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Sipe Reviewed
        Celibacy in Literature And Life
Review by Marianne McDonald, Ph.D., Member Royal Irish Academy

"An entertaining and vital book. What is particularly gratifying about this work is that it is even-handed, letting readers evaluate their own opinions and attitudes. Many religions have embraced celibacy, in addition to individuals who make personal choices. The issues surrounding celibacy are complex and Richard Sipe is never reductive. He poses problems in a fascinating way, and it is possible to read his book as avidly as the popular novels he describes. He writes engagingly in a prose that speaks to real people. This book is a must read for any person fascinated by what a religious commitment entails."

Sex, lies, secrecy and abuse
Review by Bill FrogameniI  May 5, 2006

Fr. Thomas Doyle, A.W. Richard Sipe and Patrick Wall have coauthored a book, Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000-Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse, that asks, "What did [the Catholic hierarchy] know, and when did they know it?" The answer, the authors emphatically proclaim, is "in a nutshell ... all about it and all along."

Perhaps of greater value is the book's explication of how canon law encourages -- and even requires -- church leaders to engage in secrecy so as to prevent scandal. If a bishop suspects a cleric has committed sexual abuse, for instance, canon law requires the bishop to conduct an investigation (or delegate the investigation) and then place the results into a secret archive. Those privy to such investigations swear secrecy and risk excommunication for violating that secrecy, note the authors.

Then there's the technique of 'mental reservation,' which, say the authors, is used by a person who is caught between an obligation to keep a secret and a duty to tell the truth. Furthermore, Catholic moral theology allows a person caught in such a dilemma to use misleading words to deceive another so long as a deliberate lie is not told. This is commonly employed in order to avoid a greater harm. Justification for mental reservation is built into the oath cardinals take to never reveal to anyone whatsoever has been confided in me to keep secret and the revelation of which could cause damage or dishonor to the Holy Church. This might go a long way toward explaining why church officials lie about scandal when, as the authors contend, honesty is the best policy.

Review by Sandi Dolbee, RELIGION & ETHICS EDITOR
The San Diego Union Tribune, May 4, 2006

Four years after the Catholic abuse scandal became part of the national conversation, a priest and two former priests have teamed up on a new book detailing what they say is a trail of violations and denial going back for centuries.

"Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes," (Doyle, Sipe & Wall) argues that the sexual abuse of minors has been denied and hidden by bishops and popes who have consistently acted in a conspiratorial manner to prevent instances of abuse from becoming publicly known, especially to law enforcement authorities.

It lays much of the cause on the church's celibacy policy, saying that leaders have stuck with the mandate despite a consistent pattern of non-celibate behavior by significant numbers of priests.

And the assessment is blunt:

Betrayal of trust, violation of the pastoral contract, soul murder, rape, sexual assault, character assassination, slander and financial mismanagement in the name of religion are some of the abuses that people are up in arms about. These issues will not go away, nor will they be rectified unless drastic attitudinal changes take place, primarily on the part of the church's leadership.


Sex, Priests & Secret Codes:
           The Catholic Church's 2000 year paper trail of sexual abuse

"The sexual abuse crisis is not isolated from the questions of the celibate practice of all Catholic clergy and the moral questions that involve marriage and all human sexual behaviors. These are the main, yet unspoken, reasons why sexual abuse has been such an inflammatory and dangerous issue for the hierarchy. One foundation of their power and control rests on the celibacy of the clergy. That area of religious ideal and personal practice has heretofore been shrouded in secrecy and taboo, certainly for the laity. That is no longer the situation. For the first time, certainly since the Protestant Reformation, the sexual life and adjustment of bishops and priests is open for discussion by lay people. This is the task of the new century: Clergy and lay people need to talk together about sexuality and how it affects them all." 

Celibacy in Crisis! A Secret World Revisited
Review from The Economist, January 17th 2004:
Celibacy - When the vow breaks - The consequences of the Roman Catholic Church�s policy

Celibacy in Crisis! A Secret World Revisited By A.W. Richard Sipe; Taylor-Routledge publisher; 320 pages; $24.95

CELIBACY is a very odd thing. Not only because it seems, at least from a secular, rational viewpoint, to mean giving up something that most people find natural and enjoyable; but also because of the Roman Catholic church, which publicly insists on it for most of its clergy, underpins it with such shaky theological foundations.

There are telling exceptions: married men may become priests of the Uniate churches of Eastern Europe, for example. The pope is head of their church too, and there are married quarters at the Vatican when they visit. Married Anglican clergy who feel abandoned by their church's rush to liberalism are also allowed to become Roman Catholic priests.

Richard Sipe is an authority on the subject and an influential critic of the church in America. His latest book is a timely and welcome look at the issue of celibacy, chiefly based on 1,500-plus anonymous interviews with priests and their sexual partners (in some cases victims). A former priest and a practicing therapist, he outlines lucidly the theoretical and practical difficulties created by the church's policy.

Those for whom curiosity is the natural reaction to celibacy will find some of the stories in the book gratifying. There are some dreadful stories to be told, and Mr. Sipe tells them. He is rightly cross with the way the church has handled the scandals that arise from broken vows of celibacy:  pregnant nuns, ill-treated housekeeper-concubines, altar boys used as catamites. The Archdiocese of Birmingham in England this week agreed to pay 333,000 ($614,800) to a former altar boy who was sexually abused by a priest.

Coping with human failings is hard enough in a church that allows priests to marry. When they are not supposed to have sex of any kind, with anyone, anywhere, ever, then any approach to sexual ethics will be clouded by shame and secrecy from the start. The results have been horrid: not only does the rule of celibacy look inhuman and impractical, but the church has also suffered deeper damage: an organization that preaches love and justice has been seen to practice neither.

But for all that, Mr. Sipe is sympathetic to the idea of celibacy as a way to holiness for those who feel comfortable with it. People who want to devote themselves wholly to the service of others may find that sex gets in the way. The real problem for the church, he argues, is not maintaining a mandatory policy that is widely and painfully ignored, but finding a new approach to sexuality that recognizes both human weakness and divine purpose.


             A Way of Loving, Living, and Serving
Review by Bernard Herring, CSSR:

"Recently, an American publishing house asked me to review a book by A.W. Richard Sipe, Celibacy: A Way of Loving, Living, and Serving  (Liguori/Triumph: Liguori, MO 1996).  The author is a happily married man and father, a laymen, a respected psychotherapist and theologian.

Layer by layer, he exposes the complex phenomenon of celibacy.  Above all, he shows from his rich therapeutic experience that there are accessible paths to maturity in celibacy.  Reading Sipe, one senses to what extent his love for truth and his love for human beings go hand in hand. His crucial point is: celibacy for the kingdom of heaven is a noble goal, and at the same time a process, a value that must always be realized more fully. It is a road, not a label or a static condition that one just adopts and that may later prove to be an inescapable trap. The author is a healer and religious caregiver through and through. He also knows how to encourage people to take the path of celibacy if they feel called to it. For me this book opens up a wholly different world and perspective from the one we see in the attempts to secure celibacy as a charism by laying on a thicker tangle of barbed wire."

Review by Kathleen Norris, Author of Cloister Walk

This book will be of use to anyone who wonders how and why the celibate system came into existence in the Roman Catholic Church, and why its serious malfunctioning has become a public issue in our time. Sipe helps us understand how the light cast on sexuality by advances in our grasp of human development has disrupted and rendered obsolete a system that functioned best in the dark of secrecy and denial. His book maintains a marvelous balance between a realistic (never gloating) examination of the system's failings, and compassion for both priest-abusers and victims of abuse. Most remarkably, his admiration for celibacy itself remains undiminished: he allows us to see that celibacy, as practiced by adults who have attained a mature sexual identity, has great value for our age. As a Christian, Sipe knows that the truth will set us free; it is only inauthentic priestly power that is threatened by the crisis of exposure, the challenge of reform.


A Secret World:
              Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy
Review by Joseph Gallagher, trans. editor: The Documents of Vatican II, author The Christian Under Pressure, was ordained for the Baltimore archdiocese in 1955.

Likely to become a classic, sure to be controversial and sensationalized, this is a pioneering, landmark study of the vow of celibacy as actually lived by a group of Roman Catholic priests. The U.S. sample was analyzed during the quarter century between 1960 and 1985-coincidentally, the era of a supposed sex revolution, and a lime of radical clerical questioning of church authority on sexual matters, thanks to the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. The author believes that the demoralizing effect of this anti-contraceptive document can scarcely be exaggerated.  Click here for the entire review on this book .......

Sins of the Innocents
Comments regarding Sipe's contributions to the book
From: Leslie M. Lothstein, Ph.D. ABPP
Director of Psychology
The Institute of Living, Hartford, CT.

This is a tour de force, Sipe at his best, attempting to provide a weltanschauung on the church and the need for sexual narrative and a reformation of sexual knowledge. He sees the church as being at a pre-copernican level of awareness of sexual issues. This will be the best chapter in the book. I could not stop reading his narrative. It is written in elegant prose, historically compelling, and insightful. I recommend that you open the book with this chapter. It should be the centerpiece of the book. I have no criticism of this chapter. I wish it were a book. I wanted to read more.