Detroit Stories Episode 28: 'Can a Catholic Gamble on Sports?' (PODCAST)

As Michigan's sports gaming industry reaches new heights, moral theologians and addiction experts weigh in on a Catholic's responsibility

(0:02) The narrator tries (tongue-in-cheek) to interest the listener in various bets related to sporting events this year — the Super Bowl, Final Four and Kentucky Derby — to make a point about the prevalence of sports gambling since Michigan legalized the practice in 2020.

(1:53) As Michigan sports betting operators raked in millions last year, Catholics might well be wondering: Can a Catholic in good standing place a bet? And are there limits and sins to be aware of?

(3:30) Listeners meet Fr. Patrick Kelly, SJ, professor of religious studies at the University of Detroit Mercy and an expert on sports and spirituality. Fr. Kelly discusses the value of sport from a religious and human perspective, including what the popes have said on the subject.

(6:07) Fr. Kelly warns about the temptation to view sports as a means to other ends: glory, money and fame among them. When a person gambles on sports, he or she loses the focus on the team and community, instead thinking about what he or she might gain.

(8:39) But is gambling immoral? The narrator introduces moral theologian Fr. Peter Ryan, SJ, of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, to answer that question.

(9:48) Fr. Ryan quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says gambling is not “contrary to justice” as long as certain conditions are met: namely, that a person doesn’t gamble in excess of what he or she can afford to lose — including meeting one’s obligations to oneself, one’s family and those in need. A person must also be careful not to become addicted, Fr. Ryan says.

(13:23) On the subject of addiction, listeners are introduced to Jeff Henrich, CEO of Guest House, an addiction treatment facility for clergy and religious in Lake Orion. Henrich discusses how addiction begins, the warning signs to watch for, and how concerned family members can broach the subject.

(15:49) Henrich talks about the fact that gambling addiction is on the rise among young people, primarily due to two factors: a willingness to engage in risky behaviors that’s more prevalent among the young, and the ubiquitous access to smartphones and mobile technology.

(18:12) Fr. Ryan discusses the need to weigh carefully the temptations to addiction before engaging in gambling, especially if one knows they have a predisposition. One also ought to consider whether gambling brings joy, or simply detachment, Fr. Kelly adds, suggesting the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola can help people discern.

(20:30) Henrich recommends listeners turn to prayer when looking for guidance about gambling. Like anything in the Christian life, placing one’s faith in God and following His commandments is the surest bet for keeping a clean conscience.

Reporting by Daniel Meloy; script by Michael Stechschulte; narration and production by Ron Pangborn

This episode is sponsored by Michigan Catholic Conference. Visit micatholic.org/signup to join the Catholic Advocacy Network. You’ll receive email updates and action steps to have your Catholic voice heard on bills in the Michigan House and Senate that impact human dignity and the common good.

Listen to ‘Detroit Stories’ on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or Fireside. Podcasts also will be posted biweekly on DetroitCatholic.com.



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