Catholic Total Abstinence League of the Cross

Cardinal Henry Manning founded the Catholic Total Abstinence League of the Cross in 1873. Both clergy and laity were engaged in “holy warfare against intemperance.” Most people called the group the League of the Cross.

Membership in the League

    • Only Catholics could become members of the League.
    • Members had to live as good practicing Catholics after joining. Going to confession and communion at least once a month was expected.
    • Those who failed to be good practicing Catholics could not hold any office in the League

The Pledge

League of the Cross
Cardinal Henry Manning

“I promise to you, reverend father, and to the League of the Holy Cross, by the help of God’s grace, to abstain from all intoxicating drinks.” Usually added was “And I also promise to be faithful in the practice of my holy religion.”1

Time did not limit the pledge. The Constitution and Rules of the League stated that the pledge itself was not binding under sin. But breaking it would be a sin for those who knew that doing so “would thereby expose themselves to the danger of intemperance.”2

Indulgences Granted

    • All members gained a plenary indulgence the day they joined.
    • Members gained a plenary indulgence on the Feasts of St. Patrick, St. John the Baptist, and Our Lady of Mercy.
    • Those members who persuaded another to join the League gained an indulgence of 300 days.
    • Members who took communion monthly gained an indulgence of 300 days.


Many branches of the League created a League of the Cross Guild for children. They could join the Guild with parental approval. The Guild had meetings with special devotions.


The League of the Cross still existed in 1913.3 But by the mid-1920s it no longer existed.4


1  The League of the Cross. Its constitution and rules. The Tablet, May 24, 1890, p. 37.

2 Ibid.

3  Meehan, T. League of the Cross, In: Hebermann, C. (ed.) The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9.

4 League of the Cross. In: Cherrington, E. (ed.) The Standard Encyclopedia of the Drinking Problem, Vol. 4, 1928, p. 1524.