Current Comment

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.

Catholic Opportunity

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?

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C Walter Mattingly
5 years 9 months ago
By referencing Iraq as "The Lost War," America has provided evidence that it does not really understand what losing a war is or looks like. The war America lost, coming to us primarily via Lyndon Johnson, was characterized by the victorious forces entering Saigon, the scrambling populace hanging on to the skids of US helicopters flying from the rooftops of the US embassy and the key generals and government leaders escaping with the goods they could carry off, with the opposing forces that remained executed and/or sent to reeducation camps, their leaders installed as North Vietnam dictated, the creation of the boat people fleeing and drowning in the tens of thousands, and the like. That is what a lost war looks like. By contrast, in the case of Iraq, the opposition leader Saddam, affectionately known as the Butcher of Baghdad, was captured, tried, and executed. He was replaced by the votes of the people of Iraq, which the UN verified as valid, with their current president, which democratically elected government America here appears to reference as "ironic." Like South Korea before it, Iraq continues to have many problems and remains a troubled, but far less troubled and far more hopeful, country with a real chance at a more permanent democratic reality it may or may not sustain. But as US forces withdrew unopposed, Iraq, though it experienced a costly and initially bungled US occupation, is nonetheless, at this point at least, a far more promising country with a more hopeful future under its elected president than it ever was under Saddam Hussein.
Jay Cuasay
5 years 9 months ago
Regarding Stuebenville, I was shocked and disgusted by the event itself. Prior to this, all I knew about Stuebenville was that it was home to Franciscan University. I was ambivalent about this school because I have an affinity for the Franciscans and in fact went to graduate school partially on a scholarship from Holy Name Province. On the other hand, the graduates of Stuebenville and those I knew who went to study there were generally more pious or conservative than the school in which I was trained. Nevertheless, I was curious why no popular Catholic media seemed to cover how this event affected catholics on the Stuebenville campus, especially from the point of view that a number of young seminarians are getting their training there. Perhaps it has been covered and I am not aware of it. But I do know in the diocese where I work there are quite a number of graduates and parishioners who have connections to Franciscan University. Not one of them seemed a) all that aware or interested in this rape case/trial and b) thus did not come away with the possible disturbing conclusion that we seem to be training or have in our diocese a number of alum and supporters of a University whose locale is now infamous for "boys behaving badly." It's a PR time bomb or a further poisoning of the well for the "catholic brand."


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