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PRIEST, Vol. 44: 12-14, December, 1988
AND THE A.A. MOVEMENT
by Most Rev. Colin Campbell
am not a recovering alcoholic but I would be a prime
candidate. More than 10 years ago, I decided to. give up
social drinking I did - for three reasons.
is in my background a good share of alcoholics.
Therefore, I believe that I have the genes which would prepare
be a candidate.
have a personality profile which I think would fit that
active alcoholic. I do believe that I am an addictive personality
type of the Obsessive Compulsive kind. If you saw the collection
compact disks I own, you would understand what I mean.
third reason is that I had seen so many priests nailed to
the cross of alcohol. I believe that our profession makes
excellent social setting in which the full-blown career
gets a start.
are often plagued with loneliness. We are often alone. We
are able to shift schedules to fit any kind of bizarre drinking
habit. We especially have the unconditional love of the
will cover for us and refuse to use the tough love necessary
force the alcoholic to face facts.
all these reasons and for many others, I do not drink at
all, except when I am in Rome. This city I try to avoid
at all costs
but when I am there I certainly do not take a chance on
They tell me that consulting a doctor there might be even
dangerous. My solution is to drink reasonable amounts of
purpose of my presentation is to suggest that there is a
very close connection between Christian spirituality and
spirituality of the A.A. movement. That may seem to be a
self-evident proposition but I want to develop certain aspects
in the short space alloted.
do this from a context of 32 years of priestly ministry
which I have seen every side of human suffering and know
that all of
it can be healed and helped with the proper approach and
ago, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen had something very prophetic
to say about our approach to Christianity. He suggested
Marxists had a cross without Christ and a great many Christians
to have a Christianity without the Cross. Of course, there
can be no
is a daily parade of witnesses who want to live the most
bizarre life-style but still say they are following Christ.
versions I have heard go something like this.
taught us about love: this is love; therefore this is
Christlike. That sounds like perfect logic except that the
second part of the premise, is often badly flawed. When
I deal from
a large ego, I can define just about anything as love. At
is love from my point of being.
evident fact of life is that there is suffering. No matter
what we do to escape it, it is there. Who wants to have
a child with
Down's syndrome? The fact that some children have learning
cannot be denied. The plans of the planned life do not always
out as outlined.
is either totally muted or totally in isolation to miss
suffering of life. One does not need to be a sidewalk sociologist
psychologist to see that people suffer. True enough, most
of us are
experts at solving the other person's problems. We can all
not to worry. It will all clear up, very quickly. The problem
that Joe does not listen to us and no one can know the problems
the suffering of the other, from the inside.
so loved the world that He sent His only Begotten Son. The
Son so loved us that He died on the Cross for our salvation.
believe that God set the tone of love. Indeed, creation
wonders is a history and geography lesson of God's love.
saving and loving life of Jesus is a salvation story of
God's love. Jesus died on the Cross so that we would be
the ravages of sin. This sin is the sin of our parents,
Eve. It is also the personal sins of each one of us.
is more. The Christian believes he can link his suffering
to Christ. In this way, his suffering becomes redemptive,
remaining real. This is not to gloss them over but to give
meaning and lift. This would seem to be a blasphemy were
it not for
the clear theology of St. Paul - I fill out in my body the
sufferings that are lacking in Christ.
is the role of every Christian to witness to Christ by how
he imitates His suffering in his own life. If we are the
of Christ's love, we are also the extension of His, suffering.
it another way. People will more easily see Christ in us,
in our sufferings, than in our allegations of our love.
put it another way. The living out of the love of Christ
means that there is some redemptive suffering as part of
to relate, this sometimes is translated as Christian
masochism. So we think of the woman who was married to the
brutalizing beast and say - oh but she was a wonderful Christian.
might be that she was anything but this. Rather than looking
Cross of Christ, perhaps she should have borrowed some of
from this cross and used it on her husband!
do not want to mock something that is very sacred. My point
is simple. There is suffering in life. We do not plan the
which our suffering will be lived. We do not even have a
which we choose our sufferings. Christ offered a theology
suffering in which we can link our suffering to the redemptive
suffering of Christ.
the Cross, our only hope. We believe that we cannot be
saved without the Cross. We believe that we can link the
daily life with those of Jesus. The world tells us that
all of this
A.A. movement has clearly understood this view of life.
think of steps 1 and 3. 1 - We admitted we were powerless
alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable. 3 - Made
decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care
of God as
we understood Him.
world does not want to hear about lives that are powerless.
We are reading all the time about books that will teach
The Rambo philosophy is not just something that has made
Stallone a multi-millionaire. It is the philosophy that
the weak and
the suffering should be crushed out.
do you think that violence is so prevalent in our society?
Why do you think that wrestling is making such a comeback?
to crush out all suffering and weakness. The only thing
is power and strength.
any clergy person and any member of the A.A. movement
knows that life is just not like this. Real people suffer.
a caricature. Real people have crosses. Rambo is an illusion.
people want to be loved and healed. Rambo is a cardboard
the most fascinating part of our society is the serial
monogamy and the bar scene. We are presented with a view
that people have to hop from one relationship to the next.
fits into what I have said above. If there is no suffering,
there are no relationships.
we are dealing with Rambos, how can there be tenderness
and love? Since we are dealing only from strength, how can
about suffering, weakness and need of help?
we have defined society as a society that does not want
suffering, then this affects relationships. Since the only
that matters is my ego, anything that harms that must be
out. so, at the first sign of difficulty in a relationship,
pitch it and start anew. Better to go back to the bar and
another person who will not give me any other trouble.
joke some years back was the divorce that was granted
because the wife had cracker crumbs in bed. We have done
than that. You can have a divorce for any reason whatever.
that you want it is the reason, or the nonreason. In this
society, the children are unwanted or accidental results
activity between two people who do not want a commitment
It is no wonder that schoolteachers are up in arms about
children they are expected to educate. They feel they have
called to provide the parenting function in society with
who have not learned love. Since they have not been loved,
cannot tolerate limits or discipline.
who know me know my love of music. Since I was the last
of eight children, family discipline had eased by my time.
I took singing and piano for two years, I have little to
attribute my great love of music to my sister who worked
the piano so much that it was a part of the furniture of
For me, it has been an essential part of the ecstasy of
Truly I could not imagine life without music.
the musical "Evita," Andrew Lloyd Webber takes
us on a tour
of this remarkable lady's life. I don't know enough about
history of Argentina to make an intelligent comment on his
historical facts. If you will pardon the language, we are
with a person who slept her way to the top.
than this, we are presented with a compulsive personality.
She was on the run, on the run, on the run, until she was
you want to plumb the philosophy of this age, I would
suggest that you listen to the brilliant lyrics of this
musical. I make no comments on the historical accuracy but
full marks for psychological insight and brilliance of writing.
Evita thought she was immortal and could run forever. She
the truth only when she was dead.
think there are many Evitas in our society and they are
all caught up with booze alone. Their cure is suggested
in steps 2
and 7. 2 - Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves
restore us to sanity. 7 - Humbly saked Him to remove our
society stop and take notice before it is dead?
the wonderful help I have had from members of the A.A.
Movement in every parish in which I have served, there is
question that goes unanswered. How do you get the person
down and face facts before he is dead? We all know people
is our challenge to learn how to raise the consciousness
all about addictions, so that more slow down and live.
comes as no surprise that the Catholic Church is not doing
good. job in marketing the Sacrament of Reconciliation today.
limited experience, I think that I have used the right language.
People do not have a problem so much with this gift of God
Church, but rather with their memories of it, or in their
understanding of it.
Protestants have a very jaundiced view of the whole
procedure. They think of generations of Catholics who used
this as a
ploy. They either had no intention of a change of life or
experts at papering over the cracks in the wallpaper. Confession
them, was greatly linked to denial, minimalization or worse.
in my 32 years as a priest, I have found confession to be
one of the great gifts of ministry. As I have visited people
sorts of settings, it is clear that they want to talk. They
talk about the hurts and sufferings of life. They want to
how they have suffered from a life that believes in one-night
and not in commitment.
don't have to tell you anymore. Many of you have heard as
many confessions as I have. You may not have heard them
in the same
sacramental setting but they have been just as authentic
as the ones I have heard.
I may put it this way: we are all in the all-important
ministry of healing and reconciliation. In a world that
crazy, there are few ministries more important today.
good friend of mine, a priest who is a recovering alcoholic,
told me that he had taken a day and a half to take the fifth
This really got me looking at the steps again. 5 - Admitted
to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature
I do not have to tell you, this is a very clear statement.
It is hard to dance around it. My purpose is .not to do
laundry of the Catholic Church with you. However, you know
of the great controversies in the Church today is about
Absolution. This is the absolution of sin in a church ceremony
without individual confession.
view is that this is an important rite in the Church and
that we should use it for a bridge period. In other words,
that many Catholics and non-Catholics Christians have been
off to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Until we have resold
think that General Absolution will hold them to this beautiful
am not denying that there are certain aspects of this
communal celebration that are valid and important. However,
something perverse in the human spirit by which we want
to run from
confession, admission of guilt and peace. We cannot have
there is the former. You can tell me about people who have
the fifth step. I can tell you stories of people who have
with rage and anger toward the Church or toward others until
made peace and had a detailed talk about their sinfulness.
story of Richard Nixon is an illustration. If you read the
various books on him, you know that it was virtually impossible
get him to admit that he had sinned. The closest he came
was to say
that he had made misjudgments.
Sir Anthony Blunt was confronted with all the evidence
that he was a Soviet spy while climbing the steps of the
Establishment, he was humbled. Did he admit that he had
No, the closest he would come was to say that he had made
are just two famous examples of people who denied the
existence of their sinfulness, despite all the clear evidence
latter we can understand for he opted out of the Church
early in his life.
live in a society in which the denial of sin is the norm.
There can be no healing, however, without facing sinfulness.
have a cancer in my body, it will not go away unless I have
treatment. The doctor may tell me that there is a good chance
cure if I submit to the surgery. However, he cannot force
me to get
on the table without my consent.
ministry is critical in our society. People are ruining
their lives and the lives of others. You are in the confrontation
business because an important part of healing is facing
appreciate all that you have done for people and I can assure
that the work of the A.A. movement and the work of the Church
beautiful complements to one another.
hope that this article will produce more ideas about how
can help one another in our mutual ministry of healing and
God love you all and all that you do.