EVIL EXPOSED 'No one did more than Richard Sipe to expose the scandal of clerical sex abuse of minors.'
I WAS reading again about the work of a hero of mine who died a couple of years ago but whose research is back in the news.
Richard Sipe was a former Benedictine priest and psychotherapist who left the Order and the priesthood to marry a nun who was also a psychotherapist. However, he remained close to the Church until his death at the age of 85.
Richard Sipe and Fr Thomas Doyle were the two courageous scholars who helped expose the evil of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
Sipe was an expert psychotherapist and Doyle an expert in Canon Law. Between them they bravely defended innocent survivors against malicious abusers, some of whom were high-ranking clerics. They did it in the face of fierce opposition and they suffered for it.
Richard Sipe first became alarmed at the extent of the sex abuse crisis through his work as a psychotherapist.
He encountered abusive priests and their victims in his professional life.
Incredibly, it was during the 1960s that he first wrote to and advised American bishops on the extent of clerical sexual abuse but was dismissed as a crank. Incidentally he also wrote many books on celibacy and sexuality, concluding that only about half the priests in the United States of America practiced celibacy.
In the 1970s he wrote that approximately 6 per cent of clerics sexually abused children. At the end of his life he concluded that it was probably 9 per cent of priests who were abusers.
Richard Sipe was also the expert advisor to the Boston Globe team which exposed the scandal of abuse in the Boston archdiocese in the early 2000s.
He played a central role in the hit movie Spotlight, where his disembodied voice was played by Richard Jenkins.
He continued to advise journalists across the world on the inside, secretive workings of many Church leaders and, most of all, he explained how sex abusers were able to infiltrate the ministry of the Church. I thought I knew everything about clerical abuse but even I was shocked by his findings.
Fr Thomas Doyle and former Benedictine Richard Sipe worked closely and complimented each other's work. Both were condemned by the institutional Church but thankfully for the rest of the world, especially survivors, both persevered and in the course of time were shown to be right.
Sipe himself had a trusted relationship with hundreds of survivors.
He was an expert witness in courts but he was much more because he had a unique empathy with the survivors and he knew the machinations of the institutional Church from the inside.
It is fair to say that no one did more than Richard Sipe to expose the scandal of clerical sex abuse of minors. For almost 50 years he highlighted the need for change within the institutional Church. He was the first to recognise the systemic failure in the institutional Church which has neither been admitted nor corrected.
Most of all, he showed Christ-like compassion to survivors the world over. He was their voice when they were unable to speak. He was the one who inspired the rest of us to speak with honesty and integrity, no matter what the cost might be.
Towards the end of his life he almost despaired that reform within the institutional Church was possible, though he maintained a deep, spiritual connection to Catholicism.
He despaired of the institution but understood the salvific spirituality of Catholicism.
After reading his research again, I can safely say that no one did more to expose the scandal of clerical sex abuse than Richard Sipe. Survivors and their families owe much to him. Some day the Church will appreciate his stance for truth too.
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