Watters and Wine

Remember the Catholic Priest, Fr. Pete Watters, who was featured in the article about Toronto AA’s removing the agnostic groups from the roster (“Does Religion Belong at AA? Fight over ‘God’ Splits Toronto AA Groups“)? He was quoted in that article:

“People and agencies can help,” Watters says, “but the only one who can restore that person to permanent sobriety is God. But that’s the God of your understanding — that can be anything you want.”

How does a Catholic priest reconcile advising others to believe in whatever conception of God they want? Can God be whatever you want if you’re a Catholic? Do false gods work just as well in AA as Catholic God? According to his faith, isn’t Watters condemning people to both disease and damnation by encouraging them to pick any conception of God they want?

Is Watters really a Catholic?

The Toronto Star recently wrote an article commemorating Watters for his 50 years of sobriety in AA (“Priest Calls on His Own Demons to Help Others with Theirs“), and includes this detail:

And then, at 50, he felt a calling that rekindled youthful dreams of joining the priesthood that booze interrupted.

“So I went to the bishop and I asked him, ‘Are you taking any old men these days?’ The next thing I knew I was in the seminary,” he said.

He was ordained a few years later and even received dispensation from the Vatican to celebrate communion with grape juice, so he doesn’t have to sip sacramental wine, because “it’s pretty good stuff,” he laughed.

It seems that this priest has more faith in the tenets of AA than he does in Catholicism, though which the substance of the wine is transformed into the blood of Christ. Despite all appearances to the contrary, the truth — according to Catholic faith — is that the wine is no longer wine.  But it is for this priest.  It seems that he has more faith in AA’s disease model than he does in transubstantiation.

What’s his real religion?

Bonus Quote of the Day

An AA member responds to the Watters article:

I am writing to express my deep disappointment that the Star continues to provide a platform for this priest to dishonour the fellowship that helped save his life. AA is called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason — we have a long tradition of anonymity expected of our members at the level of press, radio and films.

This is not because we are ashamed of being alcoholics. It is to ensure our humility and to enforce the fact that no one person has the right to represent AA to the world at large. Glory and grandiosity are very dangerous for recovering alcoholics, who are egomaniacs at the best of times.

By continuing to publish this priest’s full name and photo while associating him with AA, you are hurting his sobriety. I am very sorry to see a second article of this nature in three months.

Andrea O, Strathroy


  • disclosure

    Just look at that picture! That priest looks like a piece of shit with eyes looking up at you as it lay on your lawn. I love the “come hither little boy” creepy feeling it gives me. It is obvious that religious belief in the AA division of the Catholic Church has the power to control the media.

    Welcome to religion, please check you instincts, human rights, time, and money at the door. Welcome to servitude fool, welcome to thought control and the world of irreproachable correctness.

  • Swamibedpan

    Welcome to religion, please check you instincts, human rights, time, and money at the door. Welcome to servitude fool, welcome to thought control and the world of irreproachable correctness.

    My bedpan told me to pass on that.

  • What is it with priests and AA? Are priests statistically more likely to end up in AA, or is it just that I’ve heard about a lot of priests in AA? I recall heariing of one in the Conyers, Ga monastery who was in AA and heard many AA’ers 5th steps.

    Then there’s John Bradshaw, self-help author and new-age star of PBS circa 1990, who talked on TV about studying for the priesthood while drinking and found “a 12-step recovery program for alcoholism” (unlike the Priest “Andrea O.” was bitching about, Bradshaw stuck to “the letter of the traditions on anonymity”, wink wink, nudge, nudge).

    But this guy, when he was saying “God can be anything you want” he was clearly speaking as an AA member, and more to the point, speaking TO prospective AA members. Certainly when he’s speaking in his role as a Catholic priest he says something else. That’s one of many things you learn in AA if you didn’t already know how to do it, how to say contradictory things in different situations, and always believe what you’re saying is correct.

  • Lucy

    You guys know that Father Pete is an AA circuit speaker, right? Along with Father Tom in the Bay Area and Father Joe in Nevada and Sister Bea in NOLA?

    AA is full of the Catholic clergy (and of the watered-down Catholic clergy who are Espicopalian, Lutheran and Anglican). When they speak at meetings, they like to offer to hear 9th steps.

  • sally

    The comment gave Father Pete an excuse to drink during his sacrament. And all other aa’s as well.

    Sigh. Hearing from a priest that god can be anything you choose is scary. Slippery slope.

    If aa was organized they could sue. Or do they love it?

    Does the bishop know?

  • AnnaZed

    I recall spending far too much time in AA meetings with a defrocked seminarian (who to my knowledge is still there) who delighted in recounting little shockers about how he had fired his first higher power™ and that since he could create any higher power™ that he wanted (actually I’m not entirely sure that even the Big Book says exactly that) that his current higher power™ was a smoking hot female God (not a real person he was at pains to over-explain) and that he stayed sober by keeping his nose “right between her legs” or “pressed right between her ass-checks with my tongue in her ass”… etc. His every share about his higher power™ was some sort of soft-porn sexual thing. He relished disconcerting and disturbing other people with this heretical and prurient nonsense.

    You can’t probably imagine how much I hated this guy, not only because this offensive twaddle was so obviously designed as a frat-boy attention getting antic but also because it really made the whole AA thing seem so completely absurd, which at the time I didn’t appreciate.

    I also used to loath being buttonholed outside of meetings by this antic lunatic and constantly challenged on my atheism. He wanted to have some sort of deep theological conversations with me, which I always deflected so he would just monologue at me. How (oh how in the world) was this offensive histrionic garbage somehow preferable to all of those around me in AA to my own well-reasoned atheism, how? It was though, this guy was very popular.

  • Reverend Pete Watters had the picture for this article taken June 3, 2011 at St. Andrew Church on 47 Reynolds St. Oakville, ON L6J 3J9. He is a Reverend in Residence at that site and proudly proclaims his allegiance to Alcoholics Anonymous on his biography on its website:

    “Professional Acivities
    Chaplain, Knights of Columbus, Marian Council, Internationally recognized and involved in “Alcoholic Anonymous”, Received Caring Canada Award from the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada on November 14, 2002. Councillor, Town of Oakville for 6 years. First Chairman of Halton Catholic District School Board.”

    http://www.standrewoakville.com/staff.html (click second tab for Reverend Watters Bio.)

    Because of this statement on the Church Website the comment by Andrea O, Strathroy is completely baseless (besides also breaking their own anonymity). Whne looking at the website for the Church, it can be surmised that Reverend Watters may be a hypocrite in stating “But that’s the God of your understanding — that can be anything you want.”. The Church website does not reflect this:

    “We welcome you to come and be part of our community of faith where the Word of God is proclaimed, where friendship is offered and the Sacraments are celebrated. ”

    “To be apostles of Jesus Christ. To celebrate the sacraments and proclaim the word of God. To give witness to our faith in our daily life. To share our talents in building a Catholic community of love. ”


    To be blunt, Reverend Pete Watters is practicing Sacrilege if he tells people they can use any God they want and should be defrocked as a result. The Second Commandment brought down by Moses from Mount Sinai explicitly says ” You shall have no other gods before me.” By stating this, Re.Watters is breaking the Second Commandment and doing it in a place of Worship that expressly forbids this and going against the stated wishes and goals of the congregation of St. Andrews in Oakville Ontario.

  • MA

    Anna, you need to write a book. Holy hell!

    My question to you is: How in the world could the same person who writes these well-reasoned, smart and logical comments here; be part of that loony palace for so long? It amazes me. I’m glad you’re out.

  • DeConstructor

    Lets not forget the most famous in AA circles, the late, lying Father Joseph Martin.

  • AnnaZed

    @MA ~ I wonder that myself sometimes. I think the answer is fear.

  • disclosure

    Don’t forget Father Terry of los angeles…
    Find him at Monday night white flag men’s stag.
    Pure evil.


    Bonus quote
    “Glory and grandiosity are very dangerous for recovering alcoholics, who are egomaniacs at the best of times.”
    The old broad brush application. Bill W writes about his personality, and by golly, alcoholics are thus branded. Rather vain of them.

  • causeandeffect

    Jeez AZ, almost lost my supper when I read that. How ever did you resist the urge to knee him in the nads?

  • causeandeffect

    FKABB, that and this
    “By continuing to publish this priest’s full name and photo while associating him with AA, you are hurting his sobriety.”

    Soooo glad my sobriety isn’t that fragile.

  • MikeAugustine

    Let me get this off my chest straight off. The guy looks like a prick. I’m a catholic by birth and he just so reminds me of the smug, magesterial bullshit that is the foundation of that demented institution. Instead of staying in the undeclared priesthood of AA old-timers though he decided he might as well get 3 squares and free healthcare while practicing the 12 steps à la catechismus catholicae ecclesiae. And I bet my left thumb that he also does AA-oriented retreats and gets paid rather well for them. But in AA-speak we call such things stipends, in keeping with the vow of poverty and double-speak.

  • sally

    Anna, are you fuckin kidding me? Sometimes I’m so embarrassed.

  • disclosure

    Religion has actually convinced people that there`s an invisible man — living in the sky — who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do..And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever `til the end of time! …But He loves you.
    George Carlin

  • Jonny Quest

    DeConstructor says: “Lets not forget the most famous in AA circles, the late, lying Father Joseph Martin.”

    Oh, yes, Father Martin. I live in the state where Father Martin’s Ashley’s is located, so every other Tom, Dick and Harry in AA has gone there, ESPECIALLY priests. Non-Stop Father Martin this, Father Martin that at some meetings, usually coupled with endless profanity.

  • Mr Tobytwirl

  • Mr Tobytwirl

  • disclosure- I went to a Woman’s retreat 2 years ago ( my first one) in Malibu and Father Terry was the leader. I was bored and not impressed. When he was asked about child hood abuse by a woman he answer was just down right stupid and I might has well been back in the 1960’s. It was then that my rose colored glasses were pealing off my face.

    monday night meeting…Im gonna dress as a man and go to that stagg. LOL sorry I cant.
    Sounds gross. Can you bring a recorder?

  • BB, I don’t know what it is with Catholic priests and AA. I vaguely remember my mother running some sort of campaign to have non-alcoholic wine in mass so that ‘alcoholic’ priests didn’t need to take the tiny little sip at the altar that would set off. It must have been endemic for her to have bothered. If anyone wants to watch a faithfully researched documentary about the Catholic Church, have a look at ‘Father Ted’ on youtube.

  • AllyB

    @FTG “It seems that this priest has more faith in the tenets of AA than he does in Catholicism, though which the substance of the wine is transformed into the blood of Christ. Despite all appearances to the contrary, the truth — according to Catholic faith — is that the wine is no longer wine. But it is for this priest. It seems that he has more faith in AA’s disease model than he does in transubstantiation.”

    Just because it’s really turned into blood doesn’t mean it’s non-alcoholic blood. It just means it’s the blood of a wasted Jesus with a high blood alcohol count. Probably Jesus at the Wedding at Cana. A drop of that blood will have your disease out of the parking lot where it was doing push-ups and into your body where it uses it’s impressive new biceps to be extra cunning, baffling and powerful inside you. If you turn grape juice into blood it’s clearly the blood of a sober baby Jesus and will keep your disease at it’s work-out.

  • flannigan

    Memo to Father Pete:
    The sacramental wine is not “pretty good stuff”. It is low grade trash that most self-respecting winos wouldn’t touch. And about that “god as you understand him, that can be anything you want” non-sense, God begs to differ. You are a credit to the Roman Catholic Church (not). There may be a special place waitng for you, I don’t know, but I’ll be sure to ask the “anything that I want god”. And you wonder why so many people leave the Catholic Church?

  • SoberPJ

    Well, let’s see. It’s a symbiotic parasitic relationship. AA trolls the gutters looking for drunks to bring into AA. The established churches then troll AA to bring people into the church. It is much nicer this way. Priestly recruiters don’t get dirty in the gutters and AA pays them rent. Sweet deal.

  • causeandeffect

    WSS, I LOVE FATHER TED!!! And Ab Fab

  • disclosure

    There is no reason to take a recorder to that meeting. The content is nonexistent. The meeting is comprised of 50 to 75 men sitting in a circle. All classes are represented; there are actors, political figures, wet brains and rocket scientists. Participants take turns sharing as they go around the circle. Here is a snippet; “I am so glad to have this meeting, this is the best meeting in the world, I love every one here and am grateful for this group”. My share was a bit different, it went like this; “This meeting is useless and has no substance, sitting around patting yourself on the back accomplishes nothing. I will never return to this meeting because it is counterproductive and lame”.

    If you want to go to a great Men’s stag try the 202 club on Tuesday night at 6pm. I remember a while back we had a participant charged with child pornography. We didn’t know it at the time, he told us he couldn’t discuss the nature of his case. One eve he shared that he had taken his girlfriends daughter to the park while she was off elsewhere. After his share someone cross-talked him and shared that he was insane to be alone with the young girl. They also said “Come on honey, show us on the dolly where the man touched you”. The meeting roared with laughter. A short while later he went off to prison and we could see on line what his charges were. This is a good men’s stag. Sometimes they chant fuck Bill Wilson or HATE, HATE, HATE, and fuck the big book. Occasionally a Pacific Grouper will come and be thoroughly disgusted. Unfortunately newcomerfucker never goes to that meeting, he wouldn’t last a minute. It is dark; you can easily dress like a man and sit in the back. If they discover you it will turn into a big laugh fest and you’ll get a chance to speak your piece on your way out. Please join us as we soil the road of happy destiny.

  • Agent Mango

    AllyB, great comment. I was raised Baptist and was taught the wine of Jesus’s time was not the same as the wine now, but more like grape juice. Which, of course, is completely ludicrious. Throw that into the discussion and see what happens. Maybe alcholic Catholics who sip grape juice instead of wine are the only truely saved ones. Maybe . . . oh, crap, I forgot where I was going with this. Either you believe in transubstantiation or you don’t, Father Watters. Oh, and according to every Catholic I know – and the Priest – there is only one God.

  • Yes, Father Martin – I heard him mentioned several times. He spoke at Peachford circa 1990 – it was a big deal, and I went “early” got there about 7:20 for the 8:00 meeting and they were turning people away at the entrance. I went to some other huge speaker meeting there, a granddaughter of Dr. Bob or someone like that. I was “on time” for that one, a meeting with about a thousand people.

    I saw a film of Father Martin talking on the steps, about how even though alcoholism isn’t a moral disease, alcoholics did things morally wrong and that’s why the 4th step is a moral inventory. He spoke as if he were speaking to the general public, not acknowledging his own “disease of alcoholism.”

    I bet he’s on Youtube, but I’ve seen enough…

    For an antidote to all this Catholicism, here’s Tom Lehrer singing “The Vatican Rag:”

  • Mr Tobytwirl

  • Mr Tobytwirl

    I once arranged for a Catholic preist to be my sponsor, but I chickened out of the arrangement. He weirded me out.

  • Mr Tobytwirl

    Received message OK. much appreciated. Will respond in kind. Sorry if that reads a bit gnomic, but it’s a confidentiality thang and walls have ears,

  • Mr Tobytwirl

    Re Father Ted
    Yes indeed. The episode “Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse” was particularly enlightening.

  • Lucy

    Oh, Decon. I had ALMOST forgotten about “Chalk Talks.”

  • causeandeffect

    Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse is my favorite

  • Mike O

    I read this and think of Father Martin, probably the most famous of the Catholic priest/AA spokesman model. Of course the Church will take “old men” as seminarians. They’re about ready to take anyone with a pulse at this point. The AA priest is an interesting creature (had one at my Catholic Church growing up) and AA and the Church do seem to have a symbiotic relationship with each other. The alcoholism and AA involvement gives the priest a rough hewn, worldly “realism” while the collar gives them the authority of a servant of God. Honestly, if I was a Catholic priest I’d probably have to drink regularly myself. What a bound, rigid, stifled life even the best of them lead.

  • There was a Father Ted where they tried to give up alcohol, cigarettes and rollerskating for Lent, and a nun came to stay with them and subjected them to whippings and cold baths etc. They eventually caught her scoffing loads of chocolate. I thought the whole episode had overtones of AA.

    Mike O, you are right about AA and the Catholic Church. There are loads of Catholics in AA. My oldtimer says that they are the same. Confession, etc.

  • Is the “Continuing the Discussion” area automatically generated when a site links to a post here? This site, theology of ministry dot something, looks like a spam site, linking to whatever articles on the web, perhaps based on keywords, to drive traffic back to it and the wireless microphone site that appears in (several?) hundred links in the “blogroll” section. I request this link be deleted.

  • You’re right, Ben. It’s bogus. I’m deleting.

  • victoria

    i am hoping to address my DISTRICT (speak up at your next business meeting) with a motion that does not attack nor defend…’ to fund an ad in the medias that publish or run mis represented articles, lacking in the exercising our traditions. The article will be meerly our pre amble ‘what is AA…’ its an action to maintain Public Information. Courage to change the thngs me can!!!

  • Swamibedpan


  • Sally

    Swami, I have the same question. No clue at what Victoria is talking about.

  • Swamibedpan

    @ Sally.
    Shall we try and guess?
    What is my DISTRICT? The area below her waist?
    i think she wants to post the preamble on this site because it doesn’t ‘exercise’ aa traditions and runs ‘misrepresented articles’.

  • Sue

    Also no clue. Sounds like she might be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Maybe thats why the post makes no sense.

  • Swamibedpan

    Its an action to maintain Public Information

    by misinforming the public.

  • Sally

    So much of a guru’s post come across that way I’ve noticed. Like the big book. A circle of biased, unprecedented information backed up by conjecture but stated as fact. I never know what the hell they are talking about.

  • Sally

    The courage to change the things we can….But they say they can’t change anything because of their traditions. What the heck do they need courage for then?

  • Swamibedpan

    Yeah thats right. Powerless over people places and things. So what do they need courage for in order to change? Whats left?

  • AnnaZed

    It is extremely rare for me to accuse posters to an AA critical site of being drunk because … well, … because it’s rude, but I think it’s just possible that victoria was hitting the vanilla extract a bit hard before posting.

    just sayin’

  • Disclosure- Very funny. I dont think I can pass as a man and go to a stagg but I would be willing to bring my flyers to a mixed meeting as part of my our research grassroots work.
    let me know you have my email.

    Victoria- I think you have had enough pro AA puff pieces in the news lately. Both in the New York Times & The LA times google AA Puff Piece in the LA times.

    AA already has such a positive public view…hey maybe you can help promote alternatives to AA. Being that some 20 million need help only 1,2 mil are in AA in the US so most of the population hates AA or feels it doesn’t work for the, Imagine how silly that is …thinking faithhealing nonsense helps addiction in 2011.

  • SoberPJ

    Swami .. good point … if I’m powerless, do I need the courage to be a dishrag of a human being? Gawd, please help me to be the ultimate doormat. To be the most powerless person I can be. By being totally powerless, I can somehow simultaneously be of maximum service to gawd and man. It’s another one of those meaningless paradoxes that makes AA so special to members. They can sit around all day and get wrapped up in mental pretzels, but hey, keeps em sober. Uh huh….

  • Sober pj I agree. I hate the fucking powerless thing so much! It keeps people with long term sobriety super low self esteem. It is a complete power tripping part of AA. It’s bullshit.

  • Sue

    I had never watched the film. I just did and its really very good.

  • there is a great comment there by godless weasel, too. i like her…

  • so weird, parta my comment got cut off. i was just ranting about aa and father martin, so i prolly do not need to rethink/rewrite.

  • flannigan

    Fr. Martin missed his calling as a comedian. Thanks be to God.

  • the dude is almost embarrassingly unfunny. the old guy in the back of the room, really? come. on.

    I loved listening to this. Not sure if you guys are following Kenneth Anderson’s show at all. I think of him as Massive’s brother in radio show biz: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/harm-reduction/2011/07/08/religious-addiction–living-sober-sucks

  • “I want atheists to come out of the closet in America.” Quote from the guest on the show. ^ One thing he did not discuss is fanatical atheism, which I think can be an issue. It totally is, I think at least, for the bf. However, I am careful with this, as the religious right often points to historical figures, like Hitler, who were “evil atheists.” Hitler in truth, was not an atheist… I am getting sidetracked.

  • Sally

    Oh my serenity. Father Martin says (referring to Bill Wilson): “I heard that man speak once. And I heard Him (Bill W.) define what he meant by that (insanity)….He explained. I heard him. With his own lips”.

    To what pedestal is he putting Bill on?

  • Sally

    Notice how he says “PHYSICALLY sober”. We all know what he means by that, that you are using your own will or have taken your will back – from god.

  • victoria

    lol i just read all your comments.think i dialed a wrong number. So i went to your home page and read your purrpose. I agree with your postion. AAiss being misused by the addiction industry and couts.oh and now we are after care for psych patiences too. the 12 step program is not assosiated with treatment facilities they usse our steps but not our traditions nor do they support AA in anyway. Contrary to their teachings we encourage a lifestyle of free will. Independence through surrender. not punishment or force! Then you have priests promoting us??? What crap is that.i came to AA when i was willing to give it 12 monthsof my life… contempt after investigation. But instead i got content dispite lifes shitty situations. And i hardly need much since im free from the industry off addictive habits that milk the mass and feed the already over fed cats. Glad i found something newto suggest for those not keen on surrenderthing ..AA makes no claimof a monopoly on addiction …what ever works for whoever. ‘Gawd ‘ i like that..lol -good will to your mission

  • Swamibedpan

    Congratulations on your sobriety. well done. You did it yourself.
    I disagree with you on a few points. AA created the recovery industry and suppresses alternative approaches to substance misuse.
    AA does not encourage a lifestyle of free will, quite the contrary.
    AA says do the steps or die.
    AA says anyone guilty of personal disobedience to spiritual principles is signing their own death warrant. What spiritual principles? AAs’ spiritual principles. Thats a monopoly. It is AA or insanity, jail or death. Not many choices there.

  • Mr Tobytwirl

    I’m finding communication a bit difficult at the moment, i.e. I’m finding my email and youtube accounts compromised in various ingenious and annoying ways. It’s difficult to say where real interference ends and paranoia begins, but thanks anyway. Great poster!

  • Hunter

    This thread is lulz…the only thing funnier then an AA weirdo an a soap box is a bunch of crybaby anti-AA whiners.

  • Amy

    Why are you here ?????

  • George

    Oh get over yourselves and go help someone. You idiots are the ones gossiping in the church parking lot after the meeting.