Catholic schools say no to bingo, ending clash with bishop

Calgary's Catholic schools have agreed to stop using bingos and casinos as fundraisers, ending a dispute with the city's bishop over the morality of spending gambling revenues on school activities.

Calgary's Catholic schools have agreed to stop raising funds throughbingo and casinos, ending a dispute with the city's bishop over the morality of spending gambling revenues on school activities.

Board chair Cathie Williams announced the reversal in policy Wednesday morning.

"The board realizes that it will not be an easy task for schools, particularly those in disadvantaged communities, to replace large sums of money readily available through bingos and casinos," she said.

As part of a transition period, a task force is being set up to look at alternative methods of fundraising, said Williams.

Schools that already have signed up for a bingo or casino will be allowed to fulfil that commitment, but no new gambling fundraisers will be allowed.

Bishop Fred Henry said Wednesday he's pleasewith theboard's decision.

"We are walking in the direction of our hope of ever becoming more completely who we say we are, and that is Catholic."

$2 million raised each year

The $2 million raised each year is directed to programs such as music, drama, athletics and field trips. It's also used to build play structures and help low-income students pay school fees.

Parent Doreen Vanderstoop said the board has made the right decision.

"I don't agree on preying on the weaknesses of people. I don't think society should support that kind of thing."

David Keohane, a superintendent with Lethbridge's Catholic school district, said schools in his district have found alternatives to casino fundraising, such as silent auctions and community dinners.

"The spirit of those fundraising initiatives are always cooperative, community type of events that are not in any way shape or form to the detriment of any particular group."

Moral concerns raised by bishop

Last December, Henry outlined his moral concerns about schools using gambling revenues.

By May, the board had voted to continue the practice, as long as some of the revenue was donated to gambling addictions programs.

Williams said at the time that "gambling itself is not intrinsically wrong."

"Our parents are going and fundraising on behalf of the schools. They're not going out and gambling. They're participating in a charitable act," she said.

Henry warned in a pastoral letter that if the fundraisers didn't stop, he would not preside over the board's annual opening meeting and would blacklist schools that use gambling revenues.

The bishop then turned his attention to the provincial government, accusing the premier and "his do-nothing minister of education" of underfunding Alberta schools.