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Spoils of the Kingdom

Clergy Misconduct and Religious Community

Anson Shupe

Publication Year: 2007

In Spoils of the Kingdom, Anson Shupe investigates clergy misconduct as it has recently unfolded across five faith-based groups. Looking at episodes of abuse in the Roman Catholic, Mormon, African American Protestant, white Evangelical Protestant, and First Nations communities, Spoils of the Kingdom tackles hard questions not only about the sexual abuse of women and children, but also about economic frauds perpetrated by church leaders (including embezzlement, mis-represented missions, and outright theft) as well as cases of excessively authoritarian control of members health, lifestyles, employment, and politics._x000B_Drawing on case evidence, Shupe employs classical and modern social exchange theories to explain the institutional dynamics of clergy misconduct. He argues that there is an implicit contract of reciprocity and compliance between congregants and religious leaders that, when amplified by the charismatic awe often associated with religious authorities, can lead to misconduct.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

front cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

The reader should note the use of the phrase “modern times” in the title of chapter 1. This time frame is an imposed restriction since the suspicion or occurrence of clergy malfeasance is no new note in the history of deviance and criminality...

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pp. xiii-xiv

The following people assisted me in some direct way in the collection of data and analysis for this volume. They all shaped my thinking over the past decade. In no culpable order they are Thomas M. Doyle, A. W. Richard Sipe, Susan E...

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Introduction by A. W. Richard Sipe

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pp. xv

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...

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1. Communities of Faith and Clergy Malfeasance in Modern Times

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pp. 1-39

In the year 2000, Cardinal Bernard Law controlled the Archdiocese of Boston, at the time the fourth largest archdiocese in North America, with unquestioned authority. By spring 2002, however, the prelate was immersed in a nationally publicized scandal and voices were heard calling for his resignation...

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2. The Logic of Social Exchange Theory and Clergy Malfeasance

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pp. 40-55

The notion of applying a social exchange cost/benefit model to help illuminate heinous aspects of clergy malfeasance might initially seem incongruous. After all, social exchanges are conventionally thought of as concerning gift giving/sharing, equity, reciprocity, and distributive justice. Real examples of...

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3. The Iron Law of Clergy Elitism

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pp. 56-85

In his book Papal Sin, contemporary Catholic historian Garry Wills (2000, 2) cites nineteenth-century British Catholic historian Lord Acton’s famous dictum, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What most people...

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4. Authenticity Lost: Faith and Victimization

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pp. 86-107

Authenticity of a religion is not an objective matter to be measured; it is a perception of legitimacy by a critical mass of believers in a faith community’s traditions and leadership authority. Whether the community is hierarchically...

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5. Reactance, Crime, and Sin

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pp. 108-124

In early 2004 a play was produced by a small Chicago theater company. Written by an experienced off-Broadway playwright named Michael Murphy (not a Catholic) and titled Sin: A Cardinal Deposed, it was based entirely on the...


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pp. 125-142


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pp. 143-148

back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252092404
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252031595

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Clergy -- Professional ethics -- United States -- History.
  • Crime -- Religious aspects -- Christianity -- History.
  • Social exchange -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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