A government that chooses to co-operate in the promotion of harmful drugs fails in its duty to build a just, virtuous and free democracy.
This was the message of Fr Scott Giuliani, priest of Divine Mercy and San Pedro Churches and Missions in a letter to parishioners titled Belize and the Decriminalisation of Marijuana: Will fail to produce its desired effects.
According to the September issue of the diocesan monthly The Christian Herald, Fr Giuliani, a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) told Catholic faithful that “it is presumptuous and absurd for government officials or Catholic parents to think that the youth of this generation are prepared to virtuously smoke recreational marijuana”.
He maintained that a Christian is not morally obligated to obey an unjust law; in fact, in some cases, they are morally obligated to civilly disobey. “As Christians, we dutifully obey the legitimate authority of the state, however, there are situations where civil law is not in accord with the universal moral law.”
In the case of drug use, he said, drugs are not immoral because they are illegal; they are immoral because they harm the dignity of the person by impeding reason, fostering vices and hindering freedom. “The health and social risks of illicit drugs are undeniable. It is a general agreement that harmful drugs are not good for marriages, schools, the workforce and especially for our youth.” He continued, “The use and sale of drugs is contrary to the building of a virtuous society which is essential for a democracy to remain productive and truly free. In all situations, drug use to get ‘high’, even if it is called “recreational,” is a grave sin.”
Fr Giuliani said Belize’s move toward legalising marijuana is a government-sanctioned message that tells the people that marijuana use does not matter. He affirmed that there are other recommended ways to address drug use in the nation rather than to allow access to marijuana possession.
Quoting Pope Francis’ message to members of a drug-enforcement conference meeting in Rome that the problem of drug use is not solved with drugs, Fr Giuliani said civil authorities are morally obligated to enact laws to curb behaviours of individuals that are damaging to the common good of society.
To say otherwise, he said, is to promote rebelliousness and licentiousness that leads to moral decay and the breakdown of a democracy.
Fr Giuliani was cognisant that the possession, use, purchase and sale of marijuana has a high potential for abuse, especially in those that lack maturity, like the youth.
He commented that there is an increasing trend among western countries to deviate from recognition of the negative effects of the use of marijuana due to some beneficial medical effects to the physical body, and an idealistic expectation that a new legalised marijuana industry will create a safer, better-regulated cannabis market.
“The simple refutation is that it is unvirtuous to cultivate habits of vice. Vice is bad. Vices do not lead to faithful marriages, reduction in corruption, a fruitful labour pool, a protected environment or an increase in graduation rates.”
He declared that limiting possession to 10 grams or reducing smoking to private residences may help to limit the “scandal” done to youth, but ultimately, it is ineffective to curb vice.
“The sin of scandal is already done, however, not by a misguided teenager, but it is done by elected officials and they will need to give an account on the day of judgement,” he said.