21 March 2023, The Tablet

Fr Ed Dowling SJ – the story of Bill W’s spiritual sponsor

A Tablet podcast

Fr Ed Dowling SJ – the story of Bill W’s spiritual sponsor

Bill Wilson was, with Dr Bob Smith, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. He wrote the Big Book and the Twelve Steps and Traditions, used by millions of recovering alcoholics to stay sober, one day at a time, and now adapted for use by many hundreds of self-help groups around the world. While AA is not allied to any sect, denomination or organisation, a belief in a ‘higher power’ is a core part of the programme. However the steps and Big Book are written in such a way that makes it clear that atheists and agnostics can happily remain as such while working the programme successfully. A key individual who helped Bill W while he worked with other recovering alcoholics to shape AA and the steps was Fr Ed Dowling, a Jesuit who had an active ministry to alcoholics and others living on the edges of society. Now the well-known writer and Catholic, Dawn Eden Goldstein, has written the first in-depth biography of this extraordinary priest. In this podcast, Ruth Gledhill, assistant editor of The Tablet, talks to Dawn about Fr Ed, why she wrote this book, and the wider impact of AA. 

Read Ruth Gledhill’s review in The Tablet of Dawn’s biography here.

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