Praised be Jesus Christ! With graduation just around the corner, I’m reminded of the many seniors I taught who couldn’t wait for their newfound freedom. Of course, some were under the impression that the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want means you’re free. Oscar Wilde, who knew a thing or two about doing whatever he wanted, later reflected: “It’s not so much what you do, it’s what you become – that’s the problem.” In other words, our actions forge our character – good actions beget a good person, selfish actions... well, you can see where this is going. Because it’s a moral issue, I’d like to weigh in on the tidal wave of support for marijuana and share some thoughts I gleaned from an article written by Dr. Mark Latkovic, a moral theologian teaching at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. Without further ado, here are his thoughts (and for the record, I agree with him): [nowadays] priests have questions about how to minister to those who confess to using marijuana. How should this question be handled in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? In the past, one could always fall back on its illegality as a reason to give penitents and others not to buy or smoke it. There are several reasons that make marijuana use morally problematic. First, unlike with alcohol, the very reason for smoking weed is to “get high,” to get a “buzz.” But since that result means that one has lost or at least has impaired the use of his reason – intending to do so – it is morally wrong. While I would argue that pot smoking is grave matter, how sinful it is would depend on the awareness of its immorality, the level of freedom involved, the circumstances, the possibility of scandal, and so on. The second morally problematic element follows from the first: there is always a danger that the person intoxicated from using marijuana will then do something that can harm himself or others, e.g., drive while he is high, thus endangering human life. Recent studies indicate that more than 50% of medical marijuana patients in Michigan have driven while under the influence of the drug. A third reason is closely related to the first two concerns: the use of marijuana can potentially harm our own health – a fundamental good of the person – and thus also lead to higher health care costs for society. Shouldn’t we be encouraging healthy habits rather than harmful ones, especially given what we now know about the bad effects of this drug on a person’s health? (Note that the THC levels in marijuana are higher today than they have been in recent decades; THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana). As well, I would say this: In our society today, we have a lot of people who have chosen to simply “check out” by “self- medicating” themselves into oblivion. I think primarily of our country’s opioid crisis that has shown no signs of abating. Why not encourage and, dare I say it, even exhort people to engage in morally and medically sound ways of coping with life’s daily struggles? Priests can be particularly important in recommending activities that provide one’s life with greater meaning: e.g., prayer and Church attendance, charitable works, engagement with family and friends, exercise and sports, and so on. Many of these activities also legitimately provide what recreational pot smokers are seeking illegitimately: pleasure. Finally, priests should be able to offer moral counsel and advice about this drug, as well as information about where people can get help to overcome substance use disorders. [Finally], there is the danger of marijuana as a “gateway” drug to other even more seriously harmful (and illegal) drugs such as heroin and cocaine. In a country where we have made so much progress in discouraging cigarette smoking, we seem to have forgotten the health hazards of another kind of addictive product that is smoked: cannabis. When appropriate, priests should point out such facts to those they minister to. More powerful than any “fact,” however, is the Gospel message that those same priests preach. In the Good News, Christians find the hope and healing power to help them meet life’s challenges – including the challenge of illicit drug use.
May God guide our graduates to discover the true freedom of living in the truth of His love!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin