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Understanding and Counseling the Alcoholic by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr.

Howard J. Clinebell, Jr. Is Professor of Pastoral Counseling at the School of Theology at Claremont, California (1977). He is a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He is a licensed marriage, child and family counselor in the State of California. His personal website is, and his email address is This book is the Revised and Enlarged Edition published by Abingdon Press, Nashville, 10th Printing, 1990. Used by permission. This material ws prepared for Religion Online by Richard V. Kendall.

Chapter 7: The Ethical Problem in Alcoholism

Inebriety has been a simple moral problem to the layman for so long that the underlying problems are only now receiving attention from physicians. A Minneapolis newspaper recently printed a story about "John Bones" who was sentenced to the workhouse for the 107th time. The tone of the article was one of whimsical despair at the unalterable depravity of "Mr. Bones" who has willfully spent some 18 of the past 20 years as a guest of the city.

-- Charles C. Hewitt 12.

One question concerning alcoholism in which most religious leaders are keenly interested is this: ‘What is the ethical problem in alcoholism? It is obvious to them that alcoholism is not a simple moral problem, and yet they are aware of the fact that there must be ethical implications involved. It seems probable that failure on the part of many ministers to find adequate answers to this question is one important reason why organized religion has not made a larger contribution to the solution of the problem.

One of the leading Roman Catholic authorities in the field of alcoholism is John C. Ford, professor of moral and pastoral theology, Weston College, Weston, Massachusetts. 2. At the annual meeting of the National Council on Alcoholism on March 18, 1955, Father Ford made a statement that should be an axiom in the clergyman’s approach to alcoholics. He said, "One must never approach an alcoholic on the basis of what is usually called ‘morality.’" Anyone who has dealt in an insightful manner with even one alcoholic can vouch for the validity of this statement. From a practical standpoint, to moralize with an alcoholic is the ultimate in counseling futility.

However, it is essential that a minister be clear in his own mind as to what the ethical problems are in alcoholism. This is not simply an exercise in the theory of ethics, but has definite practical implications. For whether an individual is aware of it or not, his relationship with alcoholics will be influenced by what he believes in his heart concerning this basic question.

To the person concerned with the ethical dimension of living it is not satisfying simply to say that alcoholism is a sickness, implying that the ethical issue has thereby been eliminated. To him every personal and social problem is also an ethical problem. From the 146 questionnaires returned by the ministers who attended the first seven years of the Yale Summer School of Alcohol Studies, 3. it is apparent that there exists not only a considerable variety of opinion but also some confusion regarding the nature of the ethical problems in alcoholism. This is not surprising in the light of the fact that the answer involves one’s entire orientation concerning morality and human behavior in general.

Sin and Alcoholism

Does alcoholism involve sin and, if so, in what sense or senses? In what way is the sin involved related to the sickness involved? These are difficult questions to which there are no facile or complete answers. It is important to recognize at the outset that the word "sin" has been used in a variety of ways in the literature on ethics. Most of these uses or definitions have been applied to alcoholism. Here is an evaluative summary of some of the more frequent conceptions:

1. Alcoholism is a sin and not a sickness from start to finish. Only a very small minority of the Yale ministers (about ~ percent) held to this position. This was the view which we encountered previously in the study of the rescue mission. According to this conception, alcoholism begins as the sin of drinking and ends as a sinful habit. It is entirely a matter of immoral behavior. At no point can it be called a genuine sickness, except perhaps a "sin-sickness."

The inadequacy of this view will be obvious to anyone who is acquainted with the scientific evidence concerning alcoholism. Whatever the disagreement among different scientific schools of thought regarding the causes of -the problem, there is wide agreement that in its advanced stages alcoholism is both a psychological and a physiological disease. The "all-sin" view errs in oversimplifying the causation of alcoholism, ignoring the psychological, social, cultural, philosophical, and perhaps physiological factors which play significant roles in its etiology.

2. Alcoholism begins as a personal sin and ends as a sickness. This would seem from the questionnaires to be one of the most common views held by clergymen. Earlier we saw it as the predominant view of the Salvation Army approach. Briefly put, this is the view: Drinking alcohol is, per Se, a sin for a variety of reasons. One who drinks exposes himself to the danger of becoming an alcoholic. Once the drinking has passed a certain point and is out of volitional control, it becomes a sickness. Although the person is no longer responsible for drinking -- since he now drinks compulsively, i.e., beyond the control of his will -- he is responsible for having caught the compulsion or illness.

This view is more adequate than the first. It is more apt to result in effective therapy since it recognizes that in its advanced stages alcoholism is a sickness. This view, like the first, has the limitation of oversimplifying the causation of alcoholism, ignoring or de-emphasizing the complex array of factors discussed in the early chapters of this book. It is not within the scope of this book to attempt to adjudicate the disagreement among sincere Christians as to whether drinking per se is a sin. However, if one chooses to regard it as a sin, it is well to remember that even the early drinking of the alcoholic is part of a total behavioral pattern which is strongly influenced by his damaged personality as well as by cultural pressures. He is not a completely free agent. The alcoholic is a compulsive person even before he becomes a compulsive drinker. If personal sin implies personal freedom of choice, then the sin involved in the early stages of alcoholism is limited to the degree that the person’s freedom is limited. Here we are in the middle of the key problem of ethics -- responsibility -- which we shall discuss subsequently.

3. Alcoholism is a sickness which involves the sin of abuse. This view holds that it is the abuse and not the use of alcohol which constitutes the sin in alcoholism. This is the Roman Catholic point of view. The sin is the sin of excess involved in becoming and remaining an alcoholic. The Catholic Church recognizes that a neurotic compulsion is involved in at least some alcoholics’ behavior and holds that "culpability is reduced according to the strength" of their neuroses. 4.

This position, together with position 2, has the practical difficulty of making it necessary to establish a degree of responsibility or to find a line of demarcation beyond which a person is not responsible. In a concrete ease this is utterly impossible.

4. Alcoholism is a sickness which is caused by a combination of factors involving both sin and sickness. This is a fair statement of the view of those ministers who regard drinking as wrong but who also recognize the existence of various etiological factors which are beyond the control of the individual. From an entirely different standpoint, it also expresses the view of AA. As has been said, AA, although it takes no sides in the matter, does not regard drinking as morally wrong. It emphasizes its conviction that the alcoholic has an "allergy" to alcohol. It goes on, however, to express its belief that one is driven to drink by selfishness -- the word "sin" is not used -- and its symptoms. One is responsible for these factors which produce the "mental obsession" to drink, even though one is not responsible for having an atypical physical response to alcohol. We will evaluate this AA conception of responsibility subsequently in this chapter.

5. Alcoholism involves sin in the sense that it has destructive consequences. This is the first of three nonjudgmental conceptions of sin as applied to alcoholism. One of the Yale ministers wrote: "Alcoholism is a sin in that it hinders the person from abundant living and true happiness. It is not a sin insofar as morals are concerned." Another wrote: "It is a sin in the sense that it detracts from his relationship with God, his family, and his community." These are descriptions of the consequences of alcoholism rather than judgments as to the responsibility involved. If sin is defined as anything which harms personality, then alcoholism is most certainly a sin. If one accepts this definition of sin as a legitimate one, there can be no quarrel with the application.

6. Alcoholism is a social sin. One of the Yale ministers stated this point of view very well when he said: "Alcoholism is a sin only in the sense that it is a sin attributed to society, especially a Christian society -- that we have been unable to bring about a world free from the tensions and conflicts of the present day. I do not consider it a personal sin."

Another put it this way: "It may be a sin, but it is more a symptom or an evidence of a sinful condition in some parts of our society -- more sinful for Christian and civilized people to not only allow but promote the conditions that cause it."

Whatever one’s view of the personal responsibility involved on the part of the alcoholic, one can certainly accept the fact that "society greases the slope down which he slides." The chaos and psychological insecurity of our world, the confusion and conflict of values regarding drinking and drunkenness, the traumatic circumstances to which many children are subjected -- these are a part of the sickness of our society of which the sickness of alcoholism is one manifestation. In discussing the ethical aspects of alcoholism E. M. Jellinek said in effect at the Yale Summer School of 1949: "Alcoholism certainly is a moral problem. If six out of every hundred persons who went swimming at a certain beach contracted a disease that had all sorts of destructive effects, it would certainly be regarded as a question of public morals and safety." Society is involved in the causation of alcoholism; it therefore has a responsibility for its treatment and prevention.

7. Alcoholism involves original sin. In presenting this point of view I am not discussing the untenable position of biblical literalism which holds that man’s nature is corrupted by the sin of a generic ancestor, Adam. Instead I am attempting to describe the dynamic meaning which is implied in the conception of "original sin" (a meaning which has been reaffirmed by the findings of modern depth psychology), the only sense in which the conception is intelligible.

It is a fact of experience that, as someone has said, "Every man is born with a pack on his back." This is to say that each person must take into account the "given" in his own particular situation -- the hereditary and environmental factors, the historical situation into which he happens to have been born, the elements of powerful childhood conditioning which occurred before he was in a position to exercise power of choice, and the inherent limitations of his finitude which are involved in his existential or ultimate anxiety. Further, a realistic analysis of human experience leads one to the conclusion that all evil cannot be explained as the result of ignorance, as the Socratic tradition has claimed. There seems to be a certain recalcitrance at the very center of man’s nature which inhibits him in doing that which he knows to be good. This has been referred to, in traditional language, as the "bondage of the will." 5. Even in his best acts, man seems to have an inescapable self-centered-ness -- a condition which causes him to deify his institutions, the things he has made, and even himself. The alienation from God which results from this idolatry is at the very root of man’s aloneness and anxiety. By making himself the center of the universe, man cuts himself off from his own fulfillment -- a fulfillment which can take place only as he establishes a genuine relatedness to the rest of creation and to the Creator.

This tendency toward self-deification, which is close to the heart of the concept "original sin" as the term is used by many contemporary theologians, is quite evident in the alcoholic. The selfishness of the alcoholic is, as we have seen, to a large extent a symptom of inner conflict and insecurity; but his selfishness is also to some degree an expression of the egocentric nature of man. As we have seen in the discussion of the etiological factors in the introductory chapters, the alcoholic is an illuminating example of the influence of the "given" on human behavior. Whether or not one uses the term "original sin" -- and its usefulness has certainly been limited by the manner in which it has been employed by the literalists -- the facts of experience which men were trying to verbalize when they coined the term must be taken into account in understanding the alcoholic and his situation.

In deciding where one stands in the matter of the ethical problems involved in alcoholism, one may well combine several of the conceptions mentioned. An adequate view must certainly include recognition of the factors mentioned under sections ~, 6, and 7. The conception expressed in section 4 will undoubtedly prove satisfying to many ministers, though the difficulties involved should certainly be faced. At this point, the truth of the statement made earlier in this chapter -- that there is no facile or complete answer to the question -- should be apparent. The following discussion should make it more so.


The Problem of Responsibility

A more systematic examination of the problem of responsibility in the light of depth psychology as it is related to alcoholism is now in order. Before pushing ahead it is well to heed the reminder of David E. Roberts, who wrote in Psychotherapy and a Christian View of Man:

The concept of responsibility has been a source of endless difficulties in psychology, philosophy and theology. Any one who has pondered the problems of freedom and determinism will probably sympathize with the sentiment which prompted Milton to assign discussion of this topic to some little devils in Satan’s legions who liked to bandy it about during moments of relaxation -- without getting anywhere. 6.

Depth psychology has demonstrated that much of man’s behavior which had formerly been attributed to free will, inherent badness, or chance, is actually caused by unconscious forces over which one has no control. It does not follow that the personality is a sort of robot whose behavior is completely determined by external or internal forces. What is implied is that all behavior is caused -- that it does not simply happen by chance -- that the realm of the psyche is orderly and law-abiding. All behavior is caused and, equally important, the self is one of the causes, to a greater or lesser degree. The goal of spiritual or psychological health is the enhancement of self-determinism -- the growth in the capacity of a self to achieve responsibility for itself. To the extent that a person is driven by inner compulsions, he is not self-determining and therefore not able to be responsible. The relatively self-determining self is able to handle the factors in the "given" and mold them in a creative fashion. The compulsive person is the victim of the "given." He is driven and determined by it. In other words, there are many factors -- heredity, environment, historical circumstances, childhood conditioning, unconscious drives -- which impinge on the person as he makes a decision. The manner in which the self relates or arranges these factors is the creative element. The more compulsive a person is, the less creative he can be about the use of these factors and the more machinelike are his reactions.

There must be some degree of self-determination in any person who is not completely detached from reality, but in many persons it is greatly limited. The evidence we have concerning the early life and adjustment of alcoholics points, in many cases, to a serious limitation of their capacity for self-determination. Everything we know points to the appropriateness of a nonjudgmental attitude toward the alcoholic.

Christian theology has held that all men are sinners in the sense that they tend to abuse the degree of freedom which they possess. Alcoholics, of course, share in this attribute of humanity. The important thing to remember is this:

The factors that separate alcoholic-sinners from other sinners (that is, the factors which make alcoholics alcoholics) are factors over which there is little self-determination. Real understanding of the alcoholic and the etiology of his sickness leads one directly to the feeling expressed by the familiar words

used as a motto in AA, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I." This is not sentimentalism, but the essence of psychological insight and the basis for real Christian charity. When one reaches this point in his feeling toward alcoholics -- a point which involves considerable self-understanding -- he is no longer interested in trying to pin sin on the alcoholic. His only interest is in helping him grow in his capacity for self-determinism. He can now approach the alcoholic without condescension and is therefore in a position to help him.


Objections to the "Sickness" Conception of Alcoholism

One objection to the sickness conception of alcoholism is that it provides an excuse for the alcoholic and thus keeps him from feeling responsible for his sorry condition. This objection has its counterpart in the traditional Augustinian-Pelagian controversy. David E. Roberts wrote: "Pelagius was an earnest, practically minded moralist who was convinced that men could promote good ends if they tried hard enough; therefore, he sought to close off the ‘excuse’ that they are compelled to do evil by sinful predispositions." 7.

Instead of attempting to settle the matter on theoretical grounds, I would like to turn directly to the practical question: How does growth in the capacity for self-determination and responsibility occur? Psychotherapy and AA have given us our clearest answers. Psychotherapy has shown that one does not cure irresponsibility or egocentricity by a direct attack upon them, nor does one produce real self-determination by increasing the individual’s guilt-load. The assumption of traditional moralism is that by emphasizing the individual’s personal culpability one would make him more responsible and more moral. Psychotherapy has demonstrated the basic fallacy of this assumption. By increasing the guilt-load one makes the individual more driven by compulsion, less self-determining, and therefore less responsible. Direct attacks on irresponsibility and egocentricity only increase defensiveness and inaccessibility to help. The moralistic approach may change surface behavior through psychological pressures, so that it seems that the individual is behaving more "morally" because he may be more compliant to the ethical code of a particular subculture. But, if a real morality involves self-determination, the individual is actually behaving less morally rather than more so. His concern will be compliance to a code and not basic human values.

Psychotherapy has shown that growth in the capacity for self-determination comes as the person feels less guilty and more able to accept himself. When the individual begins to realize that many of the things about his life for which he has been blaming himself, consciously or subconsciously, are actually the result of early experiences over which he had no control, he becomes better able to accept responsibility for making constructive changes. By proceeding on the assumption that people are what they are to a large degree because of their basic character structure, a structure which was formed in the very early years of life, psychotherapy has been able to release many from the vicious cycle of guilt and compulsion which has made self-determination impossible. It is well to remember that this can happen in psychotherapy because the individual feels accepted by the therapist and can therefore lower his defenses and face the truth. Equally important the therapist can accept the person because he has resolved his own conflicts to a large degree and can accept himself. Here is a basic problem of all counseling, including the counseling of alcoholics.

AA teaches the same lesson with one important modification. Almost every alcoholic has a terrific guilt-load. The counselor whose orientation is moralistic overlooks this because the fact does not fit the moralistic formula that guilt is the means of producing moral responsibility. He overlooks it, too, because the alcoholic usually hides his real feelings behind a wall of indifference. This wall is his defense. A direct attack only increases his need to defend himself. AA, in contrast, immediately reduces the alcoholic’s guilt-load by providing him with two things: group acceptance and the sickness conception of alcoholism. It says, in effect, "You are not responsible for the fact that you have an allergy to alcohol." Then, within the web of meaningful interpersonal relations, AA proceeds to utilize the alcoholic’s growing capacity for self-acceptance and responsibility by saying in effect, "But you can become responsible for changing your personality pattern so that you won’t be driven to drink." Note that AA waits until the person is sober and feels accepted in the group before encouraging him to face up to the necessity of personality change. The timing is crucial.

We have seen that the Emmanuel approach, in contrast to AA, recognized that selfishness in adults is a symptom of childhood emotional deprivation and inner conflict, and saw the importance of unconscious motivation and childhood conditioning. Theoretically the Emmanuel approach was closer to depth psychology and superior to AA in its handling of responsibility. From a practical standpoint, however, AA has two advantages. First, in our culture with its tradition of voluntaristic moralism it is difficult for people to accept the idea that an individual is not personally responsible for having a neurosis and yet is responsible to society for getting help, i.e., for becoming more responsible. Second, in our present cultural setting the AA emphasis on a physical component in alcoholism is’ probably more effective than the concept of psychological causation in reducing the guilt-fear load and facilitating therapeutic change.

Another thing demonstrated by AA is the importance of waiting until the alcoholic is able to accept at least minimal responsibility for himself before attempting to help him. It also shows the importance of utilizing this minimal capacity for self-determination when it emerges. AA insists that the individual must be willing to be helped before AA can help him. An alcoholic is often literally unable to accept help until he reaches a certain point psychologically, his "bottom." He is incapable until then of accepting responsibility for accepting help. Any counselor will save himself a lot of frustration if he remembers this, rather than assuming that the alcoholic could accept help if he really wanted to. Once the minimal capacity for self-determination has emerged, it is crucial that it be utilized in the counseling process. Only as this capacity is respected and employed, will it grow. All this is not to suggest that one must simply sit and wait passively until the alcoholic goes through the agonizing process -- to all concerned -- of reaching bottom. In Chapter 9 we will discuss the matter of "elevating the bottom."

If it were true that emphasizing the sickness conception of alcoholism tends to deter the alcoholic from getting help because he now has an excuse for his trouble, a case could be made against the use of the conception. Actually, the opposite usually is true. So long as an alcoholic thinks of his trouble as primarily a matter of willpower and of morality, he will tend to go on struggling futilely to reform himself. This is what cultural patterns of thought have taught him to do. On the other hand, if he thinks of his trouble as primarily a sickness, he will tend to seek the help he must have if he is to recover. There are strong pressures in our society for sick people to get treatment.

Marty Mann has an answer to the objection that the sickness conception will provide an excuse to drink.

Some people have raised the question as to whether teaching an alcoholic that his drinking is an illness will not give him a heavy weapon to use against those who are trying to persuade him to stop that drinking; saying that he might then be able to shrug the whole thing off with some statement like "How can I help it -- it’s a disease, isn’t it?" or "You must let me do as I please -- I’m a sick man and I can’t help being like this." Actually, there are no known examples of this result of such teaching. Those who raise the question have forgotten that alcoholics, almost if not entirely without exception, spend their time trying to drink, "like other people," not to drink alcoholicly. They rarely want to drink the way they inevitably end up drinking. 8.

Another reason why it is difficult for some to accept the disease conception of alcoholism is because, unlike the physiological diseases to which it is often likened, alcoholism involves the search for pleasure. In some cases, the minister’s orientation causes him to feel, "I can accept the sickness conception of alcoholism only if I am convinced that the alcoholic, being a sick person, really experiences unmixed suffering." Giorgio Lolli, formerly medical director of the Yale Plan Clinic, discusses this problem incisively in his article entitled "On ‘Therapeutic’ Success in Alcoholism." 9. He points out that a psychotherapist who has this orientation is certain to have difficulty in working with alcoholics. Sooner or later he will be confronted by the disturbing realization that alcoholics experience pleasures during some phases of their drinking episode and that the search for pleasure is deeply involved in their addiction. To say this is not to deny the terrible psychological pain that is also involved. Lolli writes: "An even dim awareness of the pleasurable connotations of some phases of the drinking episode cannot fail to stir up anxieties in those therapists whose conscious and even more whose unconscious life is governed by the principle: ‘I shall help the sufferer and punish the celebrant.’ " 10. Although Lolli does not apply this principle specifically to the minister, it is obvious that it often does apply to him, perhaps to a greater degree than to those in other professions. The ministry often attracts persons who have had an above average dose of the pleasure-anxiety which is one of the dubious products of the tradition of puritanism in our culture. Pleasure-anxiety in the individual is that which makes him feel guilty and anxious when he is experiencing pleasure, especially physical pleasure. It is the feeling that pleasure for its own sake is self-indulgence and, therefore, wrong.

Lolli goes on to say:

The therapist who is unable to accept the pleasurable connotations of alcoholism will seldom be able to affect favorably those whom he should help. Lack of acceptance of this pleasurable connotation often leads the therapist to rejection of the alcoholic. This rejection is rationalized in a variety of ways, the most common of which is expressed in the statement, "The case is hopeless." 11.

Lolli points out that a physician who would be eager to help a tuberculous patient after his twentieth relapse often labels an alcoholic as hopeless after two or three minor relapses. He says that the label is more apt to be applied to those alcoholics in whose drinking the pleasurable aspect is least concealed, the so-called psychopaths, as compared with the manic-depressive alcoholics whose hangovers are characterized by overwhelming dejection and self-recrimination. The rejection implied in the label "hopeless" reactivates the alcoholic’s hostilities and anxieties, thus contributing to the continuation of his drinking.

This problem has more general connotations. As Freud pointed out, the pain-pleasure principle operates in all neuroses. In the case of difficulties such as alcoholism it is simply more obvious. If the presence of elements of self-gratification prevents a malady from being considered a true sickness, then all neuroses must be eliminated from the category of sickness. All neurotic "solutions" involve some satisfaction, however warped. Lolli writes: "A realistic understanding of the pleasurable connotations of addiction to alcohol will help the therapist to alleviate his own emotional problems relating to ‘pleasurable’ experiences in other human beings and thus make his work with the alcoholic more effective." 12. One can carry this a step further and say that if a minister resolves his own conflicts regarding pleasure, he will relate himself more constructively not only to alcoholics but to people in general. In a sense, constructive confrontation of the pleasurable aspect of the sickness of alcoholism can be a growth experience for the minister as a counselor. What is more, it may lead to a constructive revision of his thinking concerning man’s ethical problem as it comes to focus on the general relationship of sin and sickness.

It is interesting that most of the objections one hears to the sickness conception of alcoholism have been given very convincing answers by persons of moral conviction in the past. Around the middle of the nineteenth century a young physician named J. Edward Turner decided to devote his life to the treatment of inebriety. For sixteen years he worked indefatigably for the establishment of what came to be called the New York State Inebriate Asylum. Turner made over 70,000 calls on potential subscribers to the work and met with all the stock objections to the treatment of alcoholism as a disease. One farmer declared: "I cannot believe the disease theory of drunkenness. My Bible teaches that the drunkard is a criminal in the sight of God, and he is forever debarred from heaven." 13. A college professor refused his support on the grounds that: "The enterprise of building asylums for the drunkard would encourage drinking. The moderate drinker would imagine that if he became a drunkard he would go to an asylum and be cured, and hence the fear of becoming such would be entirely removed."

Henry Bellows, of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, along with many other clergymen, worked actively with Turner. At the laying of the cornerstone for the institution on September 24, 1858, Bellows made a statement upon which those who object to the treatment of alcoholism as a sickness could well ponder today, over one hundred years later:

I remark that it can never weaken the sense of moral responsibility, anywhere, privately or publicly, to acknowledge anything that is true; and that there is not the least reason to fear, that to make provision for the rescue of the miserable victims of an hereditary or abnormal appetite for drink will diminish in the least, in those conscious of the power and obligations of self-control, the disposition of the conscience to exercise them.

We might as well expect public schools for the indigent to weaken the standard of private education among the wealthy; or asylums for the deaf and blind, to make Possessors of perfect eyes and ears careless of their safety and indifferent to their preservation; or humanity towards the aged and the suffering to promote idleness and improvidence among the young and healthy . . . as to imagine that asylums for inebriates will promote and increase drunkenness.

As we have seen, the ethical problem in alcoholism is complex and difficult to define. Each person will have to arrive at his own working hypothesis, based on his thinking and feeling about the fundamental problem of freedom, determinism, and personal responsibility. It is hoped that by pursuing certain lines of thought such as those suggested in this chapter, some readers will come to see some new dimensions of the truth of the classic statement by ‘William James quoted earlier concerning alcohol: "Not through mere perversity do men run after it." Lolli, in an article entitled "The Addictive Drinker," gives a cogent statement of the problem as it appears at present to a scientist.

More is unknown than is known about the addictive drinker. What is already known breeds a more tolerant attitude toward him and favors a shift of attention

from his objectionable deeds to those unfortunate experiences that determined them. The moral issue is not denied but reinterpreted in the light of medical, psychiatric and sociological facts. This reinterpretation helps considerably in efforts to free the addict from his ties of alcohol. 14.

Such a statement could well be taken as a guide in one’s reinterpretation of the ethical problem in alcoholism.



1. "A Personality Study of Alcohol Addiction," QJSA, IV (December, 1943), 383.

2. Father Ford’s books on the subject include: Depth Psychology, Morality and Alcoholism (Weston, Mass.: West College Press, 1951) and What About Your Drinking? (New York: Paulist Press, 1961).

3. For a description of this study, see page 180.

4. For a discussion of the Catholic view of the moral responsibility involved in alcoholism see James H. Vanderveldt and R. P. Odenwald, Psychiatry and Catholicism (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1952), pp. 356-57.

5. A most illuminating discussion of the remarkable parallelism between the PaulineAugustinian conception of original sin and the psychoanalytic conception of neurosis is found in Chapter VII of David Roberts’ Psychotherapy and a Christian View of Man (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953), pp. 104-17, entitled "Bondage to Sin."

6. Ibid., p. 94.

7. Ibid., p. 95.

8. New Primer on Alcoholism, pp. 202-3. With respect to the statement that there are "no known examples" of the use of the sickness as a rationalization for one’s drinking, it is my experience that some alcoholics with character disorders (as contrasted with psychoneuroses) do use it this way.

9. QJSA, XIV (June, 1953), 238-46.

10. Ibid., p. 241.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid., p. 242.

13. These quotations, including the statement by Bellows at the cornerstone laying, are from a description of the work of Turner in an article by Francis W. McPeek, "The Role of Religious Bodies in the Treatment of Inebriety in the United States," Alcohol, Science and Society, pp.413-14.

14. QJSA, X (December, 1949), Nos. 3 and 4, 414.


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