I remember hearing from a priest back when I was in college that drunkenness is gravely sinful. I am out of college now, but now I am curious what constitutes drunkenness by the Catechism’s definition. I am always very concerned while I am drinking that I may become drunk, and I try to be very careful about how much I drink. But is a buzz considered drunkenness? I guess that the waters are muddied a little for me when I am with some friends of mine who are all serious Catholics (including my wife) and who know and care about following Church teaching. Sometimes when we go out somewhere people will talk about designated drivers and such (I know that designated drivers if someone has a buzz, but once again, is having a buzz sinful?) I can understand it from the perspective of moderation: when you start to feel it, then it’s time to stop, and not stopping would be gravely sinful. I have a friend (a convert from the Baptist church who is now in seminary to become a priest) who refrains from alcohol altogether because while technically drinking is not considered a sin it is still, in his opinion, a near occasion of sin and is not worth the risk. I am tending more and more to want to take up his practice.
I have been a Street Pastor in the UK for the last seven years, we stay out in the town until 3 - 4 am when the pubs have closed. Sadly people don’t tend to know when they have had too much to drink, we often walk home with people to drunk to stand on their own.
After a few drinks I believe some people would say yes to things; that they would not say yes to when they are sober. We see groups of girls having a good time through the evening, and when it is time to go home, we have seen them leave the most drunk girl behind, and walk off. Clearly if they were more in control of their thoughts, they would have looked after each other, but drink clouds the mind.
On separate occasions; we have come across drunk girls unconscious on the ground, a target for any shady characters. We see girls too drunk to use their phones late at night, when they really should be in control.
Drink seems to fuel any emotions, people seem to become more angry after drinking, if people are depressed and drink, they seem to become more depressed after.
My dad died an alcoholic, there did not seem to be anything we could do at the time, and we did not realize how bad it was.
Having said all that, I know some people enjoy drinking in moderation, and they stay in control. It can be difficult to know were drink will lead us; it can be a powerful addiction.
I know that there is a bible quote that states you can “Drink wine until you’re happy” which I would assume would constitute a buzz, but not drunkenness. I don’t think you need to concern yourself overly about drinking, i.e., you’re body will usually tell you when you’ve had enough. I know that once I get a buzz, I stop drinking (and the buzz goes away pretty quickly especially if I drink lots of water or eat).
Abuse of alcohol can be a serious temptation for many people, but drinking in moderation, even to the point of a buzz, is not intrinsically disordered. As the previous poster noted, there are verses that speak of drinking wine to warm the heart and to bring joy. Traditional Catholic cultures have always been much more relaxed about the enjoyment of alcohol, within its proper context, than the historically Protestant North American culture. The Catholic dictionary defines the sin of drunkenness as:
Overindulgence in alcoholic beverages. On Catholic moral principles, the degree of sinfulness in excessive drinking depends on how this excess is known to affect this particular drinker. It is a grave matter if it is foreseen that this drink will cause on e to lose the use of one’s senses or will put one in such a state that he or she is no longer able to distinguish right from wrong. It is a venial matter if one has reason for believing that this amount of drinking, though actually excessive, will neither deprive one of the use of one’s senses or of the power to distinguish right from wrong.
When I drink to the point of a buzz, I am still able to distinguish right and wrong and have control of my senses. Of course you should never drink after a couple of drinks…there are taxis and public transportation for a reason!
It differs for each person, as everyone has a different tolerance level. I have pretty high alcohol tolerance. I think Aquinas says drinking becomes sinful when it causes you to lose control of your faculties and your ability to reason.
Abuse of any substance may violate the Fifth Commandment - Thou shalt not kill.
To re post an older post of mine:
I will answer in general – not to specifics (numbers of drinks etc- for that will change from person to person - body weight etc)
When it is excessive there is sin. When drinking is contrary to temperance or health etc.
Examples of when drinking is grave sin (mortal sin) would be - getting “drunk” -that is -total loss of ones reason, drinking leading to other mortal sins etc.
Going beyond temperance can be venial sin
(I set aside any question of driving…that brings other aspects into things! - we do are not to put ourselves or others at risk - so I go with the saying “don’t drink and drive”.
Remember too that women and men are different and body weight plays into things - I believe there are charts to help here -but go to a valid source–that tell one how long it takes for how much alcohol to leave ones system…)
(And of course a person with a history of overdoing it -ought to take great care - and if any have say alcoholism - that is a “never drink” situation.
And one ought to look a new research as well in terms of health.
1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75
There is a bible line fitting for this:
1 Peter 5:8-9a
Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith
Here are some chapters of St Anthony of Padua’s Moral Concordance (AD 1195-1231) on drunkenness and temperance and sobriety.
“Drink to the point of hilarity” -St. Thomas Aquinas
Modern Catholic Dictionary:
DRUNKENNESS. Overindulgence in alcoholic beverages. On Catholic moral principles, the degree of sinfulness in excessive drinking depends on how this excess is known to affect this particular drinker. It is a grave matter if it is foreseen that this drink will cause one to lose the use of one’s senses or will put one in such a state that he or she is no longer able to distinguish right from wrong. It is a venial matter if one has reason for believing that this amount of drinking, though actually excessive, will neither deprive one of the use of one’s senses or of the power to distinguish right from wrong.