Monday, March 19, 2012

Their Meanest Vice

I am against the use of revenue both from illegal and legal gambling even if it intends to finance a noble cause like construction of a pastoral center or any other church project for that matter. In a blog entry entitled “Clean Little Hands” some years ago I have emphasized: “In the Catholic Church, there is no general rule or universal agreement regarding the acceptance of money from gambling in general by priests, bishops or nuns for any pastoral project or program. Nowhere in Catholic Church teachings or laws can we find them. That is where the big problem lies. This is one of the biggest gray areas in Church so far.” But instead of benefitting from gambling, the parish priests and the lay leaders should continue to advocate against the evils of gambling and exposing how government officials tolerate such activities. Tolerating gambling is manifested by not regulating it. Concretely if a certain game of chance like “roleta” is played in your sidewalks almost every night the whole year round. The bishop or the priest concerned should lead their flock in such examination of conscience with respect to gambling practices and the harm being caused to our brethren, our fellow citizens, our faith and our society.

You may call me a religious nuts or an over acting Catholic but I believe that a Catholic institution must never be attached to, in one way or another, any gambling activity or to be precise, to get funds coming from gambling that exploits the weak and the vulnerable. My faith, which also happens to be the main source of my politics, taught me that we must not do what is wrong in order that good may come of it. Certainly, the ends do not justify the means. My Catholic faith taught me that.

How about cockfighting? Can a priest get cockfight proceeds for certain projects? Here in the Philippines, cockfight is both entertainment and vice, sports and gambling. It is usually done during local fiestas. By the way, as we all know, cockfighting is legal in the country under Presidential Decree No. 449.

As early as the time of Padre Damaso and Don Ciriaco Torquato fighting cocks made their debut in Spanish Philippines. According to some accounts, cockpits eventually became a source of revenue for the Spanish colonial government. Cockpits charged a gate fee, but roosters frequently served as a gate pass. A document on the financial state of the Philippines for the year 1819-1822 reported a net revenue of P175,000 to P280,000 per annum. It was said that this additional income by the government went to building highways, bridges, and schools. I just do not know if Padre Jose (Rodriguez) also received money from cockfighting that time for a Church project say a bell tower or a parish hall. One thing I am certain: Cockfighting for me is above all gambling, thus a vice.

Gambling in general is a morally problematic activity and the parish priest and the bishop must stand on their moral ground. They should remember that when an edifice is recognized and distinguished as venue of expressing, practicing our Catholic faith, we cannot separate it from our true mission. When a bishop or a parish priest constructs something, they recognize that said infrastructure project participates in the life and mission of the Church. As such, it is not only subject to the authority of the local bishop but to their fidelity to the Church's doctrines especially on faith and moral grounds. It is but proper to reflect on this question: “Is giving and accepting money from gambling true expressions of Christian charity?” Men of cloth should also look where the money came from and not only where it would go. In spiritual feeding or even in giving religious nourishment, it is necessary to keep everything clean and not only the food we prepare but our hands and the utensils we use as well.

By not accepting money or fund from gambling and declaring an all-out-war against it, we live our faith and at the same time we are not tolerating this vice. Sadly, many people are hooked into gambling but I am making clear that what I hate is gambling and not the gambler. Indeed Archbishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz is right, “Gambling is a vice and a vice cannot be a virtue.”

May their asking and accepting money from gambling will not become some of our priests’ meanest vice...

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