His first pitch was hurled at Major League Baseball. Now, it's Little League and soccer.
In his second remark in recent weeks about how the world of sports is interfering with the realm of the spirit, Cardinal John O'Connor, the archbishop of New York, said that Little League and soccer games are sometimes scheduled on Sunday mornings - and that, in too many cases, is causing religion to be pushed aside."Why is it religion that must always accommodate?" O'Connor wrote Thursday in his column in Catholic New York, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York. "How many altar pastors have been told by altar servers, `I can't serve Sunday. I have a Little League game'? This is the constant erosion, the constant secularization of our culture, that I strongly believe to be a serious mistake."
The column followed O'Connor's observation last month that all 30 Major League clubs played on Good Friday. Playing on Good Friday, he said, "cheapens our culture, no matter how big the box-office receipts."
In that column, the cardinal said he would boycott Major League Baseball for the 1998 season, but he did not explicitly encourage others to do likewise.
Similarly, while the cardinal did not encourage a boycott of children's sports, he made it clear that he was gravely concerned that parents have their priorities mixed up.
"Can't we who are, hopefully, adult," he wrote, "encourage priorities of values among youngsters who will be pressured soon enough in their lives to subordinate the practice of their faith to a thousand competing interests?"
It was a question that, at first blush anyway, prompted muted reactions from various interested parties.
Lance Van Auken, a spokesman for Little League baseball, based in Williamsport, Pa., said that while his organization appreciated the cardinal's comments, "it's fairly rare" that Little League games are held on Sunday mornings at all. But no day is off limits, he added, out of deference to a local community's ethnic and religious composition.
"There are probably dozens of religions that are represented in Little League," he said. "So it became impractical and improper for us to mandate one day being more special than all others."
Dick Wilson, national executive director of American Youth Soccer Organization, which organizes soccer games for 615,000 children across the country, said that Sunday morning games were a concern in many communities. But because soccer is such a booming sport, he said, "sometimes, in a tournament situation, you need to cram a bunch of stuff in on Sunday mornings."