October 25, 2014

Bishop seeks to limit “creeping incursion” of sports into church activities

The Catholic Diocese that includes Iowa’s largest county  is implementing a policy to create a separation between church and sports. Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese has approved a policy at the request of the priest council that would prohibit any Catholic school from holding activities not related to religious services or religious education on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings.

“Our priests especially are experiencing the fact that it’s kind of a creeping incursion Wednesday evenings and also Sunday mornings, particularly in terms of their participation related to youth leagues related to sports, etcetera, soccer and that sort of thing,” Pates says.

The Bishop says a young person confronted with the possibility of playing sports or going to church, they would naturally want to play sports, and the puts pressure on the parents that want them to go to church. The other Catholic Dioceses have varying policies that seek to accomplish the same end.

Davenport Diocese faith formation coordinator, Mary Weiser says they limit activities for those days in Scott County. She says smaller parishes outside of Scott County have different days they hold religious education, and adjust accordingly.

The diocese in Dubuque and Sioux City leave it up to the schools to set restrictions and officials says most schools have some type of rule. Bishop Pates says the rules only apple to Catholic schools, but he hopes it will give parents some backing and allow them to take a stand with their kids.

Weiser agrees. “You know when there are activities that are kind of outside our purview, there really isn’t anything that we can do except that we encourage parents to ask coaches that things do not start until after noon so the youngsters can go to church on Sunday,” according to Weiser.

Pates says the Catholic church isn’t the only one facing the issue and he plans to seek support from the larger religious community. “The priests have asked me also to invite our ecumenical brothers and sisters to take a look at this. Our Lutherans, our Methodists, our Baptists…the Episcopalians, to see too if they might adopt a similar policy so it would have a little more teeth to it, and recognize that it is kind of widespread need in our community,” according to Pates.

Pates says it is important to keep the church’s place within the family along with the other activities. “You know, people are going around in circles all the time and don’t have time to relax and enjoy one another, and what I would describe of some of the finer things in life, that are so important for us to experience in our growing up,” Pates says. “You know the warmth of love and care for one another is also very important.”

The Des Moines Diocese policy follows up the recent steps the leaders have taken to develop what it calls a “comprehensive ministry” for young people in the church.