Submitted by Charlie McCormick
Editors Note: The author of this article is an alumnus of Bergen Catholic High School, a traditional rival to Don Bosco where Yuri Wright played football.
Is stupidity a sin?
The issue has garnered national attention as Wright is listed as one of the top 100 high school football players in the nation, and his expulsion led to Michigan State University withdrawing their interest in signing him.
Many news accounts cover the unfortunate story from the perspective of New Media, such as Twitter, and the irresponsibility exhibited by legions of high school students.
Social networking platforms have been a problem for the younger generation in terms of cyber-bullying, posting images of criminal behavior, and in Wright’s case posting socially unacceptable text messages.
Had this been a public school, Yuri Wright would not have been expelled. The University of Michigan may still have lost interest in taking on a troubled football player, and the public school may have implemented corrective action with respect to counseling and/or extra-curricula suspensions; but, there would have been no expulsion.
The fact that Don Bosco chose to address this moral failing only after the completion of their 11-0 football season is concerning, but as a private insitution it is within their authority. As Don Bosco coach Toal stated, “Don Bosco had to do what it had to do”.
But is this what Don Bosco had to do, and based on what? ( Click to read Wright’s tweets)
The fact that a significant portion of American youth have bought into a media industry that objectifies and denigrates women, and promotes “gangsta” values is itself disconcerting, and is tangent to the subject at hand. Is stupidity a sin?
The man who actually asked this question, Saint Thomas Aquinas , answered it both yes and no.
“Stupidity implies a dullness of perception in judging, particularly about the Highest Cause, the Last End and Sovereign Good. This may come of natural incapacity, and that is not a sin. Or it may come of man burying his mind so deep in earthly things as to render his perceptions unfit to grasp the things of God, according to the text: “The sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God;” and such stupidity is a sin.”
If we look to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Wright’s tweets could be considered a sin, or not. Obviously, without a doubt, the majority of the tweets have to do with some specific earthly pleasures; the tweets also demean people based on sex and/or religion. The denigrations were not necessarily specific to individuals, but an overall callousness and possible bigotry.
Basically, the Wright tweets reflect immaturity rather than malice. The environment of an all boys Catholic school is not primarily one of diversity, with most students being boys and belonging to the same religion. While not promoted, it’s not unreasonable to believe that sexist and bigoted comments might occur. This might lend one to believe that Wright’s tweets were stupid, but necessarily a sin.
The human brain does not fully develop until one reaches their twenties, especially with respect to impulse control. Wright’s tweets reflect a lot of immaturity, and it could be perceived that his tenure at Don Bosco failed in instilling him with the ‘capacity’ to understand the wider impact of his tweets.
While it is stated that Wright, either individually or as a team member, was warned on the dangers of tweeting, there are no reports emanating from Don Bosco as to whether the school ever addressed his behavior – his evident immaturity. Not addressing the academic failings of a student is a failure on the part of a school, and not addressing the moral failings of a student in a Catholic high school is a failure on their part.
Yurin Wright’s tweets certainly needed to be addressed by Don Bosco, but was expulsion an act that is congruent with the teachings of the Catholic church?
Not according to Catholic bishops who issued a report on crime and punishment, noting “…society must never respond to children who have committed crimes as though they are somehow equal to adults—fully formed in conscience and fully aware of their actions….”
Nor according to Pope John Paull II who believed, “…offer to those who commit crimes a way of redeeming themselves and making a positive return to society. If all those in some way involved in the problem tried to . . . develop this line of thought, perhaps humanity as a whole could take a great step forward in creating a more serene and peaceful society.”
And Saint Thomas Aquinas, the one who pondered whether stupidity was a sin, offered guidance in how a Catholic should go about seeking corrective action in the sins of others. Aquinas argued that public denunciation can be counterproductive.
“For good name is useful to the sinner, not only in his temporal, but even in his spiritual interest: because many are withdrawn from sin by fear of infamy; hence when they see themselves become infamous, they sin without check or bridle. “
Don Bosco should have found an avenue for the correction of Wright’s moral failing long before such a critical time in this student’s life. The expulsion, and the accompanying public denunciation, of Yuri Wright at this point in time – when he was about to graduate and his utility as a football player for Don Bosco was over – seem more to be a matter of convenience for Don Bosco.
Don Bosco should have exercised corrective action more congruent with the teachings and doctrines of the Catholic faith.