Last Updated: Thursday - 09/30/2010
September 27, 2010
Schools get time to wean off gambling dependency
Archdiocese calls an end to casino fundraising
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Archbishop Richard Smith will meet with Catholic school officials to set a date for implementing a new archdiocesan policy banning the use of "harmful gambling activities" for fundraising.
The ban on gambling revenues is one of a large number of archdiocesan policies developed in an overall policy review and due to take effect Oct. 1.
But in an email interview, Smith said he recognizes that school divisions have become reliant on gambling revenue and "will need some time to transition away from this."
Conversations with school officials about the timing to implement the ban have not taken place and that implementation "may be a few years from now," he said.
The archbishop took issue with media reports that suggested the gambling ban has created "some sort of antagonistic situation" between school boards and the archdiocese.
"Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone is committed to our responsibility to keep our schools true to their Catholic identity."
School officials, he said, understand that their raising money from gambling creates a problem and that the problem must be addressed.
The new policy bans parishes, Catholic institutions and Catholic organizations from fundraising through "harmful gambling activities." It says those activities include casino gaming, video lottery terminals and high-stakes bingo.
It also bans Catholic organizations from applying for funding from the Alberta Lottery Fund or other sources that raise money from harmful gambling.
Smith asked why schools and parent councils have been placed in the position of having to fundraise for educational necessities.
"To take but one example, computers and other technology requirements, in this day and age, are not 'extras' to be acquired only if additional revenue can be raised through casinos or other methods.
"They are necessary and should be funded directly by the government."
To put the burden for paying for necessary educational expenses on schools or parent councils is unfair and also "introduces inequities among schools," the archbishop said.
The archdiocese's new policy statement notes the Alberta bishops have been trying since 1998 to create awareness of the moral difficulties associated with legalized gambling "and to call for a Christian response."
"Foremost among the moral and social problems that arise from legalized gambling in this province is the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable," the policy states.
"It is statistically verified that a weak and vulnerable minority suffers disproportionately in a culture of legalized gambling, especially through the use of video lottery terminals, casinos and high-stakes bingo."
Noting that Catholic social doctrine calls all Catholics to stand in solidarity with the poor, it concludes, "A Catholic institution that operates or participates in any activity that is known to cause harm to others, especially the weak, contradicts its identity and compromises its mission."
The new policy was distributed to Catholic school superintendents and chairs of boards of trustees along with a Sept. 16 memo from the archbishop stating that he wanted to allow "sufficient time for a smooth transition out of this dependence."
The archdiocese also sent the officials what it called "a brief catechesis" explaining the Catholic moral teaching behind its new policy banning the use of gambling revenues by schools. (See Pages 7 and 8.)
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