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Bad Pastors

Clergy Misconduct in Modern America

Anson Shupe, William Stacey, Susan Darnell

Publication Year: 2000

Child-molesting priests, embezzled church treasures, philandering ministers and rabbis, even church-endorsed pyramid schemes that defraud gullible parishioners of millions of dollars: for the past decade, clergy misconduct has seemed continually to be in the news.

Is there something about religious organizations that fosters such misbehavior? Bad Pastors presents a range of new perspectives and solidly grounded data on pastoral abuse, investigating sexual misconduct, financial improprieties, and political and personal abuse of authority. Rather than focusing on individuals who misbehave, the volume investigates whether the foundation for clergy malfeasance is inherent in religious organizations themselves, stemming from hierarchies of power in which trusted leaders have the ability to define reality, control behavior, and even offer or withhold the promise of immortality. Arguing that such phenomena arise out of organizational structures, the contributors do not focus on one particular religion, but rather treat these incidents from an interfaith perspective.

Bad Pastors moves beyond individual case studies to consider a broad range of issues surrounding clergy misconduct, from violence against women to the role of charisma and abuse of power in new religious movements. Highlighting similarities between other forms of abuse, such as domestic violence, the volume helps us to conceptualize and understand clergy misconduct in new ways.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. xi

We wish to thank several colleagues whose help was invaluable in the preparation of this volume: in Fort Wayne, Indiana—Shirley Champion, for monitoring, organizing, and reproducing various incarnations of the manuscript; in Portage, Indiana—Timothy Hall, for his assistance with the entry and coding of data on pedophiles...

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1. Introduction: Recognizing Clergy Malfeasance and Abrogation of Religious Authority

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pp. 1-9

We expect something special of priests, ministers, rabbis, and even gurus, not just for their wisdom but also for their good intentions toward us as congregants and believers. At the very least we expect to be able to trust our religious leaders more than we trust, say, our politicians, corporate executives, or home...

Part I: How Shall We Name It?

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2. Issues in Conceptualizing Clergy Malfeasance

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pp. 13-38

The issue of clergy malfeasance (i.e., abuse and exploitation of a religious body’s congregants by its trusted leaders) has been reported in dramatic journalistic accounts (e.g., Burkett and Bruni 1993; Berry 1992). Not until recently, however, has it drawn interest among sociologists (e.g., Shupe 1998a, 1995; Jenkins 1996). At the...

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3. Narratives of Sexual Danger: A Comparative Perspective on the Emergence of the Clergy Sexual Violation Scandal

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pp. 39-68

Just over a decade ago there was a sudden profusion of narratives recounting sexual violations by members of the clergy. There quickly followed a wave of media reports and social science analyses identifying a new social problem most often referred to as “clergy abuse” or “clergy malfeasance.” While clergy malfeasance refers to a range of...

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4. Has the Silence Been Shattered or Does a Holy Hush Still Prevail? Defining Violence against Women within Christian Churches

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pp. 69-89

For the past twenty-five years, the secular society has been slowly—and rather unwillingly—coming to grips with the problem of violence against women. The scholarly literature has mushroomed (DeKeseredy and MacLeod 1998; Gelles 1985; Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz 1980); women activists have continued to speak out (Harrison...

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5. Guide to Enlightenment of Strayed Shepherds? The Problems of Claimed Clergy Malfeasance in Interreligious Perspective

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pp. 90-109

The topic of this volume is clergy malfeasance. Our work is varied, and—perhaps—comes to no clear conclusion. Indeed, I wish to make the reaching of such a conclusion more difficult by questioning the notion of malfeasance itself. In doing so, I follow in a long line of philosophers who risk being condemned as “corruptors...

Part II: Responding to Accusations of Clergy Malfeasance

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6. Charisma, Male Entitlement, and the Abuse of Power

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pp. 113-130

On July 19, 1995, Keri Jewell, a fourteen-year-old member of the Branch Davidians, testified before Congress on the living conditions at the Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas, prior to its destruction in 1993. Keri Jewell’s testimony spoke of the rape of young girls by the Branch Davidians’ leader, David Koresh; of her own...

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7. The Politics of a Sexual Harassment Case

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pp. 131-154

This is a study of a church conflict that got out of control. It is not a pleasant story, but it is one repeated around the country. The underlying facts are familiar: a pastor is accused of power abuse and sexual harassment; inexperienced congregational leaders fail to act; district leaders prove inconsistent and ineffective; members file charges...

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8. Is Abuse about Truth or Story... or Both? One Intentional Community’s Painful Experiences with False Accusations

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pp. 155-184

It is in an awkward position that I, neither a sociologist nor a disinterested observer in the issue of religious malfeasance, find myself. I am a member of a religious group accused of “abusing” its members by a sociologist, Ronald Enroth. I am also a journalist known in evangelical Christian circles as an exposer of malfeasance via my...

Part III: Monitoring Clergy Malfeasance

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9. How Much Clergy Malfeasance Is Really Out There? A Victimization Survey of Prevalence and Perceptions

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pp. 187-213

The issue of victimization of religious congregants and believers by clergy persons has not been generally addressed by criminologists, those who write about elite deviance (e.g., Simon and Eitzen 1990), or sociologists of religion (for an exception, see Jacobs 1989). Other than Iadicola (1998), criminologists/sociologists of deviance...

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10. Clergy Malfeasance, Victimization, and National/Local Awareness: Their Effects on Church Attendance and Financial Giving

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pp. 214-238

In the previous chapter, we established the prevalence of clergy malfeasance in one metropolitan area. We found that over 7 percent of the general population of adults either have experienced clergy abuse (whether sexual, economic, or authoritarian) or have a friend, coworker, or relative who has experienced...

Part IV: Epilogue and Overview

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11. Incidence and Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse

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pp. 241-248

In this epilogue I propose to exercise my role as a commentator by first presenting original data analysis on the subject of childhood sexual abuse and its impact, and then, from the perspective of that analysis, commenting on the papers presented in this “symposium.” I engage in this analytic exercise to support my position that...

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12. The Future of Clergy Abuse/Malfeasance Research

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pp. 249-251

The strength of this volume has been its presentation of a diversity of perspectives on a common theme of deviant behavior. The contributors demonstrate a sociological truism: everything about a problem may not be known at the moment of its...


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p. 253


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pp. 255-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780814786697
E-ISBN-10: 0814786693
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814781463
Print-ISBN-10: 0814781462

Page Count: 268
Publication Year: 2000

OCLC Number: 606397099
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bad Pastors

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Subject Headings

  • Clergy -- Professional ethics -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Crime -- Religious aspects -- Christianity -- Case studies.
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