Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Illinois politicians in recent years have saddled our state with a series of serious evils, among them being taxpayer-funded abortion, same-sex marriage, and the widespread proliferation of video gambling. Now Illinois’ new governor, J.B. Pritzker, was joined by Democratic lawmakers in Chicago on May 4 to announce plans to legalize recreational marijuana in the state starting next year. This follows their recent introduction of extreme pro-abortion legislation seeking to make good on Gov. Pritzker’s pledge to make Illinois the most pro-abortion state in the Union. It seems that Pritzker and like-minded lawmakers are intent on driving Illinois deeper into a cesspool of immorality.

I have joined the rest of the bishops of Illinois in voicing our opposition to the legalization of marijuana. In our statement issued on Feb. 4, we said, “Proponents of legalization say marijuana is not addictive, yet peer-reviewed research concludes that it is. Proponents also say that most people who use marijuana will not move on to harder drugs, yet other studies note that most people who are addicted to other drugs started with alcohol and marijuana. … We ask lawmakers to say ‘no’ to legalization of marijuana, as Pope Francis explained in 2014 when speaking about marijuana and other recreational drugs: ‘… To say this “no,” one has to say “yes” to life, “yes” to love, “yes” to others, “yes” to education, “yes” to greater job opportunities. If we say “yes” to all these things, there will be no room for illicit drugs, for alcohol abuse, for other forms of addiction.’”

We also noted in our statement that it is important for legislators “to remember they are not only debating legalization of marijuana, but also commercialization of a drug into an industry the state will profit from.” Indeed, the governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 included $170 million in projected revenue from licensing and fees related to legal cannabis. In seeking the common good, the state should protect its citizens from harm, not seek to profit from their vices.

Pritzker and his allies also claimed the measure would promote racial and social equity and address the toll of the drug war on minority communities. However, law enforcement officials and the Illinois NAACP have said that legalizing marijuana would lead to more addiction and mental health issues and would harm rather than help black communities.

Kevin Sabet, a former advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Policy and Control and now founder and president of a nonprofit organization called Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a statement that “the consequences of this bill are far-reaching and will have devastating impacts on citizens, communities and youth. Numerous studies and data from other states have shown that this is not a good move for Illinois. It won’t bring in the revenue promised, while ushering in new, costly regulatory burdens, more hospitalizations, increased drugged driving incidents and unregulated, highly potent pot products. Lawmakers should vote ‘no’ on legal pot and ‘no’ on this bill.”

Proponents of legalized recreational marijuana also like to compare smoking pot with drinking alcohol. However, drinking alcohol has a social aspect that is not shared with smoking pot. Even when drinking alcohol to be sociable, no one should ever do so with the intent of getting drunk. However, the very purpose of so-called “recreational” marijuana is simply to get stoned. While the law would make it legal for adults 21 or older to buy cannabis for recreational purposes from licensed dispensaries, you can be sure that this will make it easier to find its way into the hands of minors as well. As we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 12, we should not make motherhood more difficult for them. We should instead be helping mothers to fulfill their vocation to instill virtues rather than vices into the lives of their children.

May I take this opportunity to wish all of the mothers in our community a happy Mother’s Day. I pray for the intercession of our Blessed Mother to help them to fulfill the beautiful vocation of motherhood that God has bestowed on them. For those of us whose mothers have died, I pray for the repose of their immortal souls and for their eternal rest in the peace of God’s Kingdom.

May God give us this grace. Amen.