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HOME JOURNAL, Vol. 51:9+, October, 1951
Catholic Looks at Alcoholics Anonymous
by Katherine Neuhaus Haffner
off, what is Alcoholics Anonymous? A.A. is not, as is
sometimes supposed, just another temperance movement, a
fanatical reform crusade. It is a society, operating in
is founded upon spiritual principles, and these principles
parallel Catholic teaching, as we shall see presently.
society is made up of ex-problem drinkers whose sole aim
is to help other problem drinkers recover their health and
their sobriety. It is a selfish program in that the ex-drinker
helping himself to remain dry at the same time he is assisting
new man or woman to do likewise; and, since what he is doing
fundamentally for himself, it keeps him away from self-righteous
attitudes that often beset "reformers."
members of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that alcoholism
is a disease (and who can deny that an alcoholic is sick
emotionally, and spiritually), this does not mean that they
the uncontrolled drinker should be relieved of his individual
responsibility in this matter.
have no initiation fees, no dues, nothing to "sell,"
gimmicks. While every nuance of opinion is found among them
regard to politics, prohibition, religion; they take no
a group, upon any controversial questions. There are no
this work rotates among the members. The only requirement
membership is a sincere desire to stop drinking.
their meetings one come in contact with doctors and
plumbers, lawyers and carpenters, businessmen and housewives
with one objective. When we consider that their membership
over 100,000, while starting in 1935 with two, we must conclude
their methods are proving effective.
Catholic member of A.A. should be a better Catholic as the
result of his affiliation with this society and vice versa.
Twelve Steps which the members of Alcoholics Anonymous have
taken as their program for recovery are spiritually sound
do credit to anyone schooled in theology; yet, strangely
they were drawn up by men who had meager religious backgrounds.
Let's take a look at these Twelve Steps which constitute
successful way of life for alcoholics:
They admitted they were powerless over alcohol - that their
lives had become unmanageable. Catholics are taught their
of God and their utter dependence upon Him, that they cannot
anything without His grace.
They came to believe that a Power greater than themselves
could restore them to sanity. "I believe in God, the
They made a decision to turn their wills and their lives
over to the care of God as they understood Him. "Thy
will be done,
They made a searching and fearless moral inventory of
themselves. Examination of conscience.
They admitted to God, to themselves, and to another human
being the exact nature of their wrongs. Confession.
They were entirely ready to have God remove all of these
defects of character. The disposition of the will toward
grace to flow into the soul.
They humbly asked Him to remove their shortcomings. Even
every humble Catholic.
They made a list of all persons they had harmed, and became
willing to make amends to them all. Further examination
conscience and a readiness to restore all things to their
They made direct amends to such people wherever possible,
except when to do so would injure them or others. A Catholic
likewise after he makes a good confession; he must make
when he has robbed another, be it material goods or his
good name, and is required to rectify this harm whenever
They continued to take personal inventory, and when they
were wrong, promptly admitted it. Catholics are urged to
daily examination of conscience that they may move forward
They sought through prayer and meditation to improve their
conscious contact with God as they understood Him, praying
knowledge of His Will for them and the power to carry that
will be my will - show me the way, 0 Lord..."
Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these
steps, they tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and
practice these principles in all their affairs. None of
morning Catholic" idea here; then "business as
usual" the remainder
of the week. Propagation of the faith. "Faith without
of the members claims perfect adherence to these
principles. They are not saints. This prescribed course
is a guide
to progress, and the members claim spiritual progress rather
we see such conformity of these Twelve Steps with
Catholic teaching, one might well ask: "Why does a
alcoholic need A.A.?"
one thing, Catholics believe that faith is a gift; yet this
gift is not meted out to each individual in the same proportions.
somnolent or arrested faith can become active through A.A.
also know that we have not all learned how to pray; nor
we all know when our prayers are answered.
victims of alcohol drift into this vice through
social drinking that seems harmless (and is harmless for
find themselves enslaved by a phenomenon of craving to such
that they are too mentally confused to pray. Free will fails
function through long periods of disuse or abuse by alcohol.
Alcoholics are not alone in that they pray to get out of
storm heaven with prayers; then, as soon as the crisis passes,
prayers cease, or at best, lose fervor. Many another also
service to God, yet does not try to search for God's will
relation to his own life. A.A. opens many eyes to this faulty
practice. Pride is the enemy of alcoholics; it is likewise
of many a Catholic.
a Catholic alcoholic need A.A.? In one diocese that we
know oft the Bishop has appointed a priest to do nothing
this problem and the work of Alcoholics Anonymous with a
aiding Catholic victims and giving their families some insight
this problem so that they are in a position to help and
the sufferer's advancement toward recovery.
Catholic victims of alcoholism are brought to A.A.
through the influence of nuns and priests who have seen
of the program in others with whom they have come in contact.
groups are listed in the telephone directories and the
classified pages of the daily newspapers in most communities.
address of the central group is: The Alcoholic Foundation,
459, Grand Central Annex, New York 17, New York.
has been able to bring Catholic alcoholics back to an
active participation in their faith when other methods have
and since alcoholics understand each other, there is a natural
kinship among these sufferers. They can make another see
where he is
wrong, why he is wrong, and help him on his way back to
arms of Jesus Christ - who also carried a cross.