The Roman Conflicted Church

With so many issues conflicting the psyche of the Roman Catholic Church in America (Gay marriage, ordination of women, priests taking spouses, contraception, stem cell research, beatification of anti-Semitic popes), it’s comforting to know there is a haven where the faithful can take placid redoubt: the Bingo Hall. A humble place where countless blue-haired octogenarians sit before ten or more Bingo cards, thick daubers in each hand, ready to mash marks onto the spaces called out in monotone – I19…Bueller? Bueller?…I19 – by a VFW-regular pulling numbered balls from a cylindrical cage.

A sampling around cyberspace suggests the venerable game of chance is alive and well in church halls across the fruited plain.

St John Catholic Church hosts Bingo every Tuesday night at 6:30pm at the Parish Hall to raise funds to benefit St John Catholic School. WE ARE NON SMOKING.

Good Shepherd Catholic Church bingo was established as a way to supplement the income gained through Church collections, bequests, and other donations. Our bingos are only successful through the generosity of our parishioners who freely donate their time and ability.

Long before the Valley began blowing its collective wad out on the reservations, bingo was king. While some might call it a quaint throwback, a few local venues still offer up the old-school game of chance, with St. Daniel’s Catholic Church being the best. This Scottsdale house of worship, which offers games at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and 1 p.m. on Sundays, offers jackpots ranging from $48 to $1,000, with more than 100 players turning out.

St. John The Baptist is a large Catholic church that offers bible study, services Sunday through Wednesday, a private school covering Pre-K through middle school, youth ministry and services in Spanish. The church also houses a gift shop and holds a bingo night for its members.

Hell – oops, I mean, Heck . . . even Gamespot has a section on their website devoted to Church Bingo.

Then – Uh Oh – I read this headline in the New York Times a few days ago:

As Casino Vote Nears, Bishops Warn of Social Risks

What the fu – uh, what in tarnation is this about?

According to the article , “With a little more than five weeks until voters decide whether to authorize up to seven full-scale casinos around New York, the state’s Roman Catholic bishops on Sunday warned of social problems linked with gambling.” It went on: “As pastors and as citizens, we call on all voters to very carefully consider this measure and all of its potential implications,” said the statement by the New York State Catholic Conference, which is led by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York. The seven-paragraph statement, echoing previous statements by the bishops said that the “the passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement,” and associated gambling with embezzlement, drunken driving and personal bankruptcies, as well as “catastrophic losses” to individual gamblers.”

Cardinal Tim may be correct in his assessment of the evils of gambling. He didn’t mention it, but the panacea of gambling’s benefits to the communities in which it is installed can be elusive as well (just stroll the creepy dark streets of Atlantic City, or visit decayed Verona, a stone’s throw from Turning Stone Casino in Upstate New York, or walk the seedy sidewalks of Las Vegas north of Sahara Avenue.)

Still, for the towns and villages in New York State that are suffering from economic catastrophe, places like the Catskills Borsht Belt region, the isolated Southern Tier, and the Capital Region where manufacturing fled decades ago, it’s hard to accept the counsel of gaming-abstinence from a Catholic Church which hypes Bingo and other assorted “Las Vegas-style” games while paying nary a cent of property taxes to the communities in which their parishes derive municipal benefits.

I say to the Catholic Church – let the decimated communities of New York State have a modest shot of redemption through casino gambling, and in return, I call upon the powers that be in New York State government to issue special instant scratch-off tickets that the Church can sell in confessionals in lieu of meting out the standard “3-Hail-Mary” penance. “Win for Eternity” perhaps?

Hey . . . you never know.

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