Aquinas Walter Richard Sipe (born December 11, 1932, in Robbinsdale, MN), USA is a former Benedictine monk–priest of 18 years, a sociologist and author of six books about Catholicism and the sexual abuses arising from the Catholic Church‘s requirements of celibacy. He is an American Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor trained specifically to deal with the mental health problems of Roman Catholic priests. He practiced psychotherapy, “taught on the faculties of Major Catholic Seminaries and colleges, lectured in medical schools, and served as a consultant and expert witness in both civil and criminal cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests”. During his training and therapies, he conducted a 25-year ethnographic study published in 1990 about the sexual behavior of supposed celibates, in which he found more than half were involved in sexual relationships. In 1970, after leaving the priesthood, Sipe married a former nun, Marianne; they have one son together.
Sipe has been a witness in more than 57 lawsuits, testifying on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
Research on homosexuality
Abuse in Burlington diocese
In a May 2009 study, Sipe found that there were extensive problems in the sexual behavior of Burlington, Vermont Catholic clergy. He examined the records of 102 priests “whose records were available” between 1950 and 2002. He claimed that, out of this group, 23 priests were sexually involved with children under the age of 13 years, 15 were reported for involvement with married women and 19 priests who had sexual relationships with adult men. He asserted that 49 priests could be said to have had a homosexual orientation.
Sipe has participated in 12 documentaries on celibacy and priest sexual abuse aired by HBO, BBC, and other networks in the United States, United Kingdom, and France and he has been widely interviewed by media including CNN, ABC, NBC, CNBC, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, People magazine, Newsweek and USA Today.
In popular culture
Sipe’s research and his book Sex, Priests and Power are specifically referenced in the 2015 film Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy, as being crucial in the story of the Boston Globe‘s Pulitzer-Prize-winning 2002 investigation of predatory priests and the decades-long cover-up of the crimes of such priests by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. The 1995 book is shown onscreen in its bright-red-covered hardback edition when the investigative team meet their first victim, Phil Saviano, the founder of the New England chapter of SNAP. As a favor to director McCarthy, actor Richard Jenkins, who starred in McCarthy’s 2007 film The Visitor, performed uncredited as the voice of Sipe in three phone calls in Spotlight, each based on real-life conversations with Spotlight reporters. This includes one critical conference call which proves to be a turning point in the investigation: Sipe makes the metric calculation that 6 percent of priests are pedophiles, which is then verified by the investigative team’s subsequent research.
Richard Sipe was quoted (in part) as saying that “There are a pope or two who have resigned, several popes have been murdered but it’s a very stable organization from the top down. What other monarchy do you know that’s lasted for 2,000 years?”
“The most valuable development since 2000 has been the open exposure of the misbehavior of priests and religious. This has been one element that alerts not just Catholics but members of other religious groups to the potential sexual dangers posed by men and women in positions of power over young people. The church has contributed to the education about child abuse and the need for prevention of abuse and to provide education for protection for all children and the vulnerable. Unfortunately the efforts of the Catholic Church have been forced on them by the public outcry, victims’ testimony, and the legal system that calls bishops and religious superiors to account for their gross neglect, conspiracies to conceal crimes, and fraud to keep abuse secret. It is an ongoing fight to keep the church honest. Catholic laymen and women (Governor Frank Keating and Chief Justice Anne Burke) who have worked closely with church officials say that the bishops do not want to change, but only want “business as usual.” The encouraging thing is that people do not accept the word of bishops as true, necessary or important anymore. Over thirty percent of men and women brought up as Catholic no longer identify themselves as Catholic.”
Books by Sipe
- A Secret World: sexuality and the search for celibacy Routledge, 1990, ISBN 978-0876305850, 324 pages
- Sex, Priests, and Power: anatomy of a crisis Routledge Mental Health, 1995, ISBN 0-87630-769-1, 220 pages
- Celibacy: A Way of Loving, Living, and Serving Liguori Publications; 1st edition (May 1996), ISBN 978-0892438747, 197 pages
- Celibacy in Crisis: A Secret World Revisited. Brunner-Routledge, New York and Hove 2003, ISBN 978-0415944731, 368 pages
- Living the Celibate Life: A Search for Models and Meaning Liguori (November 2, 2004), ISBN 978-0764810985, 192 pages
- The Serpent and the Dove: celibacy in literature and life Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007, ISBN 0313347255, 262 pages.
- Abuse by Priests: Why? (Audio Cassette)
- About Richard
- Richard Sipe Reports
- Elias, Marilyn, “Is homosexuality to blame for church scandal?” from USA Today
- “Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation” from UC Davis
- Vermont: Profile of one diocese
- Richard Sipe, Greenwood.com
- Awards screener DVD, Spotlight, 2015
- “Director Tom McCarthy Puts ‘Spotlight’ on Sexually Predatory Catholic Priests”, Indiewire.com
- “Only God Can Fire Pope Benedict After Scandals”. abcnews.go.com. 2010-03-29.
- Richardsipe.com, interview.
- Seattleweekly.com, “Breach of faith”
- Seattleweekly.com, “A real charmer”
- Sex these days: essays on theology, sexuality and society by Jon Davies, Gerard Loughlin
- The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism by Mark D. Jordan