not pessimistic and it’s not going to create Freudian guilt complexes. It’s going to help rebuild a culture of life.