Coubertin Quote for May, 06
Olympism, a doctrine of the fraternity of the body and the mind, and asceticism, a doctrine of the enmity between them ... are destined to clash.

Although he was a devout Catholic throughout his life, Baron Pierre de Coubertin thought the church’s emphasis on the war between the spirit and the flesh undermined the benefits of physical education for the public at large.  His use of the term asceticism here is a polite avoidance of direct criticism of church doctrine, but the language in the longer passage below makes it clear that he was referring to religious teaching.  It is interesting that he posits Olympism—a form of modern humanism—in conflict with asceticism.  Today, that conflict has been largely eliminated by the church’s wide embrace of sports and exercise.  This is from a lecture titled “Olympia,” which the Baron delivered in Paris in 1929.

“Olympia did not disappear merely from the face of the earth. It disappeared from people's minds. Asceticism became dominant ... A belief took root, whether conscious or not, but in any event recognized and respected by the very people who did not act in conformity with it. This belief was that the body is the enemy of the spirit, that the struggle between them is an inevitable and normal thing, and that no understanding should be sought out that would allow them to join together in governing the individual ... Olympism, a doctrine of the fraternity of the body and the mind, and asceticism, a doctrine of the enmity between them... they are destined to clash.”