A question about priests and alchoholism

Watching the latest travails of the Catholic church over pedophilia, I was thinking that they needed to realize long ago that what they were facing was very similar to an addiction, and you don’t put temptation in front of addicts (i.e. once someone has molested a child, you may forgive them and even let them remain a priest, but you should obviously move them to a position where they will never have the authority or temptation over young victims simply as a matter of caution). However, this brought up an issue I had never considered before when I thought about priests and addictions. How does an alcoholic Catholic priest, and even parishioners accept communion with wine? The common wisdom is that if you are an alcoholic you never take even a sip of booze, the slippery slope being lubricated with alcohol. How do Catholics, particularly priests deal with this contradiction of doctrine and practicality?

Thanks for any insight,

First, Catholics never had any problem with alchohol or boozing: the more bioth the better! :smiley:

Second, Communion wine isn’t really good stuff. It’s got very little alchohol content and tastes pretty sour. In fact, it’s kinda like bad grape juice, not wine. I mean, it’s basically just cheap stuff.

I’ve known a few recovering alcoholics who do take communion with actual wine. They say it’s different for them because they take the communion very seriously and as such say a symbolic sip of the ‘blood’ doesn’t trigger their disease for them.

I can see this working: I just had a surgical procedure where I was given a POWERFUL opiate IV push. Opiates were my drug of choice, and it was very very hard to get over the obsession. But when this was given for a legitimate medical purpose to relieve pain, I found it didn’t stir up any cravings or euphoric recall; only relieved my pain and made me groggy. (I’m still being extra vigilant and beefing up my recovery program. And you won’t find me sipping communion wine, as it’s not in my theology).

And some denominations are more than willing to substitute grape juice for wine, and offer it to any who want that.

ETA: I wonder why so many people misspell alcohol. :confused:

Sorry, I’m revealing the prejudices of my youth, while I’m a contented Atheist, I was raised by Southern Baptists. Given the general impression around the church in my youth 'those Catholics" were boozing it up during church services (that was the mild version, there were strong hints of satanic rituals using blood, don’t you love religious culture?) I guess I assumed as an adult that at minimum it was your standard wine, not the weak stuff you describe. I do wonder though, is that what the Pope takes communion with? or does he get an actual good vintage?

They are drunk? :stuck_out_tongue:

It just occurred to me this would make a hilarious (and blasphemous of course) comedy skit. I see the Pope’s “Communion wine steward” agonizing over what vintage is appropriate for various occasions…

IIRC, the Roman Catholic doctrine is that there are two species (types) of host (Eucharist items): the blood (wine) and the body (bread–well, incredibly thin wafer). The communicant may take either one or both species during communion and that satisfies the obligation.

I was once an altar boy, many, many years ago. At one point in the mass, we would bring water and wine in separate bottles to the altar, and the priest would take them and pour them in the chalice. Each priest had his own “recipe,” though. If I remember correctly, some used both in even quantities, some used wine with no water, some used wine with just a drop of the water. So I suppose an alcoholic priest could opt to dilute the wine quite a bit. I think I am sure there would have to be some wine in the chalice, though.

At one early morning mass, we had a visiting priest, and I only served this one mass with him. After communion, the priest customarily drinks whatever wine is left. This priest startled me, however, by asking me (after the last parishioner had had communion, but before we returned to the altar) “Do you want to finish it?” or perhaps even “Would you finish it?” (not in a conspiratorial way, but more in a way that indicated he would prefer it if I drank it). I was only 12 years old or so, and at our church kids did not drink the communion wine at all back then, so I shook my head “no,” too dumbstruck to say anything. He kind of sighed, and drank the wine with resignation, as if he was taking one for the team.

I was old enough that we had learned a little about alcoholism in school, and afterwards as I thought about it I became afraid that maybe I had caused him a big problem by not drinking the wine for him. I never saw him again, though, so I really don’t know what the deal was. It was a 6:15 am mass, so maybe it was just too early for him (ha ha), or maybe he had to drive somewhere afterwards and he felt that even that small amount of alcohol might impair him. As I said, he was a visiting priest

This is important information if that is still current doctrine I suppose. You can’t dispose of it, it’s the blood of christ, which would mean that alcoholic priests would have to dilute the wine for the entire congregation and also be careful about making sure to prepare an amount designed not to leave any more left over than necessary.

Probably, your parish bought the really, really, really cheap stuff for communion wine, and after a single taste, this priest would rather someone else finish it up.

Mustum. There’s a name for everything

Communion wine is not THAT bad. It is just wine.

Alcoholic priests do use mustum during their treatment period, but then return to ordinary wine when they return to their duties.

They do generally dilute it pretty well. When celebrating Mass for a large congregation, they can separate the chalice from which they drink from the cups that will be used by the rest of the congregation. Following communion, the other Eucharistic ministers, (a deacon and/or lay persons who have been selected to administer communion), will consume the remaining cups without the priest being involved. The amount that he must drink is very tiny. If presiding over a mass for a smaller group with no Eucharistic ministers, dilution works pretty well, since each person’s sip is little more than a taste and if there is a bit of unexpected quantity at the end, the priest can simply ask the last communicant to finish the cup.

Add to that Qadgop’s observations, and you have a solution.

It varies from parish to parish, but most churches I’ve been to just have the host, not the wine. Or rather, the parishioners just get the host (The priest always has some wine). Seldom more than a swallow, though.

In my experience as an altar server of over 15 years, communion wine is both higher in alcohol (circ. 25% - I got to look at the bottle label while refilling the cruets) and sweeter. I was told that it’s so that it will last much longer after opening without going bad, like a regular wine would.

My roommate who almost converted to Catholicism (for a girl) was convinced that it was impossible to get drunk off of Communion wine, as long as you are using it for its intended purpose.

I understand this was a common belief, at least amongst the Catholics he knew.

Well…technically…she’s right, in that using it for intended purposes means consumning a very small quantity.

A common belief? I’ve never heard it. Of course, with tiny sips can’t get you drunk, which is the intended purpose.

The wine must be consumed to the extent possible, but there’s nothing that says it has to be consumed by the priest specifically. In my parish, it’s usually the Eucharistic ministers that finish it off. I’m alcohol intolerant and can’t take it myself, so I leave my cup for one of the other Eucharistic ministers.

Easier said than done, though, since not all members of the congregation will take the cup, so you’re not always sure who the last communicant will be.

Episcopal deacon and member of RACA (Recovered Alcoholic Clergy Association of the Episcopal Church) checking in. linky:http://racapecusa.org/

In my denomination it’s estimated that 10% of the clergy are alcoholic; the number in recovery is, sadly, far less. Most Episcopal churches I know of use port wine (fortified wine) for communion. What’s not used during services is either drank afterwards, placed in the aumbry (reserved sacrament), or poured down the piscina–a sink with a drain pipe directly into the ground. (I call it the sink to nowhere.:cool:)

At the risk of opening a big can of worms: This common wisdom is a “belief” spread by AA. It is not necessarily a “fact” supported by scientific evidence.