One of the most common questions I get asked as a Catholic is whether or not we are allowed to drink alcohol – and it’s no wonder why considering how traditional our religion is. So what exactly does the Catholic Church teach about alcohol, and are we even allowed to have it? Find out in this article.
Catholics are allowed to drink alcohol but only in moderation. The Church teaches us that every kind of excess is bad, such as excessive eating results in gluttony. The same goes for abusing alcohol. So while drunkenness can be a grave sin, it does not mean that we cannot drink or enjoy it at all.
That said, what does Scripture tell us about consuming alcohol? When does drinking alcohol become a sin? Continue reading to know the answer to these questions and learn what the Catholic Church teaches us about alcohol.
Is Alcohol Allowed in Catholic?
As mentioned above, Catholics are allowed to drink and appreciate alcohol. In fact, all early Christians saw the act as perfectly acceptable. St. Arnulf of Metz, who lived from 580 to 640 CE, was even quoted the popular saying: “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”
The Catholic Church does not object to drinking alcohol. After all, Jesus’ first miracle did involve making wine (John 2:1-11) and alcohol also played a big part in the Last Supper. In the Catholic tradition, we believe that Jesus used real wine and not grape juice at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-28). St. Paul even wrote about the benefits of wine, saying: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:23)
In Deuteronomy 14:26, Moses also says it’s perfectly acceptable to drink, saying: “And spend the money for whatever you desire, oxen, or sheep, or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves; and you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.”
So the Bible and the Catholic Church often see alcohol as a gift, even describing it as a reward in some ways. Having abundant wine was also once considered a blessing of God.
Aside from that, it is with alcohol that we can have fun and enjoy other people’s company. We get to socialize and strengthen our bonds with friends over recreational drinking. In the process, we can “let loose” and just relax. These are all the benefits of consuming alcohol that the Catholic Church recognizes, which is why we are free to drink – but only moderately. Because going beyond that can actually constitute a sin.
When Does Drinking Become a Sin Catholic?
While the Catholic Church isn’t against drinking and enjoying alcohol, it does warn us not to overdo it. As written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #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.”
That said, drinking alcohol becomes a sin when we abuse it and when it already deprives us of using reason. This means being no longer able to responsibly discern or think about what we should or should not do, including drinking until we can’t remember our name or falling off our seats.
So when does drinking alcohol become a grave sin? Well, if we deliberately choose to drink excessively. On the other hand, if it is a result of our lack of foresight, then it only counts as a venial sin.
Remember, however, that all gravely wrong actions done while intoxicated – even when not done intentionally – are willed due to deliberate drunkenness. This includes violence, fornication, etc. So in such circumstances, we are still responsible for them as though we intentionally chose to do them.
Other aspects of drinking are also sinful. For example, drinking intentionally while neglecting its effect on your health and knowingly exposing yourself to grave physical danger. Not to mention that aside from endangering your life and health, you might also endanger others through your drunken actions.
What Does Scripture Say About Drunkenness?
Along with biblical passages that support drinking alcohol, there are also passages that speak about drunkenness. Romans 13:13, for example, states: “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.”
Galatians 5:19-21 also says: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Aside from these, there’s 1 Peter 4:3 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 as well. The most notable, probably, is Ephesians 5:18, which states: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.”
With that said, while Scripture says it’s fine to drink alcohol, it also tells us not to do it excessively to the point that we lose control of our bodies and minds – or in other words, getting drunk – as this is clearly a sin.
This is why we should only have it in moderation. Michael Foley, author of Drinking with Your Patron Saints, does say that not only is drinking moderately the “morally responsible thing to do”, but it’s also more pleasant. He also said that in drinking, “God wants us to derive pleasure from his creation.”
So to reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with drinking in moderation. But the next time that you do enjoy a glass or two of beer or scotch, it won’t hurt to be thankful for God’s creation and generosity. Most of all, don’t get behind the wheel once you are done drinking.