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.