In the case of public policy, the Catholic approach to casino gambling was usually not too far away. It was a position taken by the bishops of Pennsylvania, who turned to the problem of gambling on a river vessel, setting out the standards to be regulated.
The message was simple: you can play, but calm down. Make it moderately, within the appropriate limits.
And this is really the default Catholic position. When it became clear that the former United States Secretary of Education, William Bennett, author of Book of Virtue, was a high-ranking player whose wager was reported to be millions, the answer was not that he, as a Catholic, did something wrong in itself, but rather that his conduct was scandalous.
But, given the firm position of Pope Francis with regard to our commitment to those who need it, it is difficult to understand how to justify any kind of gambling, because the money we could have been so presumptuous did not belong to us alone. So if people enjoy their free time playing popular casino games, is that a sin?
But if casino gambling is problematic, it’s also Ward bingo, especially when the Catholic Church so strongly emphasizes that the poor deserve justice, not just charity.
Of course, the question of Catholics and gambling in the casino is the extent to which, if any, Catholic values must be encoded in civil law. Massachusetts bishops have raised the issue of gambling on Catholic social education, but also in a broader context that takes into account the common good of the Commonwealth.
This is a wise step, given the complexity of the issues involved and the diverse constituencies that would solve the problem of gambling. But in controversial debates that will surely follow, it would be wise for the Catholic Church to rethink the evidence it gives about money, not only in public space but also in the parish hall.
With regard to the Catholic electorate, who try to reconcile the Pope’s counsel with a sense of community and charity, they enjoy binge (or just a little fun in a casino accident), which is a very personal choice-one that depends on a well formed conscience, which addresses the number of questions:
What are the needs of my community or family? How are gambling related to these needs? Is it winning for someone else’s account?
The most crucial question of gambling calls on us to reflect on our often misguided relationship to money and how our property can serve the common good, not just our own and fantasy.
Matthew N. Schmalz is an associate of religious research at the St. Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where his research and teaching are concentrated on global Catholicism, Studies in South Asia and modern religious movements. As more people use phone casino, they are able to play everywhere they go, so even while sitting in church. It is everyone’s personal opinion on the gambling idea, either you are catholic or not.