Catholic bishops in British Columbia and Yukon have endorsed medical marijuana use, but condemned recreational pot smoking as contrary to the teachings of the church.
In a letter posted online in late November, the bishops — six from B.C. and one from Whitehorse — warn that “the mere fact that an activity is made legal by the government does not automatically mean that it is morally acceptable.” Recreational cannabis became legal in Canada on Oct. 17, one of the signature accomplishments of Justin Trudeau’s government.
But the letter from all six B.C. bishops and the one Yukon bishop distinguishes between therapeutic uses, such as controlling for pain and nausea, and toking for fun. In the former, the letter states, impairment “can be accepted as a foreseen but unintended secondary effect of the drug’s beneficial use.” Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada for nearly two decades.
“When there is no genuine medical need for using a drug and it is used merely to cause inebriation, it is sinful behaviour,” the bishops state.
This isn’t the first time Catholic leaders in Canada have condemned cannabis legalization. In June, when Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, passed in Parliament, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in a letter, which was also endorsed by the Chair of the Canadian Council of Imams, that legalization was “lamentable,” and that it would have “disastrous effects for so many people.”
The catechism of the Catholic Church, a collection of doctrine, lambastes the use of drugs except on “strictly therapeutic grounds,” and says drugs inflict “very grave damage on human health.” The bishops, in their statement, suggest that Catholics “who knowingly engage in this behaviour should discuss this with a priest in Confession.”
In explaining their reasoning, the letter says that people under the influence might choose to do things they wouldn’t while sober. It also argues there are health effects, and that some can become addicted to cannabis. As well, the bishops say that marijuana “artificially alters consciousness … which can be a way of avoiding challenges that we are facing in our lives.”
“This kind of psychological pain ought to be alleviated by legitimate means,” they conclude.
Pope Francis, who’s won some fondness in liberal quarters for the occasional progressive pronouncement — he wanted to revisit a ban on remarried Catholics receiving the Eucharist, for example — said in 2014, when speaking to leaders of global anti-drug agencies, that “attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects.
“Let me state this in the clearest terms possible: The problem of drug use is not solved with drugs. Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” he said.
The Post reached out to all offices of all the signatories; two of them were unavailable and five didn’t respond to the interview request.