Highlights from Charles Pierce's brilliant takedown of the high school that forfeited a state championship baseball game because it didn't want to play against a girl.
In his invaluable What Jesus Meant, historian and author Garry Wills reminds us that, during his time as a thoroughgoing Galilean religious nuisance, Himself did not take the time to make priests, create a "Church," or, certainly, devise in his own memory an inflated medieval anachronism like the modern papacy. I have found this helpful to remember whenever "faith" is used as an excuse by elements of organized religion to treat other members of the human race as inferior. Find another excuse. The Gospels are not your alibi.
We had another little somethin'-somethin' in that regard this past week out in Arizona. The baseball team from Mesa Preparatory Academy made it all the way to the finals of the Arizona Charter Athletic Association's tournament, where the Monsoons — and how cool is that, by the way? — were scheduled to meet Our Lady of Sorrows, a Catholic charterschool from Phoenix that is run by the Society of St. Pius X, about which much, much more anon. As it happens, the Monsoons have a freshperson second baseperson named Paige Sultzbach, who is slick with the glove around the bag and who is also a female person. (Just for the record, Mesa's archery team is coed as well.) Paige was a softball player in junior high, but, because Mesa doesn't offer a girls' softball team, she tried out, and made, the boys' varsity baseball team, which is a formidable accomplishment for a 15-year-old. Her coaches and male teammates supported her, and good on them for doing that, too. This is the kind of story that makes celebrating the anniversary of Title IX worthwhile. Except that her opponents in the title game disagree, and they've dragged Jesus in as an accessory before the fact.
Despite the fact — or, the cynical heart would murmur, because of the fact — that Mesa and Ms. Sultzbach whacked them around twice this season, including an 11-3 pasting back on April 26, in their own ballpark, Our Lady of Sorrows forfeited the championship game rather than play against Paige Sultzbach, ace keystone-sacker and female person. (Being far classier than her opponents, Ms. Sultzbach sat out the two regular-season games at Our Lady of Sorrows in deference to her opponents.) Here is Our Lady of Sorrows's official excuse for not playing in the championship game.
"Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty," the statement read. "Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls."
This is all my left eyebrow, of course, unless you consider breaking up a double play to be some kind of sexual thrill ride. (OK, I know some TV baseball analysts who … but never mind.) But to truly understand it, you have to understand what the Society of St. Pius X is all about, and to understand that, you have to understand a little about the dead pope after whom the society was named. Pius X, who reigned from 1903 to 1914, was a steadfast opponent of what was then called "modernism," and he accelerated the momentum of the Church toward conservative theology, a dynamic that did not exhaust itself finally until the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Which brings us to the society that bears his name, and which also sponsors Our Lady of Sorrows, which apparently thinks infield practice qualifies as foreplay.
Paige Sultzbach and her teammates deserved a chance to play for the championship. They were the only undefeated team in their league, and they'd already beaten Our Lady of Sorrows twice this season. They'd worked hard enough, and played well enough, to be allowed to win their championship on the field, and not have it handed to them because somebody hiding in a chapel somewhere decided not to give them the satisfaction. For all the theological dust they've thrown up to cover their cowardly retreat, Our Lady of Sorrows plainly and simply didn't want to lose to a girl.
This is an embarrassment to sport and to religion, the functional equivalent of bleeding statues and the face of Jesus on the side of the barn. This is the kind of thing of which Blessed John XXIII was trying to rid the Catholic Church when he called on the council to "throw open the windows" and release the stifling air of repression that had built up over the centuries. Our Lady of Sorrows doesn't want to play baseball against Paige Sultzbach because it's run by an organization that harbors an attitude toward women that differs very little from that of Bishop Williamson, its crackpot avatar. And, no, I don't have to "respect" the stand they took, or the beliefs that prompted it, unless I'm also prepared to "respect" the anti-Semitism and conspiracy-mongering that are at the heart of the beliefs in question. I'm not required to be as classy as Paige Sultzbach, state champion.
Go read the whole thing here at Grantland.