Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Question Box

by Father I.J. Mikulski

(From the May 1, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. Another casino will soon open its doors in our state so people won’t have to drive so far to gamble. I’ve heard it said that with the price of gas always going up people will have less money for gambling so they’re building casinos closer. What’s the religious stand on gambling?

A. Gambling is neutral, neither good nor bad. It can be a wholesome intellectual exercise, as bridge players hasten to explain, or it can be a full-blown addiction, as ruined slots players will attest.

There’s nothing wrong with friends getting together for a rousing game of cribbage or another deal of marathon poker. Gambling with cards can be enjoyable, not sinful, within reason, whatever that means.

Like any wholesome activity, gambling can be seriously sinful when it becomes addictive. The pros in the field, Gamblers Anonymous, suggest these signs to watch for.

• Dependance. A compulsive gambler has needs to bet like an alcoholic needs a drink. It’s not winning or losing. It’s the chase.
• Loss of control. An addict finds himself gambling when he didn’t intend to and losing more when he needs to cover losses.
• Progressive. Bets get bigger, odds higher, losses larger. He’s in a spiral heading down. He needs outside help.
• Indebtedness. When money runs out, borrowing or stealing begins.

No amount of moralizing or logic will remedy psychological dependency. But is it a sin? Yes. The gambler knowingly allowed himself to be caught in a compulsive trap.

Q. Neither the word “Catholic” or the word “church” appears anywhere in the New Testament. We could see what was coming. The speaker then gave his logical conclusion that our church did not begin until the third or fourth century. I was at a loss for words and still don’t have a complete answer.

A. Let’s just dump the notion that every name, every article of faith, every event in church history must be grounded in the Bible. Who said so? If that were true we should expect the Bible to state that basic premise somewhere in a thousand pages and if it’s so crucial the Bible ought to declare that at least once every hundred pages.

Was Jesus being whimsical or serious when he changed Simon’s name? “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven...” (Matthew 16:18). Peter is Greek for rock, as in cornerstone. By hindsight, 20 centuries and 264 popes later, it’s perfectly clear that Jesus was very serious.

Call that an organization, a gathering, a community or the original Greek again, an ekklesia, a church.

Bishop St. Ignatius (d. 107), who succeeded Peter as bishop of Antioch, Syria, on his way to Rome for his execution, wrote seven letters to seven parishes urging them to be faithful to successors of Peter.

He was the first person to use the Greek adjective katholikos, meaning universal. The name stuck. Speak it respectfully.

Q. This past Lent our family, all four of us, really did some voluntary penances in self-denial. Imagine no TV on all six Sundays. No meat on Fridays either. Some voluntary Bible reading early in the morning. Now it’s over and we’re a better family. What do we do next?

A. You might continue one of those practices. Wise Mother Church, with two millennia experience, suggests Friday abstinence.

For balance, you might consider the homey wisdom of the Talmud. “Everyone will be called to account for all the legitimate pleasure which he or she has failed to enjoy.”

(Father Mikulski welcomes your comments and questions. Write to him at 7718 Westwood Dr., Oscoda, Mich. 48750.)

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