Last week, while attending a local event, I ran into a woman who is a retired schoolteacher; I’m going to call her Jane (not her real name). Jane is a devout Catholic who was employed by the District 150 school system for more than 30 years. Prior to her retirement, she was a teacher at a local high school. A majority of her students were African American.
Jane started out our conversation by telling me that she had recently attended a funeral for a former student who had been shot by a member of a local gang. She went on to say that over the past four months she has attended funerals for three of her former students, all of whom were gunned down in the street at different times.
She then expressed outrage toward the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and Notre Dame High School for building a new $9 million sports complex in North Peoria. She talked about the “white flight” out of central Peoria and asked me, “How can they waste millions of dollars on a sports complex when that money could be used to benefit students who are truly in need?”
After asking the question, Jane stopped talking and glared at me, waiting for me to answer her question. I responded to her question with some questions of my own: Do you think things would change if the Diocese gave the money to the poor people or the schools in the south end of Peoria? Would that money have kept any of your former students from running with the wrong crowd and getting killed?
She fumbled around attempting to answer my questions. I explained to her that the problems we are facing in our society are much more complex than most people realize and cannot be corrected by throwing money at them.
I told her that, in my opinion, there are four primary factors that have contributed to the violence that is occurring in our community: (1) the complete breakdown of the family unit, (2) a public school system that is broken beyond repair, (3) the lack of good-paying blue-collar jobs, and (4) state and federal government politicians whose policies have accelerated the breakdown of the family, ruined our school system, and helped to drive jobs overseas.
Jane wanted to redirect our conversation back to the amount of money that is being spent on the new sports complex, but I wouldn’t let her. I wasn’t going to be forced into a conversation about something I didn’t know anything about. As far as I was concerned, neither one of us were in a position to pass judgment on whether a new complex is needed or what the cost should be to build it.
I mentioned earlier that Jane is a devout Catholic. While many people casually use the word “devout” when describing Catholics, in my opinion no more than 20 percent of Catholics should be described as devout.
As a general rule, Catholics can be divided into four categories: (1) lapsed Catholics, (2) cafeteria Catholics, (3) committed Catholics, and (4) devout Catholics.
A lapsed Catholic is a person who was baptized as a Catholic, but does not currently practice the Catholic faith.
A cafeteria Catholic is a person who describes himself or herself as a practicing Catholic, but picks and chooses the Catholic doctrines, principles, and beliefs that he or she is willing to accept and abide by.
A committed Catholic is a person who (1) believes in the teachings of the Catholic Church and (2) willingly and unequivocally follows and abides by all the teachings and rules of the Church.
A devout Catholic is a committed Catholic who willfully and regularly engages in acts of worship and service that go beyond the requirements of the Church.
Devout Catholics engage in additional acts of worship and service out of a sense of obligation and urgency. This sense of obligation arises from their humble recognition that their abilities, talents, and skills are gifts from God and are to be used to assist others in their journey toward heaven.
I have known Jane for more than 30 years. In addition to being very trustworthy, she has a big heart and rushes to the aid of anyone who is in need. There is no doubt in my mind that she experiences immense suffering when a former student of hers is murdered. She has never been married and has always treated her students as though they were her own children.
Why would someone like Jane be so quick to lash out against the Diocese of Peoria and Notre Dame High School for building a new sports complex for its Catholic students? She knew that the Diocese was funding the construction of the complex with private donations. By showing outrage toward what she characterized as wasteful spending, she was passing judgment on the individuals and couples who have chosen to donate their own money to help fund the project. What business is it of hers how her fellow Catholics choose to spend their money?
What was your initial reaction when you heard about the cost of the new sports complex?
I have found that, as a general rule, devout Catholics are quick to judge other Catholics who they consider wealthy. Over the years, I’ve heard comments about Catholics I know, such as “Doesn’t he have enough money?” and “She’s reckless with her money,” and “He cares more about money than his family.” The comments were offensive to me because they were based on the subjective opinion of individuals who did not have personal knowledge of the people they were criticizing.
I’m going to write more about the attitude devout Catholics have toward money next week. I think you’ll find what I have to say to be very thought-provoking.