Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 7, 2002
Knights need to halt gambling fundraisers
By RON KRAUSERT
I was asked to join the local Knights of Columbus council right after a Knights of Columbus sponsored family hayride and bonfire at our church. It was fun for the whole family.
The knights I got to know that day were down to earth, friendly and witty. When one asked me to join, I felt a peace about it and said "yes." I felt God saying in my heart "Help support their work," and "Help clean-up gambling fundraisers."
The first part was easy. The guys are great. They're friendly and fun to socialize with, talented and hard-working in projects, and do a great job organizing. They're caring family men that work for the good of their family and Church. They even say prayers before and after meetings, have a yearly spiritual retreat and put on occasional spiritual teaching sessions.
The only problem I have is with the second part of what God put in my heart when joining - trying to convince people used to and dependent on gambling as a fundraiser that it's legal, but not ethical, that the end doesn't justify the means, and that it's not black and white, but a grey area.
Fact 1: A recent government study found "15 per cent of all Albertans 18 plus have a problem with gambling" (Measuring Gambling and Problem Gambling in Alberta, February 2002). Difficulties associated with a gambling problem include stress, sleeplessness, regular alcohol or drug use, depression and thinking about or attempting suicide.
Fact 2: The Alberta bishops are against gambling as fundraisers. The Alberta bishops issued a letter in 1998 entitled The False Eden of Gambling.
Here are some quotations from it: "The proliferation of government-sponsored gambling in our society has become a significant concern, both for our Catholic community and our society. With government backing, the implication seems to be given that what is legal is therefore moral."
"Games of chance become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. . . . Our faith unmasks the false hope of greed. . . . How might Christ respond in our place?"
The letter was signed by former Archbishop Joseph MacNeil and five bishops, including our present archbishop, Thomas Collins.
Opinion:The founders of the Knights of Columbus wouldn't have considered gambling fundraisers, even if available, and other Christian churches generally don't allow them, on principle.
I believe Christ wouldn't approve either, judging from what my conscience has told me. He'd more likely be in the casino to rescue the lost sheep - the compulsive gamblers. The 15 years I've helped my dad volunteer at smoky bingo halls, I've seen some addicts play many bingo cards every night for two weeks (while their children played unattended in the parking lot), then need the food bank for two weeks.
I needn't describe what spiritual darkness I've felt in casinos, and I know that I'm not the only knight uncomfortable with them.
Fact 3: We are putting our name to fundraisers we thought like Robin Hood would mainly take from rich high rollers and give to the poor. We also take from many poor addicts. Addiction at its best takes some money that should have gone to housing, clothing, feeding, etc., for the addict's family.
At its worst, addicts have lost their house, job, family, hope and some (through suicide), ultimately their life. Government may make this legal, cash in, and turn a blind eye to it.
A casino worker once told me that half their money comes from the unaddicted social gamblers spending an average of $7 and then leaving, while half comes from the addicted minority losing more than they can afford.
We, as Christian knights trying to help people, shouldn't turn a blind eye to these poor we hurt by: 1) facilitating gambling addicts, and 2) inadvertently helping turn more social gamblers into addicts.
I'm not saying turn off gambling fundraisers immediately and leave charities at church and elsewhere depending on us unaided - gradual changeover seems best over the next year or two.
I'm only saying we should realize Christ would have us doing funding of the poor in ways that nobody loses, financially and emotionally. For Christians to inadvertently impoverish some and take their hope away to give other poor people that money and more hope doesn't make sense.
I'm a knight because I love my family, faith, and my fellow man, and there's so much good we knights have done, do, and shall do to help them - so many ways we shine. Let's just purify this aspect of our service and polish this part of our armour that doesn't shine. Then we'll truly shine Christ's light in every way.
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