Neither the Bible nor the Catholic Church prohibit the partaking of alcohol. However, drunkenness is a big no-no both in the Church and in the Bible. The biggest reason intoxication/drunkenness is considered sinful is because it makes it easier to commit other sins.
Is getting drunk a mortal sin? Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
What Does The Bible Say About Drinking Alcohol?
Alcoholic drinks, specifically wine, is mentioned many times in the Old and New Testaments.
It was commonly served during sacrifices and feasts. In the New Testament, the first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine.
The Bible talks about alcohol in both positive and negative terms.
In some places, it is described as a bringer of joy and a signifier of God’s blessings. For instance Ecclesiastes 9:7.
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
Also in Genesis 27:28.
May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.
In other places, it is regarded as something bad and unworthy. For instance, Proverbs 21:17.
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
Also in Proverbs 23:31-32.
Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.
That said, there is no direct command from God that prohibits the consumption of wine.
What the bible is vehemently opposed to is drunkenness or intoxication. This is true both in the Old and New Testament.
For example, in the Proverbs verse above, it’s talking about drinking too much wine because the next few verses describe things that typically happen during drunkenness like, “Your eyes will see strange things” and “your heart utter perverse things”.
Verse 20 of the same chapter says:
Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat…
The New Testament is even more emphatic in discouraging drunkenness. Here’s Ephesians 5:18.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…
Drunkenness is also mentioned in Galatians 5:19
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
As interpreted by most Catholic theologists, it’s not against the Bible to take alcoholic drinks like wine, but getting drunk goes against the Word of God.
What Does The Catholic Church Say About Drinking Alcohol?
The Catholic Church does not prohibit the consumption of alcohol. However, similar to the Bible, it cautions against excessiveness.
Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the issue (CCC 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.
So moderate consumption of alcohol is not a sin. But getting drunk is a sin.
Is Getting Drunk A Mortal Sin?
Drunkenness is a sin. But whether it’s a venial sin or a mortal sin depends on the circumstances.
For a sin to be mortal, it has to be grave, you have to know it’s wrong, and you have to do it willingly.
Drunkenness is indeed a grave sin. It deprives you of judgment and reason, gifts that God has given us to lead a righteous life.
And in so doing, it often leads us to more sin such as violence and fornication.
If you knowingly drink alcohol to the point of intoxication, then that’s a mortal sin. Any grave sins arising from that state are also mortal sins. You need to go to confession.
But if you get drunk unknowingly (e.g. you had no idea the punch at the party was strong), that’s a venial sin. You can go to confession or pray to God for forgiveness.
When Does Drinking Alcohol Become A Sin?
There’s no standard marker that signifies when you’ve crossed over into the sin of drunkenness.
Not only are different types of alcohol different, everyone processes alcohol differently.
Some people can take several bottles of beer and they are fine. Others get drunk on just one bottle.
It’s up to you to make the judgment. You’ll know when you are in danger of sinning. There’s that little voice inside that tells you, “I’ve had enough and should stop there.”
If you find your reasoning and thinking beginning to get corrupted, you’ve gone too far.
Note, however, that you don’t always have to get drunk for it to become a sin. There are three situations where drinking alcohol is a sin even if you don’t slip into drunkenness.
- If you are harming your health – It’s our responsibility to take care of our health, which is a gift from God (CCC 2288). If you have a health condition that could be worsened by drinking even small amounts of alcohol, you’ll be sinning by drinking alcohol.
- Sin of scandal – If, by drinking, you cause someone else to sin, that also counts as a sin on your part. For example, if a spiritually young believer sees you drinking and it encourages them to get drunk.
- Going against the law – you may not be drunk after a couple bottles of beer. But if you drive in that state, that’s against the law and it counts as a sin. The same is true for something like underage drinking.
What About Smoking, Is It A Sin?
Similar to drinking alcohol, the Catholic Church does not prohibit smoking. Lighting up is not a sin.
However, as per the ‘virtue of temperance’ in CCC 2290, excessive use of tobacco is sinful.
Something else to consider is the health effect of smoking. Deliberately and knowingly harming your health is a sin.
Current scientific evidence points to the fact that there is no safe amount of tobacco. Does that mean that even an occasional cigar is a sin?
Use your judgment and maybe talk to your priest to hear their opinion.