A listener named Cat calls into the show and asks, “Is smoking a sin? And do we have to confess it?” Father Dave points out that one could make an argument from Catholic theology that any way in which we intentionally abuse our bodies is sinful.
“That can include overeating, not exercising, it can include any number of things,” he says. “And it certainly can include smoking, which most experts have shown is harmful to us. But the Catholic Church does not explicitly say that smoking is a sin … As a priest, if you came in and confessed it, I would absolve you of your sin and try to give you the courage to quit.”
Father Dave discusses what to expect in Confession: “I would not myself make someone’s penance be to quit smoking and have that be permanent and achieve that. Because a penance should be accomplishable and shouldn’t have to do with a physical addiction.” Father Dave points out that the caller should look at it like any other sin, “If I go back to my confessor and a month or year later I’m confessing the same thing that I’ve said before, hopefully the grace of the Sacrament would once again give me the strength to try to overcome that sin.”
Father Dave notes that many people struggle with the same sin their entire life. He uses gossip as an example and points out that it doesn’t take away the effectiveness of the Sacrament of Confession and the grace we get from it, “Therefore, if you were to go back [to Confession] with smoking, it’s not like you’ve failed, and there’s only a maximum of three times and then the sacrament runs out. Thankfully, God is not a three strikes and you’re out kind of God. There is always the opportunity for reconciliation.”
“While the Church doesn’t say ipso facto that anyone putting a cigarette to their lips is sinning, in your case, if you felt moved enough that it felt like a sin to you, then I would use the rules that apply to any other sin: If you do it again, you should confess it again.” (Original Air 12-16-14)