A Crown for Australia: Striving for the Best in Our Sporting Nation
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement 2014–2015 challenges us to look at the place of sport in our lives. Where are its strengths and how can we ensure that sport can thrive and in return can nourish our society? Equally, what are the influences that are undermining and distorting sport’s ideals? Most importantly, how can we work to realise sport’s potential to unite communities, overcome differences and be a force for social justice and reconciliation? The Statement’s title refers to St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:24–27), where Paul compares the athletes of the time competing for a ‘wreath that will wither’ with our aspiration for an imperishable crown as followers of Christ. Australians are passionate about their sport. The nation seems to stop for a grand final or a crucial cricket test. Local sporting clubs are a nucleus around which a true community can grow up and flourish. Lifelong friendships are forged; young people learn skills and resilience; volunteers devote time and energy to their organisations. Sport brings together people who otherwise might never come in contact. As our lifestyles become more and more sedentary, sport makes an essential contribution to our health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. But there is another side to sport, one that can bring us disillusionment instead of delight. Too often, we see violence on the field, on the sidelines or in the street; we see abuse of drugs and alcohol; we see racism and abuse or exploitation of women; and we see a growing potential for crime and corruption. This Social Justice Sunday Statement invites us to explore how sport can help us celebrate sport’s gifts and use them to bring about God’s kingdom on Earth.