Argentinian archbishop stresses opposition to drug legalization

Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo, president of the Bishops' Conference of Argentina, has reiterated the Church's opposition to the legalization of drugs in the country.

In statements to the newspaper El Litoral on Feb. 7, the archbishop said that legalization "would only create the impression that drugs don't cause any harm."

His comments came in response to statements by the governor of Santa Fe, Antonio Bonfatti, who said he would be willing to discuss the idea of legalization, especially with regard to "soft" drugs such as marijuana.

"This is an issue that does not belong merely to the private sphere," but that affects "the public good of society," Archbishop Arancedo explained.

He dismissed distinctions between "soft" and "hard" drugs as artificial, noting that the potential for harm of all drugs has been scientifically documented by the United Nations Office Against Drugs and Crime.

"It's not about criminalizing the addict, who needs help and prevention from harm," the archbishop stressed, but about seeking the good of society.

"When we talk about drug use, we don't talk about addictions in general, like tobacco for example, even though we know it is harmful," he said. "To ignore or minimize the irreparable consequences of drugs is a form of passive complicity with their consumption." 

Archbishop Arancedo noted that young people in disadvantaged areas are the most vulnerable to drugs because they often lack the ability to discern and reject them. 

"Drugs fill a void in their lives from which they unfortunately can't return," he said. "They are the first victims."

He also observed that by failing to acknowledge "the true causes of drug use, it would seem society doesn't want to address the problem or commit to a response."

"We need to listen to the family members of drug addicts to get a dose of reality about these issues," the archbishop continued, adding that "we must not forget or minimize the pedagogical meaning of the law."

"What would it mean for all of the current and potential addicts to say that drugs are legal?" he asked. "Is it right to cause public harm in defense of a supposed private or subjective right?"

Archbishop Arancedo emphasized that the challenge in addressing the problem of drugs is largely cultural. For this reason, he said, a complete education that gives meaning to the lives of children and young people is essential, as well as the strengthening of the family and the limiting of harmful and degrading influences.

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