Fr. Kenneth Doyle
Fr. Kenneth Doyle
Q —  Why has the Catholic Church not condemned boxing? It is the only sport in the world whose purpose is to hurt your opponent, even to knock him out. People in other sports get hurt, but the purpose is not evil. The goal is to get a home run or a basket or a touchdown.

Boxing is a barbaric sport where the participants try to pummel their opponent into oblivion. It certainly doesn’t belong in a civilized society whose rules are based on divine law. (Little Rock, Arkansas)


A — I agree with you completely and, while the church has no “official” position on boxing, Catholic theologians have long questioned the morality of professional prizefighting.

Back in 2005, La Civiltà Cattolica, in an article titled, “The Immorality of Professional Prizefighting,” called the sport a “legalized form of attempted murder” and noted that fighters who don’t die in the ring often suffer long-term physical and psychological injuries.

The particular significance is that this journal reflects the official view of the Vatican and that its articles are preapproved by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. “From a moral point of view,” said the article, “the judgment of boxing can only be gravely and absolutely negative.”

More recently, in August 2021, Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk authored an article that ran in The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese. Father Pacholczyk, who holds a doctorate in neurosciences from Yale University and serves as director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, wrote:

“If the goal of a professional boxing match is ‘just’ to knock out the opponent to gain victory, the purpose of the competition itself still raises moral concerns, because participants are striving to inflict potentially serious harm to their opponent’s brain by causing a concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury.”

He also noted that “the sport of boxing not only risks serious impairment and even death, but poses many uncomfortable questions for us regarding our own appetites as spectators, and our willingness to allow for certain elements of brutality and even barbarism in the practice of sporting events.”

Editor’s note: Holy Cross Father George Bernard, a longtime official at the University of Portland, wrote a doctoral dissertation in the early 1950s that questioned the morality of boxing. In 1982, Father Bernard wrote a column for the Sentinel in which he called prizefighting “a dirty, inhuman, immoral practice which poses as a manly sport."

Q — When I was at Mass yesterday, the congregation sang a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.” That brought to my mind the flag issue. I have been in many Catholic churches of late — especially for funerals — and I have not seen a single flag. What is the Catholic Church’s stand on American flags on the altar? (Niskayuna, New York)

A — Some might be surprised to know that there are currently no regulations regarding the display of national flags in churches — neither in the church’s Code of Canon Law nor in the books that govern the celebration of the liturgy. That matter is left to the judgment of the diocesan bishop who often, in turn, delegates the decision to the local pastor.

Under the heading of prayer and worship, the U.S. national bishops’ conference does say on its website:

“The bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy has in the past encouraged pastors not to place the flag within the sanctuary itself, in order to reserve that space for the altar, the ambo, the presidential chair and the tabernacle. Instead, the suggestion has been made that the American flag be placed outside the sanctuary, or in the vestibule of the church.”