Priest, Pastor, Predator

Many bishops swiftly reappoint priests and ministers who have admitted to sexual misconduct with an adult man or woman. These bishops frequently portray the sexual violation as "consensual," creating confusion for the victim's spouse and family, for congregants, and ultimately for the predators themselves.

Rose French, Tony Kennedy and Pat Pheifer. "Priest argues sex with woman was consensual: Delano pastor appears in court, is ordered to have no contact with accuser." Star Tribune (Minnesota) (February 18, 2011).

Under a 1993 state law, it's a felony for any clergy member to have sex with another adult who is seeking or receiving "religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort in private." … Tom Reese, a priest with the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, D.C., has written extensively about priest sex abuse and said it's common for the church to send a priest to therapy after he's engaged in a sexual relationship with an adult, and then possibly let him return to ministry.

Honorary diocesan positions and religious celebrations with clergy who have admitted to sexually violating someone in their care further contribute to an "enabling" atmosphere for these offenders.

Some of these priests, including priests with children, also serve as vocations directors, preparing young men for a life of celibacy.


Criminal Statutes and Denominational Policies

It's a Breach of Ethics …

Bishops, offending clergy, and congregants alike should realize that the euphemism "sexual misconduct" cannot erase the fact that sexual violation by a caregiver of someone in his or her care is considered a criminal offense in several states. Most denominational policies state unequivocally that consensual sexual relations between clergy and congregant is impossible due to the power differential between the two parties.


… Not Consensual Sexual Relations

Catholic bishops, however, often publicly maintain that such sexual violations were "consensual" matters between two adults:


Unlike the [USCCB's 2002] Dallas Charter's zero tolerance rules for sexual abuse of minors, bishops are given discretion in dealing with priests who violate their vow of celibacy when [the bishop claims] it involves a consenting adult, according to Toledo Blade religion editor, David Yonke. See his article: "Bishop Blair knew of priest's sexual sin." Toledo Blade (July 25, 2007).


"Truly Horrible Acts"


Professor Diana Garland, Dean of Baylor School of Social Work:  Abuse of Power

An article by Norman Jameson published in the online Biblical Reporter (July 12, 2010), "Garland labels clergy misconduct abuse of power", reported on Garland's comments during a breakout session at the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting in Charlotte in June 2010. Garland emphasized the imbalance of power in sexual relations between clergy and congregant:

‘Don't call it an affair,’ she says, when a person in the emotionally powerful position of clergy seduces a woman who trusted him as a spiritual advisor.  …Such an act involving a clergyman and a church member is raw, blatant, sinful, disgusting abuse of power.


Stephen Rossetti, past president of the Saint Luke's Institute:  Unethical, Illegal

In an interview on NPR's Tell Me More on October 1, 2010, Rossetti not only clarified that the majority of abuse cases involve adults, but that:

… one of the things that we're trying to do is to bring some education, to first just tell people that this is not consensual. There is a gross imbalance of power, and it is unethical, some states illegal, and certainly immoral.

Click here to read more of Rossetti's comments during the interview with Michel Martin, "Church Tackles Sex Abuse By Clergy."


Catholic Archdiocese of Boston:  Truly Horrible Acts

According to David Usborne in an article in the Irish newspaper The Independent (December 5, 2002), "Catholic leaders admit 'horrible' abuse by priests":

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston conceded yesterday that some of its priests had committed ‘truly horrible’ acts against women … The documents record that priests took sexual advantage of women training to become nuns, conducted affairs with women parishioners …


Catholic Diocese of Oakland:  Power Differential, Never Consensual

The Catholic diocese of Oakland states in its online brochure for adults who have been sexually victimized by clergy, No More Secrets, Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse [oakdiocese.org/survivors/inside.pdf]:

Can clergy sexual activity ever be consensual on the part of the victim?  NEVER!  The power differential in the relationship automatically puts the priest (or deacon) in the position of power. Therefore, there can never exist a true mutually consensual agreement.

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson's "Letter to the Pope":  Violation of Sacred Trust

In a "letter to the pope" published in the Washington Post (May 2, 2010), "Amid abuse scandal, advice from Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson to Pope Benedict," Robinson points out that the Episcopal Church had provided "a two-year window of opportunity to hear complaints about priestly abuse of the pastoral relationship with adults."

Some cases … involved male clergy who took advantage of their pastoral relationship with vulnerable women to manipulate them into sexual relationships. These men violated the sacred trust placed in clergy to focus on parishioners' needs and to separate those needs from their own.


Bishops Celebrating and Promoting Predators


In a December 2004 article in the Journal of Adult Protection  Dr. Margaret Kennedy, an advocate for women sexually violated by clergy, provides an explanation of why bishops protect predators. As Kennedy puts it:

Women's experience of violation is secondary to the priests' vocation to serve God. These men are supported and moved to a new parish while the victims languish in pain and suffering, seen only as women who have caused scandal for the priest.



John Bathersby

Leonard Blair

Peter Christensen

Jim Cryan

Francis DiLorenzo

Harry J. Flynn

Michael Jackels

Daniel Jenky

Oscar H. Lipscomb

William Swing


John Bathersby, archbishop of Brisbane, Australia

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Leonard Blair, bishop of the Toledo, Ohio diocese

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David Nuss, diocese of Toledo, Ohio

According to the Toledo Blade, David Nuss told the bishop in January 2007 that he had been involved with an adult woman during the fall of 2006. The news reports indicate that Nuss said Mass for the funeral of the woman's husband in April of 2006 and consequently began a relationship with the newly widowed woman and befriended her young children.


Peter Christensen, bishop of the Superior, Wisconsin diocese

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Henry Willenborg, Franciscan friar


Jim Cryan, Toledo provincial, Oblates of St. Francis deSales

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Chet Warren, OSFS


Francis DiLorenzo, bishop of the Richmond, Virginia diocese

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James E. Gallagher, Jr., diocese of Richmond, Virginia


Harry J. Flynn, Archbishop of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese

In 2007, John Nienstedt succeeded Flynn as Archbishop of the Twin Cities archdiocese

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Christopher Thomas Wenthe, archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota



Michael Jackels, bishop of the Wichita, Kansas diocese

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Nicholas Voelker, diocese of Wichita, Kansas


Daniel R. Jenky, bishop of the Peoria, Illinois diocese

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Thomas Szydlik, diocese of Peoria, Illinois


Oscar H. Lipscomb, bishop of the archdiocese of Mobile

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Adrian Cook, archdiocese of Mobile


William Swing, Episcopal bishop of California

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John Bennison, pastor at Saint John's Episcopal Church in Clayton




This site is established to share informational resources for victims and advocates of adult victims of clergy sexual abuse.