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For the Clergy, Religious, and Lay Faithful of Cagayan de Oro

In the past weeks, we heard the news about the putting up of a Casino within the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, which disturbed our lay faithful. Supported by objective data and in the light of the Christian faith, they have expressed themselves in a statement against it.

Our Catholic faith teaches us that “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.” (CCC, 2413) The Church therefore warns us of the “gambling culture” which leads to various problems and immoralities; to a culture of enslavement of money and pleasure as a form of addiction, from which many of our people are suffering today and families are victimized.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the negative effects that gambling institutions will create in our society: to our people, to the young, to families, especially those who are poor, or those who have just enough for their survival.  As the planned location for the Casino is at the heart of the City it will be highly inviting for Cagayanons to enter it. And because it is in front of an educational institution and near places of worship, it could result in the erosion of the value system of our young people.

Pope Francis in his Lenten Message of 2015 reminded us all, “How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope!” Our lay faithful have seen and recognize this problem creeping in our society and destroying lives of persons and families. During the World Youth Day 2016, Pope Francis urged us to recognize that gambling is a form of pessimism succumbing to luck and chances, with the mask of recreation, “depriving people of the ability to determine their own fates.”

When he visited the Philippines last January 2015, in His homily at Luneta he said, “The devil is the father of lies.  Often he hides his snares behind the appearance of sophistication, the allure of being ‘modern’, ‘like everyone else’.  He distracts us with the promise of ephemeral pleasures, superficial pastimes.  And so we squander our God-given gifts by tinkering with gadgets; we squander our money on gambling and drink; we turn in on ourselves.  We forget to remain focused on the things that really matter.  We forget to remain, at heart, children of God.”

Therefore, may I bring us back to the 2005 statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on gambling. It warns us that, “applying the general moral principle to the specific Philippine situation… gambling that is organized, widespread, and systemic, whether legal or illegal, is not desirable. It is creating a culture of gambling that is seriously eroding the moral values of our people. In its illegal form, especially jueteng, gambling has bred a clandestine network of corruption that feeds itself on the hundreds of millions of pesos lost to gambling especially by the poor.”

Together with the CBCP and other religious leaders, the local Church of Cagayan de Oro stands:
To denounce illegal gambling in all its forms and prevent its legalization;
To combat the expansion of organized and systemic legal gambling such as the putting up of casinos; and
To refrain from soliciting or receiving funds from illegal and legal gambling so as not to promote a culture of gambling.

May the Lord of life renew in us the trust and hope in Love, and the capacity to go against any form of a Culture of Death as seen in the pessimism of the Culture of Gambling. May He rekindle in us the passion to create a just and humane society, where recreations are for the integral growth of the person, and tourism will showcase the innate beauty of the city without resorting to any means that would degenerate the values and dignity of our people.

+ Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D.
Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro

February 2017