Talk About Steubenville
Parents will no doubt be challenged as they try to explain the ethical and moral issues involved in the Steubenville rape trial, now that two young men have been convicted. The crimes these young men committed will be embarrassing to discuss, but it is imperative that parents do so, particularly with the boys and young men in their families. Many will no doubt find it impossible to imagine that their child could be capable of such acts, which is perhaps precisely what the parents of the young men now facing jail time in Ohio once thought.
Assuming they bring up the painful topic of rape at all, many parents coach their girls on strategies to protect themselves from assault. A dialogue perhaps even more urgent would be directed at boys about the sort of behavior expected of them in protecting the human dignity of the people they will encounter later in life. It may seem obvious that violating someone who has become nearly unconscious because of drugs or alcohol is odious and wrong. But that was not obvious to a party full of young people who either directly participated in the assault, stood by while it happened or chose to write about the attack and post pictures of the helpless victim on social media.
We may model exemplary behavior that we hope to see in our children as they mature, but it does not hurt to make expectations and standards of human decency absolutely clear in as frank and realistic a manner possible. The memory of a parents’ clear directives may be enough to restore young people in a moral fog of alcohol and peer pressure to their better selves, that is, people more likely to use smartphones to call for help or the police than to capture video as a young woman is violated in front of them.
This season Gonzaga University enjoyed its usual success in men’s basketball. The team went undefeated in conference play and qualified for the N.C.A.A. tournament for the 15th consecutive season—gigantic feats for this modest-sized Jesuit school in Spokane, Wash. But this year was different. Instead of arriving as the scrappy underdog trying to upset the perennial powerhouses, Gonzaga entered the tournament as the top-ranked team in the nation.
Gonzaga’s impressive rise to the top, though rudely thwarted by Wichita State in the Round of 32, coincided with other big news from the world of college basketball. Last month nine Catholic schools—Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova and Xavier—along with one non-Catholic university, Butler, confirmed they will form a new Big East Conference in July. Others, like Dayton and Saint Louis, may join later to make a 12-team league. A multiyear television deal with Fox Sports will reportedly bring $3 million annually to each school.
The formation of the new league presents a unique opportunity. In 2008 the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities formed the Jesuit Basketball Spotlight, a creative initiative to draw attention to the mission of Jesuit education whenever two Jesuit schools played each other on the hardwood. In similar fashion, the mostly Catholic league should take advantage of this reorganization to remind its coaches, student-athletes and fans—by press releases, game programs, in-game announcements, halftime features and television and radio advertisements—about the mission of Catholic higher education in the United States: its intellectual heritage, Christian vision and commitment to service. This would serve as a reminder that these schools, while excelling in basketball, offer even more important and lasting lessons.
Iraq, the Lost War
Last month marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. The George W. Bush administration, with the support of members of Congress of both parties, some of whom soon regretted their decisions, bombed and invaded an Iraq at peace with its neighbors. Saddam Hussein quickly fell and was hanged; but civil disorder led to civil war, and Iraq may never again be a united country. Our costs: $2.2 trillion (including veterans’ health care), 32,221 U.S. troops wounded, 4,475 killed. An estimated 320,000 U.S. veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may have brain injuries, and a record number are committing suicide. Iraqi civilian death counts have ranged from 134,000 to one million. Ironically, one reason for the war was to “spread democracy” in the Middle East.
Church leadership in Rome at the time did its best to prevent the disaster, and two cardinals who were considered papabili in the latest conclave carried the message. Cardinal Fernando Filoni, papal ambassador to Iraq when our bombs fell on Baghdad, remained to suffer with the Iraqi people. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, a leading diplomat, called the war a “crime against peace” and a violation of international law. And Pope John Paul II sent his personal envoy, Cardinal Pio Laghi, to the White House—only to be ignored. The cost of ignoring him is on our conscience. Meanwhile Pope Francis, in choosing his name, “thought of wars” and of St. Francis of Assisi, “the man of peace.” The pope has called on all of us to be peacemakers. This time, will we listen?