Return to index of reviews

Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes

The Catholic Church's 2,000-Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse

by Thomas P. Doyle, A.W.R. Sipe, Patrick J. Wall

Volt Press, Copyright 2006

388 pages, hardcover

Review by Jim Walker

Interestingly, a few visitors of have wondered why I include so many reports about priest child sex abusers in my news section. I thought that it would appear obvious, yet some people wonder if a priest had abused me in my  youth, or they believe I have a bias against the Catholic Church (I disown all church dogmas, not just the Catholic church).  Apparently they believe I lash out from a hidden anger or that I unfairly paint priests as abusers while not mentioning secular abusers, or that I simply hate Catholics. No, no, and no. Fortunately I have never had any problems with priests in my youth, sexually or otherwise. Nor did I question the authority of priesthood, or have issues with Christianity in general. My exit from Christianity came about slowly and peacefully in the same way that I lost my belief in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. My observation about the dangers of belief came much later.

No, I report about clergy sex abusers because it clearly (I thought) illustrates the very problems that stem from dogmatic beliefs. It shows that religious belief does not guarantee, nor even provide a means for moral living. If crème de la crème Christians, the very priests who supposedly have a direct link to God can commit such heinous immoral crimes upon humanity, then how in the world does anyone expect their congregations to fair any better? I submit that religion, not only does not produce morally superior people, but that it produces morally inferior people. As Steven Weinberg once said, "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes, lays bare the problems and the reasons why the clergy and the laity commits such contemptible child sex crimes. As its authors state, "In some ways, this book is a sad book." Sad indeed, not only for its subject but because its authors reveal their symphony for the "People of God" by imploring them to remain faithful to Christ's example. They apparently don't understand (or don't wish to reveal) that the problem of Church dogma stems from people who want to remain faithful to the virgin Christ's alleged lifestyle. Nor do they explain just exactly why one should remain faithful. I would have begged the God People to stay well away from Christ's example, but then I probably would have kept Christians from reading the book. Regardless of the authors odd incongruence of remaining faithful, this book does a good job of presenting the facts, and it doesn't dwell on religious sympathies.

This book shows that the problems of clergy sex abuse stems from deep systemic roots. In attempting to diminish the problems of priest abuse, Catholic Church propaganda tried to paint the problem as a recent phenomenon. The Church tried to blame the period during the sexually-free 1960s as the root cause for tempting priests away from their vows of celibacy. In other words, the liberals did it! Doyle, Sipe, and Wall, however, present historical evidence that shows that ever since the first century that the church began, and every century since, the problem of priest sexual abuse existed. From the Didache, the Council of Elvira, the Book of Gomorrah, and many more, up to the present century, Church writings reveal a concern for priest sexual abuse problems. Nor does priest sex abuse occur only in America; the crimes occur worldwide.

Of course we now know that celibacy (living like Christ) produces an unnatural state for human beings. As biological animals we evolved as sexual beings. To try to eliminate an innate desire in humans can only cause problems in the future. Throughout the history of Catholicism, Church dogma requires its priests to remain celibate and it has long condemned sex as a sin that everyone should avoid. This belief virtually guarantees a problem with sexual abuse.

This book reveals that 20-25% of the priests have serious psychiatric difficulties and the majority show emotional immaturity. Studies conclude that the psychosexual immaturity of priests manifested itself in heterosexual and homosexual activity. Moreover, these homosexual tendencies appear in greater percentage in priests than in the general population. The percentage of sexual abuse also appears in far greater in priests than in the general population.

Furthermore, the church leaders have purposely disguised the problems of priests. Ironically, the church officials knew full well that child sex abuse constitutes a major offense (which only heightens the fact that, not only does religion not produce good morals but that church dogma, in fact, creates moral problems). The crimes of priests appeared so offensive to them that they decided that the problem should remain a secret at all costs. At all costs. Add to this that so many priests practice "shameful" sex, that this further prevents them from taking action against other priests.

As the authors report, "Priests who abuse minors are part of a much larger group, an anonymous network of clergy who are aware of each other's sexual proclivities, behaviors, and activities and are capable of blackmailing each other." As I have often claimed, the Catholic church remains today the largest pedophile club in the world. And this exclusive club has existed for centuries!

In spite of the book's dry facts about clergy sex abuse, it offers plenty of research material and the factual nature about the problem. So if anyone wonders why I post reports about clergy abuse, read this book.

A few quotes from the book:

History shows that in practically every century since the church began, the problem of clerical abuse of minors was not just lurking in the shadows but so open at times that extraordinary means had to be taken to quell it. If there is anything new about the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy, it is that over the past fifty years a conspiracy of silence has covered it.

[I]n the immortal words of the Bard, celibacy in the Catholic Church has been honored if not more, at least as much "in the breach as the observance."

St. Imbrues (39-397 CE) considered sex part of a sinful world and a wound everyone must wear. Virginity was the goal of all believers in imitation of Christ who, Ambrose taught, had never been touched by physical desire. He linked women to sexual temptation that ultimately led to sin and death.

The equally influential St. Jerome (342-420 CE) taught that the body must be controlled and Christians must avoid sexual attraction. Even a husband who loves his wife too much, Jerome taught, is guilty of adultery.

Sex in marriage was permissible, even though he [St. Augustine] agreed with Jerome and Ambrose that chastity was preferable; the sexual organs and urges needed to be controlled and men needed to avoid sexual desire that was excited by women.

Catholic sexual teaching is complex. One of its roots can be traced back to the prevalence of Greek Stoic dualism, which regarded the flesh as evil and the spirit as good, and its influence on pre-Christian thought. Its leading spokesman was Seneca, a contemporary of Jesus and St. Paul.

These two attitudes toward human sexuality dominated Christian writing from the fifth century onward. Their approach to sex is based on two presumptions: the first, that sex is always bad and equals impurity; and the second, that sex is only justifiable for human reproduction and is evil when sought for other reasons, such as pleasure.

Contrary to misinformation from some sources, the obligation of celibacy entails complete abstention from any and all forms of sexual and romantic contact between clerics and people of either gender of any age. Celibacy also prohibits any form of autoerotism, including what have traditionally been referred to as "impure thoughts." According to canon law, celibate clerics cannot enter into an ecclesiastically valid marriage.

Half of the regulations, or canons, issued by the Council of Elvira dealt with sexual transgressions of various forms.

Sexual sins ranked with homicide and idolatry as the most serious offenses in early church law.

The word "homosexual" did not exist until the nineteenth century and consequently is not found in any canonical or theological literature.

In reference to life in the monasteries on the eve of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, Abbott says that the monks' "lapses' with women, handsome boys, and each other "became so commonplace that they could not be considered lapses but was of life for entire communities.

The cannon upholding celibacy was followed by one that extolled it as superior to marriage:

  If anyone says that the married state excels
the state of virginity or celibacy, and that it is
better and happier to be united in matromony
than to remain in virginity or celibacy, let him
be anathema.

The 1962 document is significant because it reflects the church's insistence on maintaining the highest degree of secrecy regarding the worst sexual crimes perpetrated by clerics.

The public exposure of clergy sexual abuse of youth that began in the mid-1980s was mistakenly believed by many to be a new phenomenon, which of course it was not.

Although some of these sex crimes are also criminal acts in secular society there is no requirement or recommendation to report accused clerics to civil authorities in any Vatican documents from the eighteenth century to the present.

Victims have been emotionally unable to disclose their abuse at the hands of clerics simply because of the church-instilled fear of divine retribution against them for saying anything negative about a priest.

Citing forty years of combined psychiatric practice treating about 1,500 priests, they concluded that 20-25 percent of North American priests had serious psychiatric difficulties and 60-70 percent suffered from emotional immaturity. They concluded that the psychosexual immaturity manifested itself in heterosexual and homosexual activity.

The following year, Kennedy and Heckler's study was published and their findings concurred with those of Baars and Terruwe, concluding that just 7 percent of American priests were psychologically and emotionally developed; 18 percent were psychologically and emotionally developing; 66 percent were underdeveloped; and 8 percent were maldeveloped.

He [Sipe] concluded that 6 percent of priests were sexually involved with minors, 20-25 percent with adult women, and 15 percent with adult men.

The Catholic Church has attempted to impose celibacy on its clerics since the fourth century. The church's own legal documents and authoritative pronouncements from then until the present clearly reveal a consistent pattern of non-celibate behavior by significant numbers of priests.

A 20 percent lifetime incidence of alcohol problems among Catholic clergy was projected in the 1960s.

A number of experts say that consequences of abuse by a Catholic priest are more dire than the results of incest.

In the past it was common to refer to priests who had sexually abused male children as homosexuals when in fact "pedophiles" would have been the more scientifically accurate term.

[I]t is most important to understand that the Catholic Church's governmental and judicial system is fundamentally different from that of a democratic society. The church's government is hierarchic with power descending from the top down, and vested in people assigned or appointed to various offices by superiors. Power is not obtained by election to an office by the laity. There are no checks and balances.

It is ironic that while church officials believed that child abuse by clerics is so offensive that it should be kept a secret at all costs, they often tried to excuse their failure to follow due process on the ground that they never realized how destructive a problem it is. Sexual abuse of children is a felony that is abhorred by society.

Sexual abuse was treated primarily as a moral problem that some form of spiritual conversion could take care of.

Although there have been hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse by priests brought to the attention of the church over the past decades, we do not know of a single instance of an allegation being pursued and satisfactorily settled using proper due process as described by canon law.

It remains a mystery why the histories of scores of abusing priests record promotions within the system after they have been reported for abusive behavior.

The reasons for bishops' and priests inaction may be that so many of them themselves are sexually active.

Four times as many Catholic priests and religious are involved with women they are involved with children, and nearly three times as many are involved with adult men.

Priests who abuse minors are part of a much larger group, an anonymous network of clergy who are aware of each other's sexual proclivities, behaviors, and activities and are capable of blackmailing each other.

The height to which these sexless men are elevated is above the angels.... And yet, bishops and priests are considered to be the experts on sexual behavior and morality. This image of authority and proficiency is reinforced in schools and from pulpits. Official pronouncements about martial relations, contraception, pre-martial sex, and sexual morality generally leave no doubt that the church holds itself as the final arbiter on all sexual values and behaviors.

The historical evidence dating from the fourth century demonstrates that mandatory celibacy has been consistently violated by Catholic clerics through sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

[A] study of homosexual priests conducted by a Catholic priest at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality found that of a sample of fifty gay Catholic priests ranging from 27 to 58 years of age, only two, or 4 percent, were abstaining from sex at that time.

Some knowledgeable observers, including authorities within the church, estimate that 40-50 percent of all Catholic priests have a homosexual orientation and that a majority of these are sexually active.

Some clinicians report that 90 percent of the sexual victims of priests are male; others put the percentage as closer to 70 percent. Whatever its exact size, it seems by all accounts that priests molest a lager percentage of minor boys that do abusers in the general population (Cf. Lothstein, ibid.).

It is now an undisputed fact that sexual abuse by priests is neither simply a current aberration nor a passing phenomenon: It has deep systemic roots.

[I]n several Catholic dioceses in the United States, more than 10 percent of priests have been sexually involved with minors.

They found that 25 percent of the religious faculty (Franciscan friars) had inappropriate sexual contact with minor students over a twenty-three-year period.

Between 8 and 10 percent of a Benedictine community in Minnesota were listed as alleged abusers by 2004.

Table of Contents

Part One

Sexual Abuse by Priests: History Speaks

Chapter 1. Clerical Sexual Abuse: The Paper Trail

Chapter 2. Sex, Sin, and Psychiatry

Part Two

The Church on Notice

Chapter 3. Canon Law, Civil Law, and Psychiatry Speak Out

Chapter 4. The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner

Part Three

The Church in Court

Chapter 5. The Perils of Courtroom Exposure

Chapter 6. How the Bishops Knew and When They Knew it

Chapter 7. Files, Secrecy, and Confidentiality: The Ongoing Debate

Chapter 8. Religious Duress: The Power of the Priesthood

Chapter 9. Who Owns Catholic Church Property? A Primer

Chapter 10. Ecclesiastical Shell Game


Lost and Found: Speaking to History

Chapter 11. Loss of Faith: In the Wake of Betrayal

Chapter 12. Healing Steps: Forgiving the Hierarchy

Chapter 13. Talking with the Bishops: Challenge for a New Century

Chronology of the Paper Trail-- 60 CE to 2004



Glossary of Terms

Bibliography of Selected Sources





To obtain this book, click below:

Sex, Priests and Secret Codes