Going to the Dogs

I recently received this interesting question via email:

“A relative of mine entered a hot dog eating contest. You know, the kind where one competes with others to see who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes.

“What do you think about the morality of this?”
To be perfectly “frank,” I don”t “relish” having to come down on hot dog eating contests. I was an obese child, and as a youth my eating exploits were legendary. And beyond my own personal struggles, gluttony is seen by most people as not being a big deal.
Fr. Hardon gives the standard definition of gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins: “Gluttony is an inordinate love of eating and drinking. It means eating or drinking to excess, taking more than is needed or healthy, or indulging the appetite merely for pleasure, or beyond one’s means. . . .”

St. John Vianney, who is especially on our radar screen during the final days of this “Year for Priests,” affirms this teaching and writes about the negative spiritual ramifications of gluttony.
I don’t know how one could take seriously the definition of gluttony and still find hot dog eating contests morally acceptable. It surely entails “eating . . . to excess, taking more than is needed or healthy.” It goes even beyond eating “for pleasure,” making it a quasi-sport/entertainment, completely detached from the satisfaction of one’s hunger. I think some analogy could be made to various “games” or “sports” that play on our lustful inclinations, such as wet T-shirt competitions, mud wrestling, and worse.
We discuss overcoming the vice of gluttony and growing in the opposing virtue of temperance in our online Faith Foundations course. Visit the My Catholic Faith Delivered homepage for more information.

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