Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 24, 2004
Tainted money sullies good works
Knights of Columbus lauded for turning away from gambling's destructive profits
The Shepherd Speaks
By ARCHBISHOP THOMAS COLLINS
At their annual convention a few weeks ago, the Knights of Columbus of our province decided to move away from gambling, especially casinos, as a source of revenue to support their charitable activities. Since gambling can be a relatively easy way to raise large sums of money that can be used to do good, the decision to forsake it took some courage, but it was the right decision.
In our province VLTs are everywhere, and casinos are flourishing, with new ones being proposed. Our society is increasingly becoming caught up in large scale gambling, with all of the social problems that this entails. All citizens need to consider carefully the consequences of this, and we as Christians are called to reflect prayerfully upon the effect on the dignity of the human person of omnipresent gambling. A few years ago I went to a conference on addictions, and was ashamed to hear a speaker highlight our province as a place where gambling addiction is a real problem.
Six years ago the Alberta bishops issued a pastoral letter, The False Eden of Gambling, and I refer you to that for a fuller discussion of the issues at hand, but I will simply note a few points to consider as we evaluate our present situation, and the moral and social challenges we face.
No longer harmless
Gambling itself can be a harmless entertainment. No one will suffer because of a small bingo that is largely a chance to get together with friends, or a fundraising raffle at an event where no one will spend beyond their means. But the reality of gambling in our province is such that it has long ceased to be simply harmless social activity.
The types of gambling which we find in our communities can and do encourage people to spend money that their family needs. Gambling, truly a "false Eden," can wreck the life of anyone in our community, but it can be especially damaging to those who do not have a lot of money, and who can be particularly drawn by the false hope that it offers. Widespread, heavily promoted gambling preys on the most vulnerable in our society. That should not be.
All forms of gambling can be enormously addictive, and especially VLTs. The effects of a gambling addiction are devastating for the individual, for the family and for society as a whole. If our society fosters this destructive phenomenon, it is no solution to provide plenty of addiction counselling to pick up the pieces after the damage is done. Why are we promoting a destructive phenomenon in the first place? What does this say about our society?
We recognize that the individual gambler can be easily addicted, but charitable organizations, the government and the Church can also become attached to this easy source of revenue. We can feel that we cannot live without it. We can soothe our consciences by saying that we will use the revenue to do good, but it is not right to fund good works with a method that frequently causes suffering to the vulnerable.
There is something wrong in our society when worthy charitable endeavours feel that they need to rely on gambling revenue. Sometimes people say that if we do not engage in this activity, someone else will, and so we might as well have the money going to a good cause. No. What others do is for them to decide, but we cannot be involved in an activity which we know is very likely to hurt people.
Bless the Knights
The Knights will be greatly blessed by their decision, for these pools of easy money not only harm those from whom the money was extracted in the first place, but also those who come to rely upon it. All of us who have depended upon gambling revenue to finance our good works need to follow the example of the Knights. Our community is corroded when we depend on revenue that rests on illusion, and which can distort our values.
Although the stewardship initiative in our archdiocese is mainly about the engagement of disciples in the use of their time and talent to serve others in a practical way, it also calls for the proper use of whatever treasure we have obtained through the gifts God has given us.
One side effect of stewardship is that as it becomes our way of life, we will realize that we do not need to rely on dubious revenue. If we need money to do good then we should ask for it openly.
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