And Alex Cora admitted it, on national television. The manager of the Boston Red Sox, who had just beaten the favoured team three games to one in a five game series, was asked how he felt about winning. Sports reporters always ask this question, and the managers or players always answer it in the same way. It feels great, glad to be here, really happy for my team, tough game but we just kept playing, they were great opponents, now on to the next game. It’s a ritual with roughly scripted words.
Cora followed the script. But then he went off-script. “I’m happy for my family,” he said, on his own, unprompted. “I put them in such a tough spot last year.” He’d come to the Red Sox as manager in 2018 and led them to the baseball championship and a good season the next year. He sat at the top of his world. Then the league exposed him as a cheater. When he’d been an assistant coach with another team two years before, he’s helped his team steal the other team’s signals to give their own players an advantage. The Red Sox sacked him. Now he’s back after his year’s suspension, but apparently chastened.
The language of sin isn’t available to us anymore.
The reporter asked him about his eldest daughter running onto the field and hugging him. “She suffered a lot and it was my fault,” Cora said. “And sometimes we make bad decisions, and I made a horrible decision in baseball and I paid the price. But what really hurt me was for them to suffer because of my mistakes. And for her to enjoy this is very gratifying.”
I wish he hadn’t used the overused language of “mistakes” rather than the language of right and wrong. The language of sin isn’t available to us as a public word anymore. It sounds weird, a word a ranting fundamentalist preacher would use, or it sounds cute, a word advertisers use, as in “so good it’s sinful.”
But we still recognise the words “right” and “wrong.” Most of us know cheating is wrong. Cora could have said “Sometimes we do the wrong thing and I did a horrible wrong thing in baseball.” That would have been more accurate. It’s a better way of expressing an apology.
But Cora did apologise, and that’s something these days. No one expected it. The cheating was in the past, he’d taken his punishment, and everyone had moved on. If he had a PR advisor, that advisor would have told him to let it go, it’s over, don’t bring it up, you’re only asking for trouble. But Cora says, “she suffered a lot and it was my fault”.
I can’t find out what religious commitments Cora has, if any. Being Puerto Rican, he’s more likely to be Catholic than anything else, but these days, not much more likely. Boston’s diocesan newspaper The Pilot ran a story about him which didn’t mention his religion at all. Given the eagerness with which Catholics claim celebrities, that’s suggestive.
But he did something a Catholic should do, and something that our bishops do not seem to have done through all the revelations that so many of them enabled sexual predators to prey on children. As far as I can find, no American bishop has publicly regretted what he or his peers did to their flock who weren’t abused. Maybe in a throw away line, but never with the visible regret Alex Cora showed on national television.
No American bishop has publicly regretted what he or his peers did to their flock
They acknowledged, in statements inevitably crafted by lawyers, the victims’ suffering. They did not admit the embarrassment and shame their people suffered, and still suffer. Loyal Catholics identify with the Church in the way they identify themselves with their families. They share the Church’s shame, the way Cora’s children shared his.
I don’t get much of this, living a writer’s somewhat reclusive life. The eyebrows that go up when someone finds out you’re Catholic just as another scandal hits the news. The earnest friend who asks you how you can remain a Catholic and support men like that, and won’t accept any answer you can give him. The Protestant who leans on you to come to his church, where such things never happen because they love Jesus. The person who sneers at you or taunts you for being tied to child molesters and the bishops who enable them, and the creep who insists you must approve of sex abuse.
Few of the active bishops, as far as we know, enabled sexual predators to keep preying on their people. They continue to apologise to the victims, as more victims come forward, and rightly. For the rest of us, the embarrassments accumulate.
It would be a great sign that our bishops really understand their flock and cared for them, if they would admit and apologise for how much harder the Church’s clergy have made it for us to be Catholic.
David Mills is a Chapter House columnist.
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