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: Pilgrimage: A journey through Church history

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“Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” Paul proclaims these words the end of the book of Acts, capping off the biblical narrative of the work of the Apostles. The story of salvation history doesn’t end with the death of the Apostles, however, but continues in the life of the Church, fulfilling the words of Paul. The Gentiles have accepted the Gospel and have built up the Kingdom of God on earth. This is our story and we continue it.

If you want to know how the story continues after Acts, I’ll be teaching a class through the Denver Catholic Catechetical School this year, called “Pilgrimage: A Journey through Church History.” It begins with the early Church and follows the story to today. The class explores the Church Fathers, the fall of Rome, the building of Christendom, the High Middles ages, the Reformation (perfect for the 500th anniversary this year), the expansion of the missions around the globe, the modern revolutions, and the Second Vatican Council. We’ll be looking at and discussing the most important historical sources and exploring the art of the various time periods. We’ll be entering into the Church’s story by allowing the key figures and events to guide us.

We see one turning point in the story in the year 430. St. Augustine lay dying in Hippo as the Vandals prepared to sack and conquer the city. Augustine lived at the end of an age as the Roman Empire slowly crumbled, but also at the beginning of a new Christian one, an age he helped forge. The great doctor of the Church thought through the implications of the rise of Christianity in an age of political decline and saw right into the heart of history. History, unlike the focus of our textbooks, finds its true course not in politics or economics, but through love.

Augustine posited that all mankind belonged to one of two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. One city took its shape by loving God before all else and the other in a love turned inward on oneself. Augustine taught us that we live as citizens of our true homeland above even within the midst of this passing world: “The glorious city of God is my theme in this work. . . . I have undertaken its defense against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city—a city surpassingly glorious.” Augustine’s teaching laid the foundation for a new Christian civilization, Christendom, which sprang up amidst the ruins of Rome in Europe.

One young man unexpectedly began building the foundations for this new civilization. He was studying within the ruins of the decadent city of Rome in about the year 500 and fled the temptations of town to live as a hermit in the wilderness. Eventually, others flocked to him and he laid the foundations for monasticism throughout Western Europe. The monasteries provided the foundation upon which a new society was built. St. Benedict, for this work, has been recognized as a patron of Europe and a true father of Christendom. His Rule does not seek to build up the earthly city, but looking to the City of God to “hasten to do now what will profit us for eternity.” And this is the key to Catholic culture and history: seeking the lasting the city helps us to live better in this life, with wisdom, courage, and hope.

We are all pilgrims, living in exile in the city of this world, and journeying toward the heavenly Jerusalem: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” (Heb 13:14). And yet we have to build a city on earth and looking to the past provides inspiration for this great project. This is why we should study Church history, especially as our culture goes through a period of upheaval, not unlike St. Augustine’s time. We need the witness and the legacy of the saints and doctors to guide our pilgrimage as we continue the story of the Church. Looking to the past helps us to plot out our own path on our journey to eternal life.

Class details

“Pilgrimage: A Journey Through Church History,” John Paul II Center, Denver. Tuesdays, 9:00 AM. Information Sessions: Aug 1 and Sept 5, 9:00 AM. Classes begin Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Register at: https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1968327