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FURROW, Vol. 11: 285-300, May, 1960
PRIEST'S ROLE IN ALCOHOL PROBLEMS
John C. Ford
are so many alcohol problems that it is hard to say where
one should begin in dealing with them. Sometimes when I
to a young audiences, let's say a college audience or a
audience, I write on a blackboard four headings. We have
but we can imagine one. The first heading says: "No
second one says :"Moderate Drinking"; the third
one says: "Excessive
Drinking"; and the fourth one says: "Alcoholic
think our concern today is with the fourth of those problems.
As you will see from looking at the programme, that is the
object of our discussions. Perhaps you might say there isn't
problem involved under the heading "No Drinking"
or under the heading
"Truly Moderate Drinking" but even there are some
problems. You know,
if you are dealing with young people who want to decide
drink or not to drink, the question of total abstinence
is a problem
for them. And if you are dealing with somebody who is already
drinking and wants to restrict his drinking to truly moderate
drinking, it may be a real problem for him to find out what
question of excessive drinking, of course, is obviously
problem, because that is the problem of drunkenness itself.
three, I think, are entirely different problems from the
is appointed for today's consideration. We are going to
topic of alcoholism itself.
Benedict's Chapter Forty
before going on to that subject, I thought I might read
you what I consider a very sane, reasonable, Christian statement
dealing with the first three topics. This statement was
written a long
time ago, because it is a part of the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Benedict had a trait, you might call it a sort of sweet
reasonableness, in the way in which he handled practical
I am going to read you Chapter 40 from the Rule of Saint
which is entitled: "Of the Quantity of Drink."
says :"Everyone hath his proper gift from God, one
manner and another after that. It is with some hesitation,
therefore, that we determine the measure of nourishment
However, making allowances for the weaknesses of the infirm,
think one hemina of wine a day is sufficient for each one."
I don't think they know exactly how much a hemina of wine
is and I have heard that there are two schools of thought
Benedictines on this point. But it is about the size of
bottle, perhaps a little more or a little less.
Rule continues: "But to whom God granteth the endurance
abstinence let them know that they will have their special
is point No. 1, no drinking, total abstinence. That is
what he is speaking of there.
the circumstances of the place, or the work, or the
summer's heat should require more, let them depend on the
of the superior who must above all things see to it that
drunkenness do not creep in."
the saint sets forth a certain measure of moderation, while
mentioning total abstinence, moderate drinking and the question
he continues: "Although we read that wine is not at
proper for monks, yet because monks in our times cannot
persuaded of this, let us agree to this, at least, that
we do not
drink to satiety" - there is the problem of drunkenness
again - "but sparingly; because wine maketh even wise
men fall off. But
where the poverty of the place will not permit the aforesaid
measure to be had, but much less or none at all, let those
dwell there bless God and murmur not. This we charge above
things that they live without murmuring."
think that statement cannot be improved on as a brief
statement of the Catholic position on the use and abuse
you will note that the word alcoholism doesn't appear
there. And I think we must admit that nowadays we have a
concept of alcoholism, because we distinguish it from drunkenness.
A SPECIAL, IMMENSE PROBLEM
don't think that alcoholism is just the same thing as
drunkenness. We consider it a special problem that has to
handled on a different basis from the problem of drunkenness.
reason why we are here today is to talk about this subject.
need to consider it because of the immensity of the problem
of alcoholism in our country. It is estimated that there
four or five million alcoholics in the United States. That
pretty large group of alcoholics. It is also estimated that
are perhaps 80 to 85 million people out of our population
use of alcoholic beverages at least occasionally, people
be called at least occasional drinkers. That includes everybody
that drinks alcoholic beverages at all.
that rate, if there are four or five million alcoholics
of the 80 to 85 million people who use alcoholic beverages,
this mean's that about one in twenty or one in fifteen who
into serious trouble. And, of course, in addition to the
that we classify as alcoholics, it has been estimated by
that we have perhaps three million excessive drinkers whose
problems are not severe enough yet to classify them as alcoholics,
although they are on the way. They will probably arrive
they keep on drinking the way they are drinking. In addition
those millions of people, we have all the members of the
who are involved in this problem one way or the other.
I don't think it is necessary to stress the idea that this
is an immense problem. The only thing that suprises me is
is an immense problem. The only thing that suprises me is
are not as acutely aware of it as others are, nor as we
be. It seems to me that given the size of the problem, given
frequency with which priests are called upon to deal, in
parish work, with the alcoholics, with the excessive drinkers,
the members of their families, this Pastoral Institute is
needed. We hope to make a beginning today by saying something
these problems and the way of handling them. My share of
is to talk about the clergy's role in alcohol problems.
I am going
to speak first about what we mean by alcoholism today and
on from that to speak of some connected topics to show what
role as priests should be.
of all, what do we mean by alcoholism? I am afraid that
many of us have been misled by certain pictures of alcoholism
are not entirely accurate pictures, that are exaggerated
misleading in one way or another.
instance, you sometimes hear a college boy talking about
the drinking that went on at the prom and saying that so-and-so
a real "alky," or "He is a real alcoholic.
He got tight as a drum
last night." That isn't alcoholism, of course; it is
was talking with a young doctor a couple of years ago and
mentioned alcoholism. He said: "Well, I have seen some
of them. I
have been working at the City Hospital." And he immediately
description of a "Skid Row" type of alcoholic.
To him, that was what
the word alcoholic meant, the sort of person that you meet
Row, the poor fellow who asks you for a quarter.
is not a typical picture of alcoholism at all. Of those
four or five million in the United States who are alcoholics
ten per cent are on Skid Row. In fact the most recent studies
estimate that only about three per cent of the alcoholics
United States are Skid Row alcoholics. The average alcoholic
doesn't conform to that picture at all. And one of the reasons
so many people are so unwilling to admit that they have
called alcoholism is that false picture of alcoholism, that
misleading stereotype they have in their minds. That is
why it is so hard for an alcoholic to recognize himself
alcoholic. He thinks of alcoholism as the sort of thing
you see on
Skid Row. He says: "I am not like that at all; therefore
got the problem."
is another misleading picture, too. I once sent to see an
elderly doctor a gentleman who, to my way of thinking, was
an alcoholic. When the doctor got through examining him
he said: "He
is drinking too much But I wouldn't call him an alcoholic."
said: "Why don't you consider him an alcoholic?"
said: I can't find anything wrong with him. There is no
cirrhosis; there isn't anything wrong with him but his drinking."
you see, 50 years ago, even 25 years ago, in medical
schools, they didn't call a person an alcoholic unless as
of his heavy and excessive drinking he had contracted some
disease of a mental or physiological kind. A person was
considered an alcoholic unless his drinking was complicated
of the so-called diseases of alcoholism.
we don't use that terminology. We speak of alcoholism
with complications, meaning the diseases of alcoholism.
according to the terminology the doctor had learned in medical
school, the patient was not an alcoholic because he had
complications. But according to the terminology we use today,
man in this case was an alcoholic.
misleading idea, I think, is this. I have heard priests
say of individuals whom I would consider alcoholics: "Well,
an alcoholic; he goes on the wagon every Lent and doesn't
drop for six weeks." Of course, if you ask him when
started drinking again, it always used to be high noon on
Saturday. But the idea behind this thinking is that a person
able to abstain totally from alcohol for six weeks is not
alcoholic. That is not the test of alcoholism.
are thousands, thank God, there are hundreds of thousands
of alcoholics, recovered alcoholics, who don't drink at
are total abstainers for life. But they are still alcoholics.
reason we call them alcoholics is that if they started to
again they would drink abnormally.
test of alcoholism is not the ability to be a total
abstainer from alcohol. Thousands and hundreds of thousands
alcoholics can do that. The test is whether or not a person
to drink regularly with true moderation. A person who can
do that is
not an alcoholic.
I think that some of these pictures have misled us
as to the meaning of what alcoholism is. Sometimes, too,
sensational accounts in books or in magazines about alcoholism.
thing that is sensational is most interesting to the public.
played up. But the public gets the idea that this exaggerated
is a typical picture of alcoholism.
a matter of fact, most alcoholics are not on Skid Row at
all. A very large number of them would never be suspected
alcoholics except by those who are close to them in the
of alcoholism. The average alcoholic is still, working and
living at home in a family.
IS DRUNKENNESS PLUS
of all, I would like to say that alcoholism is not just
the same thing as drunkenness. Alcoholism is drunkenness
something else, plus serious life problems and plus an inability
stop drinking without help.
don't want to give you the impression that I can define
alcoholism. Nobody can give an essential, intrinsic definition
alcoholism. You will find as many attempts at that as there
speakers in the field. But what I am trying to do is give
of a description of alcoholism which will help to distinguish
person who has this problem from the person who is merely
too much. Alcoholism includes drunkenness and something
serious life problems and the inability to stop unaided.
other words, for practical purposes, in order to diagnose
make a practical decision whether this person should be
an alcoholic or not, I have often used these three traits.
excessive drinking over a period of years, secondly, serious
problems as the result of drinking, and thirdly, the inability
stop drinking unless one gets help.
last trait indicates an element of compulsion in the
drinking. The inability to stop when a person seriously
stop indicates some degree of compulsion. The whole thing
question of degree.
can draw a sharp line between those who are alcoholics
and those who are not.
is easy to diagnose alcoholism? I think that if one were
try to diagnose alcoholism in a scientific sense, according
theory of what constitutes alcoholism, it would be a very
thing to do. If an expert has some psychiatric or physiological
theory as to what is the true, deep cause of alcoholism
and wants to
define it in terms of such a theory, I think he will have
full because there will be disagreements immediately on
of etiology. A definition should be clearer than the thing
Scientifically, therefore, and theoretically, it is hard
what about practically? Is it hard to diagnose alcoholism
from the practical standpoint of deciding whether this person
be treated as an alcoholic or not?
don't think it is hard for anybody except the alcoholic
himself. Take trait number one. It isn't difficult to point
one's own satisfaction that this person has been drinking
excessively for years. Now I don't mean that he has been
dead drunk every night. There are many alcoholics who rarely
dead drunk. There are many alcoholics who rarely, if ever,
theologically drunk, to use that somewhat odious expression.
are many alcoholics, who rarely, if ever, get so drunk that
lenient moral theologian would have to agree that that kind
drunkenness (if deliberate) would be sinful. There are a
alcoholics who don't drink that way at all. The kind of
drinking I have in mind may mean only that the person gets
frequently and sometimes thoroughly and that's being going
for trait number two, the serious life problems that I am
talking about range all the way from lack of family harmony
the way it often starts), through loss of health and loss
and loss of faith and loss of moral values, all the way
road, until the person is finally what the A.A.'s call a
these life problems are not always apparent to outsiders.
Very often in the beginning only the family knows about
often it is the priest, the pastor, the curate who knows
before others do, because he hears about it from members
family. Either the wife comes to talk about the husband's
or the husband comes to talk about the wife's drinking.
situation is such that the wife feels that she has to ge
priest for help, it is a fairly good indication that one
alcoholic to deal with. Occasionally you run into the prudish
of person who just disapproves of any drinking and is very
frightened of drinking. She gets panicky and goes for help
there really isn't any problem. But I have met very few
through the years in dealing with alcoholics and their families.
the members of the family come to complain about the
person's drinking, there is probably a serious problem there
already. Usually there is at least incipient alcoholism
number three is the element of compulsion in an
alcoholic's drinking. He is unable to stop drinking for
good even if
he wants to (in the great majority of cases) unless he gets
help. The A.A.' s express this note of compulsion in their
when they say: "We were powerless over alcohol."
Just as there are
degrees of excess in the drinking and degrees of seriousness
problems that result from it, so also there are degrees
compulsiveness. Compulsions operate with more or less frequency
with more or less force. The alcoholic's compulsion to drink
involves a peculiar fascinated way of thinking about the
which takes possession of his mind on certain occasions
after he has had a few drinks.
in the grip of this obsessive thinking he is unable to
consider reasonably and realistically any other alternatives.
meetings you hear the saying: "It isn't your drinking
that gets you
stinking; it's your stinking thinking that gets you drinking."
a person has good reason to stop and really wants to stop
falls again and again, we are justified in believing that
there is a
compulsive element in the drinking.
is not just weak will. Many of these persons are extremely
strong-willed persons. People do not go on damaging themselves
the ones they love most out of plain stubborness. That kind
behaviour is abnormal and pathological. The compulsion interferes
with the drinker's liberty to a greater or lesser extent.
these three traits in mind, then - excess, problems and
compulsion, I don't think it is so hard to make a practical
diagnosis of alcoholism in the great majority of cases.
of the questions asked most frequently by priests is this:
"Is alcoholism a sickness or is it a moral problem?"
That is a sort
of lawyer's question. You are asked to choose between the
can't it be both. But there is a good deal of resistance
to the idea
that alcoholism is a sickness. I am going to talk about
that for a
think one of the reasons is that there is sometimes a certain
amount of exaggeration in speaking of alcoholism as a sickness.
sometimes hear it said that alcoholism is a sickness just
tuberculosis, just like cancer, or just like any other disease.
it is quite different. You and I know that it is different.
of the principle reasons why it is different is that
alcoholism involves human behaviour and misbehaviour, conduct
misconduct. The average alcoholic uses a kind of behaviour,
of conduct that just doesn't measure up to standards. It
make much difference what the standards are you are talking
It may be the standards of moral law; it may be the standards
civil law; it may be the standards of Emily Post - but he
measure up. His conduct does not measure up. That involves
which the ordinary case of tuberculosis or the ordinary
cancer does not involve.
there are such obvious differences, I think it hurts the
cause - the cause of getting people to recognize alcoholism
sickness it really is - to speak in an exaggerated way and
about alcoholism as if it were just like cancer or just
think, too, that some people are a little afraid that if
alcoholic is told that he is sick, that it will be an excuse
to evade his responsibility in the matter. Every once in
a while I
see a person who goes home drunk to his wife and says: "Don't
me; I am a sick man. They told me down at the information
that alcoholism is a sickness. That's what's wrong with
me, so it is
not my fault if I keep on drinking."
I say that I have seen that once or twice, perhaps a few
times, but very rarely. You know, the public has been bombarded
the idea that alcoholism is a sickness and that alcoholics
people. This is true. This is as it should be. And the alcoholics
read all this material in the magazines and in the newspapers,
And when they read it they say: "That is a fact - alcoholism
sickness - Joe So-and-So has that." They never think
that they have
it. They are never ready to think that they themselves are
people who have the sickness. The truth of the matter is,
it is brought home to them at the information center or
that they do have a sickness called alcoholism, at the very
time they are taught that it is a sickness that they can
something about if they want to. They are not given an excuse
their responsibility. They are given an understanding of
wrong and the assurance that they can get better if they
the responsibility of doing so.
people who inform the alcoholic in a helpful way about that
concept of sickness also inform him that he is able to do
about his sickness and how to do it. So, I think that there
little of that escaping the responsibility merely because
concept being brought forward. What the objection amount
to is that
it takes good tactics to tell the person that he is an alcoholic
such a way that he won't use it as an excuse to go on drinking.
experience is that it is extremely good tactics to tell
that he has developed the sickness of alcoholism if you
tell him at
the same time that he can do something about his sickness.
takes skill and tact.
CAN’T THEY LEARN?
to my mind, the first question is not tactics but the
truth. Is it a sickness? The reason why I believe it is
is this: Why can't alcoholics learn to drink moderately?
The fact is
that they can't. No alcoholic can ever learn to drink moderately,
matter how long he has been abstinent, no matter how long
been sober. If he starts drinking again, he is going to
is that so, unless there is something inside him which
causes that? Maybe that something is physiological, maybe
psychological and maybe both. I imagine it is both. But
is, that is the sickness of alcoholism that we are talking
That is what most doctors and psychiatrists are talking
they say alcoholism is a sickness. They may be referring
other elements, too, but to my mind, that is the important
are not saying that in this man there are some clear-cut
physiological deficiencies which are not present in other
few may say that, but the one thing that all the experts
field are agreed upon is that no alcoholic learns how to
normally. And my question is, why is that true unless there
something wrong with him, something physiological or psychological
or both? That abnormal something is pathological and deserves
called a sickness.
are other elements in the sickness, too, but I think it
will be sufficient for the moment, just to mention the fundamental
idea that the alcoholic cannot learn to drink normally.
there is something wrong with him. He doesn't react the
people do to moderate amounts of alcohol once he has become
have often spoken of alcoholism as a triple sickness, a
sickness of the body and of the mind and of the soul. The
of the body I leave to the physiologist and the doctor and
sickness of the mind I leave to the psychologists and the
psychiatrists to describe. I think our business, as priests,
the sickness of the soul and I am going to return to that
here is a paradox. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous
vigorously claim that alcoholism is a sickness. But what
they prescribe for the sickness? They prescribe the remedy
Twelve Steps of the A.A. programme and those Twelve Steps
nothing but a programme of moral and spiritual regeneration.
say it is a sickness and they believe it is a sickness and
too, but when they come to make a prescription for the sickness,
their principal prescription is a spiritual prescription.
the thing that works best, too. The members of A.A. who
successful in maintaining solid, contented sobriety are
the ones who
take the Twelve Steps of the programme seriously and try
to live by
the other hand, we have a certain number of lay therapists
(I don't know of any professional therapists) who say that
alcoholism is not a sickness; it is a vice. But these people
hospitals for alcoholics, excellent institutions, too, I
They certainly don't run retreat houses for them; they run
sanatoria. That is another paradox. The explanation may
alcoholism is a complicated condition which includes both
It is both a sickness and a moral problem.
two schools of thought are not too far apart in actual
practice. It seems to me that those who are most successful
dealing with alcoholism have to take into account that there
both spiritual or moral elements in this disease and also
psychological and physiological elements. That is why I
think it is
useful to call it a triple sickness of the body and of the
of the soul.
we call alcoholism a sickness, we are not forgetting the
moral implications. We are recognising at the same time
are certain moral implications. I don't think that anybody
denies it, except an occasional, exaggerated, fanatical
that there is no morality about this at all. "Alcoholism
is just a
sickness like any other." That kind of statement is
not very meaningful, either.
in Alcoholics Anonymous they do not deny
responsibility to the alcoholic. The members of A.A. in
Steps talk about turning their lives over to the will of
want to recognize when they are wrong and promptly admit
are wrong and they want to make amends for the wrong they
while they were drinking. All you have to do is read those
Steps to see that there is not any attempt there to deny
the idea that there is responsibility on the part of the
OF THE SOUL
think that anybody who is familiar with alcoholics - and
certainly this is true of the recovered alcoholics that
I have known - knows that they are very ready to admit that
during the course of
their drinking they went downhill morally and spiritually.
people who become alcoholics start drinking in a rather
But they soon become aware that this particular type of
is delightful - in fact nothing, no other kind of anesthesia,
compare with it. Little by little, they find that they can
the rough spots in life by making use of this delightful
By continually avoiding hard realities they gradually undermine
their fibre of character. We have all seen many cases of
women who little by little in the course of their drinking
those values that they learned as children from their mothers
their fathers and the Church and school, all those moral
Finally they just give up. They lose their self-respect.
even ready to throw Almighty God out the window.
call that a sickness of the soul and I think it happens
enough to be called characteristic of alcoholism. But there
thing we ought to remember as priests; if it is also a physiological
and psychological sickness, then the moral responsibility
alcoholic for his drinking is diminished. It is considerably
diminished, to my mind. There are various questions connected
the moral responsibility of the alcoholic, for instance,
responsibility (1) for becoming an alcoholic (2) for his
after he becomes an alcoholic, (3) for the other things
while drinking and (4) his responsibility to do something
condition and get the help which is available nowadays.
questions can all be discussed in great detail but I think
it can be
done in the moral theology classroom rather than on an occasion
only point I want to insist on is that there is a real
diminution of responsibility on the part of the alcoholic
present drinking behaviour. When we deal with him, we ought
him realize that he is not as guilty as he thinks he is.
A great many alcoholics are overburdened-with feelings of
feelings of guilt, and sometimes neurotic feelings of guilt.
marvellous to see the relief that is brought to them. You
can see it
on their faces when it is explained to them that they have
sickness. You obviously do not say anything foolish to them
“You are not a sinner; you are a sick man." Of
course they are
sinners. All of us are sinners. We can tell them that they
sinners and that our Lord will take away all their sins.
the: "You are not such a sinner as you think you are.
You are also a
sick man and the sickness you have developed is called alcoholism.
You can do something about that sickness and I will help
you to do
BODY OF THIS DEATH
alcoholics illustrate very forcibly a condition of soul
which St. Paul describes in himself. Saint Paul said: "The
law as we
know is something spiritual; I am a thing of flesh and blood,
into the slavery of sin. My own actions bewilder me; what
I do is
not what I wish to do but something which I hate.....Praiseworthy
intentions are always ready to hand but I cannot find my
way to the
performance of them; it is not the good my will prefers
but the evil
my will disapproves, that I find myself doing.....Inwardly,
applaud God's disposition but I observe another disposition
lower self, which raises war against the disposition of
conscience and so I am handed over as a captive to that
toward sin which my lower self contains. Pitiable creature
am, who is to set me free from a nature thus doomed to death?
Nothing else than the grace of God, through Jesus Christ,
(cf. Rom. 7:15-25).
you are dealing with an alcoholic, if he has not yet
realized that his problem is really drink, you are going
to notice a
very peculiar blindness in him. It is characteristic of
that they do not recognise alcoholism as their problem.
emphasise too much the idea that the person who comes to
(perhaps because his wife sent him) doesn't think that drinking
great majority of them don't believe that drinking is their
problem. They think it is something else. Oh, of course,
drunk that one time but that was a wedding; and everyone
at a wedding. Or if it wasn't a wedding and happened at
in the morning, he explains: "Oh, well, that was the
morning that my
wife started nagging me before I got out of the house to
go to work.
Anybody would get drunk in a situation like that."
There is always
some rationalisation while they continue to say (and to
can take it or leave it."
HIM TO SEE HIMSELF
I can't exaggerate that point, the peculiar blindness that
goes with alcoholism. That blindness is something that has
overcome. How? I don't think that anything but the grace
Lord, Jesus Christ, overcomes that kind of blindness and
our role as
priests is to bring that grace to the alcoholic. Our role
priests, of course, in general, is to bring the soul back
to God, to
bring him closer to God. But I think more particularly our
the case of the alcoholic is to help to penetrate his blindness
regard to his own problem and his own self.
is spiritually sick and we want to bring him closer to God.
But how do we do it? We do it by helping him to recognise
that he is
an alcoholic. If it is true that alcoholism is a triple
body, mind and soul, we aren't competent to handle the whole
We ought to realise our own limitations in this matter.
We ought to
realise that there is only so much that we can do, that
is the key, that we must co-operate with others. Fortunately,
are other agencies available that will help us to deal with
alcoholics. We are going to hear about them.
don't think any priest dealing with an alcoholic should
off with the idea: "Now here is a problem that I can
solve. I will
do it all by myself. I will just handle it with the spiritual
weapons that I have at my disposal." That is a mistake.
I think we
should recognise our own limitations and do the things that
able to do. But we are in a particularly strategic position
the alcoholic to recognise what is wrong with him. We are
position to penetrate that blindness. We do it both by natural
and by supernatural means. We can help the alcoholic, in
words, to diagnose himself.
practical techniques of counselling are not the subject
matter of the present talk. I would merely call your attention
some of the literature available on the point, including
"Do-it-yourself kit" prepared by the Hornell (New
York) Committee on
am not going into the details of the pastoral techniques
which can be employed. We are saving that for another session.
want to point out merely that one of the most important
can do on the natural level is to help the alcoholic to
as he is. We are removing the obstacles to divine grace
when we help
the alcoholic see himself as he is. In addition, to that,
since co-operation is the key, we must co-operate with other
agencies. We we learn about some of these.
my opinion it is essential to co-operate with Alcoholics
Anonymous. I don't think that anything works as well. Alcoholics
Anonymous is available everywhere. It is there, it doesn't
anything, and it works.
of all, as priests, we are in a position to be channels,
as it were, of the grace of God. We prepare the ground for
alcoholic once told me of how he stopped drinking. He said
that he came home one day from work and was in the diningroom
heard his little daughter, twelve years old, talking with
in the kitchen. His daughter was crying and her mother asked:
are you crying?" She said: "The kids say that
Daddy is a drunk." He
said: "When I heard those words, it was as if a sword
me." He never drank after that. He had a new vision
of himself in
that moment. The veil that covered his eyes was torn away.
I don't want to give you the idea that the process of
touching the heart is always as simple as that. That was
quite extraordinary. It is a miracle of grace when a person
kind of experience and stops drinking all by himself. Ninety-nine
out of one hundred alcoholics need continuing help at the
level in order to continue their good resolutions after
they see the
light about themselves.
often the seeing of the light doesn't take the form of a
sudden psychological experience like that. Seeing the light
only after a long, painful process of humiliation. The touching
the heart may take the form of a kick in the pants. In other
"Whom He loves He chastises" (Prov. 3:12). But
usually, as we
priests don't have to do the chastising. We don't have to
upon ourselves to play God and rearrange the lives of people.
don't have to lower the boom - and call it manipulating
environment. But we can do something to bring to them this
themselves. After all, what is grace but an illumination
of the mind
and an inspiration of the will? We can clear the ground,
understanding, realistic help, for the entrance of God's
that example of the man who heard his little daughter
crying, I don't know how much of it was a natural psychological
experience and how much of it was the grace of God that
his heart. I suppose that the psychologist would prefer
psychological explanation. But I have been more and more
over the years that the alcoholic doesn't change unless
his heart is
touched somehow by the grace of God.
IS THE KEY
it is all important that we, as priests, should recognise
that our role is a co-operative one. We have to get the
pray and we ourselves have to pray as if the whole thing
upon the grace of God; and we have to act and get the alcoholic
act as if the whole thing depended upon himself, because
know where the natural leaves off and the supernatural begins.
of the reasons why A.A. has been so successful, I think,
that it has been able to appeal to the alcoholic at a level
understand. It gets him on his knees. It actually succeeds
getting him on his knees asking for Almighty God's help.
if we as priests will recognise our limitations and
recognise that we must co-operate with others when we do
alcoholic to deal with, I think that we are going to make
to summarise what I have been saying this morning, first
all, I wanted to separate the question of alcoholism from
other alcohol problems. Not that we are going to exclude
our discussions. But I do think that alcoholism is our principal
concern today. Secondly, I wanted to give you some idea
alcoholism is, according to the moderate conception of it.
I wanted to indicate briefly that our role as priests is
co-operative one. We are trying to remove the obstacles
to grace. We
are trying to penetrate that blindness which is part of
alcoholic's sickness and help the grace of God to take effect