Monday, June 12, 2006

Do the ends justify the means? Can you buy your way into heaven?

The question before St. Edmund's Academy and Archmere Academy is can you do good with money from a family that has done bad. Their decision appears to be yes, and it sets before us an interesting ethical dilemma to the tune of $1 million each.

Both schools have accepted donations of $1 million from Louis Capano, Jr. and they intend to name buildings at each school for the parents Louis and Marguerite Capano, Sr. The schools have accepted donations from the family before, but this is the first time that buildings will will bear the Capano name. The controversy has raised the ire of some Archmere alumni and parents. Some have started a website protesting the gift. Accepting the $1 million gifts may cost the schools more in donations withheld by disgusted alumni than they have gained by the Capano gifts.

What is the issue with the Capano's? Thomas Capano was convicted of killing Anne Marie Fahey in a very high profile trial that also involved his brother Louis admitting to destroying evidence, lying to the grand jury and tampering with a witness (and as Marginal Utility puts it "otherwise exhibiting the cleanliness of business practices that you'd expect from a mid-Atlantic real estate developer of Italian-American descent."). Another brother, Gerard, helped dispose of the body at sea, and began cooperating with the murder investigation when authorities found drugs and guns at his house. Joseph was convicted of assault in 1991 for kidnapping a woman he had dated for 9 years. The family has had some troubles, and while children may do what they will, what influence did the parents (who the buildings will be named for) have or not have over their children?

The schools say they are accepting the gifts out of the spirit of Christian forgiveness. You can't buy your way into heaven (that's selling an indulgence), Delaware Watch reminds us:
"In 1567 Pope Pius V, acting on a recommendation from the Council of Trent, banished the practice of forgiving sins for gifts of money to the Roman Catholic Church. It had been one of the Church'’s practices that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther had made such a big to-do about with popular success. It was just bad PR."
Should the schools accept the gifts and name school buildings after a family which perhaps lacks the qualities one might expect for such an honor. When students of the future ask who the building was named for and what aspects of that family's character they might emulate, what will be the answer? Perhaps the family could have donated the money anonymously in order to do something for the good of society. Why doesn't the family show humility and realize the position that the schools are placed in by these gifts, and why did the schools suggest the naming?

In an extra twist, the building at Archmere was originally intended to honor Senator Biden. There are conflicting reports that Bishop Salterelli's office rejected this idea because the Senator is pro-choice and that naming the building after him would conflict with the document "Catholics in Political Life", which says institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,"” which includes opposing abortion. So, while having a school building named after a pro-life politician is unpalatable, a school building named after parents which raised a family with a murderer, drug dealer and other criminal convictions is perfectly acceptable.

There is hypocrisy all around in this story (even mine). It seems the best compromise would have been for the Capano family to do some good by donating the money anonymously and the schools would have done better research on the issue before deciding to accept the gifts. In a complicated world these moral issues are not straightforward and they are certainly not black and white. A variety of opinions have bubbled over in the pages of the News Journal. In the same position, I would recommend taking the money anonymously for the good that it could do, what do my readers think? (For even more opinions see Truth, Justice & Peace and lareina95)

tags: , , ,


whirdly said...

Interesting point about not naming the building after Biden And did you see in the comment section of
that Brian Fahey (brother of Anne Marie) as even spoken out against it.

Rob Ulmer said...

Your comments echo my feelings exactly. I actually had a 30 minute phone conversation with Tom Mallon about it in which he is very unapologetic about this donation. I don't think anyone has considered the long term affects on students it will have. This is simply NUTS.

Terry C said...

That family should keep a LOW profile.

They have nothing to be proud of!