I found an opposing team’s football playbook in the garbage bin outside their school in my neighborhood. Should I share it with my coaches and teammates?

Imagine that an opposing team’s player found your team’s playbook and wanted to share it with his teammates. Would that help you to answer your own question? The eighth commandment (do not bear false witness against your neighbor) calls us to respect the truth, and that involves a respect for private information and legitimate secrets. Even though you obtained the playbook by accident (as opposed to, say, by stealing it), it contains confidential information. The other team’s mistake does not give you permission to violate its private material. Consider an analogy to physical (rather than intellectual) property: If you had found a new football belonging to the opposing team, would it be yours to keep? No. You would have to return it to its rightful owner, even if the other team had been careless in keeping track of their equipment. If your team uses the playbook, the integrity of the game in your next contest with that opponent will have been breached.

Cheating – no matter in what form – might help you to win a game, or even a championship, and thus bring you a moment of public glory. But you will know what really happened, and you will have to doubt your own accomplishment because of it. When all the attention fades you have to live with the person you are. Think about the person that you want to be – think about the sportsmanship and integrity that will carry you through life long after you have left football behind – and throw out the playbook.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.