Last weekend I shared at the 10:00 Mass that a letter might be published in the Barton Chronicle, which, among other things, would say that I think the Demolition Derby ("the demo") is a big waste of time and money. This letter was in fact published, and of course several people have commented on it.
I write an explanation here because two separate parishioners, whom I hold in good regard and very much like and respect, ended up sharing the exact same concern with me.
If I capture the gist of their comments correctly, the concern goes as such. The demo-derby is not an intrinsically immoral activity. It is enjoyed by youth (area high school students), including youth in the parish. It is often supported by Catholic parents who deem it a fun, experience building, activity worth the time and money for their children. Why criticize the activity publicly? Won't this risk alienating the youth who have entered the demo, or who want to enter it, to know that their pastor says it is a waste of time and money?
These concerns deserve a full response, so I intend this note for our parishioners.
In the first place I hope to make clear that this issue was written in with two other issues: the significant amount of time that I, and Catholic parishioners, and St. Paul's School have been putting into the fair these recent years, and the emergence of this burlesque show as a highlight of this year's fair. A third latent issue is our preoccupation with money, which is mixed throughout the consideration.
Firstly I hope I made it clear, that I deem the burlesque show to be intrinsically immoral, and that it is a true concern, and that I hoped the show was a flop, and that our involvement in the fair as Catholics might keep it from coming back as a feature of the fair. I did go so far as to insinuate that I would rather lose the typical $4,000 donation to St. Paul's School from the Fair Association, than have the fair rely on such immoral shows to have a successful week.
That is fine, but why go from this point to start criticizing something that is not intrinsically immoral? The immediate answer is that I am being sincere. I believe much immorality happens because of the demo derby, not because it is a sin of commission to drive in the demo, but because the intent and circumstances of the demo are connected to many sins of omission. This is precisely why I called it a waste. Waste is usually a sin insofar as it is a sin of omission. Rarely is waste of time or money a sin because of hatred, or envy, or some other sin of commission. Waste is usually due to sloth, or ingratitude, or some other sin of omission. I had not thought about any distinction between our youth and the older demo-derby participants, but the place for this thought will be explained here too.
Let me first explain how my opinion is similar to the view of the editorial, which in 1968 described horse trotting as "cruel, false, exciting, brain crazying, business." I believe the cruelty is when people put in so much time and money for their own enjoyment, yet omit to have compassion on those who would benefit from some of that time and money in the community. People the northeast can be generous and helpful, but they can also be stingy. We have a ways to go to see that it is not weakness or a perversion of justice to do more to help our neighbor. We are a mixed bag when it comes to hospitality and true charity. It exists and is inspiring. But I wish to say that we, in our local society, can do more. Let me say further that I believe the falsity of the demo business is in those families (whom I know) who really can't afford it, but do it anyway, to the detriment of their personal life, and of family life. Maybe it is a small percentage, but I know it is a percentage.
Would that more of the demo-derbying adults would use more of their time and money to as God intended, "honor your father and mother" by putting God first in one's own family. Then a new generation of children and grandchildren might inherit the right perspective on family life, and on using the resources of this earth. Would that the same children and grandchildren might be in a better place to try out a demo-derby once or twice, in a culture with less waste and more balance in life. And, would that it were the norm that people driving in the demo were using it as a means to do fundraising for great causes in the community! You know, like getting lots of sponsors to donate to a church and school while their priest gets to enjoy the demo. If anyone in the community can pick up where Fr. Rupp left off on this, then by all means do try to use the demo to promote a community minded culture for good and Godly causes. I myself am a little busy right now, and in truth, I think it would be a poor use of the time and money that is available to me at the moment. I could make lots of suggestions to those who have the time and money, but I leave all other people free to conclude the consideration on their own. In particular I defer to our Catholic parents to be the good guides and models, and decide if and when and whether it is a good thing for their children to drive in a demo.
[As an aside I will also add that I am dissimilar to the commentator from 1968 in that it seems he was writing like a Puritan, while I am writing as a Catholic. It seems he criticized the horse races in the very fact that they were exciting and brain crazying. That the demo is exciting and brain crazying is clear enough, but I do not criticize it on those Puritan grounds. Hence, I threw in a reference to my little side hobby, the exciting and brain crazying juggling of dangerous instruments. This hobby, however, only receives a very small amount of my time and money.]
To conclude then, the pieces are here spelled out for my reason for bringing up the moral considerations of the fair's biggest single event. The demo is a case study for the whole fair. I must ask, what should we as Catholics be doing with our time and money, and how does the fair as a whole fit in? Is it worth keeping the institutional ties we have right now, through the School, yes, but also through the Knights of Columbus Bingo? I brought up the question, and made it clear that I still think it is worth it. Until someone gets so fed up with their local priest's moral preaching, and just bans him and his parish and school from the fair, I think we will stay involved. But let all know that our moral responsibilities as Catholics are not all fulfilled simply by getting the burlesque show off the brochures.
God bless you.
With Mary, In Christ,
Fr. Tim Naples