When does drinking alcohol become a sin?

Hello everyone, to start off, please don’t quote me to the CCC because it confuses me. I’ve read many posts on here regarding the consumption of alcohol and its correlation to drunkeness, but NONE seem to give a clear answer. I want to know, how much alcohol is too much? I know it depends on each Individual person etc but when? For example, if I am with a couple of friends and we are enjoying some alcoholic drinks and listening to music is that a sin?( NO DRUNK DRIVING) Once I reach a level where I’m warm and laughing, but still aware of my actions and NOT slurring, is that okay? Does it become a mortal sin once I start making a fool of myself and falling over etc? I know I shouldn’t be trying to find a loop hole, but I don’t think drinking in itself is a sin. My friends and I don’t hurt anyone, or drive, or anything of that sort. i have seen some posts on Instagram about some priests who brew their own wine and beer and they all enjoy drinking it…but you see that’s where I get confused??? When does it become a mortal sin? Any examples? Thank you all!

In the Summa, St. Thomas Aquinas says drunkenness is a mortal sin when “a man willingly and knowingly deprives himself of the use of reason, whereby he performs virtuous deeds and avoids sin.” He then quotes St. Ambrose, who says: “We learn that we should shun drunkenness, which prevents us from avoiding grievous sins. For the things we avoid when sober, we unknowingly commit through drunkenness.”


So the way I understand it, it is a mortal sin when you deliberately impair your mind to where your conscience no longer functions properly and you’re more likely to do evil or fail to do good, when if sober you would have avoided evil and done good.

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Catechism (at least for those who have not yet read this :)):

1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: "Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart."72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: "Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites."73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought "to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world."74

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75 


When it is excessive there is sin. When drinking is contrary to temperance or health etc.

Examples of when drinking is grave sin (mortal sin) would be - getting “drunk” -that is -total loss of ones reason, drinking leading to other mortal sins, drunk driving…

Going beyond temperance can be venial sin (I set aside any question of driving…that brings other aspects into things…but suffice to say let someone else drive). Going beyond temperance in eating oreos too is a sin.

But what is temperance for one person may not be temperance for another. Body weight etc can come into play here.

I know for example that I ought not have more than two drinks (and not more than a few oreos!). Now someone else will say that about one drink. Someone else will say 2 1/2…

(And one ought to look a new research as well in terms of health as well as the effects medically on a person of such and such a weight and it varies according to gender too - of how long it takes for the body to remove the alcohol.)

(And of course a person with a history of overdoing it -ought to take great care - and if any have say alcoholism - that is a “never drink” situation)

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Christ drank wine. It was served at the wedding feast at Canna. Christ converted the water into wine. I, too, like to convert water into wine. I like to see it bubble. I give it away.
The tolerance of each individual is to be reckoned with and you really, really need to know your limits and social circumstances. I am not at all sure that there is such a thing as “social drinking.” Much of Europe drinks wine because water is not always palatable. When I was in Mexico I drank some of the water and paid the price. My best suggestion is to “do all things in moderation.” Have a drink or two, but stick with good water or sodas.

Bookcat has said it all very well.

The only thing I can add is that a Christian should always act in a dignified manner - especially when he’s out with friends! He’s always a testimony to his faith.

Yes. Stop looking for loopholes - you can’t fool God!


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Once you start to feel the buzz it’s time to stop. After that you are falling into sin because you know you will continue to become more and more impaired.

Drinking is sinful if one drinks for the primary purpose to get drunk. It is also sinful if one knows that he/she cannot drink (either due to medications or due to being a recovering addict). As drinking impairs judgment and reaction time, I would consider it sinful to drink if one knows that he/she will be in a situation where judgment and/or reaction time is important (such as driving or operating heavy machinery), as I would also consider it sinful for pregnant women to drink, as there is potential for harming their unborn children.

Also, though not sinful per se, it’s unwise to drink if one is sad or angry.

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When you drink to get drunk. There is nothing wrong with alcohol in moderation such as a small glass with a meal or even using alcohol in cooking. It is when you consume so much alcohol with the sole intention to get drunk.