Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America

The Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America was formed following the work of Father Mathew (Theobald Mathew) in the U.S.

Visited U.S.

Catholic Total Abstinence UnionFather Mathew came to the country in 1849. He spent  two and one-half years in the U.S. promoting temperance. During that time he traveled 37,000 miles. That included visiting 25 of the 30 states in the union. Fr. Mathew gave the temperance pledge in over 300 cities. More than 500,000 persons took the life-long pledge.

During his visit, Catholics formed many temperance groups. They arose  separately and independently. In 1871, Catholic temperance groups in Connecticut formed a state union. This led to a national convention in Baltimore the next year.

At that time the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America was formed. It consisted of 177 such groups. They were in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey, Also in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia. They represented a total of 26,481 members

The Union included the Priest’s Total Abstinence League. Also joining were women’s and juvenile groups.

Supporters formed state unions in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana. Also in Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Canadians formed provincial unions. The group was not the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of the United States. That was because Canadians had expressed a desire to join.

The Catholic Total Abstinence Union joined the Catholic International Society against Alcoholism. It also participated in the International Congresses against Alcohol. Published monthly was The C. T. A. U. Advocate.

Moral Suasion

The Society used moral suasion. But it did not oppose prohibition laws.

The grave stones of members are sometimes carry the Union’s abbreviation, CTAUOA.

Father Mathews  must have been very persuasive. Even charismatic. He was clearly very effective. His work in the U.S. was highly successful. It’s hard to imagine that he had any idea how very much he would accomplish.

Discover more at Knights of Father Mathew.


Bland, J. Hibernian Crusade. Washington: Catholic U. of Am Press, 1951.

The Catholic Encyclopedia. NY: Appleton, 1912.

Gibbs, J. History of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of America. Penn Printing, 1907.

How to Interpret Gravestone Abbreviations.