Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

More on Gambling

Thanks to the PPK Blog and to St. Thomas prof Bob Kennedy for responding to my question on gambling by directing me to the Catechism:

2413 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. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant.

This standard sheds limited light on the gambling phenomenon in modern society.  Is gambling only problematic when it becomes addictive, or when it directly undermines the financial stability of an individual or his immediate family?  For example, does the emerging centrality of Las Vegas to the American cultural experience pose any concerns, even if most of the pilgrims are firmly middle class?  I confess to enjoying myself thoroughly at poker night during law school, but I was taken aback a few months back when my fourth-grade nephew sat me down to teach me the intricacies of "Texas Hold 'Em."  It seems to me that gambling's capture of mainstream America represents a key culture war front for Catholic social thought that has been woefully undermanned, especially in comparison to the hot button sex issues.

(But note that it has not been completely unmanned, of course, as I found this interesting letter from the Massachusetts Catholic Conference opposing proposals to expand gambling there.  Noting the dangers of addictive gambling and the socioeconomic impact, the writer notes in passing the "unfortunate" reliance of many Catholic organizations on games of chance.)



Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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