On this, the third day of our novena to St. Maximilian Kolbe, please again, go here and say the prayer, thinking of someone you love and know who’s is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The consider the following:
The person that you are praying for is probably seeking a short term solution to a long term problem. In a way, this can be a form of suicide, which is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Either way, the person is taking a huge gamble with their immortal soul.
The Church regards addiction to be a mitigating factor if the addictive behavior would otherwise normally be a mortal sin. According to the Catechism, paragraph 1857:
- For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”
Addiction would eliminate the “deliberate consent” condition, and possibly the full knowledge of its mortal nature.
The gamble I was referring to is the possibility of the fine line being crossed if relapse occurs. While the argument can be made that the addictive personality of the individual may always be in place and therefore would always mitigate the mortal nature of the sin, I dislike the potentially cavalier reliance on “mitigation” as it may be a dangerous assumption. If one has relapsed, the possibility remains that the person may satisfy all three conditions of a mortal sin. And that is the reason for this post, while the mitigating factor may always be in place, the danger to their immortal soul is too great to completely discount the possibility of a mortal sin being committed.
The act of alcohol or drug abuse is always a grave matter. But the other two conditions which may not be met due to the addiction, may be met because of the new knowledge the person has about him/herself and the substance abuse. They may have full knowledge of the act’s mortal nature due to their recovery program and Catholic spirituality, and their consent may be a willing consent. It may be a deliberate act, not linked to the corruption of the will by addiction.
The argument can go back and forth, all hinging around whether the person’s consent was freely given and whether they fully understood the act’s mortal nature. A problem lies with whether or not the individual recognizes the distinction between mortal and venial sins, or even recognizes the existence of the two kinds. Sin is either deadly (mortal) or not deadly (venial).
From the First Letter of St. John,
1 John 5:16-17
- If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.
- All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.
One could argue that why bother being Catholic and developing a strong Catholic spirituality? Ignorance will prevent one from committing mortal sins. Well, the answer is easy. With Catholic Christianity you have the only sure road map, drawn by God Himself, to achieve eternal salvation. And with the sacraments, you have the best way to cleanse yourself of all sin, mortal or venial.
Addictive behavior is still sinful, albeit venial. While there is no mathematical formula that states that a certain number of venial sins equates with one mortal sin, the accumulation of venial sins will still distance yourself from God and His graces.
There is an additional component to the gamble one plays. The short term relief and pleasure achieved by the addictive act, if mortal, trades away the possibility of eternal life with God and loved ones in Heaven. A soul with one or more mortal sins condemns itself to Hell. The few seconds, hours or days of pleasure and relief costs the soul an eternity in paradise.
A stupid gamble.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)