Alcohol Consumption and the Catholic Faith
29 SEP 2017
As alcohol appears everywhere from Communion wine to Bible passages, it's difficult for a Catholic to ignore the implications of alcohol consumption. Although the Catechism and various Catholic organizations offer their general beliefs about alcohol consumption, views may vary per parish. Ultimately, each Catholic must take this information in hand to create their own views about drinking.
Wine consumption plays a central role in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, a key Catholic ritual. This ritual occurs during Mass after the passing of the collection plate. Bread and wine are carried to the altar as the priest and churchgoers pray and exchanges signs of peace and greetings among each other. At the altar, the wine and bread are thought to transform into the blood and body of Christ, a process known as transubstantiation. The churchgoers then drink the wine and eat the bread, thus taking Christ into their own bodies.
2 Biblical View
The Bible does not contain any warnings against alcoholic beverages, nor does it prohibit Christians from consuming them. In John 2:6-11, Jesus famously transforms water into wine, and wine plays a central role in the Passover Seder meal, in which wine becomes the sacred blood of Christ. However, sections of the Bible -- including the story of the golden calf, Noah cursing Canaan and Paul's condemnation of drunkards in Acts 18 and 21 -- do warn against the dangers of drunkenness.
3 Church View
Although the Catholic Catechism does not directly ban alcohol consumption, it does advocate temperance, advising Catholics to “avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine.” Via the Catholic Enquiry Center, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference [Ref. 1] expands on this, saying that the use of pleasure-giving drugs such as alcohol is not, in itself, an immoral act. Rather, the conference warns that the use of alcohol may be sinful if it leads to bodily harm or the formation of a hurtful addiction, especially if that habit deprives the loved ones of the addicted in any way.
4 Catholics and Consumption
In her essay “Protestants and Catholics: Drunken Barbarians and Mellow Romans?”, Professor Ruth C. Engs of the University of Indiana [Ref. 3] notes that when compared to other Christian sects such as Protestants, Catholics tend to consume more alcohol and generally do not view the substance as problematic. The Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Parish [Ref. 2] agrees, jovially stating that “the whole world knows, Catholics have a reputation for drinking.” Engs traces this embrace of alcohol to the relaxed, wine-based drinking culture of Catholic antiquity that was present in areas such as the Mediterranean and western Europe [Ref. 3].
- 1 Catholic Enquiry Center: Drugs, Tobacco and Alcohol
- 2 Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Parish: Why Some Catholics Drink and Other Don't
- 3 University of Indiana: Protestants and Catholics: Drunken Barbarians and Mellow Romans?
- 4 Patheos Library: Religion Library: Roman Catholicism: Rites and Ceremonies