Fr. Henry Rosenbaum
SHERWOOD PARK – In 2004, the Alberta bishops publicly identified casinos as destructive to individuals and families. Profiting from gambling addiction was deemed unacceptable.
Consequently, a policy was implemented that no Catholic parish, organization or agency should raise money through harmful gambling activities.
The Knights of Columbus also decided to withdraw from accepting money raised via casinos.
But since many councils throughout Alberta and the Northwest Territories relied on casino revenue, a grace period of two to three years was given to discontinue all casino activities. The transition time allowed for several initiatives to be put into action to provide councils with alternative funding.
"Many of our councils have successfully eliminated casinos as a fundraising option, and we congratulate them for doing that," said State Deputy Gary Johnson.
However, some councils that stopped sponsoring casinos have since slipped back into the harmful practice again. Eight years after the bishops' order, some councils still sponsor casinos.
"Going back to what our founder was all about, we're there for our clergy, we're there for our priests and we were asked by them to refrain from sponsoring casinos," said Johnson.
During the annual state council meeting, he reminded knights to refrain from all casino sponsorship.
"I am asking you, my brother knights, at this state convention to support our state mandate with respect to casinos by not sponsoring casinos nor knowingly accepting funds raised from casinos and by declaring that your chapter will not accept money from casino proceeds," said Johnson.
The money the government makes on casino revenues is staggering, in the billions of dollars, said Father Henry Rosenbaum, the state chaplain.
"We have an ethical responsibility not to support casinos because, as all of the reports tell us, they lead to and contribute to gambling addiction. That is something we cannot support," said Rosenbaum.
If someone's gambling addiction has resulted in losing everything in his life, perhaps to the point of living on the streets, the Knights do not want to be part of that situation, he said. If people want to gamble and it leads to problems, "we should not be responsible for their downfall."
Addictions to alcohol and drugs might be more commonly seen. But Rosenbaum reminded the knights that gambling addiction is widespread.
"We have a responsibility to our fellow human beings. Therefore, I would strongly urge you not to return to these kinds of money-raising efforts. There are other fundraisers that might not bring in as much money, but they do not harm other people," said Rosenbaum.
He has no qualms about the Knights, at a personal level, partaking in legal gambling if it is not addictive or damaging to them.
However, he suggested fundraising can begin at home.
"Sometimes I find that the best way of raising funds is to take something out of your own pocket," said Rosenbaum. "Sometimes that looks strange, but since we are all great fundraisers, we should start with ourselves."