By Donal Musgrave
A -DEMAND that priests should he trained to deal with the problem of alcoholism in a practical and constructive way and not just treat it as a
moral issue was made in London this week at the first public con ference on alcoholism
arranged by Catholics.
Despite the fact that Catholics constitute a high percentage of Britain's 500.000 alcoholics, it was stated at the conference that so far the Church had clone. nothing to help them. "Ihre emharrasses me every tune I realise it", said Fr. Anthony Cunningham. chaplain to I-1.M, prison at Wandsworth
"Now is the time for the Church to wake up to this fact and do something about it." said Er. Peter Jones. chaplain to Alcoholics Anonymous. He said that young priests in Ireland are being trained to deal with the problem in the light of modern medical knowledge and are "far more advanced" than those in Britain.
The meeting was arranged by the Catholic Prisoners' Aid Society to find out what part Catholics can play in rehabilitating alcoholics. Speakers included Mr. Griffith Edwards, • consultant psychiatrist at the Matidsley Hospital. Fr. Peter Jones, and Mr. Norman Ingram-Smith. who rims the only rehabilitation centre in London.
They called for urgent steps to ease the position of Britain's alcoholics. Among those steps proposed were (1) the setting lip of more rehabilitation centres. (2) educating public opinion to achieve a more informed and constructive attitude towards alcoholism. (3) a more informed attitude among prison officials. and (41 some form of Government action against alcoholic addiction along the lines of the anticigarette-smoking iampaign.
The dangers of setting up separate denominational centres were outlined by Mr. Griffith Edwards. Because alcoholism is a physical and psychological illness, he would he "profoundly disturbed" to see separate hospitals for alcoholics just because they had different faiths.
"It would he as had as having different sanitoriums for Jews and Catholics suffering from 'FR.". he said. But, since spiritual errors and physical diseases often go hand in hand. tic called for more co-operation between priests and doctors.
There was general agreement among the speakers that religions convictions can play a large part in curing alcoholism. But it was pointed out that no official Catholic chaplain has ever been appointed to the only two rehabilitation centres in the country. One of these. St. Luke's. in London, is financed by the Methodists, and the other is run by the Salvation Army at Swindon. Nearly half the occupants of both are Catholic.