The Vatican is watching the sex scandal engulfing the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, ‘with concern,’ reports Rachel Donadio in the New York Times. "The Vatican: ‘Concern’ on Italy scandal." New York Times (January 20, 2011).

See more on this story in the Berlusconi section below.

Boundary Violations Without Borders

Clergy Accused of Rape, Assault, Adultery

Clergy serving in many denominations around the world have been accused or have admitted to sexual assault, rape, adultery, and other sexual violations.

Priests With Girlfriends

According to Richard Sipe's article, "Clerical Sex, Blackmail and Sexual Abuse," published online in Catholica (November 2008):

Thirty percent of German priests are reported to have women companions. The number in the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland is arguably fifty percent. Estimates for the African and South American clergy run much higher.

What some celibate Catholic priests think about sexual relations with women is discussed in an article by Aidan Lewis, "Looking behind the Catholic sex abuse scandal." BBC News (May 4, 2010).

Christian Pfieffer, the director of the independent Criminality Research Institute of Lower Saxony and a former regional justice minister … says that in Germany, young priests have told him it would be possible to have sexual relationships with women if they really wanted to, lessening the risk of sexual frustration leading to abuse.

Women companions of celibate priests have found it useful to form support groups in many countries to help each other in their difficult situation.  Websites for these support groups indicate that women suffer as a result of clandestine relationships with priests which keep them in isolation from their families and friends; keep them in hiding; keep them alone in raising the children begotten in these relationships; keep them fearful of the future.

The silent mistresses of celibate priests recently posted an open letter to Pope Benedict condemning the hypocrisy and secrecy imposed on priests by the Catholic Church. See "Living in Deceit" section below for further information.

Celibate Priests with Children

For list of news stories on priests and bishops with children, click here.

Abortion, Birth Control, Child Support and Fatherless Children of Fathers

According to Patrick Wall, co-author with Richard Sipe and Thomas Doyle of Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse (2006), abortions are frequently sought for teenaged girls impregnated by priests.

In a news article published in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), Sarah Stricker reports on how the Munich diocese under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, handled the situation of one priest who fathered a child. Stricker calls the case "A Bavarian Version of The Thorn Birds". Here is an English translation of what the child's mother was told, according to Stricker:

When the priest's child, Veronika, was born in 1978, the mother was called into the Munich diocese. Then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the mother recalls, let her know via the vicar that she, Veronika's mother, was the guilty party. He further told the mother it would be the best for everyone involved that all contact with the child's father be ended.

Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, formerly served as Archbishop in the Diocese of Portland, Oregon. One case that occurred in the Portland diocese while Levada was archbishop involved a woman who became pregnant by a seminarian.

Children of Priests:  The Next Scandal?

The Vatican's Stance on the Children of Priests

"Vatican denies it would accept priests' children." Momento24 (August 3, 2009).
John Allen. "Vatican denies studying new rules for priests who father kids." NCR Online (August 3, 2009).

Clergy sexual abuse of children and adolescents

Clergy sexual abuse of children and adolescents is also reported around the world. See news articles on the "sexual abuse crisis" in other countries on the Young Adults and Adolescents At Risk page.

Vatican Concern over Berlusconi

Vatican urges ‘a more robust morality’ for those in public life

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Living in Deceit

"Secret Mistresses" Speak Out

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Sylvia Poggioli interviewed women involved in sexual relationships with celibate priests in Italy for a news segment aired on National Public Radio (June 8, 2010).  According to Poggioli's report, "Letter from priests' lovers reignites celibacy debate":

In most cases, the priests' companions continue to live in the shadows  … Stefania Salomone, an Italian woman who had a five-year relationship with a priest [stated]: … "I think I represented a stain on his church dress. … I wasn't seen as a woman, I was seen as a danger, as a sin."

In an open letter to the pope published in March 2010, women in secret relationships with Catholic celibate priests explained their situation. The letter was reported by Fox News and several other news organizations. "Catholic Church faces fresh scandal as ‘wives’ of priests speak out." Fox News (June 2, 2010).

"Only three women agreed to sign the letter by name, because of the fear that if a woman goes public with her story, her companion priest would break up with her," Salomone said.
Luisa, 38, said she had a relationship and a child with a priest who is now 35.  … "He told his family that he was living in his parish, and his parish that he was living with his family." The people in Luisa's village looked the other way.  … the priest decided to leave Luisa, even before the birth of the child, now aged 20 months. "His family  … accused me of being a witch," [Luisa said]  … Salomone's experience was no less painful.

John Hooper. "Italian priests' secret mistresses ask pope to scrap celibacy rule: Forty women send unprecedented letter to pontiff saying priests need to 'experience feelings, love and be loved'." The Guardian UK (May 27, 2010).

[The letter] pleads for understanding of those who "live out in secrecy those few moments the priest manages to grant [us] …"
Antonella Carisio, one of the other signatories, said she had an affair with a Brazilian priest who frequently slept at her house. When their relationship was discovered by another priest, he was transferred to Rome.  … But he subsequently returned to Brazil and this week told the globalPost news agency: " … I was never in love with her."

Experts Speak Out

Dr. Leslie Lothstein, psychologist at the Institute for Living which treats clergy for a range of psychological problems, was recently interviewed by Mark Oppenheimer for an article in the New York Times (April 9, 2010), "A psychologist steeped in treatment of sexually active priests."

Leslie Lothstein has seen them all:  priests sexually active with adult men, others with adult women, others with adolescents, others with children. … "I treated half a dozen priests who fathered children," Dr. Lothstein said. "I treated priests who had two children. I treated priests who got women pregnant and got them abortions. I said to one of them, ‘Why didn't you just use a condom?’ And he said, ‘Because birth control is against the law of the church.’"

Angela Bonavoglia puts the matter squarely in her book, Good Catholic Girls (2005):

[T]he crisis in the Church is … fundamentally, about hypocrisy … That heterosexual and homosexual behavior may thrive in the Catholic priesthood … is an indictment of the hypocrisy … that condones, indeed, demands, lying about the reality of one's sexual life at all costs. (p 107, emphasis added) 

Rabbi Steven Fisdel discusses the consequences of such hypocrisy in his article "Spiritual Leaders Must Reaffirm Integrity after Gafni," published in The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California (June 8, 2006):

It should be clear that anyone in a spiritual leadership position bears an enormous responsibility to adhere to the truth and must be held to the highest moral and ethical standards. … Immoral behavior by clergy, be it physical or verbal in form, disturbs and disrupts the faith of the victims as well as bringing their belief in the truth of the Torah's teachings into question … If you cannot trust the messenger, how can you trust the message?

Eileen McNamara posed the question: "What about girl victims?" in a Boston Globe commentary (December 4, 2005). Article available on the Bishop Accountability archive.

"In order to be successful in blaming gays, the hierarchy knows that the sexual abuse of girls must be swept into invisibility and be internalized in the culture as a rare exception," said Dwyer, herself victimized by a priest.

Rachel Zoll. "Fault line exposed in vow of celibacy: Roman Catholic Church files disclosed because of sex abuse scandal rekindle debate on merits of abstinence." Los Angeles Times (July 20, 2003).

Molestation victims believe that priests and bishops who are sexually active with adults create a web of dishonesty in the church. These men are reluctant to reveal wrongdoing by fellow clergy, including child molesters, for fear of being exposed themselves, victims say.

In a 2003 article by Jenifer Johnston, "Helpline for priests' secret lovers," in The Sunday Herald (January 19, 2003), Peter Kearney, director of the media office of the Catholic Church in Scotland, states:

"If there are all these women and priests out there having affairs, then they are doing very well to keep it a secret."

Frances Kennedy. "Vatican confirms report of sexual abuse and rape of nuns by priests in 23 countries." The Independent (March 21, 2001).

The Catholic Church in Rome made the extraordinary admission yesterday that it is aware priests from at least 23 countries have been sexually abusing nuns. Most of the abuse has occurred in Africa, where priests vowed to celibacy, who previously sought out prostitutes, have preyed on nuns to avoid contracting the Aids virus.

Questioning Celibacy

Inappropriate Sexual Behavior by Clergy

News Articles from Around the World

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Priests … and bishops … With Children

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Eamonn Casey

Michael Cleary

Paolo Curtaz

Marcial Maciel Degollado

Maurice Dillane

David Dueppen

Fernando Lugo

Jason Martin, Vocations Director

Peter McDonough

Rodney Rodis

Francis Ryan

Stan Strycharz

Arturo Uribe

Gabino Zavala

Websites for Victims of Sexual Exploitation by Clergy, Therapists, Doctors

Inclusion of support groups in this list does not imply endorsement by the website editor. Individuals are encouraged to learn as much as possible about any group before contacting them for support.

The listing is intended to illustrate the number of groups around the world that have emerged in response to women sexually involved with clergy.

Translations by google and the website editor.

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