Smoking and Saints

Pope Francis decided to ban, as of 2018, the sale of cigarettes in Vatican City (cheaper for employees which leads, of course, to a black market).  Cigarettes are bad for people and, probably, the environment.   Hence, they must be banned.

I saw on Twitter (where else) defenses of this enlightened choice including the suggestion from those who probably don’t think that contraception, adultery or abortion are mortal sins that smoking surely is.

If it is indeed the case that smoking is a mortal sin, then no person who smoked without amending his life could possibly have lived a life of heroic virtue.  What, then, to say about the beatified (for other than martyrdom) or the canonized whom we honor at the altar and whose lives are offered for our edification and imitation?

There came to mind Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  He smoked.  Surely he will never now be canonized.

He – oh the horror – smoked cigarettes!  And the priest is smiling?!?

He smoked a pipe!

He smoked cigars!

And… I  can barely bring myself to write… drank alcohol with friends!

And… oh the scandal… a Saint and a Pope is near a photo of Pier Giorgio with a cigar!

Now, along with the obscuring of John Paul II’s magisterium, his title will have to be stripped from the Album Sanctorum.  

Speaking of obscuring, look carefully at some of the images of Bl. Pier Giorgio and you will see… or not see… something interesting.  Here is a collage:

The pipe, cigar, cigarette… photoshopped out.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. rwj says:

    Please search for the photo of Pope Saint John XXIII with cigarette. (easy to Google) That will cause fits of inner turmoil for some that will amuse others.

  2. frmgcmma says:

    I noticed the photoshop effect used to remove the pipe from the mouth of the mountaineer when Pier Giorgio was beatified. The sanitized image hung from the central loggia of St. Peter’s.

    And I think Blessed Pier Giorgio was truly UNrepentant about smoking. If I’m not mistaken, his last request before dying was for a cigarette!

  3. Benedict Joseph says:

    Talk about getting lost in the weeds.
    Some time ago I read that Pope Saint Pius X used to bum smokes off the Swiss Guards on a frequent basis. The image has always remained in my mind and provided evidence of the warm humanity of our faith. Saint Bernadette – Sister Marie Bernard – was allowed to chew tobacco – I believe it was thought to provide some relief from her bronchial condition.
    Catholics – even the very best of us – are not Puritans, despite accusations from Jesuit sources.
    Recently I saw a wonderful picture of Reinhard Cardinal Marx relaxing with a really big stogie. It was a delightful image of simple human contentment.
    Every day from the time I was eighteen to into my early forties I smoked two and a half packs a day. I loved every single one of them. Every single one.
    Now I learn of Blessed Pier Giorgio …maybe I should never have quit.
    I began to smoke when I entered into the realm of collegiate secular materialism – all be it on a Catholic campus in liturgical Minnesota. I stopped smoking when I returned in middle-age to an authentic Roman Catholic practice which required of me self-governance, the practice of virtue and abandonment of distractions to an adult prayer life.
    All that said, smoking despite the dangers it presents across the board, has its purpose. For those in need of a sedative that is immediately effective and metabolized as quickly they are not to be underestimated. I could not count the number of arguments and unpleasant events that were avoided with the aid of a Marlboro – red box.
    Doubtlessly there might be individuals walking the planet that otherwise would not be were it not for my long draw on well-manicured American cigarette. I have often wondered if my effort at monastic life would have succeeded with the aid of a Winston.
    Surely many a priestly vocation has been saved by a very long draw.
    But I stopped smoking because they distracted me from prayer – no other reason.
    It was not easy. It was agonizing.
    One wonders now that there is less distraction from prayer at the Vatican provided by cigarettes – what will fill in the gap? I for one believe that there will be no noticeable change brought about by the embargo – clerical narcissism, the steed of moral superiority and personal comfort notions being the drug of choice in the ecclesial city-state. The “pharmaceutical of choice” it appears to have in common with secular materialist global group think.

  4. tominrichmond says:

    The airbrushing is a wonderfully Stalin-esque tactic:
    But I’m glad to see something is deemed sinful at Vatican HQ these days. I wonder if Prohibition is next.

  5. Amerikaner says:

    I am not one that believes smoking is a mortal sin. However, I also don’t think it’s something that should be lauded.

  6. Imrahil says:

    There are, doubtless to say, many things one could rightfully critizise about Cardinal Marx, speaking of him.

    But there’s no denying, first, that he has some genuine religious feeling, and second, that he has an authentic Catholic life-style, rather different from a Puritan one. He also seems to be serious about his non-smoking during Lent, and his cigar after the Easter Vigil when Lent is over.

    (Alas, some even on the conservative side of affairs find it appropriate to critizise his “prince of the Church” manner, his jovial style and his wideness of girth. I cannot understand why when critizing a person, much less a bishop, one has to critizise what is good about him.)

  7. JesusFreak84 says:

    I’d read that part of the Holy Father’s issue was that people were using the Vatican selling tobacco to escape the higher prices and taxes charged for the same things outside of Vatican City walls. I could see this Pope in particular objecting to that just as much as the issue of smoking itself.

  8. CradleRevert says:

    Perhaps this is the newest scheme to address the vocations crisis: discourage cigarettes to make sure current priests live longer.

  9. It seems to me reasonable to say that the morality of an act can change, if later we discover that it causes grave harm, whereas before, we did not know this. Is this not, in fact, the case with frequently inhaling* tobacco smoke?

    I say this as one who used to enjoy cigars, and wish I could still enjoy them; but in recent years, they make me rather sick, so I have had to give them up.

    In addition, there is the problem of addiction. What is the morality of voluntarily making oneself deeply addicted to a substance one otherwise does not need, and which is harmful?

    * Note my choice of words: one can smoke cigars and pipes without inhaling much of the smoke. One can smoke, and inhale, but infrequently. One can also chew tobacco.

  10. TonyO says:

    Surely the decision of a 17-year old whether to start lighting up and regularly smoking cigarettes in order to “fit in” and “look cool” to his peers is a vastly different moral act than that of a 35-year old addicted smoker going outside (alone) to smoke one to calm his nerves. And surely the act of taking up smoking of a 15-year old farm hand in 1910 and the same act of a 15-year old school boy in 2015 – with the vastly different state of knowledge about (a) the addictiveness, and (b) the direct links to cancer, emphysema, and heart disease – are vastly different moral acts. It hardly takes a lot of insight to accept that what was known about the effects of smoking and what is know about it now make the moral acts different: since we now know that smoking takes about 10 years off your life expectancy, choosing to smoke without gaining a benefit that is reasonably expected to be worth a loss of 10 years is clearly unreasonable / imprudent.

    Does that make it grave matter? I would be very comfortable saying no, it does not – if it weren’t for the addictiveness. It is also known that the 10-year loss can be avoided if you quit smoking by the time you are about 35 or 40. But most smokers can’t do that, so starting down that road is more or less committing to a lifetime of ball-and-chain. And the temporary calming effects come more or less directly at the cost of a loss of self-control of one’s emotional stability without physical help. So the real question, for a non-smoker, is whether choosing to take on a NEW addiction that will cut out approximately 1/8 of his life and, especially, put him and his moods and nerves at the mercy of being able to go smoke one whenever he “needs” it, is grave matter. If the drug’s problematic effects were just a little faster / more intense, it would approach to some of the same moral dangers as those of certain opiates. Maybe it is not grave matter. But “maybe” is a very problematic basis for moral acts like that. Is it clearly not grave matter? Can someone show me why?

    (None of this applies to such smoking as is unlikely to result in addiction, such as smoking 1 cigar a month after a dinner with the guys.)

  11. L. says:

    When our Ordinary, who is from some other place, was new to us, he wrote, or had written for him, the first of his pastoral letters. It expressed his concern that his new subjects ate, drank, and SMOKED too much for their own good, thus immediately endearing himself to us. I don’t remember a spiritual component to this, but I enjoyed telling our incredulous parish men’s club that the sausage biscuits at our Saturday morning meeting should be “right out,” as Monty Python would say, per the Bishop’s letter.

  12. Penta says:

    Given the situation of the Vatican City State, I am wondering if perhaps this was more of a decision made out of practical politics as practiced by States, rather than a moral issue. In other words, whatever the reason the Vatican is giving, I suspect the Italian government got rather annoyed at the existence of a means to dodge their cigarette taxes, which probably bring in no small amount of revenue.

  13. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Ugh. The new Puritanism.

    Fr. Z. nailed it when he mentioned that many of the anti-smoking crusaders, ironically, are indifferent to, or might actually promote, truly mortal sins such as contraception, adultery, and abortion. (I would also add same-sex relations and deliberate gender confusion in this day and age, promotion of which now seem to be de rigueur among the emasculated types one finds among the secular left).

    This coming from someone who rarely smokes — occasional cigars with friends — but nevertheless unhappy with the new wave of those seeking to crush out the minor vices while leaving the major ones untouched. (You know, swallowing camels and straining out gnats). This is especially obnoxious when it comes to trying to crush out minor manly vices (such as cigar or pipe smoking) while ignoring the important work of building the manly virtues.

    Bl. Pier Giorgio was certainly a manly man as well as a saintly one — a great model for our youth, as he lived. No Puritanical airbrushing necessary.

  14. A holy and aging Orthodox priest I know used to smoke in his younger days quite a bit. When asked about it, he would say, “the body is a temple–and I’m censing it.”

  15. Imrahil says:

    Dear TonyO,

    well, what is it they call “addiction”?

    They call addiction which is properly speaking a habit which, truly, a great many of the people who have that habit does not seem worth while to quit. A habit which to quit, it is true, does cause (I hear) a couple of days’ bad temper and somewhat physical pain and requires decidedness and resourcefulness. Which, needless to say, a lot of people do not apparently hold to be worth while to quit.

    Is that, however, truly an “addiction” properly and morally speaking? Note that the definitions of psychiatrists and the like are, as such, just that: definitions of psychiatrists and the like. They may be quite helpful in their own area, but it would be wrong to draw conclusion for the moral life of mentally healthy people.

    For me, an addiction in the moral sense of the term includes the inability to freely choose in morality. I do not think that this is the state of most non-heavy smokers, include some where their smoking does hit above the limits of the virtue of moderation. People, after all, do break their moral discipline, without it being a case of mental breakdown.

    (That said, I can personally hardly see any situation where the two packs and half per day mentioned by the dear Benedict Joseph would be within the virtue of moderation. Sorry. Still he was able to quit when the necessity arose.)

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear JesusFreak84,

    well, I would in fact totally agree to the Holy Father saying: “Let’s get rid of the occasion for black-marketing. If they want to smoke, let them pay Italian taxes for it.”

    There is no doubt, from the information I get, that the Italian state (whereof the Pope is Primate) does rather need sources of income.

    It’s the connecting of the thing with health issues which is all to conform to modern sentiment and all to – let’s not say opposed – all to much not equally directed with the words of the Catechism where it has “moderate use of tobacco” which poses the problem I see, and that apparently our reverend host also sees.

    (I do not say that cigarettes are healthy. They aren’t; and neither is to feast on a roasted pork hock plus a pretzel with much salt, not to mention a huge load of beer to go with it. However, an obligation to lead the healthiest, as far as bodily health is concerned, possible lifestyle does not as such exist in morality. What of occasions to celebrate – even if they are little ones? What of keeping oneself up in the best spirit to do the work one is supposed to do – even if it should cost some of the years of retirement? What of indulging in material pleasure to avoid the much worse problems of e. g. mental despair of or unkindliness towards one’s neighbor?)

  17. capchoirgirl says:

    This is one of the very few things I applaud from Pope Francis. I’m a double lung transplant recipient. I loathe smoking. It has absolutely no positive benefits. If you want to take the edge off, have a tiny glass of wine, or whatever. I do not understand, having lived with 19% lung function, why people would choose to ruin their lungs and their breathing.

  18. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I don’t want to moralize too much about this from any perspective. I think TonyO’s post is very well phrased.

    I recognize there are plenty of people who can smoke a few cigarettes or cigars with drinks on a weekend and otherwise never smoke. Those people probably wont have much in the way of smoking-related morbidity or mortality. And I know people deeply addicted to alcohol and/or tobacco.

    Working as a head and neck surgeon I have seen the depths of addiction to tobacco that people have as they try to keep smoking after they have had half their mandible removed or their larynx removed because of smoking-related head and neck cancer. Or COPD patients who blow up their oxygen tanks and set themselves on fire trying to keep smoking while on supplemental oxygen.

    Addiction to any material thing is no good.

  19. PTK_70 says:

    Pace TonyO, capchoirgirl & ADRA….I offer the following as food for thought.

    Nicotine has a beneficient effect vis-a-vis Parkinson’s:

    Obesity is a bigger health concern than smoking:

    And while it would clearly be foolish to become a heavy tobacco user in order to lose weight, obesity is less common among smokers than non-smokers:

    Japanese men have the 6th highest life expectancy in the world, nearly 30% of whom smoke.

    My take: spurious is the notion that enjoying an occasional pipe or cigar is a moral fault or even a peccadillo. Didn’t Chesteron weigh in on this? That’s a rhetorical question:

    Bl Pier Giorgio’s joie de vivre was part and parcel of his sanctity…..a noteworthy and attractive dimension of his blessedness. And his enjoyment of a pipe was apparently part and parcel of his joie de vivre. One could almost say that his “brand” of sanctity, his joie de vivre AND his pipe stand as condemnation against the priggery and false morality of modern times.

  20. un-ionized says:

    I don’t think the morality of smoking has changed. People have known for a long time that inhaling tobacco smoke bad for you. Cigarettes were called coffin nails back in the 1880’s and there were other terms like that before then.

  21. un-ionized says:

    For me, vaping is the way to go, all the benefits of nicotine plus nice flavors and best of all, you can titrate the dosage.

  22. Aquinas Gal says:

    I don’t think smoking is a mortal sin, but I think it could be sinful if done to the point of damaging one’s health. But as for banning it by law, that’s another matter. I don’t favor the state making those decisions for people, even if it’s only the Vatican State.
    Even if some people in the past may have thought it was harmful, they didn’t have the data about its link to various types of cancer that we now know about. So those saints cannot be held responsible for what they didn’t know due to scientific advances.

  23. hwriggles4 says:

    My parents grew up in the 50s. Cigarettes were cheap and socially acceptable. My mother (from what I remember – I remember her smoking occasionally) quit smoking over 40 years ago, and said it was one of the best things she ever did. My dad smoked a pipe for many years, and survived a heart attack 20 years ago. He doesn’t smoke anymore either. Today, cigarettes are $5 A pack – that’s my lunch money!

    I heard that minor and major seminaries from 1930s through about 1960 often kept cigarettes available in the recreation room. When a seminarian wanted one, he could have one. The military used to pass them out as rations, and like in the Vatican, taxes were lower at the base exchange, so that was a good place for a young officer to buy them. I even found a social manual for seminarians that was written in 1961 and contained a chapter on “smoking etiquette ” – be careful not to get ashes on your clerics.

    I recall my days as an altar boy in the late 70s to the mid 1980s and quite a few priests smoked – I remember one or two regularly having a cigarette either outside the building , in the narthex, or in the sacristy ten minutes before Mass. I even recall a few priests under 40 who smoked too back then.

    Now, one thing I do find interesting and confusing is when I see old television shows. Characters on Ironside, Dragnet, and The Bold Ones smoked regularly. Today, you can show half naked people, homosexuals, and the hookup culture on television, but you can’t show a lawyer smoking a pipe? What’s wrong with that picture?

  24. Antonin says:

    There is no way to justify smoking. The evidence is clear. And second smoke is awful as well. Smoking is the kind of vice that affects OTHERS and not just the person. Of course, there are other vices and health concerns that PTK mentions and indeed we should be addressing all of these. Catholics should be about the promotion of virtue. And of course we are all weak, sinful people in need of grace. But that does not mean we should turn vices into fun easy virtues in a reactive way. Men in those days would also pinch women’s behind and think nothing of it. Whistle and cat call and it was all boys being boys. That kind of conduct is demeaning and not in keeping with a vibrant Catholic life.

    St. Augustine thought the state should TOLERATE prostitution because suppressing it would lead to worse vices so does that mean that now we should make prostitution legal.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    Rosalind Franklin, the physical chemist who determined the atomic structure of DNA, should have received the Nobel Prize for her work, but she couldn’t. She died in 1958. The Nobel Prize was awarded to Watson and Crick in 1962 and the Prize is not awarded posthumously (her story is a sore spot in modern science because of what happened in her lab that allowed Watson and Crick to obtain the data). She used to spend hours in front of the x-ray beam to align the crystal containing the DNA in order to obtain the crystal structure from the x-ray defraction pattern. What did she die of? Cancer.

    Was she guilty of a sin? No, because in the 1950’s we had little knowledge of the effects of ionizing radiation (ironically, it was the understanding of the double helix nature of DNA that clarified this). She was invincibly ignorant and, thus, lacked knowledge of the nature of the act to such an extent that one of the essential conditions of sin was lacking. If a chemist were to stand in front of an x-ray beam, today, to do the same thing, not only would they be committing a felony, but they would be guilty of a mortal sin, because the effects of ionizing radiation are well-known and they would be knowingly putting themselves in grave danger for no correspondingly good reason, which might excuse under the doctrine of Double Effect.

    Likewise, bl. Pier Giorgio, dying in 1925, is no more culpable of sin than Madame Curie, who discovered radium and experimented with it without any shielding. Thus, the statement:

    “If it is indeed the case that smoking is a mortal sin, then no person who smoked without amending his life could possibly have lived a life of heroic virtue.”

    is incomplete, because prior to about 1960, it could not be expected that anyone knew about the dangers of smoking and invincible ignorance excused from sin.

    The situation is different, today. Unlike global warming, the evidence is both overwhelming and non-controversial in science that cigarettes are a health hazard. We know the biochemistry of some of the effects. The knowledge is freely available.

    No one should start smoking. Double Effect may excuse smoking (pot) for such things as nausea relief during chemotherapy, for example, but in the ordinary course of things, smoking is both addictive and unhealthy.

    To respond to PTK_70,

    Nicotine affects the dopanergic pathways controlling dopamine utilization and lowering the amount of dopamine may have a prophylactic effect to prevent Parkinson’s disease, but there are other sources of nicotine, including diet, that may work just as well.

    Obesity is a bigger health concern because, at this time, it is more widespread, not because it is, in itself, deadlier.

    The Japanese smoking paradox has been revised. The thinking in 2007 was that smoking only cause a loss of 4 years of life expectancy, but the latest from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) is that it causes a 10 year drop in life expectancy among Japanese men. More than that, Japanese cigarettes are formulated differently and have less toxic amines that American cigarettes. Finally, there seems to be a genetic protection for Japanese men. All of this amounts to selective evidence.

    Any comments on smoking before 1960 are not relevant to the morality of smoking, so, Chesterton’s opinion is irrelevant. I my be in the minority, here, but in my opinion, which is relatively well-informed, I think that smoking is at least venially sinful, given the state of knowledge, today.

    The Chicken

  26. Lisieux says:

    I was an evangelical for 28 years, and smoking was certainly a mortal sin in the churches I attended (not that evangelicals distinguish between mortal and venial sin): I still remember listening to a ‘testimony’ from someone who claimed that he’d been instantaneously delivered from cigarette addiction when he’d ‘given his life to Jesus’, in much the same tone as one who’d been exorcised from seven devils.

    This meant that when I became a Catholic, the fact that so many Catholics, and particularly a couple of the Jesuit priests at my parish, smoked, did actually scandalise me at first, and it took some time to realise that it didn’t mean they were hell-bound. Gambling (especially all the lotteries and raffles held to raise funds) was the other thing that worried me.

    I don’t now believe that smoking is sinful in itself, but over-indulging in anything, I guess, is dangerous. (My problem is over-eating…)

  27. capchoirgirl says:

    PTK, obesity doesn’t affect me. Cigarette and cigar smoking does. If you want to enjoy your Big Mac, then that’s just fine. It doesn’t clog my arteries. People who smoke ruin *my* lungs. We know how bad secondhand smoke is now. (You can make the argument that if affects my taxes, etc., because people who are obese cost hospitals more. I’d say smokers who have emphysema, are on oxygen full time, and are visiting pulmonologists regularly, aren’t any cheaper.)

    Yes, obesity is less common among smokers, because your body has to work harder to breathe, because you are ruining your lungs, so your daily calorie usage is a lot higher. That doesn’t mean you’re healthier because you weigh less. I weighed 100 pounds when I had about 20% lung function. My BMI was great. But I was not, under any stretch of the imagination, healthy.

    I don’t want this to become a rabbit hole, but I do think comparing obesity to lung cancer, mouth cancer, esophageal cancer, etc., and the other negative impacts of smoking, is specious.

  28. teomatteo says:

    I’ve always said that there are two things that make a man look intelligent: a violin under his chin and a pipe between his teeth. I tried learning the violin and I prayed, ‘Lord if you don’t help me learn the violin then I’ll have to smoke the pipe.” I failed in that (as per my wife), But His reply, ‘No, I want you looking dumb!”

  29. PTK_70 says:

    Tempted though I am to keep my keystrokes to myself, a comment seems warranted. First, I wish to repeat what I wrote in November 2017 (which apparently qualifies it for consideration on the subject of tobacco): “One could almost say that [Bl Pier Giorgio’s] ‘brand’ of sanctity, his joie de vivre AND his pipe stand as condemnation against the priggery and false morality of modern times.”

    Many here have spoken against tobacco use. Believe me, I would not try and convert you into tobacco users. Through study or personal experience you have decided to steer clear of tobacco, which may be commended.

    I, on the other hand, smoke a pipe or a cigar occasionally. It’s something I choose to do. I could just as easily choose not to do it. But I don’t apologize for it. And unless I’m in a casino, I wouldn’t smoke around others in a closed space without their permission for that would be discourteous.

    The “sin” here is the attempt to sanitize the images of the Blessed by photoshopping the pipe out of existence.

  30. Benedict Joseph says:

    What smoke should the Holy See be concerned about?
    The smoke of Satan which has substituted for oxygen of Holy Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the perennial Magisterium for decades.
    The perennial Magisterium going up in smoke. Then they might look around and determine who continues to “light up” while darkness continues to grow with alarms blaring around the Catholic Church.
    Talk about distraction?
    Put first things first.
    That’s your job.

  31. un-ionized says:

    Regarding the death of Rosalind Franklin, people were cognizant of the effects of ionizing radiation in the 1950’s sue to earlier experience and research, beginning with the Radithor affair and continuing through post-war Japan. She was taking a calculated risk. One also does not know that exposure to radiation actually caused her cancer. Being an x-ray crystallographer wasn’t a death sentence.

  32. tradition4all says:

    I agree with the commenters who oppose smoking. I agree with the Pope’s action. Even if a person who is already a smoker doesn’t commit a mortal sin with each cigarette he smokes, it is a bad habit. I could see it being a venial sin in a habitual smoker. Why have the Vatican give the impression of facilitating even a venial sin, or a habit that it would be sinful for someone else (not already a smoker) to adopt?

    Catholic apologists for smoking typically harp on moderation. Most regular smokers smoke more than is “moderate.” They don’t smoke just an occasional cigar or cigarette, take it or leave it. They often smoke a pack or more a day, which adds up to a large amount of money, not over a lifetime, but in a week. The tobacco industry purposely makes tobacco products with levels of nicotine that induce addiction. The industry depends on the immoderate smokers, the ones who incur the health risk. Yes, sin is involved here, the sin of gluttony (after a fashion).

    The arguments against prudery are idle, given the health risks of smoking. I don’t object to smoking because it’s pleasurable or fun. I’ve tried hookah and pipe smoking. I understand the appeal. I actually think that cigarette smoking *looks* cool. I wish it were an unobjectionable habit. I object because it’s addictive, unnecessary, expensive, and harmful. Good for Pope Francis. If some people approve of this action who are wrong on other things . . . so what?

    I say this as someone whose family has grown tobacco in this country off and on for close to 300 years. Both sets of grandparents grew tobacco (in Wisconsin). My parents even had a tobacco plot of their own back in the 70s. My mother smokes. My father smoked for close to 40 years. And he died of lung cancer two days shy of his 58th birthday. Tomorrow a Mass will be offered for him. I wish he were alive. He would have stood a much better chance of being alive if not for smoking. So I find nothing, nothing, and nothing to criticize in this action by Pope Francis.

  33. tradition4all says:

    Several commenters have pointed out the one-time Jesuit habit of smoking. The Jesuit Superior General (Ledochowski) tried for ten years to stamp out tobacco smoking among Jesuits because it symbolizes (and is) worldly pleasure. Pope Pius XII in 1956 exhorted the Society to give up smoking. See here:

    I would add that in the movie “The Exorcist,” the rampant drinking and smoking among Jesuits is a sign of their worldliness.

  34. Imrahil says:

    Dear tradition4all,

    Even if a person who is already a smoker doesn’t commit a mortal sin with each cigarette he smokes, it is a bad habit. I could see it being a venial sin in a habitual smoker. Why have the Vatican give the impression of facilitating even a venial sin, or a habit that it would be sinful for someone else (not already a smoker) to adopt?

    If it is your opinion that smoking is a venial sin in a habitual smoker and a mortal sin in a first-time smoker, then that’s obviously the right implication on what the Vatican should do.

    If, however, smoking is a worldly pleasure (as you said yourself) going along with a certain health risk and not smoking at all, but smoking too much is the problem, then the Vatican should specifically not target a practice that the World has targeted as one of the few things it considers sinful but which isn’t (not, that is, unless aggravating circumstances come into the play).

    Last time I looked, it was a sin to do intentional damage do one’s body, but not a sin to put of with a limited amount of damage to one’s body; actions with double effect and so forth. There is no obligation in morality to minimize one’s health risks. If there were, the result would rather be unhealthy. For, while Chesterton’s position on specifically smoking might be countered by more recent science, his general principle that health has to do not with care but with carelessness is unaffected.

    (By the way, I think that the more problematic thing is not the smoking of the non-habitual smoker but that of the habitual one, and not that of the not-much-but-habitual smoker but the two-packs smoker. Addiction may excuse, but then addiction is also the point where the smoker had better know, if not a more important life problem makes him postpone it, that he should stop. And it isn’t like smoking couldn’t be stopped at all, just that it’s hard to do so.)

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