No Bongs for Bishops: Marijuana and Catholic Doctrine

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universe, creation, wonder, scouts, scouting turmoil

 

Some time ago, Aleteia published an apology for the legalization of marijuana titled “Bongs for Bishops?”. The article’s theme is that the bishops should take a long hard look at backing marijuana’s legalization.

Marijuana Use a Sin

This is a delusion belonging to the social utopians yearning to usher in a Brave New World. Faithful, obedient Catholics share no common ground with this article’s positions. There is no way to justify a push to legalize marijuana backed by the Catholic Church, unless it is medicinal.

The bishops cannot endorse legalizing drug use because they are called to the opposite of leading the flock into sin; smoking marijuana, outside of medical use, is a sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that drug use “inflicts very grave damage on human health and life.” (CCC 2291) It goes on to state that drug use except as medicine is a “grave offense.” Dealing drugs is a scandalous practice and a “direct co-operation in evil,” that encourages behaviors “gravely contrary to the moral law.”

Many people think the Church believes pot is bad because pot is illegal. This is simply not true. The Church’s official position will always be against the habitual or recreational use of marijuana or any other state altering substance. The Church opposes immoderate alcohol consumption for the same reason. The sin of gluttony leads to the same admonition for the misuse of food. It is legal to drink alcohol and eat food, but illicit to get drunk and overeat because it has adverse effects on the human body and thus violates the Fifth Commandment (Deuteronomy 5:17; cf. Exodus 20:13). Marijuana is not “health-inducing”; there are verifiable damaging effects from smoke and other content.

Holy Mother Church calls all members of the Body of Christ to the virtues and to purity. By its nature, she cannot give permission to use even innocuous recreational drugs. Marijuana is used to alter the state of sobriety towards inebriation. Even if marijuana were as “harmless” as the world would have us believe, this is something no bishop can sanction. If some bishop does by some moral misfortune, it would be a violation of the divine law that governs Holy Mother Church. The onus would be on the bishop, not the Church.

Divine or Conventional Law?

A key distinction to understand in this case is that there are at least three kinds of laws: manmade or conventional law; natural law perceivable through reason; and God’s law made accessible by divine revelation. There are three different standards by which we judge those laws. Divine law is revealed to us by the power of the Holy Spirit; in it we recognize the Creator’s authority. Holy Mother Church is beholden to divine law, and must measure all decrees and statements against the objective moral standard of the Logos, Christ Himself. This law is eternal, unchanging, and not subject to human opinion. It is the law written on our hearts, whether or not we are aware of it.

By contrast, conventional laws are made by human opinion, often forged by human consensus, and have no effect on the divine law. The state of Washington has already legalized marijuana by conventional law, and several more probably will. A good man-made law will line up in accordance with natural and divine law. Unfortunately, many of our conventional laws do not line up with natural and divine law, the most extreme case being the statute that allows the legal termination of an innocent life in the womb. This is legal by conventional law; but the Church can never respect such a perversion of justice. Marijuana use made legal by conventional law doesn’t inform the Church one single bit, and it never truly will.

False Peace

The author of the article panders to pathological sentimentality by falsely claiming that marijuana is beneficial to human health. It’s claimed in some circles that that illegal marijuana has an adverse effect on minority groups, and that legalizing it would alleviate some of those ill-effects and bring peace to society.

The peace this false argument speaks of is not the peace of the kingdom, but the peace of the world against which Jeremiah lamented: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:14) The idea that the Catholic Church could support the legalizing of a substance that does damage to human bodies and souls is unfathomable; there is no true peace in that, only anguish and degradation. The only peace the Church recognizes is peace in accord with the will of God.

Finally, we might ask what ought the Church say about legalizing marijuana use considering the polls show that people now believe pot should be made legal. Should the Church should follow suit? Of course the Church must do what it has always done, regardless of public opinion. She must do the right and moral thing and oppose the legalization of a substance that causes harm to human souls.

In reality, the arguments to legalize marijuana are wholly unconvincing. They are not reasonable. They are not rooted in any notion of divine law. They are rooted in the spirit of falsity and that untruthful notion of freedom called licentiousness. The simple refutation is that it is unvirtuous to cultivate habits of vice and no poll can controvert the truths of Christ or insist that the Holy Roman Catholic Church endorse sin. The world asks of the Church for what She cannot give. There never has been and there never will be bongs for bishops.

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14 thoughts on “No Bongs for Bishops: Marijuana and Catholic Doctrine”

  1. While the thrust of this article, abuse of a thing, is quite right, the details, definition and even understanding of the product are so off the mark as to render what is said to be almost useless in making moral judgements. The greatest deficiency here is that the errors cause so much doubt as to render any guidance on the subject suspect. We do not need the equivalent of “Reefer Madness” from the pulpit.

    1. By all means DLink, please do correct the definition and understanding of the product.

      I do like your line “reefer madness from the pulpit.” Nice touch!

    2. Cannabinoids (to include the legal product, Cannabinol) are adequately covered in the Physicians Desk Reference and any other number of pharmaceutical references. The compound in various forms is dosage dependent and duration determinate. In fact, the greatest physical harm comes from the smoke and vapor related solids and inhalents such as in cigarettes which have not been condemned by the bishops. As with any product, legal or otherwise, that is perception altering (caffeine ,alcohol, certain fungi), the abuse lies in the nature of the use. As far as I know, the Church, wisely, has never sought to expound on the minutiae of pharmacological matters and seems to leave such matters to intelligent judgement. Hope this helps.

  2. Those who use marijuana, tobacco and alcohol to extremes will always argue for their use and their legality. Marijuana is a drug and people smoke it to get high and to escape, which is the use for harder drugs and for alcohol. If there is a medical use for it, then it should be administered and regulated like any other drug and should require a prescription. Addiction to any drug, including tobacco and alcohol may not be a sin, but the refusal of some to even attempt to break their addictions may be sinful. Phil, yes, Jesus turned water into wine. Back in His day, people drank wine and it was mixed with water and it was the beverage. It’s purpose was not necessarily to get drunk. Having a drink or having a smoke once in a while is not sinful as the goal is not to remove oneself from life. Your using marijuana for your son is a medical need. You can read all you want about marijuana and its effects on the body, but the effects upon the brain are pretty clear and the reason people smoke pot is to get high. Period.

  3. “… smoking marijuana, outside of medical use, is a sin….

    “… It goes on to state that drug use except as medicine is a “grave
    offense.”

    “… The Church’s official position will
    always be against the habitual or recreational use of marijuana or any
    other state altering substance.”

    “The Church opposes immoderate alcohol
    consumption for the same reason.”

    As regards alcohol, I assume you probably consider the same argument to be true for tobacco also. As I do. A smoke is NOT sinful. A drink is NOT sinful. But change the plant from tobacco to marijuana and suddenly you sin. Full stop. Both plants are “state altering substances” (a vague and imprecise terminology). But you (the Church?) have decided that one plant’s “state altering” effect is sinful and the other’s is not.

    Your argument is poorly conceived, scientifically inaccurate, potentially damaging to the faith and deceptive. You state that ANY marijuana use is sinful. Then state that IMMODERATE alcohol use is sinful. That’s apples and oranges. And I think the addition of the word “immoderate” shows that you are aware of this point.

    In short, as a faithful Catholic I believe your argument is unsound and quite wrong.

    The church allows moderate tobacco use while knowing that tobacco is a “state-altering” extraordinarily dangerous, psychologically and physically addictive drug. You state that she also considers ANY marijuana use to be sinful even though it is only MILDLY psychologically and physically addictive (if at all). Really?

    Ask a policeman this question; if you were told that you had to “police” a raucous party where everyone was drinking alcohol or a “raucous” party (unlikely) where everyone was smoking marijuana which party would you rather attend? Both parties are using “state altering” substances. One would likely result in violence and sexual sin – the other would probably result in excessive snack consumption and sleep. I condone neither if the use of the drug in question was immoderate. You claim that one had the potential to be sinful while the other WAS sinful.

    I disagree with your argument. It’s unsound.

    1. So if they use alcohol they are violent and into sex and marijuana users just eat and sleep huh. Why then since the 60’s do we have many grandparents raising their grandchildren when in previous generations this was not the case? Also why did abortions become rampant? I lived through that era and know what I am talking about.

  4. Steven:

    I have yet to read a post which is riddled with such a vast display of inaccuracy, false statement and lack of research or citation about cannabis. There are numerous contractions and conflations of the word “drug”. Please bear with me because this is an area of my expertise and years long research and experience.

    First, I really have no investment in bishops supporting legalization because (1) they are not scientists and (2) have virtually no influence over public policy.

    Your moralistic reference from the Catholic Catechism and Bible are not valid in that they apply to the abuse of any substance…if you consider cannabis to be a drug, so you must also agree to consider alcohol and tobacco drugs. The later which are by far more prone to abuse and affect health which I will demonstrate with scientific citation later. Anything to excess, even food, is a drug with deleterious effects.

    My experience with cannabis comes through caring for son full time for the past 17 years. As a result of a near drowning and 25 minutes under water, he was left as a non verbal, spastic quad. Three years ago I began research of cannabis for him. I have read every scientific publication of repute, attended every available course and closely followed the work of Dr Raphael Mechoulam of Israel who began a study of the health effects of THC and CBD since the 80’s and is the premier world researcher. I grow a strain with a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio for my son and the extracted cannabinoids have saved his life. It released spasticity, eliminated hyperventilation, eased contractures, smoothed digestive and elimination process and made him more present. I clearly read that you do not believe medical cannabis is a “sin” and I would give it to him if it were a grave sin because it saved his life for the last three years. You seem to believe that smoking dope is the only method of administration which is why it is unhealthy. So, while we agree that medical cannabis is fine. Let’s look at the other errors of thought: that there are no health benefits and that a drink with a meal is ok, a smoke of tobacco with a meal is ok, but cannabis with a meal is not. Health benefits, negative effects to the body and contradiction.

    First, the human body has an endocannabinod system which regulates many body systems and allows them to function effectively and efficiently. There are endocannabinoid receptors primarily in the brain and gut, identified by CB1 and CB2. The human body is created to accept and process cannabinoids for health. Cannabis contains 85 discovered cannabinoids and and probably 15 terpenes. Ingested cannabinoids are attracted and bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors and strengthen the human endocannabinoid system. Specific areas of health which are scientifically documented are: it is neuroprotective, tamps bodily inflamation, has anti-tumor effects producing apoptasis, supports the reproductive system especially in women, assists in cellular communication and nutrient transport, increases memory and supports emotional balance. Those are documented by research.

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/16/research-supports-marijuana-benefits.aspx

    Here are additional facts you never mention. There are many strains of cannabis and many methods of ingestion. There are tinctures and oils (which I use with my son), there are edibles, there are concentrates, there are vaporizers which activate the cannabinoids and can be inhaled. Now smoking introduces herbicides and pesticides, tars and burnt paper…..surely unhealthy, addictive and a “sin.” Alcohol effects hepatic process. Both can kill. Both have sideeffects which are unhealthy. In a healthy moderate use of the right strains of cannabis, the CBD negates the psychoactive high of the THC. There are no side effects from cannabis except appetite stimulation in some cases. There has never been a recorded cannabis overdose or death. You cannot say that about alcohol or tobacco. Cannabis grown without herbicides and pesticides in a controlled hydroponic environment has health benefits as well and medical benefits. Cannabis has been proven to NOT be a gateway drug, but rather alcohol is the most potent gateway drug.
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/21-health-benefits-of-marijuana/ar-AAboNFC#page=15

    There are no health benefits for alcohol nor tobacco….there are thousands of studies on cannabis which big pharma tries to supress.

    I can cite and provide with data and clinical studies in any of my assertions. If you rely on the goverSteven:

    I have yet to read a post which is riddled with such a vast display of inaccuracy, false statement and lack of research or citation about cannabis. There are numerous contractions and conflations of the word “drug”. Please bear with me because this is an area of my expertise and years long research and experience.

    First, I really have no investment in bishops supporting legalization because (1) they are not scientists and (2) have virtually no influence over public policy.

    Your moralistic reference from the Catholic Catechism and Bible are not valid in that they apply to the abuse of any substance…if you consider cannabis to be a drug, so you must also agree to consider alcohol and tobacco drugs. The later which are by far more prone to abuse and affect health which I will demonstrate with scientific citation later. Anything to excess, even food, is a drug with deleterious effects.

    My experience with cannabis comes through caring for son full time for the past 17 years. As a result of a near drowning and 25 minutes under water, he was left as a non verbal, spastic quad. Three years ago I began research of cannabis for him. I have read every scientific publication of repute, attended every available course and closely followed the work of Dr Raphael Mechoulam of Israel who began a study of the health effects of THC and CBD since the 80’s and is the premier world researcher. I grow a strain with a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio for my son and the extracted cannabinoids have saved his life. It released spasticity, eliminated hyperventilation, eased contractures, smoothed digestive and elimination process and made him more present. I clearly read that you do not believe medical cannabis is a “sin” and I would give it to him if it were a grave sin because it saved his life for the last three years. You seem to believe that smoking dope is the only method of administration which is why it is unhealthy. So, while we agree that medical cannabis is fine. Let’s look at the other errors of thought: that there are no health benefits and that a drink with a meal is ok, a smoke of tobacco with a meal is ok, but cannabis with a meal is not. Health benefits, negative effects to the body and contradiction.

    First, the human body has an endocannabinod system which regulates many body systems and allows them to function effectively and efficiently. There are endocannabinoid receptors primarily in the brain and gut, identified by CB1 and CB2. The human body is created to accept and process cannabinoids for health. Cannabis contains 85 discovered cannabinoids and and probably 15 terpenes. Ingested cannabinoids are attracted and bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors and strengthen the human endocannabinoid system. Specific areas of health which are scientifically documented are: it is neuroprotective, tamps bodily inflamation, has anti-tumor effects producing apoptasis, supports the reproductive system especially in women, assists in cellular communication and nutrient transport, increases memory and supports emotional balance. Those are documented by research.

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/16/research-supports-marijuana-benefits.aspx

    Here are additional facts you never mention. There are many strains of cannabis and many methods of ingestion. There are tinctures and oils (which I use with my son), there are edibles, there are concentrates, there are vaporizers which activate the cannabinoids and can be inhaled. Now smoking introduces herbicides and pesticides, tars and burnt paper…..surely unhealthy, addictive and a “sin.” Alcohol effects hepatic process. Both can kill. Both have side nment’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 substance, you err as does the FDA which approves pharma which the government approves. And that FDA approval kills 100,000 people per year.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/147318/100,000_americans_die_each_year_from_prescription_drugs,_while_pharma_companies_get_rich

    So cannabis in moderation and not smoke in a joint has health benefits as well as medical cures. It is not a sin, but I would admit that alcohol, cigarettes, over-eating certainly are. I thank god that I live in a state where medical cannabis is legal and cannabis will soon be legal. BTW states which legalized cannabis have seen downward spirals in opiate abuse. That is the side effect.

    So, I do not care that bishops have a pro or con say about legalization; I am happy you support medical cannabis because it saves many lives, especially children with Dravet’s and Droose epilepsy and other intractable epilepsies which pharma cannot touch …. With regard to the legalization of cannabis and it’s health benefits, do your research. I can provide many medical studies, just ask.

    1. Phil, I fail to see where you cite any real error in my statements- this was not a scientific essay, but a discussion of Church teaching. This is not about what I support, I would not make such a presumption- medical use of marijuana is quite licit. Catholics are not led by hypotheses or theories put forward by the ever evolving material sciences- you don’t care what the Bishops say, but we count on them to convey unchanging truth. We know we can count on the men with the white coats to teach the “truth” of today and teach a different truth tomorrow, that might interest some of us, but we don’t acknowledge it as truth. The science on the health benefits of marijuana is subordinated to the intoxicating effects of the drug and Church teaching on that. Your consent is not required.

    2. “There are no health benefits for alcohol nor tobacco..,”
      Irrespective of any other points you attempt to make I believe you do a disservice to your article with this statement.

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