US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Sports stars in need of forgiveness

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In the past week, two scandals have made sports fan wonder again, should the personal indiscretions of athletes affect their athletic careers?

First there’s Rick Pitino, the Catholic basketball coach of the University of Louisville who had an affair 6 years ago that resulted in an abortion.

Pitino has apologized for the affair, and according to this AP article in the New York Times, some Catholics in Louisville are OK with that. ''It is disappointing from a personal level, but at the same time that would be between him and God,'' Steve Sims of Owensboro, Kentucky said.

Meanwhile, others have called for him to be fired, including a group called Louisville Cardinals for Life. Certainly, it would be hard for him to totally wash his hands clean of the abortion, even if she made the final decision, and his contract says he can be terminated for "acts of moral depravity."

Depraved is how On Faith's Catholic blogger Anthony Stevens-Arroyo describes Michael Vick, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last week after completing 18 months in prison for dog-fighting. Vick expressed remorse on 60 Minutes on Sunday, though there is question of how sincere his responses were.

Stevens-Arroyo (an Eagles fan) says that Catholics have an obligation to forgive Vick--"that is, if he measures up to the post-confessional, post-prison stage of admitting his guilt and goes onto the Catholic provisions of 'firm purpose of amendment' and 'avoiding the near occasions of sin.'"

With both men, perhaps its best to withhold judgment and see how they act, but more interesting is how these two cases reflect on us.

How much do Vick's football skills or Pitino's won-loss record affect the amount of forgiveness fans muster up for them? Do we offer that same forgiveness to other adulterers and ex-convicts? Do we offer the same opportunities for others being released from jail to rebuild their lives?

Photo by Kevin Coles