|Spoils of the Kingdom: Clergy Misconduct and Social Exchange in Religious Life|
|by Anson Shupe The University of Illinois Press, 2006 Reviewed by A.W. Richard Sipe|
Rightly it can be taken for granted that communities of faith seek integrity. At the same time we have to admit that the history of religions is peppered with misconduct, malfeasance, crime, and corruption of its elite—its clergy and leaders.
The beginning of the 21st century is no exception. In fact, the sexual abuse crisis pounding the Roman Catholic Church provides for examination, a textbook for case studies of clergy misconduct. Although there is no monopoly on clergy misconduct in any one religion, the spotlight on Catholic clergy can serve all faith communities because of the extent of revealed abuse and the long history of alternating corruption and reform recorded in Roman Catholic documents (Doyle, Sipe, & Wall, 2004). The depth of the investigation into clergy malfeasance now in progress has not been equaled since the Protestant Reformation.
Every faith community already owes Anson Shupe a debt of gratitude for his analysis of their structure of conflict and reform in his classic book In the Name of All That's Holy: A Theory of Clergy Malfeasance (1995). There he distinguished the power structure of churches into hierarchical, that is episcopal, presbyterian, and congregational, that is those of more egalitarian make up. He analyzed how each of the three deal with clergy misconduct and what resources each has for correction and reform. Each possesses its particular advantages and limitations in its capacity for organizational response.
In this volume Shupe continues his service to religion and faith communities. Here he focuses on the function and culture of faith communities. In the process of asking the difficult strategic questions he performs a biopsy on the American body-religious and he diagnoses a cancer. All accurate diagnoses are gifts because understanding provides a possibility toward intervention, treatment, and healing.
The contribution of this book is significant both theoretically and practically. He poses questions that bring together resources from sociology, criminology, and religion into a mutually beneficial working relationship. As he says, "For too long criminology has ignored organized religion as a major source of white-collar and corporate crime, and in complementary fashion religion has shirked from examining its own underbelly." I can attest to the practical importance of Shupe's work from the vantage of an expert witness and consultant in more than 200 civil and criminal cases of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests.
Shupe's analysis is distinctly sociological. He challenges the reader to understand why and how such (criminal) behaviors are able to occur in religious organizations. Clerical elites, not only in the Catholic Church, consistently try to reduce problems to the "psychological motives of greedy, weak, or sick personalities. Clergy malfeasance occurs in a systematic, or structured, context and is not merely the result of s 'few bad apples in the barrel,' however discomforting that thought is to any religious apologists or believers."
Pregnant questions, even disquieting questions must necessarily be posed to understand the systemic character of religious groups. But crucial questions are often resisted and rejected, even when the stakes for restoring integrity to a faith community are monumental. Why do men and women of faith and integrity rally behind leaders and clergy who prove to be unquestionably guilty of misconduct or even crime? Why does the mass of a faith community remain silent even when it has awareness and even incontrovertible evidence of clergy misdeeds? Why do some communities ostracize the whistleblower? How do faith communities conspire to conceal malfeasance? Why do some faith communities fragment and others do not when the misdeeds of a religious leader come to light? These are the vital questions that Shupe boldly faces.
Clergy misconduct has always centered on three issues: power, money and sex. The first Christian church's synodal records from Elvira in 309 CE deal extensively with clergy malfeasance (Laeuchli, 1972). Power, sexuality and control over ecclesiastical property were of great concern to the synod fathers. This trend in the struggles to establish celibacy as a centerpiece of the Roman Catholic clerical elite (Le Don) has continued throughout the centuries.
These three areas of concern—power, money and sex—dominate canon laws and predominate as concerns in church councils. These are the main areas of concern and clergy malfeasance in the 21st as well as the 4th century.
In the first chapter of this book Shupe does not exaggerate the scope of the current crisis of clergy malfeasance in faith communities generally, and particularly in the Roman Catholic Church in America. Although the current concerns for integrity in faith communities are perennial, the media (including the Internet), victims' movements, Grand Jury reports, criminal and civil cases against ecclesiastical entities, and public outrage at the behaviors of bishops and other church elites are being spotlighted for careful examination, as never before. What are the dynamics of clergy misconduct and institutional complicity? Shupe's analysis and insights into the dynamics of clergy malfeasance and his use of social science are crucial to understanding the current phenomena.
Roman Catholics form the largest Christian denomination in the United States (66 million). The clerics who rule it form a relatively small group. [In 2004, fewer than 43,000 priests and bishops—only 20,000 active diocesan priests; 9,000 are retired or inactive & 14,772 religious priests, i.e. those who belong to Orders such as Jesuits, Benedictines, Dominicans, etc.]
The Mormon Church and the Catholic Church are examples of religious systems at the top end of a hierarchical spectrum. The Catholic Church maintains a monarchical structure. The Pope in Rome ultimately controls the structure and religious discipline of the organization. He also appoints every bishop, but each bishop has autonomous control within his territory called a diocese. His ecclesiastical authority extends over Catholic priests, religious institutions, and lay people within his territory.
The clerical system of the Catholic Church is homosocial. Only celibate males can qualify for any ecclesiastical position of authority within the system. All priests and bishops are required to be celibate: that is not married and promised to "perfect and perpetual chastity." In practice this means no sexual activity of any kind with self or others. (Canon 277)
Shupe's second chapter is especially useful precisely because he does not overburden the reader with an exhaustive exploration of social exchange theory, but he does provide a workable primer. I find his approach useful for my work since he takes a "pragmatic epistemological triangulation of methods that appreciates Post-Modernist suspicions of much social science but does not throw the baby with the bath." He cites records of adjudicated legal cases. He presumes, as I have experienced, that court decisions and convictions, "reflect investigations and thoughtful deliberations of judges and juries." He gives weight to personal testimonies of victims that are frequently circumstantially corroborated. And thirdly he respects media investigations "that meet high evidentiary standards for legal purposes."
Celibacy is Le Don, (The Gift) the basic social exchange of the Catholic Church to its members. It is the core of the social exchange between the hierarchy/clergy and the members of the faith community that Shupe speaks about in the second chapter of this book. The assurance of the celibacy of Catholic clergy is exchanged for the trust, respect, belief, support, obedience, and allegiance of the faithful. They in turn receive comfort, forgiveness, and salvation. In the Protestant ministry the gift is "servantship." In the rabbinate the gift is scholarship and interpretation. Shupe deals with multiple examples of violation and betrayal of the exchange by clergy misconduct, All "involve power inequities, conflict, emotional-physical harm, and often crime."
The responsibility of the Catholic bishop to preserve his flock from violation is clear. He is responsible for the celibacy of his clergy. Because celibacy is essential for ordination and priesthood, a priest who is ordained or assigned to any parish or ministry in a diocese is by a bishop's sponsorship de facto certified sexually safe to the parishioners and the public.
There is no comparable system, religious or secular, whose hierarchical and homogeneous character is so closely bound with sex and power. Every priest is educated in a system that follows the same standardized required curriculum. Every priest is required to take the same doctrinal oath.
However, the violation of doctrine—heresy—is not the major betrayal concern of Catholics today. Sexual abuse of minors is. The Catholic Church's general knowledge of sexual abuse of minors by clergy is well established and documented. Multiple regulations were written and promulgated by the Vatican in 1662, 1714, 1890, 1922, 1962, & 2002. (Cf. Documents of the History of Clergy Sexual Abuse. Doyle, Sipe & Wall 2005) Awareness of the problem of priests' and bishops' sexual activity is not a recent phenomenon. The documents cited are consistent in their acknowledgement of clerics that have sex with minors and the existence and prevalence of other violations of celibacy. It is clear that abuse has been a perennial problem, not restricted to ancient history or of recent origin.
Clearly, sexual abuse by clergy has deep systemic roots. Understanding the sociology of clergy malfeasance is of critical importance for dealing with and solving this incessant religious juggernaut.
A great deal is known within the Catholic clerical system about the sexual activity of its clerics, but in the social tradition of all hierarchical structures, knowledge of misdeeds are kept shrouded in secrecy. When I completed a 25-year ethnographic study of Catholic clergy (1960-1985) I was confident that 6% of Catholic priests involved themselves sexually with minors. I published estimates of a range of non-celibate behaviors and celibate achievement in 1990 under the title, A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy (Brunner/Mazel).
The Catholic Church like other religious systems has produced and maintains a social construct that obviates external and civil oversight as much as possible. Shupe describes the essence of the construct when he says, "Power, authority, and public reputation, balanced by obedience, faith, and trust, are the sociological archetypes of clergy malfeasance. They form the organizational and emotional elements of the opportunity structures provided by religions." The structure is a double-edged sword—protective and at the same time an instrument of possible self-destruction. Bishops, priests, and lay Catholics are all subject to civil laws and authority in regard to sexual behavior. The ecclesiastical structure crumbles or at least trembles when external examination or exposure penetrates it.
The power of a Catholic bishop is extensive. When a Vatican official was asked in 1994 why they had not been more active in intervening in the abuse crisis in the US the reply was swift and clear: "Rome cannot understand why the bishops cannot control the press and the courts better!" Power is not limited to the control of other institutions. As Shupe points out "for believers in a given tradition religious authority is a part of social reality and represents a very real form of power—usually the more ecclesiastical (hierarchical) the group the more powerful." The concept of religious duress has substantiated this reality in multiple legal cases of clergy sexual abuse.
Bishops and religious superiors in the United States most commonly concealed the facts when they knew a priest abused a child or minor. This concealment (pattern and practice) extended to parishioners, other priests, and most certainly, law enforcement. This practice is demonstrable at least from 1946 onward. The practice of neglecting violations has also been firmly in place. This practice is not isolated or even created by American bishops, but has its origin and sponsorship from the Vatican that insists that "scandal" should be avoided at all costs. Documents from 1959 demonstrate that dioceses were employing secret procedures to deal with cases of sexual abuse.
As recently as May 20, 2002 a judge (P.Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J.) on the Roman Rota (highest Vatican court) wrote in a Vatican approved periodical that bishops should not report sexual violations to civil authorities lest the image and authority of the Church be compromised and victims harmed instead of being protected. Governor Frank Keating, appointed in 2002 by the US Bishops' Conference as chair of The National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People to investigate sexual abuse by Catholic bishops and priests, accused the hierarchy as behaving like La Cosa Nostra.
Equally demonstrable is the practice of transferring an offending priest from one parish to another, to another diocese or to a foreign country. Correspondence between bishops who exchanged offending priests, and other documents have made clear the acceptability and frequency of this practice among bishops. The awareness between bishops of transferring offending priests was so well accepted that it could be a matter for open communication between all bishops. A 1963 open letter from one bishop to all the American bishops asked if anyone was interested in giving ministerial employment to an offending priest (treated for abusing minors) who could not be reassigned in his own diocese.
Civil authorities, traditionally relatively indulgent toward the "foibles" of all clergy, became increasingly interested in the operation of the clerical system that denied knowledge of abuse by its members, when blatantly clear data proved the opposite. Lay people became outraged. Reports dated September 1952, from a primary source of treatment for offending clergy, the Servants of the Paraclete, stated "Many bishops believe men are never free from the approximate danger once they have begun [to abuse boys]." There are records from 1963 reminding bishops of the serious civil consequences of a priest's sexual behavior with minors, beyond any spiritual damages. This facility (Jemez Springs), founded in 1947 had, by the late 50's and early 60's a clearly defined "code" [#3] to identify priest sexual abusers.
Psychiatric hospitals were used as early as 1936 to deal with sexually offending priests. The alliance between religion and psychiatry was firmly established to treat deviant priests, especially for alcoholism and sexual problems.
Clerical malfeasance and its destructive consequences are not limited to individuals. Because victimization is a social and systemic reality it affects five communities of faith that Shupe considers: "the direct victims themselves, and their sympathizers/advocates; the perpetrators, and their elite protectors, and the larger community, consisting of both congregant-beievers and non believers."
Secrecy within the Catholic clerical system is the corner stone of the social construct of clerical celibacy. Celibacy is the capstone of clerical power. The power structure of the Catholic clerical elite has done all that it could to keep the abuse of minors and sexual activity by its members a secret outside the system. This does not mean that clerical sexuality is kept secret within the system.
Secrecy is an unwritten but clear code within the system of the clergy elite. This group often extends its prerogative of sacramental confessional confidentiality beyond law or reason to include any material it wishes to keep secret to preserve its image and at times for its convenience. A bishop responded, "I only lie when I have to" when chided by a priest for denying abuse that the bishop knew about. That modus operendi and justification for deception is common. This rationalization is often justified by the traditional moral doctrine of Mental Reservation. Literally this means that one does not have responsibility to tell the truth to one who does not have a right to it. The motivation to save the reputation of the church and the priesthood from scandal has been paramount since the Protestant Reformation. Caution about giving scandal is frequent in canon law (29 times). The dictum "not to give scandal" is impressed upon students in Catholic education as early as the first grade.
Cardinals, the men who elect a Pope and form his most powerful advisors, make a vow to the Pope to keep secret anything confided to them that if revealed would cause harm or dishonor to the church. ["I vow…not to reveal to anyone what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church"] That promise of secrecy forms a template within the clerical system to keep internal scandalous behavior under wraps, "for the good of the Church."
Despite that, highly placed Vatican and church officials have confirmed knowledge of sexual activity by priests. Cardinal Franjo Seper said in 1971, "I am not at all optimistic that celibacy is in fact being observed." Cardinal Jose Sanchez, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy said on TV, in 1993, when he was confronted with documents stating that between 45% and 50% of priests do not in fact practice celibacy, "I have no reason to doubt the validity of those figures."
Erving Goffman outlined the special system of communication in total institutions—prisons, monasteries and mental hospitals (Asylums, 1961). Until now the system of communication about sex within the Catholic clerical system remained unexplored. Few sociologists have recognized that the celibate clerical system is a circumscribed (total) institution. Communication within it is unique. A clear pattern of personal self-revelation even about sexual ideas, temptations, and behavior is advised and practiced within that clerical system. This is a power tool that keeps the clerical elite in control. Primary modes of self-disclosure are sacramental confession, manifestation of conscience, spiritual direction, counseling, and communication between a cleric and his bishop/superior and with other clerics.
Only material shared by a penitent in sacramental confession strictly binds a confessor to absolute secrecy. I contend that although the matter of confession is sacred, the knowledge shared there does enter into the "unconscious" awareness of the system and does have a profound effect on its moral function. The penitent is not bound to keep secret what he shared during the exchange. In fact, the penitent can even be instructed as part of his penance to "make restitution," that is to take certain actions to remedy or mend his offence.
Sexual violations by their nature are difficult to substantiate because the actions are most commonly executed without a third party observer. The means of determining the facts of an allegation or the truth of denial are usually derivative rather than direct. Priests who abuse frequently instruct or threaten their victims to keep silent. Those threats include warnings that the young person will go to hell, or that he, she or parents will be harmed if the abuse is not kept secret. Other means of insuring secrecy are by connecting the abuse directly with a religious ritual.
Victims of abuse and their families are the heroes of the currant drama playing out in America. They are the whistle blowers that have fought gargantuan odds within and outside the church to credibly accuse the clerical elite to account for its malfeasance—hypocrisy.
The Catholic Church considers any sexual activity of a priest or bishop sinful. The faithful consider it a scandal. It is not, however, the sinfulness of clergy sex that has brought Catholic clergy malfeasance to public attention, but the criminal activity of priests with minors.
Most of the sexual activity of priests and bishops is not contrary to the civil laws, namely, masturbation, cross gender dressing, viewing some pornographic materials, etc. and non-harassing consensual sexual activity with adult women and men who are free of any power differential or psychic vulnerability.
Bishops and priests are motivated to keep their own sexual activity secret, or try at least to restrict knowledge to as few confidants as possible. (I have found, however, that in some clerical circles common knowledge of their sex life is openly acknowledged and joked about.) The protective shroud of secrecy that shields them is threatened if they are too active in examining and exposing the behaviors of others, making reform from the inside difficult.
Additionally, a significant proportion of priests introduces candidates for the priesthood to sex. In my experience and studies 10% of priests report that they had some sexual contact with a priest or fellow seminarian in the course of their studies. This is a prominent fact in the histories of priests who abuse minors. This activity also forms a basis for a network of priests aware of each other's personal sexual proclivities, behaviors and past activity. This network forms a formal and informal tangle of control and blackmail. That very word has been used in correspondence between bishops and the Vatican. All of these avenues can and do provide pathways to the specific knowledge of a priest's sexual actions and proclivities. All the time even a general suspicion of sex within the clerical system is denied to the outside.
The "iron law of clergy elitism" that Shupe explicates in the third chapter is a brilliant paradigm of the operation of the Catholic hierarchical system where "political control of the many by the few" is realized and maintained.
Church authority and priests have been dedicated to preserve the image of the priesthood before the public and in the minds of the faithful since it is a fundamental source of power. That image is defined in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. "Bishops and priests being, as they are, God's interpreters and ambassadors, empowered in His name to teach mankind the divine law and the rules of conduct, and holding, as they do, His place on earth, it is evident that no nobler function than theirs can be imagined. Justly, therefore, are they called not only angels, but even gods, because of the fact that they exercise in our midst the power and prerogatives of the immortal God."
Betrayal by an authority that is believed to hold divine power is hardly able to be absorbed by the believer and is psychically overpowering to a developing youngster. The resultant loss of faith and attendant trauma can be and often is devastating in terms of inhibition and damage to all future relationships.
When personal sexual betrayal is coupled with institutional neglect, denial, attack, conspiracy to hide abuse, protection of the abuser, and self justification, immeasurable harm is inflicted on the victims, their families, the church community and society at large. That damage is almost irreparable.
In chapter four Shupe analyses the loss of authenticity and the strategies used to preserve clergy authority—normative, utilitarian and, coercive. Whatever the variants of adaptation in the social exchange between loyal or rebellious followers and clerical miscreants, "the authenticity of any religion, denomination, or local church is a gift from the lay believers to the faith community, not an inherent possession leaders or something given to community by them."
This is the commodity—authenticity—that the Catholic Church in America is in the dire danger of loosing. In a 2004 survey sponsored by the University of Notre Dame, sociologists Dean Hoge of Catholic University and James Davidson of Purdue University found that 85% of Catholics considered sexual abusive priests a major problem; 77% are troubled about bishops who have not done enough to stop the problem; and 62% thought that bishops are still covering up the abuse scandal.
Shupe accurately identifies the concept of reactance in relation to social exchange issues applicable to the crisis of the Catholic Church. Now exposed are: "how hierarchies and their religious authority protects their agents; how victims are initially devalued in favor of the institution and its agents; how various strategies and tactics are implemented to contain scandals of clergy malfeasance and revealed by moral entrepreneurial insiders and outsiders; how victims and their advocated mobilize to seek equity." The exposure to lay Catholics and the public of this wide spread and profound knowledge of sexual activity by Catholic priests within the clerical system has brought the Church to an epic sociological confrontation. It cannot continue with the social structure that has maintained it.
The revelation of clergy sexual abuse was the torch light that signaled to the inside—the Catholic community of faith—and the outside—the wider public audience—that the Church's authenticity is questionable. The hierarchical responses, predictable by Shupe's critique of social exchange and the clergy elite, fanned the flame by their denials. They fed the conflagration with the revelation of their complicity, conspiracy to deceive, and cover up of crime.
Religions lose their success (in sociological terms) when they lose their domination. That is their ability to "influence behavior, culture, and public policy in society." Shupe utilizes Rodney Stark's definition of domination that he equates with his own idea of authenticity: Both believe that two arenas of authenticity and legitimacy are incumbent on churches: the internal community, comprised of believers and supporters; and the external community of society at large. "Religious elites' successful influence in any one community does not ensure their groups' successful preservation of authenticity in the other. In the long run an authentic religious community must maintain some enduring balance with both."
The Catholic Church in America enjoyed a high degree of
"successful authenticity maintenance" from the 1930s to the
1980s. Internally, growth in membership, flourishing vocations
to the priesthood and religious life, growth of schools and
universities, and building programs were unparalleled.
Externally there was enough broad acceptance of Catholic
religion to entrust a Roman Catholic, John F. Kennedy, with the
presidency of the United States for the first time. The movies
of the 30s, 40s and 50s glorified priests like Father Flanagan
of Boys' Town. The most popular actors of the time—the likes of
Spencer Tracy, Edward G. Robinson, Carl Mauldin, Bing Crosby and
All of internal and external image of authenticity that placed the Catholic Church on Tier 1 of Shupe's authenticity maintenance scale is gone. It is currently no longer dominant because knowledge of sexual activity once secret within the clerical system, has become progressively more public and undeniable. Le Don has been violated. The cap-stone of celibacy that once merited trust now receives derision.
Under overwhelming pressure to save some semblance of authenticity the US bishops' commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2002 to conduct a study of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. It released its report on February 27, 2004. The report states that 4,400 (4%) American priests over a 50-year period have been alleged abusers of minors and that between 3% and 6% of priests do abuse. The researchers believe that their figures of abuse are low because the activity is under-reported.
Current figures for the Boston Archdiocese, one of the best-studied areas, reveal that 7.6% of its priests had sexual contact with minors during that period of time. The diocese of New Hampshire records a rate of 8.2% abuse. Higher rates of sexual abuse are not reserved to one region of the country. The diocese of Tucson, Arizona had 25% of its active priests in 1986 as alleged abusers. Belleville, Illinois dismissed 10% of its priests for sexual misconduct already in 1996. Between 2002 and 2004 an additional 700 active US priests have been relieved of their ministerial duties because of alleged abuse of minors. Fewer than 200 offending priests have been incarcerated for their crimes, raising public indignation to an astronomical level.
The Catholic elite combined—via the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—established in June 2002 a National Review Board to report on the "Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States." The report was delivered and made public on February 27, 2004. The report was critical of church authority, its continuing denial, its impulse to avoid scandal, its defensiveness, and above all its secrecy.
The review board was specific: bishops, the church elite, failed repeatedly to report incidents of possible crime to civil authorities and discouraged victims and families from reporting them. The report came close to acknowledging the power/celibacy/secrecy triad of the clergy elite structure when it wrote: "priests either explicitly or implicitly threatened to reveal compromising information about a bishop if the bishop took steps against the [abusive] priest." (p.111) And finally the board pointed out the "overemphasis on secrecy" that guided the bishops to neglect adequate investigation and oversight of offences.
Although the board interviewed eighty-five individuals including sociologists Dean Hoge and Andrew Greeley before it wrote its report, the result it offers is superficial. It touches on crisis problems and organizational mistakes, but it leaves the structure of abuse firmly in place, untouched by the benefit of any real sociological analysis so available in Shupe's work.
There is no evidence that moral leadership from within the clerical elite has spearheaded any of the current reviews of clerical behaviors. In fact, overwhelming evidence exists about past and present church resistance and obstruction of legitimate investigation of illegal and destructive activity by clergy. The major reason for interference and this lack of leadership is the fear of further exposing the extent of secrecy and sexual activity within the clerical system.
Obstructionism prevails over and above the scandal of sexual abuse of minors. The twelve Grand juries empanelled so far to investigate Catholic clergy malfeasance and the reports published, clearly expose a pattern of neglecting proper investigation, supervision, discipline, and failure to report abusing priests to legitimate civil authority. Collusion to intimidate victims and conspiracy to conceal abuse is also prominent in the judgement of all four reports so far made public. Reports conclude that Church authorities themselves are not capable of dealing with the problem of sexual abuse of minors by their clergy.
The most recent maneuver to obstruct a solution to the sex abuse crisis was unveiled in Portland Oregon on July 12, 2004 when the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection. This action has monumental consequences—many of them unforeseen—for the Catholic Church in America. Other church elites have considered it and decided against it, but others are actively pursuing the same path. The stratagem goes far beyond local concern. The Office of the Justice Department in Washington D.C. is taking an active interest in the case. The Catholic Church can no longer slip beneath the radar of external scrutiny. The financial books of the church are likely to be as revealing of misdoing in the hands of an oversight bankruptcy judge as the sexual records have been in hands of grand juries and plaintiff's lawyers.
External oversight, self-reports, and mechanisms established by the bishops in their 2002 Dallas meeting to regulate abusing priests has impacted but not overturned institutional secrecy. Church authority generally maintains its reluctance to cooperate with legitimate civil authorities in their investigations of abuse and those ultimately responsible for abuse. Attorneys General and District Attorneys from several jurisdictions have given examples of this obstructive behavior. The clerical culture is still largely resistant to the degree of accountability and transparency needed to assure victims and society at large that they are safe from sexual abuse by priests.
The current standing of the Catholic Church in the midst of its still-unfolding crisis places it among groups on Tier 4 of Shupe's authenticity maintenance classification. That is my judgement not that of the author. Groups in this category are discredited in the eyes of virtually all audiences. Rodney Stark confines religions in this group to the "graveyard of American religious pluralism." It would be a mistake and a gross exaggeration to equate the Catholic Church in America with sects the likes of Heavens Gate. But the Catholic Church for all its history and wealth is in a situation similar to its predicament at the time of the Protestant Reformation. Then it died in half of the European continent.
The church's resurrection from that Petit Mort did revitalize itself and its mission. Its dominance, so prominent in prior centuries, was divided and shared not only with secular powers, but also with other religions as never before in its existence. It re-birthed itself with the solidification of its hierarchical structure and power on the foundation of secrecy and the consolidation of celibacy for its clergy elite. Its social exchange contract for lay obedience, faith, and trust was reestablished.
That contract is in the process of being irreparable shattered. This time period does not mark the end of the Catholic Church, but it does herald a new restructuring—a reformation. The coming reformation of the church will not be accomplished without the tools of social science.
The value of Anson Shupe's contribution to the understanding of clergy malfeasance far outstrips any current crisis in any one faith community. The elegance with which he interweaves understandings of sociology, criminology and religions is unequaled. His contribution is classic and fundamental. It will endure because it is also practical.