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Donating gambling winnings

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Various religions have various positions on the morality of gambling. In the Catholic Church's view, gambling is not intrinsically evil.

Father Kenneth
Doyle

Q. Years ago -- when I was a member of a Protestant denominational church -- it seemed as though the preacher and the congregation were almost always doing fundraising for various building projects. During one of these drives, a member of our congregation won the state lottery for $20 million and donated a million of it to the church.

Though having preached for years against vices such as gambling, the preacher and congregation accepted it. What would be the Catholic view of such winnings donated by a Catholic to a local parish? Accept it or not? (Indiana)

A. Various religions have various positions on the morality of gambling. In the Catholic Church's view, gambling is not intrinsically evil.

As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others" (No. 2413).

Notice the caution, though, in that statement; a person's gambling must not prevent him from meeting other obligations, including supporting himself and his family and paying his debts.

To your question -- as to what a Catholic parish might do if offered a donation from gambling winnings -- I can tell you, as a recently retired pastor of a large suburban parish, I would gladly and gleefully accept.

In fact, there's a precedent: In 2016, someone who had won $100,000 in the Massachusetts state lottery donated those winnings anonymously to St. Anthony's Shrine, run by the Franciscans in downtown Boston.

That shrine provides a variety of social services, and the pastor announced that the money would be used for purchasing Christmas gifts for needy children, food donations for families and a large Christmas dinner for several hundred veterans.

Q. Throughout the year -- but especially during the Christmas season -- we hear from many sources (homilies, meditation guides, etc.) that Christ came "to free us from sin and death."

Generally, that notion is just presented without any explanation of its meaning. This is confusing -- since in reality we do sin, and we do die. Could you help me understand? (Metuchen, New Jersey)

A. Perhaps the best answer to your question is found in the New American Bible, in a footnote to the early verses of Chapter 8 of Paul's Letter to the Romans. There, we read:

"Through the redemptive work of Christ, Christians have been liberated from the terrible forces of sin and death. . . . At the cross God broke the power of sin and pronounced sentence on it. . . . The same Spirit who enlivens Christians for holiness will also resurrect their bodies at the last day."

So you are right: We do sin, and we do die; but Jesus, by his own suffering and death, offers us the path to ultimate happiness. If we are sorry for our sins and seek forgiveness from the Lord, we are assured of joy and life that are eternal.

- Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service



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