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"Catholic" ALPHA consist of the Evangelical ALPHA with two extra sessions tacked on. It has recently become very popular among Catholics who have been encouraged to attend courses by priests and even some bishops. This is a cause for concern and below is a summary of the more serious concerns.  Firstly, although it uses Catholic terminology, ALPHA is diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching.  From the beginning, this systems presents a different religion and a faulty interpretation of Holy Scripture, which inevitably results in an erroneous spiritual formation.

ALPHA makes the Church seem completely unnecessary.  ALPHA teaches that we have the Bible and that is all we need. But Catholic believe that "Scripture...is not the Church's sole point of reference. The supreme rule of Faith derives from the unity which the Spirit has created between Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church in a reciprocity which means that none of the three can survive without the others." Pope John Paul ll - Fides et Ratio (55).

ALPHA distorts and minimizes the importance and meaning of the Sacraments.  It reduces Baptism to merely "a mark of entry which  signifies cleansing from sin"; Penance becomes redundant by the "Sinner's Prayer" which seems to guarantee forgiveness without Confession or Absolution; the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament is categorically denied by saying "The bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ" and Holy Orders are dismissed, as there is only "the priesthood of all believers."

According to ALPHA church congregations should be small enough to socializing, which seems to be their primary object.  However, Catholics attend church to worship God by assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the more people present, the better.

The Holy Spirit is appropriated throughout with a presumption unacceptable to Catholics who hold with St Augustine of Hippo that only "in the measure you love the Church, in that measure you possess the Holy Spirit".  Obviously Sanctifying Grace, Our Blessed Lady, the Communion of Saints, the Papacy and many other essential Catholic beliefs will not fit into this system and as you are not allowed under the copyright laws to alter anything in ALPHA, so it is impossible to correct these errors.

In spite of all these errors ALPHA is enjoying great popularity, even among Catholics.  Part of the reason is that many Catholics under forty have not received sound instruction in the Faith, so they cannot see the errors.  Plus, the socializing appeals to people who are lonely.  The answer would be to run Catholic parish courses based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church using a book like Christ Church and Life (published by Gracewing).  There is not room here to go into ALPHA fully but if you would like more information about it please send four stamps to: 4 Fife Way, Great Bookham, KT23 3PH for a copy of an excellent article on ALPHA from the January 1999 edition of Christian Order.

If all this error, heresy and faithless folly depresses you, take heart. The part of the Western Church that embraces such folly is in meltdown, while that part of the Western Church that rejects such folly is growing so fast it is having difficulty physically coping with the expansion. A bright new dawn of faith is not too far away now.


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