The Priest and the Gambler

In “Casino Conundrum” this writer exposed the dichotomy created by contentious national factions diametrically divided between support for institutionalized casino gambling on the one hand and outright, uncompromising condemnation of it on the other.

The principal protagonists in this caustic and vitriolic debate are the church and the politician, the religious and the secular.

In Grenada the Roman Catholic Church is at the vanguard leading the onslaught on all government overtures to accommodate casino enterprises in the economy.

In recent times, notwithstanding friendly collaboration between Church and State on the critical national debt issue, government boldly announced its intention to legislate casino gambling in the country.

Not surprisingly, this move has been greeted with a “perfect storm” of condemnation from the Roman Catholic Church of Grenada and all its surrogates including the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC).

But research has shown that the strong support that exists for all types of gambling within the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church itself is manifest of the existential double standard and hypocrisy of that institution.

To illustrate the following is the unedited reproduction of an article on gambling written by Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America.

The Catholic Church does not hold that all gambling is immoral. There is no scriptural, traditional, or magisterial basis for such a teaching.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
“Games of chances (card games, wagers) are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others.  The passion for gambling risks becoming enslavement” (No. 2413).

In other words, while gambling itself is morally neutral, the circumstance surrounding it can render it immoral.  These circumstances include: using excessive amounts of money, addiction to gambling, gambling that is unfair to the participants, gambling that leads to crime and corruption, gambling that causes collateral damage to individuals, families, and  communities.

Gambling is a very sensitive topic to all Catholics.  We realie there are moral concerns about gambling, but still we play bingo, sell raffle tickets, have parish festivals with games of chance, and organise trips to places like Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Are sins being committed every time these activities take place? I don’t think so.

Gambling can have useful purposes.  Gambling provides funds for non-profit agencies such as churches, schools, and fire departments.  It can be relaxing and fun for a group of friends.  It can entice people out of their homes to form local communities.

Many of our senior citizens find their primary social support around the bingo table.

It strikes me that as Catholics that our approach to gambling is very similar to our approach to alcohol.  While drinking alcohol is not evil in itself, the morality is found in the circumstance of its use or abuse.

We should be very reluctant to level universal condemnation of gambling. There is no theology to support such a stance and we can be easily accused of being hypocritical on the issue.

The fact that the culture of gambling is ensnaring many of our young people, including college students and high school students, is a serious and growing problem.

Without a doubt large-scale, corporate, professional gambling – such as that found in casinos – is in a league of its own.  It is essentially different from the gambling already mentioned, and it presents serious concerns.

This form of gambling is far more dangerous to individuals, families, and communities.  More money is involved, it is more addictive, and it is all for profit, not charity.

Jay Bruno

The Political leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is a politician that is as courageous as David. He has demonstrated that he is not afraid of standing up to the mischievous and sinister political goliaths in Grenada on the issue of constitutional reform.

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