A. W. Richard Sipe (1932–2018)

By Terence McKiernan
August 9, 2018

Richard Sipe died Wednesday night, August 8, 2018, just before midnight, at his home in La Jolla, California, after a long illness. Sipe was a towering figure in the Catholic clergy abuse crisis and in Catholicism generally. He leaves behind a vital legacy.

A. W. Richard Sipe truly invented the rigorous study of the clergy abuse of children: he created a disciplined method for thinking about the unthinkable. His groundbreaking books – A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy (1990) and Sex, Priests, and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis (1995) – made activism and change possible in the Catholic abuse crisis, and ultimately prepared the way for the #MeToo movement.

Sipe’s work anticipated the convergence that we’re witnessing now in the activism for victims’ rights and child safety. He always saw the molestation of children by Catholic clergy as part of a larger reality in Catholicism and beyond. Sipe’s approach to the abuse of children by Catholic clerics was an unusual one. Beginning as a Benedictine therapist-monk, he helped hundreds of priests and religious with their difficulties in religious life, especially . . .

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