BY Ryan McDougall | April 26 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Catholic group promotes benefits of alcohol-free life

The chairperson of a Catholic abstinence organisation has said that excessive alcohol consumption is ‘even worse now’ than it was 100 years ago.

The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association (PTAA) is an international organisation of Catholics who don’t drink alcohol and, while they do not advocate for prohibition, they pray for those who have drink and drug-related problems.

Patsy Loney is the chairperson of the organisation’s Scottish regional council, which was founded over 50 years ago.

The wider body was created in 1898 in Ireland by Fr James Cullen SJ in response to a worrying growth in alcoholism among Irish Catholics.

The organisation also promotes social events that are not centred around alcohol consumption—something which they say is unusual in today’s society.



Following an annual PTAA retreat at St Patrick’s Church, Coatbridge, Mrs Loney said: “We’re not anti-drink in any way, but I think everything now is associated with alcohol. If you’re not taking a drink when you go out, people tend to look at you strangely.

“We pray for the excessive alcohol consumption that goes on today, and I think it’s worse now than it was before, even 120 years ago when the PTAA was founded.”


Underage drinking

The pioneers also aim to address the problem of underage drinking.

More common in Ireland, children are sometimes encouraged at their Confirmation to promise not to drink until they turn 18.

“I think nowadays younger people are drinking much earlier than before,” Mrs Loney said.

“At one time more young people abided by the laws—don’t get me wrong there were still underage drinkers, but I think nowadays [alcohol] is completely accessible for them and a lot of parents think it’s fine.”



The Scottish PTAA members take vows of abstinence when joining up.

Many of the lifelong members from as far as Greenock and Port Glasgow attended the retreat, which was led by Fr Eamonn Sweeney, spiritual director of the PTAA and parish priest at St Patrick’s.

Pioneer members wear a lapel pin featuring the Sacred Heart (above), which advertises the PTAA and informs others not to offer them alcohol.

During Lent, they offer Catholics the opportunity to make a temporary vow to steer clear of alcohol.


Short-term pledges

Mrs Loney said: “Some people start off by doing the short-term pledge, but if they want they can go on and do it for life.

“As I say, we’re not an anti-alcohol organisation, we just pray for excessive drinkers and alcoholics, as it’s a problem that’s an illness and affects everybody, and there’s a stigma attached to it.”

For more information on the PTAA, visit


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