Pot panel: ‘just say no’

Local experts discuss moral, legal dilemmas

Nissa LaPoint

Pot smokers’ reasoning for lighting up may be the pursuit of a longing within all people—contemplation and communion, according to one priest.

Parish pastor Father Peter Musset of Boulder’s St. Thomas Aquinas Parish argued it’s one thing marijuana users may have right.

“I think one of the most important reasons we overlook for why people smoke pot is for contemplation,” he said during a July 1 marijuana panel discussion. “That’s what people are longing for. They are thirsty. They are utterly hungry for the ability to engage and experience reality.

“But the means with which pot smokers choose that contemplation is wrong,” he emphasized. “It’s destructive.”Father Peter Mussett speaks about marijuana at a panel discussion July 1 at Holy Ghost Church in Denver.

During the discussion held at Holy Ghost Church, Father Musset said Catholics are invited to engage and invite pot smokers into true communion, and awe and wonder of reality.

The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and its moral, legal, personal and theological dilemmas was discussed from all angles among panelists: Father Musset, Professor E. Christian Brugger of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Jo Menendez and Catholic Charities’ Shelter and Community Outreach Vice President Geoff Bennett.

The crowd gathered at the church heard the testimony of Bennett, who shared the story of one of his daughter’s addiction to drugs, starting with marijuana, at 16 years old.

“It started with marijuana because she wanted to be popular,” he said.

It soon took her on a path of bad choices—dropping out of school, stealing, running from home, living on the streets and losing custody of her children, he shared.

“You never know what the next phone call will bring,” Bennett said about his daughter’s past calls for money or aid.

Attorney Menendez said that as a recovering alcoholic, addiction is a “lousy road.” She said she took her last drink of alcohol more than 23 years ago.

Now in her work as an attorney, Menendez said she sees the impact and resulting confusion after the November 2012 passage of recreational marijuana.

Federal law prohibits marijuana possession while state law allows it.

“The law has been a bad teacher in this area,” she said.

Statistically, its passage has impacted health. Emergency room admissions of men ages 18-25 saw marijuana jump from the third to the second most-cited drug of use. Hospital discharges for marijuana cases increased by 47 percent in the Denver metro area and 57 percent in Denver County between 2007 to 2012, she stated.

“I’m going to keeping fighting,” she said about her work against drugs.

As an ethicist and professor, Brugger offered an analysis on pot’s use and legalization.

After discussing the cannabis plant’s deleterious effects on the body, Brugger pointed to the arguments in favor of legalization, including the overcrowded prisons with pot smokers and pot’s equivalence to alcohol, saying neither are strong arguments.

Meanwhile, ethical arguments against it bear more weight, principally the fact that marijuana alters consciousness, impairing a person’s ability to make good choices. Treating others with respect, dressing modestly, not eating excessively and faithfully praying are already a challenge when completely conscientious, he said.

“Getting high makes all these things more difficult,” Brugger argued.

And without a just cause for recreational smoking, its usage is wrong. Furthermore, legalization can harm vulnerable children and increase the burden on parents seeking to raise them with Christian values, he said.

Legalization also has a way of not only sanctioning or rewarding behavior, but teaching it, he explained.

“When the law says something is legal, what it does is it removes a stigma from that thing and over time we start to look at it not only as neutral but even something that could be good for us,” Brugger said.

In the case of legalized marijuana, it could change perception on a drug that has moral, spiritual, physical and social pitfalls, he said.

 

Pope Francis on recreational drugs

During the June 20th International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome, Pope Francis spoke about recreational drugs before leaders of anti-drug agencies worldwide. He denounced the legalization of drugs and the trend of offering addicts narcotics as a substitute for harder drugs.

“Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise,” the pope said.

“Here I would reaffirm what I have stated on another occasion: No to every type of drug use. … But to say this no, ‘one has to say ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to others, ‘yes’ to education, ‘yes’ to greater job opportunities. If we say ‘yes’ to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.”

 

 

 

COMING UP: Father Jan Mucha remembered for his ‘joy and simplicity’

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When Father Marek Ciesla was 11 years old, he encountered a priest in his hometown in northern Poland who was visiting his parish on mission.

“I was impressed,” said Father Ciesla. “A couple of my friends and I were talking about how energetic, how wonderful this priest was. I think in this way he inspired us a little bit to follow the call to the priesthood.”

The priest was Father Jan Mucha, and little did Father Ciesla know that decades later and an ocean away, he would reunite with the man that inspired him and his friend to pursue the priesthood.

In 2010 when Father Mucha was retiring from his role as pastor of St. Joseph Polish Catholic Church in Denver, Father Ciesla was sent from Poland to the Archdiocese of Denver to take his place.

The priests spent two days together, and Father Ciesla was struck by the familiarity of Father Mucha.

“For some reason, the way he was talking and the words he was using, something rang a bell,” he said. “I asked him if he remembers visiting my parish. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I had it on my list. I remember.’”

Father Ciesla was amazed that the man he was there to replace was the same one who had impacted his life all those years ago.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Father Ciesla. “I never thought I would meet him again.”

Father Mucha passed away March 21 after serving the archdiocese for 40 years. He was 88 years old.

Father Mucha was born March 16, 1930 in Gron, Poland to parents Kazimierz and Aniela Mucha. He was one of five children. Father Mucha attended high school in Kraków and went on to study philosophy and theology at a seminary in Tarnów.

Father Mucha was ordained December 19, 1954 in Tarnów by Auxiliary Bishop Karol Pękala. He served at St. Theresa Parish in Lublin, Sacred Heart Parish in Florynka and as a Latin teacher at Sacred Heart Novice House in Mszana Dolna.

He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Denver on April 20, 1978. Before he was granted retirement status in August of 2010, he served at St. Joseph Polish for nearly 40 years.

“Father Mucha was dedicated to his people and there was a joy about him,” said Msgr. Bernard Schmitz, who had known Father Mucha since his own ordination in 1974 and more recently within his former role as Vicar for Clergy.

“I admired his joy and simplicity,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He seemed to have no guile and what you saw is what you got. He was very proud of his Polish heritage and was unafraid to be Polish.”

Father Mucha’s move to the United States came about after he visited St. Joseph Polish while on vacation. The pastor at the time was sick, and parishioners asked Father Mucha to stay.

After receiving approval from his superiors in Poland and the archbishop in Denver, Father Mucha did stay, and ended up serving the parish for nearly four decades.

“He was happy to serve here,” said Father Ciesla. “All the time, he was a man of faith. He kept his eye on Jesus.”

Msgr. Schmitz believes Father Mucha’s faithfulness and tenacity as a priest will leave a lasting impression on those he served.

“He was dedicated to the priesthood and didn’t want to retire until he was sure his people would be well taken care of,” said Msgr. Schmitz. “He could come across as tough, but really he was a compassionate person [with] a heart open to the Lord’s work.”