Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 5, 2007
Bouchard saw gambling grow and chose to speak out
By BILL GLEN
"We must see what the consequences of gambling are."
- Bishop Luc Bouchard
"After some research and realizing the consequences of gambling and its issues in Alberta, the current Lenten season urges us to make an examination of conscience," Bouchard said. "We must see what the consequences of gambling are."
The letter was a long time coming, he said. Bouchard consulted numerous sources, including school boards. He was pleased to find many of them had already adopted resolutions against gambling and pursuing funds derived from gambling.
Because commitments have been made by some groups to use a licensed casino or bingo in the near future, Bouchard used a three-year phase out period. In that time, groups can proceed with their plan, but will have to find alternate means of fundraising subsequently.
"At some point we have to speak out on social justice issues."
- Bishop Luc Bouchard
"I tried to act as pastorally as I could, that we would be gradually getting away from gambling revenue. Many promises have been made, setting up several projects. The time lapse will permit a good transition. It will also give people the chance to seek other means."
Bouchard said it was important for him and his research team to look at all of the facts available.
"I am not inventing things here. We tried to make sure our facts were accurate."
Now in his sixth year as bishop of the Diocese of St. Paul, Bouchard has averaged one pastoral letter annually. Previous letters have commented on Confirmation, restoration of the permanent diaconate and vocations.
Bouchard has distributed copies of the letter to the Catholic bishops of Alberta, to the parishes in the St. Paul Diocese - in French and English, as well as all school board superintendents and school principals.
"We have to hope and pray that something comes out of this."
Bouchard noted that casinos are being built in Cold Lake and in the Whitecourt area in his diocese. "And people go to Edmonton. That is somewhat worrisome. At some point we have to speak out on social justice issues."
Bouchard is requesting parishioners to contact their MLAs to express their concerns and to see if their political representative shares those concerns.
He wants to see a substantial increase in the quality and quantity of counselling resources available for problem gamblers along with either full elimination of VLTs or at least banning them outside licensed casinos.
He is calling on the faithful to examine their own gambling behaviour and to resolve not to contribute to the culture of gambling.
"We are all involved. I hope the letter has some impact for the good of society in all Alberta," he said.
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