From National Review Magazine / March 24, 1997 page 6 – “CORRECTION: In “For the Record” (Feb. 24) NR reported that Pope John Paul II wanted the Italian government to ban tobacco as a hard drug. In fact he was talking about marijuana. So the Pope is right about tobacco, though wrong about pot.”
I have always insisted that the cannabis legalization movement should never cede the moral high ground to the prohibitionists, and we should always tell the truth and denounce the lies and violence of the Drug War, whatever its source.
Freedom has nothing to fear from the truth.
In the US, the state violence (22 million arrests for marijuana possession), promoted by “compassionate conservatism” and supported by the hustlers in the “family values” religious rackets, is generally associated with Protestant commercial Christianity. However, most of them are ready to get in bed with Catholic hierarchy politically, right after denouncing the Church as the “Whore of Babylon”.
Although, as a Quaker, I am about as Protestant as one can get, I have always had great respect for the intellectual quality of Catholic theology, even when I disagree with it. Moreover, liberal (in the 19th Century sense) Catholics like Lord Acton and the late Wm. F. Buckley Jr., have made major contributions to the cause of freedom. Consequently, this little essay is not motivated by any anti-Catholic animus.
However, while everyone is entitled to their own theology, when they politicize it, there is a Commandment that says that they are not entitled to lie to advance their cause. Rome has for over a millennium (ever since it gained power), involved itself in politics, beyond its capacity for knowledge, it has often become an instrument of evil. Sadly, it is still doing so today.
In 2008, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano asked Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican office, not a prison, to list seven new “mortal sins.”
The New Mortal Sins
1.) genetic modification (Gregor Mendel was a Roman Catholic Abbot, whose Augustinian Abbey now hosts the Mendel Museum of Genetics.)
2.) carrying out experiments on humans (like locking them up to see if that “cures” them?)
3.) polluting the environment (Like the suppression of hemp?)
4.) causing social injustice (Like arresting far more people of color than whites based on population?)
5.) causing poverty (Like wrecking people’s lives for having a plant?)
6.) becoming obscenely wealthy. (“Obscene wealth” is in the eye of the beholder, but what about political power?
When Lord Acton wrote that “Power tends to corrupt; and absolute power corrupts absolutely” he was talking about the Church.
7.) taking drugs that “weaken the mind and cloud intelligence”. (I’ll drink to that!)
From Economic Impact of Alcohol Abuse in the US
“Alcohol abuse and dependence claim an estimated 100,000 lives each year in the United States, but the cost to society doesn’t stop there. Heavy drinking takes its toll on society as a whole, costing industry, the government, and the U.S. taxpayer an estimated at $249 billion each year, according to a report from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
Nothing, including marijuana, is harmless for everyone, at all doses, and in all circumstances. But there is simply no data on marijuana comparable to those for alcohol.
As the 1997 quote from National Review at the top of the page indicates, this is not a new revelation. Moreover, “The Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry addressed the question of drugs in a pastoral handbook titled “Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction,” published in 2001.
From a moral point of view the Church cannot approve drug use, the text explained, because it involves an unjustified renunciation of thinking, willing and acting as free persons (No. 43).
The council said individuals have no “right” to abdicate their personal dignity or to harm themselves.
But do we have the right to harm others and violate their personal dignity? (To arrest and imprison them? That is simply the process of the “criminal justice system.)
“Liberalization of drug laws, the council warned, runs the risk of bringing into existence an inferior class of underdeveloped human beings, who depend on drugs to live. This would be a dereliction of the state’s duty to promote the common good (No. 51).”
Certainly, there are drugs like alcohol and other substances, the misuse of which can involve “an unjustified renunciation of thinking, willing and acting as free persons.” However, simply calling something a “drug” and making it illegal does not mean that it actually does what the Council says it does, anymore than not calling alcohol a drug, and making it legal means that it does not cause harm.
Ironically, one reason that alcohol prohibition was politically successful in the US was that it was associated with Catholicism. (“Rum, Romanism and Rebellion”).
My point is simply to demonstrate that the Vatican may have committed what it calls a “mortal sin.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a mortal sin as follows:
(edited for brevity)
“Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law…. Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity -…
For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must exist at the same time.
1. It must be of a grave matter; (22 million arrests just in the U.S. and empowering violent contraband smuggling operations. Is the Vatican familiar with the word “Mafia”?)
2. It must be committed with full knowledge that it is a mortal sin; (Buckley’s funeral was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.)
3. It must be committed with full consent. (And a Papal blessing?)
“Grave matter” is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man:
‘Do not kill,
Do not commit adultery,
Do not steal
Do not bear false witness….”
In short, the Vatican and its spokespersons are violating the Commandment against bearing false witness. And the Drug War they support involves violating most of the other nine. It kills. It steals. It wrecks families and divides children from their parents. And when supported by “religious leaders” it drives people away from God.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free'(John 8:31–32).
Fortunately, Reefer Madness is not subject to the doctrine of “Papal Infallibility”
So I’ll end with one more quote, from the cover of National Review in 1961
“Mater si, magistra no.”