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Domingo wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is there an encyclical that condemns alcoholism in our faith?

My spiritual counselor tells me no, but I believe that there probably is one.

  • Can you please let me know if there is one that explicitly addresses this topic?



  { Is there an encyclical that explicitly condemns alcoholism in our faith? }

Mike and Eric provided a team answer:

Hi Domingo,

Your spiritual counselor is correct, there are none.

Inasmuch as this is an illness and not a separate moral issue per se, the Holy See has not addressed it much.

It and its abuse are mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church under "Respect for health". Paragraph CCC 2290 and 2291 state:

2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others' safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

2291 The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.

To abuse alcohol is a sin. If there is a condition that predisposes one to abuse alcohol, that condition is not intrinsically sinful; rather, it is the abuse that is sinful. In fact, if there is a biological reason why someone is strongly predisposed to abuse alcohol, that could reduce the
guilt of the alcoholic.

The Church makes a strict distinction between an inclination to sin and the sin itself.

  • For example, homosexuality is not considered a sin by the Church, if by "homosexuality" you mean attraction to or strong sexual desire for members of the same sex. However, she does condemn homosexual behavior. So someone who is attracted to members of the same sex, and yet does not act on those desires, does not sin.
  • Similarly, someone with alcoholism who desires a drink or knows they are prone to abuse alcohol yet does not drink or abuse alcohol, does not sin.

There are only three encyclicals, actually Constitutions, Letters, or Instructions that mention alcohol [and/or] alcoholism and they all deal with either:

  • the rules regarding disciplines and fasting before Mass, or
  • the training of priests for Holy Orders.
  1. Christus Dominus
    The Apostolic Constitution Of His Holiness Pope Pius XII issued on January 6, 1953.
    Concerning The Discipline To Be Observed With Respect To The Eucharistic Fast

  2. Sacram Communionem
    Motu Proprio of His Holiness Pope Pius XII in which permissions granted by the Apostolic Constitution "Christus Dominus" are extended.
    Issued March 19, 1957.
    On laws of fasting and the evening Mass

  3. Religiosorum Institutio
    Instruction on the Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders
    From the Sacred Congregation For Religious
    February 2, 1961

Hope this helps,

Mike and Eric

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