Where Is The Sin In Gambling?

In the eastern hemisphere, some high-level ecclesiastical musings on gambling. First, in Sri Lanka, religious opposition failed to derail legislation permitting one to risk one’s money in games of chance. Colombo archbishop Malcolm Ranjith (formerly of the CDWDS) didn’t mince words:

Gaming is against all religious principles.

Australia’s best-known prelate muses on the intersection of sin and gambling. Quoted at an ethics forum when asked about poker machines at some Catholic clubs:

I must confess I do feel a bit uneasy about that, but only a bit uneasy. Because culturally I’m an Irish Australian and we grew up gambling.

Another bit from the Sydney Morning Herald piece got my attention:

Gambling in itself was not intrinsically wrong, he said. Only when it became an addiction, threatening the well-being of oneself and one’s family, did it become a sin.

Addiction is a powerful aspect of human behavior. One might say that the addict is in less control of her or his moral faculties than a non-addict. In a way, an all-out addict is less culpable once the gambling has taken over the brain. No doubt, however, that addicts cause a lot more self-harm and collateral damage when their illness is in full flower.

Anyone out there know of what the current thinking on addiction and moral culpability might be? What are the moral theologians saying? And if you were Cardinal Pell’s expert on moral theology and ethics, what might you tell him?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Where Is The Sin In Gambling?

  1. Deb says:

    I was just passing through and saw this piece. Thought I’d give my 2 cents worth based on personal experience.

    The psychologist treating our teenager son for an addiction tells us that an addiction affects the pleasure senses of the brain. It doesn’t matter whether it’s alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, etc.; it affects the same centers in the brain. An addiction is composed of the 3 “C”s: loss of control because one has a compulsion to continue the addiction despite the consequences. If I had not had my own distractions, I may have been able to redirect my son towards healthier activities.

    In another case, we watched my husband’s cousin lose his marriage over his wife’s gambling addiction. He had to divorce his wife to protect his children and himself from losing everything from her gambling addiction. The casino is only an hour’s drive from our area in another state.

    Voters in our state have finally approved adding casinos in the state for the money it can bring to the state treasury and the jobs. Our local church leaders fought against it while turning a blind eye towards the poker and small stakes gambling that occur at our church festivals.

    I would tell Cardinal Pell that Catholic clergy cannot rail against state-sponsored gambling while turning a blind eye towards the gambling at church festivals because that stance is hypocritical.

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