Catholic Clerics Differ on Church Gambling
On August 18, 1951, the Milwaukee Journal announced that Cardinal Stritch had banned gambling in the Catholic churches of Chicago. This came as bad news to many Milwaukee citizens who have been known to trek to Chicago as many as 4,000 at a time on peak Sundays for the pastime. This has been necessary since 1943 when the law finally cracked down on gambling in Milwaukee churches. Games of chance had been illegal in Milwaukee since 1939, but continued in the churches after that partly because the district attorney refused to enforce the law on religious enterprises; and as the Journal noted, “partly because the Catholic church here refused to recognize the law.” After 1943 a new district attorney changed all that and sent Milwaukee bingo lovers to Chicago.
A thread of hope was left open for the bingo enthusiasts through the Chicago Sun-Times, which revealed, the Journal said, that the cardinal’s “confidential communication is reported to say that special permission hereafter must be obtained from the chancery office before games of chance can be played”. This seemingly leaves the way open for wide exceptions to the cardinal’s rule. Perhaps he is not thoroughly convinced of the evil of church bingo. The Journal recalls that “Cardinal Stritch, who was then archbishop of Milwaukee, said in August, 1943, that games of chance in churches were not immoral when conducted according to church regulations, the primary purpose being recreation and the unexpended surplus going to charitable or religious causes”.
In contrast, it is of interest to note the words of another Catholic prelate, Msgr. Paul Emile Leger, archbishop of Montreal. Lo! what a contrast, when in February, 1951, he said on the same subject: “People who assemble in church basements, very often at the time the evening prayer should be recited, do not go there to praise God. On the other hand, these games of chance destroy the real spirit of charity because the money is given in the hope of being able to gain more and not for a supernatural reason and to help the poor and needy. It is humiliating to hear some of the comments on these practices, and still more humiliating to hear of the methods in use in some of these organizations.”