The Social Problem of Clergy Deviance
During the past several years the mass media in the United States has been awash with reports of priestly pedophilia, ecclesiastical cover-up, and clerical intimidation or financial settlements intended to silence victims. Based on journalistic accounts, or scholarly research, it might be assumed that this is a recent phenomenon. Journalist reports began only within the past few years. Similarly, most sociologists of religion and particularly specialists in deviance and criminology did not reflect awareness of clerical misbehavior in their work. Despite this, Anson Shupe shows that clergy deviance, whether it is sexual or otherwise, is not merely a recent problem. It is as old as the church itself and is inevitably bound to recur due to the nature of religious groups.
This comprehensive analysis offers the first up-to-date analysis of sexual, economic, and authoritative clergy malfeasance across faiths and denominational authority structures. Drawing on examples taken from antiquity up until the present day, and using reports by historians, theologians, church spokespersons, therapists, social scientists, and journalists, Shupe critically evaluates clergy deviant behavior, dividing it into various types. He also makes use of the therapeutic literature, addressing victimization at the level of the individual, church, and community at large. In this way, he compares the response of the clergy to victims' attempts to mobilize movements calling for church reform. Perhaps most controversial, this book considers the possible relationship of homosexuality in the clergy to the occurrences of scandals in all religious traditions across the board.
As an overview of clergy misconduct, this book is singular. There is simply no other comprehensive serious examination of this subject. Written by a sociologist for a wide range of readers, its multi-disciplinary nature, vivid examples, and wealth of research, will make the volume of interest to sociologists of religion and crime, historians and theologians, as well as a general public.
“Violations of trust by clergy are especially disturbing, insofar as the clergy make special claims on the trust of the observant by invocation of a spiritual mandate. Sociologist Shupe (Indiana Univ.-Purdue Fort Wayne) has published extensively on clergy misconduct and related issues pertaining to religion over about two decades. In the present work, he quite exhaustively explores clergy malfeasance as a form of deviance and argues persuasively that such malfeasance is an enduring problem, despite the fact that it does not receive the media attention it attracted some years ago… [T]he overall theoretical framework applied here is quite persuasive. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.”
—D. O. Friedrichs, Choice
“We are all familiar with the best-publicized cases of clergy malfeasance, such as the various televangelists’ scandals. Shupe, however, shows us, through extensive research, just how widespread the problem is, and why it keeps occurring.”
—Timothy Miller, University of Kansas
“This is a significant contribution to understanding the fundamental dynamics of how religious institutions produce crime and criminal behavior under the guise of doing good. A terrific read for anyone who cares about religion.”
—Richard Sipe, author of A Secret World and Celibacy in Crisis