MR RHYS-WILLIAMS rightly stated that alcoholism is very serious and increasing causing immense pastoral problems. The Church is not actively involved in setting up rehabilitation centres for alcoholics mainly because of the enormous cost; the church does not have that kind of money. Also. in the main the 'Church is still either not aware or concerned enough about the victims. Most people think of the skid-row type whenever the word alcoholic is mentioned; yet these only represent about 3 per cent of the total. The remainder come From every class with the professional and medical professions well represented. Catholics too figure prominently.
Mr Rhys-Williarns is wrong. however, when he says that the Church is doing nothing. The Westminster Advisory Centre on Alcoholism has been functioning since 1975.
It provides a counselling centre in Charing Cross (soon to be moved to Victoria); a halfway hostel for recovering female alcoholics in Streatham, the only one of its kind in the south of England, and considered important by the DHSS: and more recently we have opened an additional Counselling Centre in Purley. made possible thanks to the help of the Archdiocese of Southwark, We are also seeking to set up a similar operation in the Kingston area.
In the present economic climate there is virtually no hope of obtaining grants From statutory bodies or from the Church; we struggle on as best we can.
We need financial help of course, but it is just as important for volunteers to come forward, for office work, to train as counsellors, or better still trained counsellors. The Church must be seen to care.
D. Thill Burrow Hills Whitley Godalming Surrey MR .1, C. HEARN. Feb 6, may be partly right in what he said regarding the Church and alcoholism. but he would appear not to understand my main reason for writing at all.
Alcoholism ie more than a social problem it is an illness or disease, and must not be confused with drunkenness or heavy sociel drinking.
Alcoholism is an illness with a number of facets, one of which is spiritual. It is therefore also an illness with many pastoral problems, and it would be quite remiss of the Church to forget this. or for the clergy to Forget that they have an important role to perform for the alcoholic and his illness, arid for his wife and family.
I emphasise with much concern because, by some odd coineidencie the majority of alcoholics with whom I have dealings are Catholics.
There is no disgrace or moral weakness in having been born with a physiological characteristic which induces a disease called alcoholism.
Its victims are of all levels of intelligence. They arc found in all walks of life. and even among the clergy and the religious of the Church you will find alcoholics.
It is these people who can best attend to the pastoral problems, because they already understand exactly what I am trying to put to the Church regarding alcoholics.
From a medical point of view, alcoholism is one of the commonest pathological conditions or group of conditions requiring medical attention. It is also the root cause of the major proportion of social disorders. Wives and husbands of alcoholic partners suffer, marriages oaten break up and so far as children are concerned where either parent is an alcoholic the effects are obvious and shattering.
The gospel is both spiritual and social, and alcoholism must therefore also be a concern of the Church. But how often do you hear priests give sermons on alcoholism and associated problems'?
Once only did I hear a priest use this subject for his sermon during a Mass in Church. That priest is an alcoholic — a non-drinking alcoholic, and this he made quite clear before he started his sermon. He was loved all the more, and keenly listened to because of his sincerity and honesty. We all have much to learn from people like him.
Alcoholics have an urgent need of help with their pastoral problems, and yet they are also the most rejected section of our society. We are not only failing in our human responsibility, but also our Christian responsibility.
Pastoral care can be summed up in three words: justice, charity and hospitality. These are vital duties for all who claim to love Christ, and since all else must be subordinate to them, would it not also indicate that pastoral care of alcoholics is important — and more important than some of the duties undertaken either by the Church, or her clergy? Indeed, what would Christ himself say'?
B. D. Rhys-Williams London. SE I3