Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, October 2, 2016
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C


Social Doctrine (6/7):
Gluttony, including Abuse of Alcohol and Drugs



   Let us once again turn to our topics of social teachings of the Catholic Church; for the elections are coming, and as your pastor and spiritual father, I wish you to be well informed by God’s Word, and not sin, when you vote.

   As you remember, our method has been to consider the seven capital sins, their manifestations in society, and what the social doctrine of the Church has to say – the actual texts of social doctrine officially published by the Catholic Church, not those false versions of social doctrine, such as Marxist liberation theology or other popular, false versions.

   Today we shall consider the capital sin of gluttony. I think you’ll find today’s topic quite interesting. * We begin with definition: what is gluttony. Gluttony is that disorder by which man’s desire for food is not in accord with right reason. There are worse sins, of course.

   We all have a natural appetite for food. It is good for us, and provides for us one of the most pleasurable experiences of our lives. With food comes culture – think of teas, wines, game, different types of cooking, varieties in one’s garden, and the genius of the farmer who feeds the world. Around food one finds friendship; think that whenever you hold a social event with family or friends, one of the chief considerations is the menu. The Israelites cried out to Moses for food, and Moses, the priest, brought their prayer to God, and God blessed them with manna. And Jesus becomes the new manna, food for us, and nourishes us with his very divine person in the completeness both of his natures. And is not heaven described like a banquet? Yes, food is an important good for man.

   But his desire for food can be against reason. He may knowingly gorge himself to the point of needing medical attention – at this point the capital sin, or “category” of sin, becomes an actual sin, arguably a mortal one. But he may simply overeat, either occasionally or all the time. On the contrary, one might starve oneself, not in the praiseworthy penance of fasting, but out of self-contempt. Sometimes there are cases of anorexia nervosa, bulimia or similar disorders which may be part emotional and part physical. Also, too fine a palate falls under gluttony – not the occasional enjoyment of something exquisite, but the relentless pursuing of extreme pleasure in taste. Drunkenness and drug abuse fall under gluttony, and are matter of mortal sin; I’ll return to this in a moment.

   Gluttony has six wicked daughters (cf. Aquinas, Summa, IIaIIae, q.148, a.). First, the dullness of mind from excessive food and drink; second, unseemly joy at the satisfaction of one’s appetite; third, less obviously but truly, is excessive loquaciousness and being carried away by immoderate speech; fourth, unbecoming levity and gross jocularity (to be distinguished from a healthy sense of humor); fifth, the disordered pollutions and emissions of the flesh; and sixth, lust.

   Two manners of applying all this to the social doctrine of the Church, and contributing to the Good Parishioner’s moral judgment at the hour of voting, come to mind. The first is but a brief thought: how many politicians fall victim to that wicked daughter we just mentioned called “excessive loquaciousness”! How many empty, vapid words, empty promises and bombastic discourses do they speak to win votes, yet with no intention of fulfilling what they say. Beware of promises of politicians!

   But there is a further application – by far not the only, but just one more for today lest we go on too long – and it has to do with drug trafficking.

   We read in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, “The solemn proclamation of human rights is contradicted by a painful reality of violations, wars and violence of every kind, in the first place, genocides and mass deportations… forms of slavery, such as trafficking in human beings, child soldiers, the exploitation of workers, illegal drug trafficking, prostitution.” (CSDC, 158)

   The abuse of drugs is a very complicated thing. It is another one of those problems which is part physiological and part emotional or psychological. Sometimes it arises – perhaps more often than not – by despair, or the perception that one’s life lacks  meaning (cf. CSDC, 5)… and this can happen to rich and poor, men and women, of any nation, healthy or sick. But there is a reason for it, for no one does something for nothing. While the willing abuse of alcohol and drugs is matter of mortal sin, we all recognize that there may be an element of addiction, for which one may need more than a simple desire to convert, but exterior help, even medical or emotional counseling.

   Some may argue that the legalization of narcotics will decriminalize the whole thing, and that will solve all the problems, for if it is legal, the prices will plummet, and the cartels will be defunded, and the violence and black market of the drug trade will go away, and we’ll live happily ever after. They will compare the prosecution of narcotics with prohibition. But I would argue that they are not comparable; for there is a right use of alcohol and medicine, but there is never a right use to recreational drugs, thinking especially of cocaine, heroine and other such. Furthermore, the demand comes from the addiction, not from the illegality of trafficking. And what parent wants narcotics to be on the shelves at the local stores for their teen children to buy, you know, “just to see what it’s like,” when mom and dad are not looking. The fact that these recreational drugs compromise, and often very severely, the behavior of an individual, so that their conduct predictably, habitually and certainly puts his neighbor in grave peril makes their use far more than a private vice to which the laws of society should turn a blind eye.

   This is a matter that effects that important principle of Catholic Social Teaching named “the common good.” Therefore there should be laws to prevent and protect. I’m not saying that the recent American political phenomenon called the “War against Drugs” is good or bad, but politicians have a duty to address this situation; perhaps local cures would be better than a federal fist.

   A final application for us, less in the arena of politics, is the importance of the moral use of alcohol. Let us remember that becoming drunk on purpose or by responsible carelessness is a mortal sin. Those under age must obey the laws of the state; yet given the authority of parents, some parents wisely wish to teach their underage children, at home and at table with them, how to use these drinks prudently, and I encourage that, lest an unhealthy curiosity or bad decision making lead to some shameful situation when they become of age. May those who have addiction problems be humble and turn to find help, no one will shame you, and you’ll be much happier when you’re free. The well-ordered use of alcohol can be healthy, enjoyable, cultural, and a natural good worth sharing with friends.

   The virtue to restrain gluttony, as well as lust, is temperance. By temperance we use the pleasurable things of life according to right reason – neither too little nor too much. By temperance we fast on Good Friday, and feast on Easter Sunday. Through Mary’s intercession, may our souls take care of our bodies, but never as a slave, so that the body serve the soul, and the soul lovingly serve God and neighbor. Amen.











Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Librevia Editrice Vaticana








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