Bill Smith

Bill Smith

May 12, 2014
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

With the flashing lights, the free-flowing alcoholic drinks and generally intoxicating atmosphere, casinos provide gambling options that are likely to lead to bad decisions and ruinous losses for patrons.

Therefore, at their annual convention, the Alberta/Northwest Territories Knights of Columbus state council have once again agreed to support the Catholic bishops of Alberta in speaking out against the spread of casino gambling.

The bishops have expressed concern over the spread of legalized gambling province-wide for the purpose of generating revenue.

"Some councils said this was a resolution they wanted to review from 10 years ago, in support of our bishops where we would get out of casinos. They brought the motion up, so we could review the issue," said State Deputy Bill Smith, from Calgary.

After some debate, the knights reaffirmed their position that they will continue supporting their bishops, and not revert to raising money via casinos.

The convention was held April 25-27 at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel (former Mayfield Inn) in Edmonton. Four bishops were present: Archbishop Richard Smith, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, Bishop Gregory Bittman and Ukrainian Bishop David Motiuk.

Another special guest was Michael O'Connor, the supreme treasurer of the Knights of Columbus, from New Haven.

In 1998, the bishops of Alberta issued a pastoral letter, The False Eden of Gambling, tackling the issue of problem gambling. The letter was released when the use of video lottery terminals was expanding rapidly in the province.

One major point in the letter was that the fallout from a gambling addiction can impact families and friends with an emotional toll that cannot be repaired with one more card game or one more spin of the roulette wheel.

NO OUTRIGHT CONDEMNATION

The Catholic Church has never issued an outright condemnation on gambling.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2413) says gambling "becomes morally unacceptable when it deprives an individual of what is necessary to provide for his/her needs and those of others."

In Alberta, gambling revenue has been used to raise funds for the construction of churches as well as for myriad projects in Catholic schools.

The Knights of Columbus used casino and other gambling revenues to contribute to numerous charitable causes. When the state convention decided to follow the bishops' lead and abandon casino fundraising, some councils were slow to implement the decision.

"Casinos were for fundraising, and there were some councils that had difficulty getting out of casinos. They were so dependent on them," said Smith, the state deputy.

WINTER CLOTHES

Another initiative of the Alberta Knights has been to provide coats and winter outerwear for children. With last year's flooding disaster in High River, there were an overwhelming number of requests from families and individuals with limited resources who needed winter jackets.

The June floods in High River washed away many families' winter clothing, leaving them with the expensive task of replacing boots, coats, mittens and toques.

Smith said coats of various sizes and colours were collected and distributed to children. The Knights also helped in replacing other family necessities such as coffeemakers, toasters and comforters.

A memorial Mass was held April 27 in recognition of 192 knights who died in the past year. Their names were read aloud, and a rosary was given to each family of a deceased knight.