Blacklist for blackjack, warns Canadian bishop

Calgary bishop Fred Henry has threatened to blacklist Catholic schools that continue to depend on gambling as a source of "immoral" fundraising for cash-strapped schools.

The Globe and Mail reports that Calgary's influential bishop has issued a damning indictment of a local school board's decision to continue to use gambling as a source of fundraising for its cash-strapped schools.

In a letter sent last week to each of the 97 schools in the Calgary Catholic School District, Bishop Henry threatened "blacklisting" of schools that engage in "immoral fundraising," as well as stripping them of their Catholic designation, and announced that he won't preside at the liturgy to open the school year.

"It is morally wrong for a Catholic institution to formally cooperate in an industry that exploits the weak and the vulnerable," he wrote. "The end does not justify the means."

The letter does not spell out what blacklisting entails. However, it is believed that it would include local pastors withdrawing their services from the schools, said Jeremy Simms, chief superintendent of the school district.

School principals were called last week to an emergency meeting to discuss the threats, but the board of trustees announced that it will not - and cannot - bend to the will of their spiritual leader.

"We would prefer that no school would have to do fundraising," Cathie Williams, chairwoman of the board, told reporters.

Bishop Henry has been outspoken on many thorny social issues, including same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

There are more than 9,000 licensed charitable and religious organisations in Alberta that fundraise through gambling. Amateur sports groups, religious groups and schools have been "heavily reliant" on gambling to raise extra cash for about 20 years, said Garry Smith, a University of Alberta professor affiliated with the Alberta Gaming Research Institute.

Prof Smith said the bishop's position is "extreme" and that "not all forms of gambling are bad." Lotteries and raffles, he said, are less addictive and harmful than other types such as video-lottery terminals.

Still, the Bishop's public stand on this issue should be credited as "courageous" because "he's given up a lot," Prof Smith said.

Meanwhile, Catholic News Service reports that the Ukrainian Catholic Church has protested plans to open a casino next to its new cathedral in Kiev.

Kiev City Council officials had allowed an investment company, Terra Capital, to buy the land adjoining a cathedral for the casino, said the church's press office.

However, the transaction had been "against legal procedure," after a church request to build a secondary school on the same site had been ignored, it added.

Catholic bishop says all bets are off, Religious leader wants end to using gambling to raise funds in schools (Globe and Mail 23/6/06)
Kiev plans to open casino next to Catholic cathedral (BC Catholic 26/6/06)

NSW MP tells Pope his image being used to condone gambling (CathNews, 28/2/06)
Pell's message of support for chronic gamblers CathNews 27/5/2005)

Almighty dollar (Calgary Sun 24/6/06)

26 Jun 2006