Catholicism and Alcoholics Anonymous


#1

I wasn’t sure what other topic to post this to, so forgive me if it’s misplaced.

I’ve been a member of AA for three years now and a Catholic for a little over two. As I grow more and more in my Catholic faith, I’m starting to have some misgivings about AA. Although I realized that 12-step programs are largely accepted by many Catholics as consistent with Church teaching, I have some major issues that I just can’t seem to get around. I was wondering what other people’s thoughts were.

  1. AA encourages people to seek a God of their understanding. We are to pray to a higher power, but get to choose what higher power to pray to. If people don’t like the idea of a higher power, they are told that a doorknob or a chair is acceptable (I’m not joking), or to use G.O.D. standing for “group of drunks” or “good orderly direction” as a higher power. The Big Book itself (the text for AA) says we accept people on the broad road to make things easy. However, this philosophy seems to say that ANY belief in God is equally valid, which explicitly contradicts the words of our Lord that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that none come to the Father except for Him. Christ also tells us that the way is narrow and the path is hard. As a member of AA, I am supposed to reach out to newcomers and introduce them to AA philosophy, sometimes in the role of a personal “sponsor.” I do not feel comfortable telling people that any God is valid and exhorting them to form their own image of God or to even commit the idolatrous act of praying to an object or putting a group of people above them as a higher power.

  2. Although not explicitly stated, any reference to Christianity or Jesus, even in sharing one’s own experiences is discouraged in meetings because we don’t want to “scare off” newcomers who might be hostile to the idea of religion. How is this compatible with sharing the Gospel?

  3. AA’s sexual ethics are at odds with the Catholic Church. Again, people are encouraged to form their own sexual ethics, with the general idea that anything is OK as long as nobody is hurt.

  4. AA does encourage spiritual reflection, examinations of conscience, and confessing sins, but none of this is done with trained, experienced, Christian individuals - only to other AA members, who’s qualifications and trustworthiness is, in my mind, quite suspect.

I personally can find my own way in AA and sort of ignore all this and go ahead and practice my Catholic religion, but since such a big part of AA is spreading the program to newcomers, I just don’t feel comfortable teaching people what to me seems like outright heresy.

Any thoughts? Input from other Catholic members of AA or those familiar with the program is especially welcome.


#2

Then don’t.


#3

Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on your sobriety!

I think I know what you mean there definately are some “turn offs” about AA and I have seen and heard things that seem like they are a quasi-religion, what I do find wonderful is that they insist one must surrender to a “higher power” which I find encouraging and useful and I beleive may draw many people closer to God as they seek sobriety.

If you feel uncomfortable endorsing certain aspects of AA then don’t, you are not alone I assure you. They help a lot of people and are to be admired for what they do, but they are a place to get sober and get support for staying sober they are not a church.

You are good to attend meetings and you are evangelizing by your example! If you are someone’s sponsor you can encourage them certainly in sobriety even if they are of a different faith. God gives us all free will and we are all free to accept or reject the teachings of Jesus Christ and many people do. Ask the Holy Spirit to help guide your words and keep him close to you always, hope this helps a little.


#4

If people don't like the idea of a higher power, they are told that a doorknob or a chair is acceptable (I'm not joking),

It started out as a joke.

G.O.D. standing for "group of drunks" or "good orderly direction" as a higher power.

If one chooses one's social environment carefully, it can lead the individual closer to God. The more one refines and cleans up their life, the more they prize and perceive a relationship with God.

The Big Book itself (the text for AA) says we accept people on the broad road to make things easy.

Alcoholics and addicts, justifiedly or unjustifiedly, are quick to perceive judgmental attitudes. Tolerance is important, because some come from worse situations than others.

I am supposed to reach out to newcomers and introduce them to AA philosophy, sometimes in the role of a personal "sponsor."

If you object to the concept of sponsorship in AA, tell them that you are Catholic, and that your confessor is your sponsor

any reference to Christianity or Jesus, even in sharing one's own experiences is discouraged in meetings

Recovering alcoholics and addicts often OD on religion, thinking that it will solve all their problems with no effort on their part. This will protect some of them from spiritual abuse. Others may use the religion aspect to prostelytize for their own particular denomination, not realizing that God does it. Some groups go overboard on this anti-religious aspect. Try to find a meeting in a parish hall.

3. Granted. :(

4. Your confessor is best qualified. Many groups encourage this-- stated generally.

a big part of AA is spreading the program to newcomers

Remind them of "attraction rather than promotion."

AA started at a time when judgmental attitudes towards people with alcohol problems were quite severe. It was a peer support situation where people could be accepted on their own terms, and start cleaning up their lives. It may no longer be such a socially productive organization.

If you want to step away from meetings for a while, it is your right. ;) Just make sure to keep applying the basics to your own life. Retired from 25-some years in AA. Done just fine the past five. Tried it and didn't like it anymore. :cool:


#5

AA is a cult, my dad is forced to go to AA three times a week, and he says it’s a cult. I’ve seen some of their stuff it’s kinda’ cultish.


#6

[quote="The_Holy_War_11, post:5, topic:288205"]
AA is a cult, my dad is forced to go to AA three times a week, and he says it's a cult. I've seen some of their stuff it's kinda' cultish.

[/quote]

Attraction rather than promotion. Judges have destroyed the program by inundating meetings with court-ordered people who have no internally motivated desire.


#7

As a young child, Father Ford, SJ was often at our home. He was our family priest and to this day, I have not met a more holier soul. He told me he was involved in AA. Here is just one link of information. He told me that if I practiced the 12 steps and stuck with AA not to worry about the church. Here is just one link I found,:198.104.190.233/cybriety/catholic_contribution_to_the_12-step_movement.htm

If you google Father John C. Ford SJ and AA, you will find numerous references that I believe will satisfy for thirst for answers.

Keep on keeping on.
God Bless.
-Ann


#8

And please remember, it’s the message, the steps and NOT the personalities and their opinions!!! There are very sick people in the rooms. Take what you can use and leave the rest. You can attend meetings online which I think makes it easier to avoid gossip and wrong thinking. It is not a cult.
Peace
Ann


#9

You can attend meetings online which I think makes it easier to avoid gossip and wrong thinking.

Online may be an excellent option in today’s world. In fact, if you search the groups section of these fora, you might find some top-notch friends. :cool:


#10

Here's a link for online meetings .aa-intergroup.org/directory.php

Additionally, you can attend various Christian based 12 step groups.

alcoholicsvictorious.org/ which is Alcoholics Victorious.
Another is Celebrate Recovery :celebraterecovery.com/

They observe the 12 steps as coming right out of the beatitudes. Personally, I give the influence of the Catholic Priests who advised Bill and Bob that credit. Regardless, That is no accident. If you have any serious doubts about AA I would encourage you to discuss it with your Priest.

God Bless,
Good night all!
-Ann


#11

AA is an invitation to the spiritual life for people who are generally spiritually bereft. A man cannot believe in Jesus or the Holy Spirit unless he first believes in God. AA is neither a religion nor a substitute for religion. The program contains an introduction to prayer and other spiritual activities.

After three years of sobriety one can view attendance at AA meetings as works of mercy. Just as a Catholic could feed a sandwich to a hungry man, he can also help a suffering alcoholic achieve sobriety. It is not an act of catechism. You don't make the hungry person listen to your religion before feeding him. Don't make the alcoholics do it either. :thumbsup:


#12

I am Catholic today BECUASE of AA. I have 18 years sober BTW. I don't worry about letting people find their own way. If people pushed any religion at first I would have run away as fast as I could. I try to be a good example of a Catholic and when people ask I have frank and open conversations about my faith. I let them ask though, and I tell people before I sponsor them I am Catholic. Sometimes there are Anti Catholic vibes around the tables and jokes on being a recovering Catholic ECT. Those are the only times in meetings I mention I am Catholic so people know I am Catholic. I love how compatible are the steps and the sacraments!!! To me AA compliments my catholic walk.

Just so you know there are plenty of nuns and priests in AA including a monsignor to a place I go to meetings. He happens to be my favorite confessor.

I also would caution you not to risk your sobriety, it's not worth it.


#13

[quote="MtnDwellar, post:11, topic:288205"]
AA is an invitation to the spiritual life for people who are generally spiritually bereft. A man cannot believe in Jesus or the Holy Spirit unless he first believes in God. AA is neither a religion nor a substitute for religion. The program contains an introduction to prayer and other spiritual activities.

After three years of sobriety one can view attendance at AA meetings as works of mercy. Just as a Catholic could feed a sandwich to a hungry man, he can also help a suffering alcoholic achieve sobriety. It is not an act of catechism. You don't make the hungry person listen to your religion before feeding him. Don't make the alcoholics do it either. :thumbsup:

[/quote]

Excellent post, it's not about you it's about helping others who still suffer.what a great opportunity we have and twelve step work gives me an opportunity to help people in a way I can't at church.


#14

This was discussed under another thread concerning celebrate recovery.

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=8572008

Facts.

AA has been declared to be a religion by the 9th and 7th Circuit court of appeals. Most people do not know that those sentenced to prison or leaving prison if offered a reduction in sentence by consenting to AA can invoke their rights not to be sent to a religous organization and it will be honored.

The Church has recently discussed where AA fits in this document.

Jesus Christ the Bearer of the water of life…

This document says something to the effect that “addiction & recovery have sadly replaced sin and salvation”

vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html

AA is based on a group called the Oxford Groupers…search for

Moral Rearmament
Frank Buchman
Oxford Groupers

For information on the Protestant background of AA

It is based on Methodism
It is based on the disease model. Alcoholism is not a disease.

youtube.com/watch?v=mCEkAmYwuno

Dr. Stanton Peele discusses this. Search YouTube and listen to everything Stanton Peele has to say about this disease model.

Accept the disease model=Accept AA

SMART recovery is based on CBT…you are not your behavior…the alternative to AA

Opportunity to resolve the problem with AA is less than 10% that is the rate of those that stop drinking on their own doing nothing.

The so called Big Book of AA has a note from a Catholic Priest endorsing AA however no one knows what he read…did he read the whole book or just the steps?

Also look at what a group of Protestants have done with their analysis of AA

psychoheresy-aware.org/12steps1.html

psychoheresy-aware.org/12steps2.html

I rest my case, if it helped anyone great, if you can stay away do…if you must attend invoke your rights not to attend a religous group meeting.


#15

Passionate responses so far.

As I recall from reading The Big Book, AA is a fellowship of alcoholics based on a spiritual program. When Bill W. first tried to get sober with religion alone, he failed; but, when he reached out to fellow alcoholics he was able to stay sober. They then learned that a single religion would exclude too many. Thus a spiritual program with no direct ties to any religion.

I find it hard to believe that any of the 12 steps are in any way contradictory to Catholicism. I’ve heard that some non-catholics after indentifining their past errors (sins) choose to admit them to a Catholic priest. AA is not meant to replace a religion; simply to help others get and stay sober. Finding God is a Bonus.

OP, have you checked out other meetings? There are probably others more in line with your moral beliefs.

Congratualations on your sobriety and coming home to the Catholic Church. God Bless.


#16

[quote="Mummsie, post:15, topic:288205"]
Passionate responses so far.

As I recall from reading The Big Book, AA is a fellowship of alcoholics based on a spiritual program. When Bill W. first tried to get sober with religion alone, he failed; but,, when he reached out to fellow alcoholics he was able to stay sober. They then learned that a single religion would exclude too many. Thus a spiritual program with no direct ties to any religion.

I find it hard to believe that any of the 12 steps are in any way contradictory to Catholicism. I've heard that some non-catholics after indentifining their past errors (sins) choose to admit them to a Catholic priest. AA is not meant to replace a religion; simply to help others get and stay sober. Finding God is a Bonus.

OP, have you checked out other meetings? There are probably others more in line with your moral beliefs.

Congratualations on your sobriety and coming home to the Catholic Church. God Bless.

[/quote]

Mumsie,

Sounds like you learned AA well. Help me and others understand this one....

  1. Alcoholism is a disease.

Alcoholism is a Spiritual Disease.

Explain a Spiritual Disease for me.

  1. Alcoholism is a disease for which there is no cure

Do a search for "incurable diseases" and see what you get...things

Ebola..

listverse.com/2007/10/04/top-10-incurable-diseases/

Alcoholism does not show up...

Disease? Can you catch it? Can you transmit it? Once someone has it can it spread to groups? It is not now and never has been a disease.


#17

Hi,

Yes, AA teaches Alcoholism is a disease. And, as I’ve seen the disease spread throughout families and generations, I would say its contagious. I’ve seen the total decimation of families because of alcoholism. It is both a physical and spiritual disease. Many of those attending their first meeting are in total despair over their physical addiction. And they’ve not seen God step in and cure them.

No, it is not a disease like cancer or heart disease. But, it is a “condition” (is that better?:blush:) that effects more than the alcohollic (the family, friends, employers). And it will for the rest of their lives.

It is not a condition I would wish on anyone.

One of Al-Anons sayings to avoid judging the alcoholic “But for the Grace of God, there go I.”

God Bless you.


#18

[quote="Mummsie, post:17, topic:288205"]
Hi,

Yes, AA teaches Alcoholism is a disease. And, as I've seen the disease spread throughout families and generations, I would say its contagious. I've seen the total decimation of families because of alcoholism. It is both a physical and spiritual disease. Many of those attending their first meeting are in total despair over their physical addiction. And they've not seen God step in and** cure **them.

No, it is not a disease like cancer or heart disease. But, it is a "condition" (is that better?:blush:) that effects more than the alcohollic (the family, friends, employers). And it will for the rest of their lives.

It is not a condition I would wish on anyone.

One of Al-Anons sayings to avoid judging the alcoholic "But for the Grace of God, there go I."

God Bless you.

[/quote]

Mummsie,

It is bad behavior that affects more than the person that has the behavior. It is a sad situation that the best we can do is accept faulty teaching.

Is it a disease? A spiritual disease?

Here you will find the history of the distortion that has been taught.

baldwinresearch.com/alcoholism.cfm

But, these stages are based on a corrupt study that the author, himself, later refuted.

Jellinek not only published a fraudulent study, he defrauded members of his academic community, and apparently lied about his educational background to gain acceptance. Nonetheless, it was Jellinek's "Stages of the Alcoholism" that led to diagnosing alcoholism as a disease and eventually to the medical acceptance of alcoholism as a disease. Astoundingly, the inception of the disease theory and treatment for substance abuse is based on fraud.

While many advocate for its benefits, the disease concept has proven to be far more damaging to substance user then anyone could have predicted. Therapists claim the disease concept helps the patient to understand the seriousness of [his/her] problems. But in reality, this idea backfired. The disease concept stripped the substance user of personal responsibility. A disease cannot be cured by force of will; therefore, adding the medical label transfers the responsibility from the user to caregivers. Inevitably, the users become unwilling victims, and just as inevitably they take on that role. In retrospect then, the disease concept has effectively increased alcoholism and drug use. Furthermore, its only benefit has been vast monetary reward for the professionals' and governmental agencies responsible for providing recovery services. Specifically, it has not offered a solution for those attempting to stop abusive alcohol and drug use.

You may want to understand that AA teaches that this "disease is uncurable". Part of the problem is that they call it recovery and not cure. The fact is that the first edition of the Big Book of AA had stories about people that RECOVERED and were not IN RECOVERY as is presently taught. Later editions removed those stories of the RECOVERED to promulgate the idea that one never RECOVERS but is always in RECOVERY.......


#19

DJ,

A significant family member drinks and has not only destroyed their life but others. I studied this system with the belief that I could know more and do more. The more I studied and attended meetings with this individual and interviewed the people involved the more insight I got. I attended AA, NarcoticAnonymous, Love and Sex, SexAddictsAnonymous, Alanon, and every other anonymous I could. I attended SMART recovery and even spoke to interventionists, psycholigists, and psychiatrists. I am a physician so I took it upon myself to study this as I would anything else. This is how I came to know so much.

  1. AA encourages people to seek a God of their understanding. The problem I found was that the God of AA is one way, no Trinity, and too often I saw what were called “Recovering Catholics” and most of these meetings were at Churches, mostly Protestant churches.

  2. Although not explicitly stated, any reference to Christianity or Jesus, even in sharing one’s own experiences is discouraged in meetings because we don’t want to “scare off” newcomers who might be hostile to the idea of religion. How is this compatible with sharing the Gospel? I too often saw Protestants ignore this and use their turn to share and preach. Most of the inculcation into some sort of Church function came after the meetings.

  3. AA’s sexual ethics are at odds with the Catholic Church… AA has no ethics. You know about 13th stepping and the meetings that men go to in order to seek out the women that are at their weakest. How often I heard poor, dysfunctional women talking about some man that they had taken up with and how that man had been such a model of recovery living together only to see both of them go down the tubes. I saw men sponsoring women and you know that is not ethical.

  4. AA does encourage spiritual reflection, examinations of conscience, and confessing sins, but none of this is done with trained, experienced, Christian individuals - only to other AA members, who’s qualifications and trustworthiness is, in my mind, quite suspect. I muse at the notion of anonymous. Everyone talks about everyone else and you never know who you are talking to and what level of respect they have for what you say. I often heard backbiting, gossiping and story telling. I would say…he/she is a nice person and hear “oh you don’t know they drink on the job, and they killed someone, and they beat so and so and on and on…” garbage.

I just don’t feel comfortable teaching people what to me seems like outright heresy.

I often thought to myself that in order to accept this “program” hook line and sinker then you have to teach it. If you find anything in it that you doubt then how can you teach it and for me all the weaknesses and difficulties I discovered were tantamount to no wonder people fail…too often people make it to the 12th step and then trying to explain it and teach it, there is not much belief in what is taught…

I would hear people that were involved in many different “programs”, failing in one and giving advice in another…what a farce…I often heard the Sponsors say…if someone calls you and they have a problem…tell them to go to a meeting or tell them to go to 30 and call you back and laugh…or tell them to read Chapter whatever and meditate and call you back…that will hold them…

If you accept AA and the disease model, then the person that attends AA is sick, the spouse goes to Alanon because even if they don’t drink they are just as sick…and the kids have to go to Alateen because they are sick. The only way this program works is if everyone in the family accepts the paradigm and does the 12 steps and if you see anyone doing that, then you have seen a miracle. Too often someone sends someone to the program to get fixed and the family just does whatever…sometimes the spouse goes to Alanon. I found Alanon to be more cordial and more of a social meeting that was less AA and more getting together and talking with less drama. Alanon was mostly attended by women.

Conversations in AA are one way…up…you call your Sponsor and then you engage in a pecking order until you get a new “pigeon” that comes in to call you and then you move up…it is all whack…


#20

[quote="CopticChristian, post:19, topic:288205"]
DJ,

A significant family member drinks and has not only destroyed their life but others. I studied this system with the belief that I could know more and do more. The more I studied and attended meetings with this individual and interviewed the people involved the more insight I got. I attended AA, NarcoticAnonymous, Love and Sex, SexAddictsAnonymous, Alanon, and every other anonymous I could. I attended SMART recovery and even spoke to interventionists, psycholigists, and psychiatrists. I am a physician so I took it upon myself to study this as I would anything else. This is how I came to know so much.

[/quote]

Attending open meetings with a member of AA is not a good way to learn. Interviewing is a scientific process. I doubt that very many members submitted to interviews. I have been an AA member for 24 years and have attended several thousand meetings and I don't know "so much".

[quote="CopticChristian, post:19, topic:288205"]

I too often saw Protestants ignore this and use their turn to share and preach. Most of the inculcation into some sort of Church function came after the meetings.

[/quote]

After attending 1000's of meeting across the country and abroad, I have only experienced a handful where someone did anything like preaching. Perhaps your experience was unique to the groups you attended?

[quote="CopticChristian, post:19, topic:288205"]

You know about 13th stepping and the meetings that men go to in order to seek out the women that are at their weakest. How often I heard poor, dysfunctional women talking about some man that they had taken up with and how that man had been such a model of recovery living together only to see both of them go down the tubes. I saw men sponsoring women and you know that is not ethical.

[/quote]

The term 13th step refers to a disdained practice that is considered against the program's teaching. Men sponsoring women and vice-verse is also against the program teaching. It is nearly unheard of except in the case of homosexuals. I wonder where you attended meetings???

[quote="CopticChristian, post:19, topic:288205"]

I muse at the notion of anonymous. Everyone talks about everyone else and you never know who you are talking to and what level of respect they have for what you say. I often heard backbiting, gossiping and story telling. I would say...he/she is a nice person and hear "oh you don't know they drink on the job, and they killed someone, and they beat so and so and on and on..." garbage.

[/quote]

The "notion of anonymous" refers to knowing a member's last name, workplace, or other personal facts. Anonymity is at each member's own discretion. Anything that a member reveals about himself is known by the group. Gossip is discouraged in the AA literature. People gossip. AA members are people.

[quote="CopticChristian, post:19, topic:288205"]

I often thought to myself that in order to accept this "program" hook line and sinker then you have to teach it. If you find anything in it that you doubt then how can you teach it and for me all the weaknesses and difficulties I discovered were tantamount to no wonder people fail...too often people make it to the 12th step and then trying to explain it and teach it, there is not much belief in what is taught...

[/quote]

If a person fails to make it to the 12th step, he is drinking. People who are drinking are not teaching. Teaching in AA is sharing what is in the literature and personal experiences, strength, and hope.

[quote="CopticChristian, post:19, topic:288205"]

If you accept AA and the disease model, then the person that attends AA is sick, the spouse goes to Alanon because even if they don't drink they are just as sick...and the kids have to go to Alateen because they are sick. The only way this program works is if everyone in the family accepts the paradigm and does the 12 steps and if you see anyone doing that, then you have seen a miracle. Too often someone sends someone to the program to get fixed and the family just does whatever...sometimes the spouse goes to Alanon. I found Alanon to be more cordial and more of a social meeting that was less AA and more getting together and talking with less drama. Alanon was mostly attended by women.

[/quote]

There are groups for family members of alcoholics. Attendance is not required. Many times families are dysfunctional. The family members do not have a disease. They often need help too.

[quote="CopticChristian, post:19, topic:288205"]

Conversations in AA are one way...up...you call your Sponsor and then you engage in a pecking order until you get a new "pigeon" that comes in to call you and then you move up...it is all whack....

[/quote]

AA members are encouraged to call their sponsors and/or any member of the program. Newcomers are advised to get phone numbers of many members.

I have personally known 100s of people who could not control their drinking until they joined AA. I think the number of members is around 2 million. Still, as with any successful organization, there are detractors.


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