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Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction, Chapter 1

Note on the Text

The version of the text Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction here is digitized by Le Nouvel Esprit from a physical copy of the English edition published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The reason the text was digitized by Le Nouvel Esprit is due to the fact that this crucial text for understanding the Church’s teaching on drugs cannot be found online, except the Italian edition as far as the authors of Le Nouvel Esprit were able to discover. The Vatican website contains only the table of contents, nothing else. Here we present the prologue and chapter 1. The entire text can be found as a pdf here.

We have slightly modified the text in the following way. In the English edition there are some margin comments about various paragraphs off to the side. These were digitized and placed in front of their respective paragraphs italicized and in smaller font, to emphasize that they are not original titles of the text. All original titles are bolded to ensure the distinction between these margin comments and the actual headings. Given this method of keeping the margin comments, some paragraphs have more than one of these margin comments, and so, an artificial paragraph break was introduced so that the comment can be above its respective text. 

Footnotes from within the text are placed at the end of their respective paragraphs, to make the text easier to read online. I have also retained the page numbering within curly braces, { }. These will either be in-text or centered isolated on the page and bolded. Where the brackets are, begins that respective page number. Hence, page 34 begins immediately after {34}. Given the style used to keep track of footnotes and page breaks within paragraphs, the reader needs to refer to the in-text footnote citation location to determine which page the footnote is actually placed on if he or she wishes to reference the footnote accurately.


After a long work of preparation, we are now able to present this Pastoral Handbook on "Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction". Early in 1997, the Hol Father, through the Secretary of State of the Holy See, entrusted the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care with the duty of following up on the terrible problem of drug abuse in the world. Since then, we have organised a series of study sessions, meetings, International Conferences, and set up special work groups, in order to accomplish the mandate received from the Pope. Among our concerns there emerged a need to prepare a Handbook on Health Pastoral Care, in the specific area of the world of drugs.

Often, questions are asked on what to think and do in the pastoral area with regard to the problem of drugs. Many bishops, priests, men and women religious, and anguished parents ask themselves: what can we do as Christians, faced with the drug problems? With this manual, we do not pretend to offer a definitive answer but to give some suggestions that could be of help in pastoral work. We know that there are many methods, and that there are many experiences of people who are totally and heroically dedicated to this pastoral work. We respect this plurality — at times not very harmonious — of ways that are applied to prevent and treat drug addiction: we do not intend to propose a new method, but to offer a simple practical guide, to questions that we consider important for pastoral action, and which perhaps will also be of use to those who through much dedication and care work in this field.

We offer this Handbook particularly to the bishops, in whose dioceses this problem is present, and this is a problem they cannot overlook among youth, children, and even adults. This work is for the priests and other pastoral workers, who together with the bishop carry on the work of making the Kingdom of God always present in the world. We have in mind also the parents of addicted children who do not know how to help them, then the families to which we strongly address ourselves.

Politicians are very important in the fight against this scourge. Any results attained in stopping the problem depend very much on their attitude. To them also we offer our Handbook, which perhaps will help them in realising the difficult and delicate mission to which they are dedicated, in order to save and treat the many people who suffer from this terrible evil.

In a particular way we look to the world of health, particularly to health professionals. This handbook is not a specialised treatise of the problem, nevertheless, we offer here values and guidelines that will facilitate their preventive and curative mission.


The Handbook takes into consideration youth; we would wish that they use it as an appropriate instrument both to prevent this evil and to quit drug addiction. School teachers at all levels, especially those in the primary schools, can offer to their students adequate information and education on this problem. To them, as well as to all those interested in this serious problem of our time, we dedicate our Handbook.

As we said before, the Handbook opens with the words of the Holy Father John Paul II. The chapters that follow thereafter are a kind of commentary on His words. The Pope speaks of three particular actions for a pastoral programme capable of dealing with the problem of drugs: prevention, care and suppression. The Handbook takes into consideration the first two: prevention and care. It does not treat suppression, to which the Pope makes reference stressing that we all have to fight against the production, processing and distribution of drugs in the world and that it is a special duty of governments to face with courage this fight against the "traffickers of death". This point will not be developed in the Handbook; however, in unison with the words of the Pope we invite all to fight strenuously against drugs.

We know very well that if there is no demand there is no supply. Prevention, as well as education to the meaning of values which make life worth living, and the deep sense of life, love and sex, will certainly lead to the reduction of this demand and as a consequence the supply of drugs will also diminish. We can no longer speak of producer countries on the one hand and consumers on the other. Nobody is a stranger to this evil wave that embraces everyone. All nations produce and all consume, especially now with the availability of synthetic drugs. We are all involved and drug barons are very powerful and are causing more damage in the rich countries than in the poorer ones. We all have to be seriously involved in the fight against this fatal evil.

We thank all those, who with a lot of dedication have helped us in the writing of this Handbook. Special thanks go to the Rev. Father Tony Anatrella and his collaborators who worked a lot on the drafting of this Handbook, in order to offer all this pastoral aid.

We would like to place our Handbook under the special protection of our Lady, Health of the Sick (Salus Infirmorum). May the Blessed Virgin entrust to her Son sus, all who suffer because of this terrible evil, so that in Him all may find the pro und values that can fill the emptiness of the life of many people in today's society ay the Lord Jesus through his death and resurrection, which is the only valid basis accepting to live or to die, give us all an authentic meaning to life.

Vatican City, 1 November, 2001.

His Excellency Msg. JAVIER LOZANO BARRAGAN President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care



Drug addiction invades the world

1. Drugs and drug addiction are phenomena that are invading all societies in the world and do affect youth in a particular way, whatever be the environment to which they belong. The enhancement of more varied drugs and their use has never been so prominent and even deliberately sustained. The substances are made to appear as if they are a supplement to "freedom", a source of well-being and life in common. Yet, whatever be the ways of using them and the expectations placed in them, the outstanding question is: "Why does one take drugs?".

2. The reasons that lead to taking drugs are manifold, but we hold that it is above all the attitude of the person that makes an addict, and not the substance. Education and prevention will therefore be concerned about taking action on what gives rise to this behaviour, and not just pay attention to the substances, even though it is still useful to offer abundant information about drugs.

Solidarity with drug addicts

3. The growing use of psycho-active substances, that is substances with stimulating or inhibiting effects on the brain, the diffusion of some of these products and the continuous appearance on the market of new substances, arouses an expectation of "well-being" that most of the time turns day after day into suffering and peril. We must sympathise with all those who believe they cannot live without drugs, because they are instead destroying themselves, even to the point of death; they destroy their relationships, they destroy the milieu around them, and seriously compromise their future. Will society allow this to continue, something which is certainly not a sign of health and confidence in life? In effect, drugs testify to a kind of contempt for life and represent a personal attempt, which is certainly imaginary, of extricating oneself from reality and from the circumstances of human life.

4. If some adults have been long-term consumers of psychotropic plants, this practice is not a mass phenomenon. {8} Nor is it right to conclude that "a society without drugs does not exist, accepting that all societies are part of the drug culture. So the appropriate response is to simply put in place a system in which a minimum consumption is acceptable. Today the use of drugs is no longer limited to adults or to some particular individuals; in the contemporary world and for about forty years now, the problem has spread to all sectors, especially adolescents. A society concerned about the well-being of its children and peace between the generations, cannot accept that it has to learn to live with drugs, which are a source of ruin and death, and not life.

Drug-use and self-destruction

5. We now know a great deal more about the fatal effects of drugs on the psychic balance, on family life, on the personal and social life of adults and youth. They cause various handicaps for many people who seek "a supplement to life" offered by the psycho-stimulants. They lead in fact, to results that are contrary to what was expected, because the consumption of the substances can give rise to negative behaviour, which interferes with the relationships, and which seriously reduces the freedom of a person, sometimes to the extent of cancelling it completely. They also dim the mind of those who cannot liberate themselves from their consumption, and motivate demands on doctors for prescriptions of drugs that can alleviate difficulties in living, reduce their suffering, and inner anxieties. This blindness is greater when it leads to political pressure for the liberalisation of drugs. However, those who are more lucid among the addicts do not hesitate to launch an appeal, from the very depth of their dependence: "Tell the youth never to use these substances, to have the courage to reject them, to find adults and youths who can help them to live and resolve their problems, rather than taking recourse in drugs".

Socio-cultural complexity of the phenomenon

6. The phenomenon of drug-use does not limit itself to private actions of taking toxic substances. It is related to socially supported systems.

7. In fact, an underground economy and an international crime ring have developed, with the aim of producing and commercialising drugs in large quantities.


8. Drugs also pose problems for public health, whose cost is very heavy to sustain, especially for countries with scarce resources. It is not feasible to encourage drug related behaviour, which causes organic pathologies, and also causes social and psychological problems that will have to be treated in the future.

9. Drugs encourage a way of behaving which borders on individualism and egocentrism, leading to withdrawal from meaningful communication with others. A society, which promotes development, based on economic criteria, service and efficacy, to the detriment of religious, spiritual and moral values, does not assist the integral development of a person. In promoting these values human behaviour is improved and the conduct of a person acquires a highly positive sense. To forget this means mistaking the symptoms for the cause.

Proposing a credible alternative

10. What should be done then? How should the Church concern itself with the phenomena of drugs and drug addiction? The parents, and even the social agents, priests, religious and the laity are witnesses and the first protagonists trying to understand, intervene and propose to the individuals an alternative to a dependency on various drugs.

11. The family is one of the first places for the prevention of drug-use. However, it is not always supported and enhanced in its educative work, especially by contradictory legislations that are in effect in many countries. Youth movements within the realm of the parish also play a part in drug prevention through the promotion of a style of life that is based on the Gospel message so as to better discover God. Developing the inner life of youth, with the help of prayer, the sacraments and above all the celebration of the Eucharist, offers them a glimpse of the eternal and blessed life of Christ, thus revealing a fuller sense of human existence.

12. Preventing addiction, and treating and rehabilitating drug addicts are the most important ways of helping people {10} who are caught up in the relentless cycle of drug taking. But we also know that the problems are complex and that the way of handling them depends on a diversity of activities and many helpers. The Church, in dealing with the questions that present themselves in drug related situations and phenomena, exercises her role and gospel mission, with the aim of helping people to come out “of a world pressed for hope".[1]

[1] John Paul 11. To the Participants at the International Symposium on Drugs, 11 October 1997, in Insegnamenti, XX/2, 1997, p. 533, n. 3.

Pastoral action of the Church for drug addicts

13. For many years now, the Church has been engaged in helping drug addicts through the pastoral action of many priests, religious and laity, within institutions or in open addicts precincts, and in situations created to respond to people with drug-related problems. In some countries, the Church has developed programmes for the assistance and reintegration of drug addicts. It contributes by educating to true freedom and responsibility, by promoting prevention of drug-use, by assisting drug addicts and helping in their rehabilitation. The establishing of community structures, with the intention of promoting the dignity of the human person, has often led to positive results. However, in most cases the work is difficult and costly; it requires patience and needs the collaboration of many people, especially volunteers who can dedicate their time to drug-prevention and support of drug addicts. It is important here, to acknowledge the work of many professionals and volunteers, who do all they can to help drug addicts and their families.

14. The principles and values that inspire the teaching of the Church and its pastoral action in this field have been expounded many times in various ways by Pope John Paul II. Nevertheless, the decision to confront this problem in a more immediate and organic way was made by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, after Doctor Giorgio Giacomelli, the then Executive Director of the United Nations' International Programme for Drug Control, approached the Pope, asking the Church {11} to help in resolving one of the most serious problems of our time, indicating in particular that drug trafficking and consumption are a "menace that could endanger the future of an entire population". The Cardinal Secretary of State, Angelo Sodano, then entrusted the task to our Dicastery.

15. Dr. Giacomelli said in his note that "the police and the international judiciary system, alone, were not capable of defeating a phenomenon that is so wide-spread". Hence, his approach to the Church for help, "above all in the area of prevention, so that the diffusion of strong values may keep the young generation away from drug consumption".

The Pope expresses his worry as universal pastor

16. The phenomenon of drugs constitutes without doubt a worrisome problem in the entire world and requires serious study. It is proper that this question should be treated according to the illuminating teaching of John Paul II. Within the past few years, the Holy Father has dealt with this problem, in over eighty statements.

17. From 9 to 11 October, 1997 a Church Symposium organised by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, was held in the Vatican on the theme "United for Life"; this meeting is a proof of the decisive and energetic commitment of the Holy See to addressing the drug problem. The Catholic Church, which is strongly involved in the sector of prevention and rehabilitation of drug addicts, considers the drug phenomenon to be of pastoral urgency on the world scale, since it concerns all countries and all social groups (rich and poor, youth and adults, elderly, men and women); a phenomenon of such breadth requires a strong and decisive response, in order to check the ethical decay that arises from it.

Guidelines of the world Congress of 1977

18. For this reason, 90 experts (delegates of Episcopal Conferences, specialists, those in charge of rehabilitation centres, and interested international organisations), from 45 countries where the problem is particularly present (because of drug production, consumption, trafficking and laundering) met in the Vatican to study the situation, {12} exploring various aspects of the phenomenon, and learning from the different experiences in prevention and rehabilitation realised up to now by local churches.

19. At the end of the Congress, the first of its kind, in terms of its wide representation and the experience of the participants, it was possible to express various ideas and guidelines upon which there was a wide agreement.

20. The experiments carried out so far in certain countries, on liberalisation and legalisation of drugs have been disastrous. It is certainly important to state the problem correctly, for it does not only concern the substance consumed but rather the person using it.

21. The drug phenomenon is a symptom of a profound malaise affecting the culture and moral sense; it exceeds therefore, the limits of a medical question and cannot be limited to a particular sector of society.

22. The problem of drugs is at the same time a fruit and cause of high moral loss and of a growing social disintegration.

23. The phenomenon is not only the concern of rich countries. Drugs are consumed for various motives (poverty, unemployment, urbanisation, changes in customs) in many developing countries, and the problem is intensifying on four fronts: production, consumption, trafficking and laundering.

24. The contribution of the Church aims to complement the efforts of workers in a variety of fields (politicians, social and health workers, parents, educators, judges and directors of sectors of action); it presents itself as an itinerary of liberation that leads people to the discovery of their proper dignity both as human beings and as children of God, which they can then recover.

The handbook is a guide for pastoral protagonists

25. In order to put the fruits of this important congress at the service of the Church, the decision was made to compile a pastoral handbook, in which doctrinal principles {13} related to the question, and also important practical guidelines for a pastoral approach to drug addicts, would be included. It is this handbook that we are offering. It is in the first place addressed to the bishops, to the pastoral workers, as well as to all people who are concerned about the drug problem, with the hope of offering some help to them in this difficult and delicate field of their apostolates.

Scheme of the work

26. The first chapter of this manual presents in a synthetic way the position of Pope John Paul II on the issue of drugs, whereas the second offers practical information on the different types of drugs, and of treating the problem of drug addiction under the aspect of dependence. The third chapter offers a reflection both on the question of freedom and on the discovery of the sense of pleasure and joy. demonstrating that every person is called to build his or her life positively and to learn to love life. The fourth chapter deals with the topics of education and prevention as fundamental means of fighting drug addiction; the fifth chapter presents in a synthetic way the pastoral attitudes and the delicate ministry of a spiritual guide to the drug addicts and their families.


Chapter 1: The Teaching of John Paul II on the Phenomenon of Drugs and Drug Addiction

27. This chapter offers a synthesis of the mind of John Paul II on the question of drugs. It also makes reference to some observations of the Cardinal Secretary of State, Angelo Sodano as well as the position of the Pontifical Council for the Family and that of Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers.

1. The Phenomenon of drugs today

28. The Pope said that, "among the threats facing youth and our entire society today, drugs take the first place as an invisible and insidious danger, that is not yet adequately evaluated according to the amplitude of its seriousness. [...] the infection spreads like wildfire, extending its tentacles from big cities to small centres, from rich and industrialised nations to the Third World. [...] There are torrents of illegal trafficking that interlace and cover international routes to reach, through thousands of channels, the purification laboratories and from here to capillary circulation"[2] Drug trade, the pope underlines, upsets nations. "The Scourge of violence and terrorism, aggravated by the foul trade of drugs for which it is often the cause, puts the social equilibrium of countries at risk ".[3]

[2] John Paul II. To the Youth of the Therapeutic Community for Drug Addicts, 27 May 1984, in Insegnamenti, VII/1 1984, pp. 1538-1539, n. 2.

[3] John Paul II, To the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 1990, in Insegnamenti, XIII/1, 1990, p. 79, n. 14.

Drugs put the world equilibrium at risk

29. Referring to drug related groups, the pope adds. "Deep sadness and abhorrence stirs up in our hearts [...] because of the crimes that people and groups commit in {15} order to build illegitimate sources of income through the drug trade".[4] For the pope, therefore, drugs are a phenomenon that is closely connected with the culture of death.

[4] John Paul II. To the Cardinals and the Roman Curia for the Christmas Greetings, 22 December 1989, in Insegnamenti, XII/2, 1989, pp. 1597-98, n. 9.

Drugs and the culture of death

30. "One cannot but observe with sorrow, that the culture of death threatens to overtake the love for life [...]. death procured with violence and drugs".[5] On the other hand, "One cannot fail to deplore the damages caused by any type of violence and drug dealing in certain societies, to the point of shaking their foundations; I think particularly of the people who have been assassinated, those taken as hostages, or the disappearance of innocent people".[6] "We must unfortunately note that today this phenomenon is reaching all spheres and regions of the world".[7]

[5] John Paul II, To the Pontifical Athenaeum "Antonianum", 16 January 1982, in Insegnamenti, V/1, 1982, p.139, n.4.

[6] John Paul II. The Address to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, during the audience for the exchange of the New Year Greetings, 12 January 1991, in Insegnamenti, XIV/1, 1991, p.82, n. 4.

[7] John Paul II. To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, 11 October 1997, in Insegnamenti, XX/2, pp. 531-32, n. 2.

A phenomenon that is widespread among the youth of every age

31. The pope is worried about the extension of the phenomenon. "We are now faced with a phenomenon of terrifying scope and proportions, not only because of the very high number of lives brought to an end, but also because of the worrisome spread of the moral contagion, which for some time now has been reaching the very young as well. As in the case unfortunately not uncommon, of children along with their peers being forced to become pushers, and consumers themselves ".[8]

[8] John Paul II. To the participants at the VI International Conference on "Drugs and Alcoholism against Life", 23 November, in Insegnamenti, XIV/2, 1991, p. 1251, n. 3.

32. "The tragic episodes show that this disgusting epidemic, involving a vile market, has become so widespread as to surpass national and continental boundaries [...], and its {16} connections with delinquency and crime are such that they constitute one of the principle factors of general decadence”.[9]

[9] John Paul II, In an Address to the Therapeutic Communities, 7 September 1984, in Insegnamenti, VII/2, 1984, p. 347, n. 4.

33. “The drug phenomenon is a particularly serious evil. Many young people and adults have died or will die as a result, while others find themselves impaired in their innermost being and personal capacities".[10]

[10]  John Paul II. To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, op. cit., p. 532, n. 3.

34. In his opening address at the Church Symposium on Drugs, "United for Life", to which we made reference in the introduction, the Cardinal Secretary of State spoke of the devastating effects of drugs today, not only on health but also on conscience and the collective mentality. Drugs are both the fruit and cause of a great ethical degeneration and a growing social disintegration, that corrupt the very fabric of morality, of interpersonal relationships, and of civilised community life. He then also revealed the physical damages concomitant with and resulting from drug abuse, ranging from hepatitis to tuberculosis and AIDS. We need not mention, he said the context of violence, sexual exploitation, arms trade, and terrorism in which this phenomenon prospers, and who does not know the family relationships that have been rendered difficult because of it? A particular burden falls on women, often forced into prostitution to sustain addicted husbands. In order to be able to reduce the profit of the traffickers it would be necessary to intercept at least 75% of the international drug traffic. Trafficking of heroin and cocaine is in its major part controlled by trans-national organisations, and managed by criminal groups that are strongly centralised, with a wide range of specialised personnel: ranging from chemists to experts in communication and money laundering, from lawyers to security guards.[11]

[11] Cf. Angelo Sodano, The Opening Address of Cardinal Secretary of State, Angelo Sodano at the Symposium "United for Life" promoted by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers (9 October 1997), in "L'Osservatore Romano", 11 October 1997, p. 4, 1. The "Drug Scourge "; 2. "Devastating Effects".


2. The causes of the drug phenomenon

35. The pope states: "Psychologists and sociologists say that the first cause that drives youth and adults to the harmful experience of drugs is a lack of clear and convincing motivations for life. In fact, the lack of points of reference, the vacuum of values, the conviction that nothing has sense and that life is not worth living, the tragic and distressing feeling of being unknown wayfarers in an absurd universe, can lead some to the search for a desperate and exasperated escape. [...] Experts in psychology also say that the cause of the drug phenomenon is a sense of loneliness and incommunicability that unfortunately weighs on modern society, noise and alienation even within the family. It is a sad fact, that alongside the absence of intimacy with God, and without justification, there is a seeking after drugs, beginning a journey of flight in order to forget oneself, to dazzle oneself, and to escape from oppressive and unbearable situations. A second cause, according to the experts, involves a search for "artificial paradises" into different types of drugs, so as to escape the defective social structures that do not offer satisfaction, but it is a journey of no return ".[12]

[12] John Paul II, Homily at the Mass for ex-drug addicts [for the Italian Committee of Solidarity for the addicted youth, directed by Don Mario Picchi], 9 August 1980, in Insegnamenti, III/2, 1980, pp. 347-349.

36. Elsewhere the pope adds: "Avarice for money takes possession of the hearts of many people and transforms them, by means of the drug business, into traffickers of the freedom of their brothers, who then become slaves of a slavery that is much worse than that of the black slaves. The slave drivers deprived their victims of the exercise of their freedom; the drug traffickers lead their victims to the destruction of their personality".[13]

[13]John Paul II, Appeal before the tomb of St. Peter Claver, 6 January 1986, in Insegnamenti, IX/2, 1986, p. 197.

37. With regard to the drug business, "Widespread drug use is a sign of a serious malfunction in the social {18} system; it also implies a materialistic and, in a certain sense, destructive reading of human needs. In this way the innovative capacity of a free economy is brought to a one-sided and inadequate conclusion. Drugs, as well as pornography and other forms of consumerism which exploit the frailty of the weak, tend to fill the resulting spiritual void ".[14]

[14] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 1 May 1991, n.36, in Enchiridion Vaticanum, 1991-1993/13, EDB Bologna 1995, pp. 125-129.

Effect: existential void and violent deterioration

38. On the causes of drug abuse, the pope stresses "that at the origin there is always an atmosphere of human and religious scepticism, and of hedonism, which in the final analysis leads to frustration, to an existential void, to a conviction that life is without purpose, ending in violent negativity".[15] "[...] at the root of alcohol and drug abuse. though in a complexity of causes and situations - there is usually an existential void due to the absence of values and a lack of self-confidence in others and in life in general, [...] and today we are faced with insidious social plagues which have spread throughout the world, fostered by huge economic interests, and sometimes political ones as well ".[16]

[15] John Paul II, At the Italian Centre for Solidarity on the World Anti-Drug Day, 24 May 1991, in Inseganemtni, XIV/1, 1991, p. 1784, n. 2.

[16] John Paul II. To the participants at the VI International Conference on "Drugs and Alcoholism against Life", op. cit., p. 1249, n. 2.

Drug business and loss of hope

39. "Drug addiction is a symptom of a problem in life, of having difficulty in finding ones place in society, with fear of the future and ending with a flight into a deceptive and fictitious life. [...] The growth in the market and of the consumption of drugs show that we are in a world devoid of almost all hope, where vigorous human and spiritual purposes are lacking. In effect, many young people think that all behaviour is the same, and do not differentiate between good and evil or acquire a sense of moral limits".[17]

[17] John Paul II, To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, op. cit., p. 532, n. 3.

40. For his part, the Cardinal Secretary of State underscores the fact that drug addition is related to the {19} present state of a permissive and secularised society, in which hedonism, individualism, pseudo-values, and false models prevail. It is a depersonalised and standardised society. What people seek in drugs, continues Cardinal Sodano citing Cardinal Ratzinger, is "the endless perversion of human aspiration.... the pseudo ecstasy of a world that does not believe, but all the same cannot shake off its shoulders the tension of the soul towards paradise".[18]

[18] Cf. Angelo Sodano, The Opening ..., op. cit., p.4, 4. "To the Ethical Cultural Roots of the Phenomenon" (J. Ratzinger, Svolta per l'Europa, Edizioni Paoline 1992, p. 15).

The drug addict, suffers from lack of love

41. The Pontifical Council for the Family adds in turn, that the fundamental and constant motive for the use of drugs is constituted by the absence of moral values and the lack of interior harmony in an individual. At the root there is the lack of education, whereby society and the family do not transmit values. Without values, the addict suffers from "lack of love". "It is not only the drugs in question, but also the psychological and existential human questions underlying this behaviour. Very often there is the refusal to understand such questions forgetting that, what makes drug addiction is not the toxic substance but the person who feels the need for it. [...] The recourse to drugs is a symptom of a profound "illness". [...] Behind these phenomena there is a request for help from the individual, who remains alone with his or her life; there is the desire not only for recognition. and appreciation, but also for love. [...] In effect, the problem is not in the drug, but in the sickness of the spirit that leads to drugs, as Pope John Paul II reminds us: There is need to recognise that there is a link between the lethal sickness caused by the abuse of drugs and the sickness of the spirit that leads the person to escape from oneself and seek deceptive satisfactions in avoiding reality, to the point of cancelling completely the meaning of ones existence".[19]

[19] Pontifical Council for the Family, Liberalizzazione della droga?, in "Enchiridion Vaticanum", n.16, 1997, pp. 31-33.


3. Moral Judgement

3.1. The human being does not have right to harm him/herself

Drug traffickers, merchants of death

42. The presentation of the problem has implicitly led to the realisation that from the moral point of view, there is need to totally reject the use of drugs. It is in effect a practice that is completely incompatible with Christian morality. The pope defined the drug traffickers as "merchants of death"; he underlines that the drug addicts are like “ ‘people on a journey', who go in search for something in which to believe in order to live; they stumble instead, into the merchants of death who assail them with the allurement of illusory and false prospects for happiness. [...] While aware of this, you and I nevertheless wish to testify that there are reasons to go on hoping and they are much stronger than those against: (contra spem in spem). Indeed, today, too, as in the parable of the gospel, Good Samaritans are not lacking, who with personal sacrifice and sometimes at a personal risk, are able to become the neighbour' of those in difficulty".[20] He refers to drugs as "a wicked trade", considers drugs as a scourge, speaks of the criminals of drugs, and of the evil business of toxic substances. "What should we say about the obscure face of drug supply? Of the big reservoirs and the millions of rivulets through which the wicked traffic flows? About the colossal speculations and the ignoble links with organised crime? Every serious preventive proposal on a large scale, solicits interventions capable of drying up the sources and arresting the courses of this swollen river. The fight against drugs is a serious duty connected with the exercise of public responsibility".[21]

[20] John Paul II, To the participants at the VI International Conference on "Drugs and Alcoholism against Life", op. cit., p. 1250, n. 2-3.

[21] John Paul II, In an Address to the Therapeutic Communities, op. Cit., p. 349, n. 6.

Use of drugs, a renunciation of freedom

43. [...] taking drugs [...] is always illicit, because it involves an unjustified and irrational renunciation of thinking, willing and acting as free persons. [...] We {21} cannot speak of the 'freedom to take drugs' or 'the right to drugs', for the human being has no right to harm him/herself, nor the right to abdicate ones personal dignity, which comes from God! These phenomena — it must always be remembered — are not only detrimental. to physical and psychic well being, but frustrate the person precisely in his or her capacity for communion and self-giving. All this is particularly serious in the case of youth. Theirs is, in fact, the age which opens to life, the age of the great ideals, the season of sincere, altruistic love".[22]

[22] John Paul II, To the participants at the VI International Conference on 25 "Drugs and Alcoholism against Life", op. cit., p. 1251-52, n. 4.

44. Speaking of the psychosomatic aspect of drugs, the pope reiterates [citing Paul VII] “that which science affirms as the biochemical action of drugs introduced into the organism. It is as if the brain were hit violently: all the structures of the psychic life remain upset under the shove of these excessive and disorderly stimuli ";[23] and he adds then that drug addiction other than being a sickness of the body, is a sickness of the spirit.

[23] John Paul II, Homily at the New Rome Branch of the "Italian Centre for Solidarity", 21 June 1980, in Insegnamenti, IX/1, 1986, p. 1890, n. 3.

The use of drugs is a grave offence

45. In his address, the Cardinal Secretary of State quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that, "except on strictly therapeutic grounds, the use of drugs is a grave offence" (n. 2291). It is clear that in each case, there is need to establish the degree of personal responsibility of the individual, in order to be able to eventually speak of the gravity of his fault.

46. In its document Dalla disperazione alla speranza (From Desperation to hope), the Pontifical Council for the Family, declares that the consumption of drugs is nothing but a false answer to the lack of a positive sense of life; besides, it affirms that drugs attack the sensibility of a person and the good use of his reason and will.


3.2. No to the Liberalization of Drugs

Ineffectiveness of permissive laws

47. It is exactly in this context that the problem of the Liberalisation of drugs sets self. What does the Pope think about it? He responds, reiterating his affirmation during the meeting with the therapeutic Community of San Crispino of Vinebo: “ ‘Drugs cannot be won using Drugs.’ Drugs are an evil, and you do not make concessions to a evil The legalisation of drugs, be it partial, besides being more or less questionable in relation to the nature of law, does not take into account the (pre)-established effects. This is confirmed by an experience that is by now common”.[24] In the already cited address to the participants of the International Congress on drugs, organised by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, the Pope asserts again: "It is not surprising that a great bewilderment and a feeling of powerlessness are overrunning society. Some current opinions propose the legalization of the production and sale of certain drugs. Some authorities are prepared to let things go, and just try to organise the drug consumption in order to control its effects. Consequently, the use of certain drugs becomes common even in schools; this is encouraged by the argument that seeks to minimise the dangers, especially by distinguishing between soft and hard drugs, leading to proposals for the liberalisation of certain substances. Such a distinction overlooks and downplays the risks inherent in taking any toxic product, especially the dependency behaviour that is based on the psychic structures themselves, the blurring of the conscience and the loss of one's will and freedom, whatever be the drug".[25]

[24] John Paul II, In an Address to the Therapeutic Communities, op. cit., p.349, n. 6.

[25] John Paul II, To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, op. cit., 532, n. 2.

Inefficacy of replacement drugs

48. Directly related to this problem, is the question of replacement drugs. "Drugs cannot be won with Drugs. Replacement drugs are not an adequate treatment, but rather a disguised way of surrendering to the phenomenon. [...] It is the common opinion of the respectable observers, {23} that the capturing power of drugs on a youthful spirit is in the disaffection to life, collapse of values, and the fear of the future". [26]

[26] John Paul II, To the Youth of the Therapeutic Community for Drug Addicts, op. cit. p. 1540, nn. 3 and 4.

Drugs are an evil

49. When speaking about the possibility of recovery in the therapeutic communities, the pope considers it "significant that this happens with methods that rigorously exclude any concession in a substitutive way of both legal and illegal drugs ".[27] In his address that we cited above, Cardinal Sodano recalls that replacement drugs are not a good treatment, instead they are a capitulation; with regard to liberalisation, he underlines that according to the opinion of those who support the use of soft drugs, prohibition has not done other than aggravate the problem, while according to the opinion of those in favour of prohibition, the ascent to soft drugs is nothing but a preparation of the access to had drugs; besides, this has to do with an irreversible step that will not eliminate the black market for narcotics and will not in fact reduce violence and criminality. He then quotes the thought of the pope with regard to the question of prohibition. "Drugs are an evil, and you do not make concessions to an evil... It is for this reason that the distinction between 'hard drugs' and 'soft drugs' leads to a dead end. Addiction does not take its origin from the drug itself, but in what leads the individual to taking drugs".[28]

[27] John Paul II, In an Address to the Therapeutic Communities, op. cit., p. 347, n. 3.

[28] Angelo Sodano, The Opening ..., op. cit., p. 4, 3. "Public Responsibility" (Cf. also J. Ratzinger, op. cit.).

50. In this regard, the Pontifical Council for the Family specifies that in certain countries legislation controls the use of drugs, permitting however an easy access to "soft drugs". Some say that this does not provoke neither biochemical dependency nor secondary effects on the organism; the idea is that in this way it would be possible to know better the addicts, in order to offer them better help and assistance. Instead it has been proved that these {24} so-called "soft" drugs provoke loss of attention and the alteration of the sense of reality; first they favour isolation, then dependency, in this way encouraging the taking of stronger products. From the pharmacological point of view, it is difficult to distinguish soft drugs from the hard ones. The decisive factors are the quantity consumed, the way of assimilation, and the eventual mixing or combination of products. The market witnesses the arrival of new drugs everyday, with new effects and therefore new questions.

Liberalisation causes confusion

51. This same Council, on examining the request for drug liberalisation, says that sometimes those who have the confusion responsibility of deciding express doubts with regard to the necessity of continuing with the fight against drugs, given that its use is by now so widespread. Should we therefore, surrender to the idea of watching the formation of an inferior class of underdeveloped human beings, who depend on drugs to live? There has not been enough consideration of what the experts for many years have been saying, that addiction does not take its origin from the drug itself but from what leads the person to taking drugs. The use of drugs is a device for not facing all the demands of life. We have forgotten that everyone has to respond to the essential questions of existence in order to consciously assume ones humanness. In reality, the weakness of the wish to legalise certain drugs can be seen in the baleful consequences that such decisions may have on education; liberalisation of drugs leads to their acceptance as legal; from this would derive such a confusion that makes one believe that what is legal is normal and moral. This legalisation would inevitably provoke high consumption, high criminality, a high number of road accidents, worsening of personal problems, an increase in the health problems at the expense of the general public, a State inclined to abdicate the duty to safeguard the common good, since it would give way to the destruction of youth, to the violation of the principle of equity and subsidiarity, and in the end the poor would be neglected."[29]

[29] Pontifical Council for the Family, Liberalizzazione della droga?, op. cit., nn. 16-19, pp. 37-39.


The State cannot become a drug distributor

52. The Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers equally wants to underscore the questions related to the legalisation of "soft" drugs and the controlled distribution of heroin. As has already been revealed, the problem in drug abuse is not only the drug substance, but also the addicted person. We find ourselves confronted by an ambiguity. The difference between what is morally and juridically illicit and the possibility of its sanction by law has not been sufficiently clarified. And so, there are some countries where only drug distribution is penalised and not its consumption, yet in other countries both are crimes and are therefore punishable. In some countries the punishments are very severe, extending from hard labour to hanging. In countries where the State were to organise the distribution of drugs, it would then become the principle provider, and that would be absurd! The criteria sometimes observed in order to allow drug distribution, for example hashish, is that of verifying whether its use produces harmful effects, or not, on the organism. Once again, the problem should not be looked at only in relation to the physical damages, but also the psychological consequences and the effects on the behaviour. When taken as a treatment to alleviate moral discomfort or to resolve personal difficulties, instead of offering remedies, drugs aggravate these sufferings and difficulties. All involved parties therefore, have to work not only on the reduction of the supply but particularly also on the demand, with an educative programme based on truth, freedom, and responsibility.[30]

[30] Cf. Conclusion of the Church Symposium on Drugs, "United for Life", in Dolentium Hominum. Church and Health in the World, n.38, Year 1998/2, pp. 73-76.

4. Suggested Remedies

53. There are three ways to be followed: prevention, suppression, and rehabilitation. The first one is the most important, that is prevention combined with an appropriate education that proposes the true sense of life and gives priority to values.


4.1. Prevention

The real struggle consists in the recovery of values

54. "The phenomena of drugs and alc combated, underlines the pope, nor can effective action be taken for the healing and recovery of their victims unless the human values of love and life are first restored — the only ones capable, especially if illuminated by religious faith, of giving full meaning to our existence".[31] Drugs are combated not only through medical and juridical measures, but also and above all through the creation of new human relationships, rich in spiritual and affective values.[32]

[31] John Paul II, To the participants at the VI International Conference on "Drugs and Alcoholism against Life", op. cit., p. 1252, n. 4.

[32] Cf. The Homily of John Paul II at the inauguration of the "Italian Centre for Solidarity", 21 June 1986, in Insegnamenti, IX/1, 1986, p. 1890, n. 3.

The Church proposes the therapy of love

55. The Church, in the name of Christ, proposes an answer and an alternative: the therapy of love, because God is love, and he who lives in love knows communion with God and with others. "Whoever does not love, remains in death" (1 Jn 3, 14). "As it is incumbent on the Church, to work at a moral and pedagogical level, intervening with great sensitivity in this specific area. It is up to public institutions to adopt a serious policy aimed at healing situations of personal and social discomfort, such as the crisis in the family, the origin and foundation of human society, unemployment among the youth, housing problems, social and health services, and the educational system. [...] The Church, which desires to work in society as the yeast of the Gospel is and will continue to be ever at the side of those, who with responsible dedication face the social plagues of drugs and alcoholism, in order to encourage and support them with the words and the grace of Christ.[33] "The clear conviction in the immortality of the soul, the future resurrection of the bodies and the eternal responsibility for ones actions is the most sure method for the prevention of the terrible evil of drugs, the treatment and rehabilitation of its poor victims, and for strengthening of love {27} them in perseverance and steadfastness in the way of goodness".[34]

[33] John Paul II, To the participants at the VI International Conference on "Drugs and Alcoholism against Life", op. cit., p. 1253, n. 5.

[34] John Paul II. In an Address to the Therapeutic Communities, op. cit., p. 350, n. 7.

The role of the Family in the fight against drug addiction

56. In this phase the family has a very important role. "Faced with a world and a society that runs the risk of becoming more and more depersonalised and therefore dehumanised, with the negative results of many forms of escapism — a principal one being the abuses associated with drugs — the family possesses "formidable energies capable of taking the individual out of his anonymity ".[35] In the above cited address to the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, the pope invites married couples to develop stable conjugal and family relations, based on fidelity to their bond of love in the fight against drugs: "They will thus create the best conditions for a peaceful life in their homes, giving to their children the emotional security and self-confidence they need for their spiritual and psychological growth. [...] I therefore invite all those who have an educational role to intensify efforts with young people, who need to form their conscience, develop their interior life and create positive relationships and constructive dialogue with their brothers and sisters; they will help them live freely and responsibly".[36]

[35] John Paul II, To the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, 19 January 1984, in Insegnamenti, VII/1, p. 115.

[36] John Paul II. To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, op. cit., p. 534, n. 5.

57. With regard to the necessary information, the pope recalls "the duty to provide wise and precise medical information, especially to young people: stressing the harmful effects of drugs on the physical, intellectual, psychological, social and moral levels ".[37] Prevention demands "the contribution of the entire society: parents, schools, social environment, instruments of communication, national and international organs. There is need for a commitment to {28} form a new society, meeting the needs of men; the education to be human ".[38]

[37] John Paul II, Ibidem, p. 534, n. 6.

[38] John Paul II, To the Youth of the Therapeutic Community for Drug Addicts, op. cit. p. 1541, n. 5.

4.2. Suppression

Necessity of legislation against traffickers

58. The pope recognises that suppression alone is not enough to stop the phenomenon of drugs, however this has to be hard fought "It must be recognised that a crack down on those who use illegal substances is not enough to contain this scourge; in fact, a significant criminal network of trafficking and financing has been organised on an inter national scale".[39] To fight these drug organisations, "it is necessary to create legislation on a comprehensive plan of deterrence against trafficking in narcotics ".[40] The pope asks that "a united front thus be formed, engaged increasingly not only in prevention and the rehabilitation of drug addicts, but also in denouncing and legally prosecuting the traffickers of death and in demolishing the webs of moral and social disintegration. [...] I thus repeat — adds the Pope — the serious appeal I made several years ago to the different public bodies, both national and international, that they 'curb the expansion of the drug market. To this end, the interests of those speculating on the market must first of all be brought to light; the instruments and mecha nisms they make use of should then be identified; and, finally, the co-ordinated, effective dismantling of these ought to begin.’".[41]

[39] John Paul II, To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, op. cit., p. 532, n. 2.

[40] John Paul II, To the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, op. cit., p. 116.

[41] John Paul II, To the participants at the VI International Conference on "Drugs and Alcoholism against Life", op. cit., pp. 1250-51, n. 3.

Urgency for a regional and continental plan of action

59. "In order to confront this problem, it is necessary to give more force and efficacy to the principle of unity and integration of Latin-America, [...] In this regard it becomes necessary to follow a plan of honest regional and continental co-operation, so that the means that have been {29} applied to fight the trafficking of narcotics can be rendered efficacious".[42] "It is imperative that the criminal activity of drug production and trafficking should be directly opposed and ultimately stopped. In this regard, my encouragement and admiration go to all those countries in which government leaders and citizens are truly committed to combating the production, sale and misuse of drugs, sometimes paying a very high price, even sacrificing their own physical integrity".[43]

[42] John Paul II, To the representatives of Latin-American Countries, 5 December 1985. in Insegnamenti, VII/2, 1985, pp. 1418-19.

[43] John Paul II, Message to the International Conference in Vienna on the trafficking and abuse of Drugs, 5 June 1987, in Insegnamenti, X/2, 1987, p. 1942.

Politicians have a duty to fight the culture of drugs

"I invite the civil authorities, the economic decision-makers and all who have social responsibility to continue and intensify their efforts in order to improve at all levels legislation against drug abuse and to oppose all forms of drug culture and trafficking".[44]

[44] John Paul II, To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, op. cit., p. 534, n. 6.

4.3. Rehabilitation

The sense of human dignity at the basis of rehabilitation

60. The Pope invites us to confront this problem in concrete terms: "In order to confront drugs, neither sterile alarmism nor careless superficiality are of any use. Instead what is required is the effort to know individuals and understand their interior world. To lead them to the discovery or the rediscovery of their proper human dignity. To help them through* a confident reactivation of the mechanisms of the will directed towards sure and noble ideals, and to resuscitate and develop those personal qualities, which the drugs have destroyed ".[45]

*The English edition originally had “thorough” instead of “through”.

[45] John Paul II, In an Address to the Therapeutic Communities, op. cit., p. 347, n. 3.

The Gospel helps to overcome crisis

61. The Pope encourages "parents who have an addicted child never to despair, to maintain dialogue with him or her, to show them their affection and foster contacts with facilities that are capable of treating them. The family's warm attention is a great support for the {30} interior struggle and the progress of detoxification treatment ".[46] “The most difficult human and social crises can be overcome in the light of the Gospel, and [...] therefore today one can also come out of the drug drama and get back to a confident way of life".[47]

[46] John Paul II, To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, op. cit., pp. 534-35, n. 6.

[47] John Paul II, To the Youth of the Therapeutic Community for Drug Addicts, op. cit. p. 1538, n. 1.

Understand the young people’s thirst for life

"The fear of the future and the insertion into the adult life that is noticed in young people makes them particularly vulnerable. Often, they are not encouraged to struggle for a good, upright life; they have the tendency to withdraw into themselves [...]. Forces of death, then, drive them to abandon themselves to drugs, to violence, sometimes even to the point of suicide. Behind what may appear as a fascination for a kind of self-destruction, we must see in these young people a call for help and a deep thirst for life, so that the world may radically modify its proposals and ways of life".[48] "The gift of life' appeals to sobriety, chastity, opposing pornography, and sensitisation to the dangers of drugs".[49]

[48] John Paul II, To the participants at the International Congress on Drugs, op. cit., p. 533, n. 4.

[49] John Paul II, To the Polish Bishops gathered at Jasna Gora, 19 June 1983, in Insegnamenti, VI/1, 1983, pp. 1588-89, n. 5.

It is possible to overcome drugs

62. Then, continues the Pope, "if we have to confront this great danger to the human person, and above all to the young person, which is drugs, we must have proof of the possibility of winning. If we have the certainty that it is possible to win, one proved by those who have won, then we can confront the problem with hope. Therefore, you young people, who have been victorious, be for others a witness of hope, a proof of the possible victory; become also for society that is worried about the drug phenomenon, a new impulse for the struggle. So that it may apply all forces and all goodwill. It is worth it because victory is possible".[50]

[50] John Paul II, Homily at the Mass for ex-drug addicts, op. cit., pp. 350-51.


63. In his address cited above, the Cardinal Secretary of State emphasises that only the personal commitment of the individual, his or her will to revive and to recover, can guarantee a return to normality, having gone through the hallucinating world of narcotics. To this end the social aids to the family and the therapeutic communities are indis pensable.[51]

[51] Angelo Sodano, The Opening ..., op. cit., p. 4, 7. "Horizon of Hope".

The importance of experiencing the love of Christ

64. In turn the Pontifical Council for the Family affirms that drug addicts need to know and experience the love of Jesus Christ. To be open and to revive an authentic ideal of life. That through faith they will fully and sincerely adhere to Christ and his Gospel, accepting his sovereignty to the point of becoming his disciples. The addict will be able to listen to the words of Jesus: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). The Church proposes, and does not impose, she leads the human person to the discovery of his or her dignity as an active subject, and teaches him the reason for one's earthly existence.

Always ensure assistance to the drug addicts

65. The duty of evangelising the world of drugs requires three fundamental steps: announce the paternal love of God, denounce the evils caused by drugs, and ensure assistance to the drug addicts. The Christian model of the family remains the primary point of reference for prevention, rehabilitation and insertion of the individuals into society.[52]

[52] Pontifical Council for the Family, Dalla disperazione alla speranza, in "Enchiridion Vaticanum", n. 13, 1992, pp. 891-913.

5. The Church in front of Drug Addicts

The divine call is also addressed to the drug addict

66. "Drugs are not the main problem of the addict. The consumption of drugs is only a false answer to the lack of a positive sense of life. At the centre of drug addiction is the human being, a unique subject, with his or her interior life and specific personality, the object of the love of the {32} Father, who in his plan of salvation calls everyone to the sublime vocation of sonship in the Son. However, the reali sation of such a vocation is together with happiness in this world seriously compromised by the use of drugs, because it influences in a harmful way the sensibility and the right exercise of the intellect and will, in the human person, the image of God (cf. Gn 1, 27)".[53]

[53] Pontifical Council for the Family, Dalla disperazione alla speranza, op. cit., p. 893.

God saves man

67. The Church proclaims that God saves man in Christ, revealing to him or her their vocation and the love with which they are loved.[54] In the light of this truth, all human beings have the right to know that to live means to say yes to God and walk in the way of holiness. The merciful love of God is directed in a particular way to those who have more need of his compassionate and liberating action. Christ tells us that it is the sick who need the physician (cf. Mr 9, 12: Mk 2, 17; Lk 5, 31).

[54] Cf. Ecumenical Council Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 22.

The Church proclaims the Gospel of salvation

68. We should be happy about the concern and activities of the numerous people and institutions that are with patience committed every day to help the individuals hit by drug addiction. The Church puts itself at the service of those who find themselves under the yoke of this new form of slavery. What the Church proposes is the Gospel plan for man. To those who live the tragedy of drug addiction, to those who suffer because they lead a miserable existence, she announces the love of God that does not want death, but conversion and life (Ezk 18, 23). The argument here is about an integral life, the eternal life, proclaimed also for those who are in threatening and dangerous situations. The Church wishes to restore hope to all people.

69. For the drug addict, who fundamentally suffers from a "lack of love," the Church would like to get him or her to discover the love of Christ. When one is under the agony of {33} an ailment, a deep vacuum of existence, the road towards light is through the revival of the authentic ideal of life, which is fully manifested in the mystery of revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. With her specific contribution, the Church intervenes in the problem of drug addiction to prevent the evil, help the addicts to liberate themselves from drugs and socially reintegrate themselves, and also to help their families.

Eliminate the distance between the drug addicts and the institutions

70. To the phenomenon of drug addiction, the Church responds with a message of hope and a service that goes beyond the symptoms and behaviour of the individual in order to reach his or her heart; she does not limit herself to the ailment, but proposes programmes for life. She puts herself at a level that takes into consideration the precise vision she has of man, which leads her to indicate the values of life. Her duty is evangelical; to announce the good news. She does not assume any type of temporary post with respect to other institutions and/or other human needs. In fact, she would like to support all people who dedicate themselves to drug addicts and assume her due role in the world. In effect, her specific duty is that of proposing the "the evangelical school" as a form of life founded on the relationship with Christ, the only one who can realise the desires of man, because our soul thirsts for the living God (cf. Ps 62).

71. It is exactly at the centre of the Church's evangelising mission that its intervention in the area of drug addiction takes place. In this activity the Church "has but one purpose: to serve man by revealing to him the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ".[55] It is only in Him that every human being can find the true treasure, the true reason of his existence. The words of Christ, "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11, 28), acquire an extraordinary significance when they are addressed to the drug addicts.

[55] John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 7 December 1990, n. 2. Enchiridion Vaticanum, 1990/12, EDB Bologna 1992, pp. 453.


The Church, a dynamic presence

72. The Gospel unites the proclamation of the Good News to good works, like, for example, the cure of "all kinds of disease and illness" (Mt 4:23). The Church is "a dynamic force" and is "a sign and promoter of gospel values among men.[56] Exactly because of this, the Church, "never losing sight of the priority of the transcendent and spiritual realities, premises of eschatological salvation",[57] has always offered a gospel witness uniting it with the execution of her activities: dialogue, promotion, commitment to justice and peace, education and care of the sick, aid to the poor and to children. It must be clear, once and for all, that in the proclamation of the Good News of the love of God, she does not exercise any constraint on the freedom of people: she stops before the sanctuary of the conscience, and proposes without imposing anything.[58]

[56] Ibid., n. 20.

[57] Ibid., n. 20.

[58] Cf. Ibid., n. 39.

Help drug addicts to recover their human dignity

73. The Holy Father recalls that the evangelising ministry of the Church consists in the proclamation of the Good News, to lead to the recognition that Jesus Christ is for every human being "the real treasure, the precious pearl, the true and definitive reason for their being".[59] Referring to the drug addicts, the Supreme Pontiff affirms that it is necessary to "lead him or her to the discovery of the rediscovery of their proper human dignity; and help them as an active subject, thorough a confident reactivation of the mechanisms of the will directed towards sure and noble ideals, to resuscitate and develop those personal qualities, which the drugs had buried”.[60]

[59] John Paul II, Homily during the Mass in Piazza Sordello [Mantova], 23 June 1991, in Insegnamenti, XIV/1, 1991, p. 1762, n. 5.

[60] John Paul II. In an Address to the Therapeutic Communities [on the occasion of their VIII International Congress], 7 September 1984, in Insegnamenti, VIL/2, 1984, p. 347, n. 3.

74. Today, with the wide diffusion of drugs, the Church finds herself in front of a new challenge: she has to evangelise people who live these particular circumstances and {35} those who contribute to the diffusion of toxic products. For this purpose, she sets as objective:

75. The annunciation of the paternal love of the Father to save every human being;

76. The denunciation of the personal and social evils caused and promoted by the drug phenomenon;

77. The witness of the faithful who dedicate themselves to the care of the drug addicts, after the example of Jesus Christ, who did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life (Mt 20:28; Ph 2:7).

78. This threefold activity involves:

Prophetic annunciation

79. the prophetic duty of announcing, which presents the original gospel vision of man;

Humble service

80. the duty of humble service, to the image of the Good Shepherd who give his life for others;

Moral formation

81. the duty of pastoral and moral formation of individuals, families, and human communities, to be realised according to the natural and supernatural principles, in order to offer an integral vision of the human being.

82. The Church wants to intervene in the situation of drug addicts in the name of her evangelical mission; with the aim of letting them listen to the word of the love of God, offering the means to spiritually reach all those who are hit by drugs.


Documents on Drugs

Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction, Chapter 1

From Despair to Hope

Should Soft Drugs be Legalized

Excerpts from Church Documents

Addresses of Pope John Paul II

Addresses of Pope Francis

Messages of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

Final Statement

The Voyage of Life: Manhood by Thomas Cole

Wikimedia Commons

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