The Morality of Alcohol


#1

It is evident by the doctrines of the Catholic Church that drinking alcohol is not inherently immoral; it is not a sin to enjoy alchohol. However, drunkenness is a sin, as shown in paragraph 2290 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’ve been trying to find a way of showing this through natural reasoning. I have, for this, referred to the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, particularly regarding Temperance, and Drunkenness (Books III and IV). He first starts by saying that alcohol is not inherently bad, that is a “defect itself of a man resulting from his drinking much wine, the consequence being that he loses the use of reason.” He points out that this in itself is not a sin, but a penal defect resulting from a fault.
He shows that there are three (Article 2) ways by which a person can become drunk. The first way is by being unaware that he is drinking immoderately, and also being unaware that he is becoming intoxicated. This isn’t necessarily a sin. The second by realizing that he is drinking immoderately but not that he is becoming intoxicated. This may constitute a venial sin. The third way is by realizing that he is drinking immoderately and also realizing that he is becoming intoxicated. He states finally that the third kind is a mortal sin on account of the fact that the drinker is fully aware and consenting to depriving himself of the use of reason, whereby he does virtuous deeds and avoids sin. He sins by running the risk of falling into sin. These things in themselves I understand, but there are several questions I see stemming from it that I was wondering if you could help with.

One such thing is this idea of drinking immoderately. What do we consider immoderate as regards the use of a thing? Looking also to the section on Temperance, he explains that it is a virtue that inclines man to restrain the appetite toward pleasure of the touch (eating and drinking and the kind). He states further that pleasures of the touch are not inherently immoral or evil, but that they are intended to be a means to attain an end. With this in mind, eating has two outcomes, nourishment and pleasure, with the latter being in service to the former. Of course, there are things that we eat that have no nutritive value whatsoever, and eaten only for enjoyment, such as ice cream and chocolate. To eat chocolate purely for enjoyment is not inherently immoral either, though still we say that we must temper it, in order to avoid gluttony. Admittedly, I find I cannot say when eating food for pleasure becomes immoral (perhaps when you are willing to sin in order to obtain it, or perhaps when you find yourself growing attached to it as a pleasure, which would be addiction), this isn’t my real point. My real point is to say that drinking is always for enjoyment, and absolutely hinders the use of reason. I say this after having read a few articles that say that the alcohol affects the brain and hinders the use of reason immediately, and only noticeably so after so much drink.

With that in mind you drink a little bit, you will become drunk a little bit, probably not enough for people to even notice. However, you drink a lot, you will become very drunk, and noticeably so. It seems that it then becomes a matter of degrees, and also on circumstances. For example, getting drunk to such a point that you shouldn’t be trusted around a vehicle is obviously sinful when you are in a situation when you are required to drive. However, what if you are at home, and not in any situation in which you have to drive? Is it wrong to get that drunk, or maybe a little bit more drunk? Is it okay at all to get drunk to the point where the reason is apparently affected?

I’ve been wanting for some time to write an essay on drinking, and how it becomes immoral, and also on the use of recreational drugs in general, but I’ve found myself at a bit of a loss on account of this sort of thing. I find it quite easy to design arguments against things like abortion and gay marriage, on account of those both being absolute. Abortion is always wrong, and gay marriage is always wrong. However, with alcohol and temperance it seems to be a matter of degree and also of circumstances. I would like to thank everyone who answers in advance, for I will be going to bed, and won’t be able to answer until tomorrow.


#2

SERMONS OF THE CURE OF ARS - EXCERPTS

WINE IS HIS GOD

Habitual drunkenness is not one of those sins which time and grace will correct. To cure this sin, not an ordinary grace but a miracle of grace is required. You ask me why drunken people are so rarely converted. This is the reason: it is that they have neither faith, nor religion, nor pity, nor respect for holy things. Nothing is able to touch them or to open their eyes to their unhappy state. If you try to frighten them with death, or judgment, or the Hell
which is waiting to consume them, if you talk to them of the happiness which God is keeping for those who love Him, the only answer you will get is a sly little smile which means: “You think now that you are going to make me afraid, like you do the children, but I am not one of those people who fall for that.”

But look at what this means. Such a person believes that when we are dead, everything is finished. His god is his wine and he abides by it. The wine which he drinks to excess, the Holy Ghost warns him, is like a snake whose bite is death. You believe none of this now, but in Hell you will learn that there was a God other than your stomach…

It is essential for the habitual drunkard to get out of this state in order that he may understand the full horror of it. But, unfortunately, he has no faith. He believes only very weakly in the truths which the Church teaches us. It is essential for him to have recourse to prayer, but he hardly says any prayers at all, or if he does, it will be while he is dressing or undressing, or again, he may be satisfied to make just the Sign of the Cross, after a fashion, as he throws himself down on his bed, like a horse in its stable. It is essential that he should frequent the Sacraments, which are, in spite of the contempt with
which the impious regard them, the sole remedies which the mercy of God offers us to draw us to Him. But, unfortunately, he does not even know the dispositions which he ought to cultivate in order to receive them worthily or even the bare essentials which he should know in order to save his soul. If you want to question him about his state, he understands nothing about it, as his contradictory answers show. If at the time of a Jubilee, or of a Mission, or something like that, he wants to keep up appearances, he will be content to tell barely the half of his sins, and, still burdened with the others, he will
approach the altar. That is to say, he will commit sacrilege; that will satisfy him. Dear God, what a dreadful state is that of the habitual drunkard and how hard it is to be able to leave it!
The Prophet Isaias tells us that habitual drunkards are useless as far as the doing of good on earth is concerned but that they are very dangerous when it comes to the doing of evil. To convince ourselves of that, my dear brethren, go into a cabaret, which St. John Climacus calls the Devil’s Shop, the school where Hell holds forth and teaches its doctrine, the place where souls are sold, where homes are ruined, where health deteriorates, where quarrels begin, and where murders are committed.
… What do you learn there? You know that better than I do… Take a look at this poor drunkard, my dear brethren. He is full of wine and his purse is empty. He throws himself down on a bench or a table. He is amazed in the morning to find himself still in the cabaret, when he thought that he was at home. He takes himself off after having spent all his money, and often, in order to be able to leave, he is forced to leave his hat or coat in pledge for the wine he has drunk. When he arrives home, his poor wife and their children, whom he has left without bread, and only their eyes to weep with, have to take flight from him unless they want to be ill treated, as if they were the cause of his spending all his money and getting his affairs into the bad state in which they are. Ah, dear Lord, how deplorable is the state of the habitual drunkard!
The Council of Mayence [Mainz] wisely tells us that a drunkard breaks the Ten Commandments of God… It is greatly to be feared that those who are gripped by this vice never cure themselves of it! …Let us pray to the all-merciful God to preserve us from it…

Peace


#3

i cut and pasted this from my other post…sort of on target- assumes extrems in -thi sis more paradox-i guess dependency is that way…

in pretext: (from shakespere’s Mcbeth…
mcbeth and a doctor have a conversation
"Cure her of that.

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?”

there is no such thing as a sweet oblivious antidote…hence, in weakness-
spiritual manesfestations…are of the father, to minister; son, to raze; and holy spirit to cleanse…this is the action of God’s mercy toward teh ‘poor in spirit,’ they are weak and know it; That is why God chooses the weak

this solves a quandry of doubt -if to send the rich away empty-then best to fully depend on teh Lord, and be filled.


#4

Can one drink alcohol in a good way? Sure. As Scripture says God gave us wine to gladden the heart…

Can such be sinful? Yes …as Scripture also says…

It can be contrary to health, if coupled with driving it can be contrary ones own life and others …excess, health, safety, other sins, scandal etc

There can be drinking that is contrary to temperance in a venial way and drinking that can be gravely sinful (ie total loss of reason or leads one to commit other mortal sins etc)

What is key is: virtue

Particularly: Temperance

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

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a7.htm#I


#5

Thank you for the replies. Regarding hazcompats reply, this seems evident enough. St. Thomas Aquinas also noted that the third way by which someone can become drunk (knowing that he is drinking immoderately and also knowing that he is drinking to intoxication) is a form of gluttony, and that such a person is considered a drunkard, as he loves drink so much that he would rather become drunk than be sober. To love drink this much that you would be willing to allow it to order your life in such a fashion is quite obviously sinful.

However, I don’t see where the main question is answered. Drinking will always hinder the use of reason to some degree, that in itself does not go contrary to reason. “God gave us wine to gladden the heart.” It only goes contrary to reason when it goes contrary to the nature for which it was intended. When we drink to such a point that we lose the total use of reason and through that commit mortal sins, that can consitute a mortal sin. If it goes contrary to health, as we may endanger our own lives and those others on the street, we commit another sin.

But what if the loss in reason is not complete, what if just enough that driving would be irresponsible? Obviously you’re drunk at that point, but would it still be a sin if you were at home were you weren’t to endanger others in that fashion?

Another thing about temperance is that we moderate desires, we do not outright shun them. With this in mind, would it be wrong to get drunk like that once (where you are not operating a vehicle, yet still not advised to), or absolutely?


#6

Even on the level of excess per se -without any alcohol involved – it can be contrary to Temperance

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

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a7.htm#I

Through alcohol into it – even safely at home and within health - and yes drunkenness too is sinful -either venial sin or mortal (complete drunkenness) (or due to mortal sins that such leads to --note too my posts above). That is what moralists have generally noted down through the centuries.


#7

These replies have helped quite a bit, and I thank you all for it, good night.


#8

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