Almost everyone loves to party it up for Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival or whatever you choose to call the bacchanal celebrated every year at this time. But what about Lent? That solemn season that begins Ash Wednesday and lasts about six weeks?
For many Christians who observe Lent, it’s the time of year when they give up alcohol or cigarettes or chocolate as a way to replicate Jesus’ sacrifice described in the Bible. What about marijuana? Will you forgo the herb for Lent? And what is the Catholic Church’s position on marijuana anyway?
Well, it depends. But for the most part, the Catholic Church frowns on the God-made herb. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.”
And according to Father Gerald Coleman, an adjunct professor of ethics at Santa Clara University and a lecturer on bioethics:
The Catholic moral tradition teaches that for human persons to flourish, we must use our reason to decide what is for our well-being. If any activity undermines or degrades our rational capacities, we have moral reasons to avoid that activity. The THC level in recreational marijuana often induces hallucinations and delusions, diminishes the use of one’s full reasoning abilities.
Pope Francis, considered a progressive in many worldly issues, also strongly opposes cannabis. In 2014, he said, “the scourge of drug use continues to spread inexorably, fed by a deplorable commerce which transcends national and continental borders.”
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It should be noted that it used to be a sin for Catholics to drink coffee until Pope Clement VIII gave his blessing to the caffeinated beverage in the early 1600s. Pope Clement VIII was urged to denounce coffee by his counselors who believed the beverage was a “bitter invention of Satan” because of its popularity among Muslims. However, after sipping the hot brown beverage, Pope Clement VIII declared, “This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”
Clement allegedly blessed the coffee bean because it appeared better for the people than alcoholic beverages. Maybe Pope Francis will do something similar. But in the meantime, let your conscience be your guide.