I’M HAVING TROUBLE BEING SYMPATHETIC

I do not condemn people who get divorced. Shit happens.

I do not condemn people who get divorced and then meet someone new and remarry. Quite the contrary. No matter what Jesus was supposed to have said about this matter, I would encourage such people to find love again.

I do not condemn people who shack up with other people without getting married although I believe that they are missing out on something that can be truly wonderful and fulfilling.

I do not condemn people who get divorced and then meet someone new and shack up together (see above).

But I do condemn married people who engage in long term extra-marital affairs, keeping them secret from their spouses. It is betrayal. It is dishonest. It is cowardly. It is all of these things even when the two people involved are very much in love with each other.

I also condemn blogging anonymously.

Two sides of the same coin, if you ask me.

See also THE TELEGRAPH.

Anne Alcock, a deanery lay chairperson, her rural dean and a so-called assistant rural dean, stopped me getting a post in Ipswich that I really, really wanted because I would not say that I would put the deanery's agenda before that of the parish church I was hoping to serve. I had to be interviewed by these three separate to my interview with the Archdeacon and parish represents (an interview that went quite well even though I am abysmal at interviews). I know for a fact that it was the deanery party, especially the rural dean (who appeared to both Mrs MP and myself to be arrogant and power crazy) who persuaded the parish representatives not to offer me the post even though we had all had a wonderful time together at the previous evening's informal get together. It was the second most disappointing day of my life. The first was not getting the Black Isle job.

As I say, I'm having trouble feeling sympathetic for anybody involved in this story except the wife and the congregation. I know what it's like to be betrayed by a man of the cloth. It fecking hurts.


Comments

I’M HAVING TROUBLE BEING SYMPATHETIC — 61 Comments

  1. They are not ONLY “married people who engaged in a long term extra-marital affair, keeping it secret from their spouses.” That is immoral in any circumstances.

    But, in addition to the above, he is a member of the clergy who had an affair with a parishioner which brings it into the realm of abuse, exploitation and a violation of professional ethics and this goes even beyond the merely immoral. It is actually ecclesial incest.

  2. Well, if he’s out and she no longer has credibility, might you check it out again? Good thing he resigned. In our diocese he would have been out as soon as the affair was suspected.

  3. I second Pseudopiskie – it would appear Ipswich is open again. You might want to have a second go at it – at least those who screwed the pooch the last time won’t be there to throw the Spaniard in the works…..

  4. And…what of Fr. Alberto Cutie, down in Miami, who was a Roman Catholic priest who met and fell in love with a (single) female parishioner? He wound up leaving the RCC, coming into the Episcopal church, marrying Ruhama and having a family with her. Is this also condemnable? Many Catholics are still scathingly furious with him for this.

  5. What was it that Jesus said about an adulterer? Oh right: “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    I certainly don’t think there is anything right about what was done here, but none of us know what happened behind closed doors. We don’t know why the pair was motivated to do what they did, or why they didn’t leave their respective relationships sooner. As it turns out, none of us human beings have very good judgment all the time. This is true even for clergy who are in a particularly precarious position because of the public nature of the vocation. Couple this with the incredibly weighty expectations placed upon them by the vocation and society, it becomes even more precarious.

    I am saddened by what has happened to the families, and the hurt that the betrayal has caused. But, I’m also saddened that this family drama cannot be dealt with in their families, and is now in the public sphere, where their hurt and shame is international public knowledge.

    The most Christ-like thing we can do is let them be, and let them sort this out privately.

  6. Integrity is not easy. It can fuck your life right up especially if you are trying to keep your integrity in a church without very much integrity. What this man did was wrong. He will be forgiven. He will not be excused. Because if he is excused why should the rest of us bother?

    Nobody says that the sexual abuse of children is okay if the abuser falls in love with the kid or isn’t having sex with his wife at the time.

    Tracie. Neither of them were married. They didn’t betray anybody but the pope and I personally don’t give a fuck about that and I doubt that God does either.

  7. Ya know, on some levels, I *am* inclined to be sympathetic because there was a time in my life when I wasn’t faithful to my committed partner (this was long before I moved to FL and met Joe). I had a very long term, *wildly* intense love affair with the best friend of the man I was with. Sometimes to this day I think of that person as “the one who got away.”

    I regret hurting the man I was with at the time. No, we weren’t married, but we’d made an agreement with each other, and he’d invested trust in me, and I broke that trust.

    Yet, I can’t say I regret experiencing this amazing connection between myself and the other man.

    So…I guess if I am thus condemnable, so be it.

  8. Tracie, I did not realize she was a parishioner. If that is so then he did not merely have a relationship, thereby breaking the rules. He exploited his position and he completely betrayed his pastoral responsibility.

    Father Foodie, please see what I just said to Tracie. This is not merely about adultery. It is about an imbalance of the power in the relationship and it is also about the betrayal of an entire community. I’ve been in the position of pastorally picking up the pieces after this sort of thing and priestly misconduct of this sort can haunt a parish for decades.

    It is always the person who has greater authority and/or power who has the sacred obligation of maintaining the boundaries.

  9. I’m not casting stones at the bloke. I’m saying he did something very wrong. I say that the continued oppression of gay people and women in the Church of England is wrong. I don’t think I can say the latter if I don’t say the former. Who would listen to me if I was as selective in my condemnation of that which is wrong as an evangelical pastor caught soliciting an undercover cop in a public convenience.

    We are the moralists not those who shout about morality on the Fox channel. That’s why we campaign so vociferously for moral change. But this does mean that, as we have set the standards so we should keep to them. Otherwise all our campaigning will be regarded as hypocrisy and will all be for nought.

  10. You don’t have much money, Tracie. If you were walking down a street and saw an old lady and there was no one watching, would you mug her for her cash? No, you wouldn’t. We are all capable of doing the wrong thing and most of us are capable of not doing the wrong thing out of choice. Those who are not capable are regarded as mad by the law and treated accordingly.

  11. Never reproach another for his love:
    It happens often enough
    That beauty ensnares with desire the wise
    While the foolish remain unmoved.

    Never reproach the plight of another,
    For it happens to many men:
    Strong desire may stupefy heroes,
    Dull the wits of the wise.

    (Just sayin’)

  12. My issue is not that I want to excuse what happened, but that I am tired of the Church having a lust for scandals. I am especially tired of the Church having a lust for sexual scandals. Yes, there is an imbalance of power and inappropriate behavior, but not to the degree of child molestation.

    I guess, like Tracie, my sympathies are personal. When I was a curate, I fell in love with a parishioner. We were both young and single. We had to jump through a lot of hoops to make our relationship happen. That young woman and I are happily married now. But, getting back to what happened, was there a power imbalance and a violation of a pastoral boundary? Absolutely. Was anybody really hurt or scandalized? No, not really.

    Sure, this wasn’t adultery, but the arguments for boundaries still fall through here. We all agree that the call to the priesthood is an irresistible call, but God never calls us to be any less human or fragile than we ever were. Like you, MadPriest, I have been deeply hurt by other clergy, as well. Have I always had the grace to forgive… Sadly, no. I’m human. As Tracie says, under the collar is a human being with feet of clay.

  13. Yes, we all sin. And sexual sin is not necessarily worse than any other kind of sin. But this is not merely about sin. It is also about the most egregious dereliction of pastoral responsibility and in most states in the U.S. it is actually illegal – as it should be.

    I recommend that anyone who has questions about this look up the word “transference” as it is used in a psychological context. Someone who is officially under another person’s pastoral care cannot truly give consent as a free agent no matter how much “in love” that person believes himself or herself to be.

  14. As somebody who has occasionally done the wrong thing by choice, I just feel badly for everyone involved. I hope some peace comes out of it for all. Sometimes this is really the best we can do.

  15. I’ll need to spell this out a bit later (and I will) as I now have some pastoral responsibility to go fulfill.

    Later, dear friends!

  16. I feel kinda bad now because I resorted to quoting the Havamal, not the Bible, but it did sort of make the point that love actually can drive people into a sort of madness where they’ll do things that they ordinarily would not do. :sigh:

    I guess this makes me a bad “Christian” again. I fail.

  17. In this post I have only condemned adultery. I have also said that they will be forgiven. If I did not understand that love and lust can cause us to do the most evil things I would not have written this post. It is when we are tested that we prove our worth as followers and imitators of Christ. If we hide the sins of our own kind under the carpet then we cannot, without being hypocritical, condemn others when they cause harm to the children of God.

    • Hiding our own sins is one thing, but why air someone else’s dirty laundry on the front porch? I mean, I don’t fault you particularly on this. I’m bothered that the Guardian stooped to presenting a gossip column as real news. As a pastor, I know an awful lot about what people do and I know their skeletons, but those things stay with me, because I respect who they are as human beings.

  18. If you run off with some other Viking and betray Joe then you will have failed and be, at least temporarily, a bad Christian, Tracie. At the moment you are only guilty of liberal niceness which drives me crazy but is not a sin as far as I know.

  19. Nobody would read my blog if lots of things didn’t drive me crazy. I might get lots of likes on Facebook for saying things my friends like to hear, but useful blogs don’t work that way.

  20. Why report that the Syrian government is killing its own people? Because it is wrong and we want it to stop. I see no difference between the betrayal of the wife in this case and the abuse of a child by a priest. Injury is injury. Everyone deserves protection equally.

    • Whistle-blowing to protect lives in danger is quite different than saying, “Did you hear the juicy news about the local vicar?” In the case of Syria or the RC child abuse, children’s well-being is at stake if people don’t know that harm is being done. At the same time, we respect the victims’ privacy. In this case, what is done is done. Why keep perpetuating pain by telling the world?

    • To stop others doing likewise and to reward those who are faithful.

      It is extremely rare for me to post on this sort of thing. But there are reasons why this particular story is relevant for many of my readers. There are reasons why not posting on this would show me up as hypocritical and would damage our campaigns for fairness in this world.

  21. Oh, and do let the record show that these people definitely did do wrong. They both took vows and they broke them. I guess it’s a matter of how to respond to this.

  22. “I feel kinda bad now because I resorted to quoting the Havamal, not the Bible, but it did sort of make the point that love actually can drive people into a sort of madness where they’ll do things that they ordinarily would not do. :sigh:

    I guess this makes me a bad “Christian” again. I fail.”

    Tracie, no. There is wisdom, often much wisdom, in texts outside the Bible. Recognizing this does not make you a “bad Christian” but it does make you a, “bad fundamentalist.” Being the later defines in many ways a good Christian.

    FWIW
    jimB

  23. No one mentioned that the Vicar’s being 10 years younger than his wife might have made him go for a younger woman. Is this “elder abuse”? They will be divorced and she will be 60 years old. What chance does she have to get married again?

  24. Decades ago it was de rigueur (probably didn’t spell that right) for young unmarried women in a parish to set their caps for young unmarried curates. When they got married they moved to another parish, often.

    I believe that it’s probably a bad idea for a priest to have an affair with a parishioner. The proper way to deal with that is, if they wish the relationship to continue, for one to attend a different church or the priest to move to another parish. In addition, if either or both are married to other people, they must separate before it gets serious. It’s quite fraught.

    It’s interesting that you (Fr. MadPriest) had a connection with one of these people and the connection was kind of weird. When I was Convener of Integrity/Chicago (years ago) we wanted to have a Eucharist outside the city limits, and we were recommended to go to a certain parish. The Rector welcomed us and the Eucharist became very popular. However, one evening after the Eucharist the Rector told me a very inappropriate gay joke (he was straight). I didn’t know what to do or where to look.

    A while later 35 women in the parish charged him with inappropriate activities (touching or speaking), and the Rector revealed that he was leaving his wife and pairing up with one of the churchwardens. It took a while but he finally resigned and left the area. Just sayin’.

  25. Thanks, Chris. My only reason for mentioning my connection with the woman involved is because I wanted everyone to know that I had a reason to run this story other than just general interest, even though it shows me in a bad light. From experience I can’t honestly say that honesty is the best policy, it obviously isn’t. But it’s the policy I live by.

  26. I’m with Fr. Foodie on this one, although I understand your interest, MP. More salt on the wounds.

    It’s just that this has all the hallmarks of a bog standard extra-marital affair. Doesn’t make it right or less painful to the many people whose lives have been impacted by such selfish and reckless behavior. But they were two adults, two professionals, and it does not sound like she was a victim of an imbalance of power or any kind of victim at all, other than to her own needs and desires. Yes, there are serial abusers among the clergy, of women, men, and children, but every instance of sexual misconduct is not abuse simply because a clergyperson is involved. I know that goes against the current doctrine on this, which is based on an understandable desire to make both clergy and laypersons aware of the dangers of such abuse. But this business of crucifying a clergyperson for something that occurs everywhere, among friends, neighbors, work colleagues, is another example of how clergy are treated as and expected to be “special,” which only adds to the whole messiness and disfunctionality of much church culture. I, too, would have trouble sympathizing with anyone who cost me a much needed and desired job. But I do have sympathy for anyone who falls in love with the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and has to pay the consequences, especially if either or both wrongdoers came from troubled marriages. I would hope that most good Christians, including pastors, would as well.

    • You don’t mention his wife, Klady, other than to hint that it might be her fault. My post is about betrayal, nothing else.

      Clergy are supposed to be “special” – but so are other Christians.

  27. I mentioned the many people whose lives have been impacted, and that includes not only his wife but her husband and any children involved. And I’m not hinting at anything. In just about every marital breakup I’ve encountered (and I’ve seen some horrific ones from the attorney’s table in court, among other places), that there is plenty of “blame” to go around. There is more than one way of “betraying” a spouse, and there are plenty of spouses who do so without engaging in adulterous relations. Clergy couples are especially prone to living a lie for decades in a mutually hateful, tortuous relationship, which they must maintain for appearances sake — and, as you above all people should appreciate, to maintain their incomes. Moreover, after something like this happens, the LAST thing anyone needs is more publicity. Even if the betrayed spouses are truly and entirely “innocent,” you are not helping them by giving the story more exposure.

  28. There’s more to this than meets the eye, Klady. I don’t normally post on this sort of thing, as you are fully aware. But I have my reasons this time and they are nothing to do with me not getting the job in Ipswich.

    Ask yourself, why is MadPriest, who doesn’t normally do naughty vicar stories, so interested in this one?

    • You mean the betrayal by a man of the cloth thing? Is this what has you so interested in this story?

    • No, Tracie. It’s all to do with the importance of personal integrity because sacrificing our integrity for personal gain effects others and, if you are representative of something, it renders useless the work of others, even those who have retained their integrity.

  29. Well, assuming that your characterization of the affair as being long-term is correct (something that is by no means apparent from the news story), then I suppose there could be more to it, such as a conspiracy among church officials to cover up the affair over a long period of time, which would, of course, be especially egregious and humiliating to the clergy spouse (who wouldn’t be the first one to be treated as if she were nothing but a prop). But the problem with hidden subtexts is that many readers may draw the wrong conclusions and bring them to other situations where such judgment may not be appropriate or helpful.

    One thing I find more and more difficult about attending or being involved in church at all anymore is that I simply know way too much, and I am accustomed to thinking first and foremost about all that is really going on behind the scenes, on the diocesan level and the parish level. I’m not saying that any or all of it is bad, only that the perspective is skewed because I can’t turn my mind off or ignore the meaning of details that others may not notice. I never know when the “truth” as I know it is helpful to me or anyone else and when it is simply too much information. And FWIW, I’m not sure what you accomplish by appealing to those of us who can read the subtext.

    Sometimes I simply weary of truth – and all things church. Would like to take a walk someday with Mrs. MP and the dogs.

    In any event, I’m afraid I’m all for sympathy, or at least compassion, more so when it’s not deserved.

  30. There will be forgiveness and I have not once suggested any punishment or that there should not be compassion. But a bad thing has been done made worse by the dishonesty that was used to hide it.

    We cannot call for a new world if we ourselves still cling to the old world ourselves.

    If all we do is keep on offering people only candy then they will just get diabetes. It is time for us to demand much more of ourselves and each other than we are comfortable with.

  31. Re Fr Cutie: you could say he was “married to Jesus” as an RC priest . . . fortunately, Jesus is NOT a jealous spouse! Otherwise, I don’t see a comparison to this (rather terrible) case.

    OK, I have my own confession to make: while this story is, as I said, terrible and all, am I the ONLY one who got a bit o’ tingle from this?

    “[The abandoned wife, Sue Tillett] was being comforted at the leafy address in Ipswich by Bishop’s chaplain, Rev Mary Sokanovic.”

    Wishing you LOTS of leafy comfort, Mrs Tillett! 😉

    [Yes, I’ve read WAAAAY too much “fan fiction” in my time.]

    • Yes, that caught my eye. Maybe it’s having sampled the 50 Shades of Grey books in the last 24 hours. It’s a mad, mad world. Wonder what Jane Austen would make of it.

  32. Klady, this is not simply about betraying the respective spouses or children (bad enough as that is). It’s about the betrayal of the entire parish. When someone in a pastoral role has an affair with someone toward whom he had a clear cut “duty of care” then it is not simply adultery. It is not simply having had the misfortune of falling in love with the wrong person at the wrong time.

    This was not abuse because a clergyperson was involved. It was abuse because said clergyperson committed sexual misconduct with a PARISHIONER. The fact that this woman is also a professional is completely irrelevant. (Please do look up that word “transference”.)

    It would have been a bog standard extramarital affair if the clergyperson had been involved with someone outside the parish. It is abuse because he had an unambiguous responsibility for the welfare of this woman’s soul. (As well as for the souls of every parishioner in the parish – all of whose trust was horribly violated.) Nothing bog standard about that.

  33. Any misconduct betrays the parish in terms of the chaos and confusion that inevitably ensues – that goes without saying. But it is the very idea of the “responsibility for the welfare of the woman’s soul” that is dangerous and erroneous if it means something different than any Christian’s responsibility for the welfare of another human being. No pastor or priest can or should undertake that responsibility in the sense that is implied here — and yes, I know full well what the ordination vows say in the BCP, which presumably are similar to what is expected elsewhere. But as long as church culture makes his responsibility to the woman greater than hers towards him, then it violates the realities of human nature and relationships with greater harm to the institution than perhaps even the disruption a scandal causes (which has more to do with people taking sides than anything else). A priest or pastor is not in a counseling relationship or even a teaching relationship with everyone in the parish — and those are contexts that can create an imbalance in authority or perception of authority that can be troublesome. Of course it’s bad in any context. But the response that some kind of Christ-like figure has betrayed the flock on the basis of some kind of extraordinary responsibility for another’s spiritual welfare conveyed by ordination is, IMO, psychologically and spiritually unhealthy, because it equates the woman (in this case) with both a lamb and a child and the rest of the parish the same. It also ignores the facts of situations in which the woman seduces, manipulates, or even blackmails the clergyman — which, believe it or not, does happen — and it is truly an anti-feminist view that ignores that and makes every woman a “victim” of a God-man, whom she cannot help but expect him to do the right thing even if she can’t. Unless or until church becomes part of the real world in which each and every human is considered equal to another, and stops pretending that its doors and structures create a real, sacred space apart from the world and free from the vagaries of human nature, then it will never have any hope of saving any of it.

  34. Note that I’m not against hard and fast rules being applied by church officials or that the consequences for such misconduct necessarily should be any different. What I’m talking about is the way people talk and behave in response to such incidents. Yes, the offending persons need to leave the parish, and the clergyperson requires discipline. But it should be a matter of sound management, not shock and horror and talk of betrayal of the church over and those directly impacted. All too often the betrayed spouse gets overlooked and even sometimes pushed aside in the long run, and I can tell you that she feels like crap when she realizes that most of the people she knew from church, esp. the hierarchy, are more concerned about the trauma in the parish than hers. It’s NOT always all about clergy or parishes or religious institutions — it is always about people.

  35. It is not that the man’s responsibility toward the woman is greater than hers toward him. It is that the priest’s responsibility to the parishioner is greater than the parishioner’s to the priest. Perhaps it shouldn’t be that way but as long as we actually have ordination in the Church, it will be. As long as there is a sacramental distinction as well as a distinction of authority, there will not be equality in responsibility.

    Cure: the spiritual and pastoral charge of a parish (as in “cure of souls”)

    Transference: parishioners can (and often do) project onto the clergyperson their own unmet needs or unresolved conflicts which hark back to earlier relationships with others. When the minister does the same and projects his or her unmet needs and unresolved conflicts onto the parishioner, this is called counter-transference. It is the clergyperson’s professional and pastoral duty to be aware of the hazards of this dynamic and to make sure he or she gets his or her emotional needs met elsewhere.

    Klady, we may just need to agree to disagree on this!

  36. Happy to agree to disagree. And in the end, this may be why I cannot accept the church as it is. I don’t want to be around people who put walls around pastors and pastors who put walls around themselves. I have little respect for either, because as far as I’m concerned if a priest or pastor is not treated and seen as EXACTLY the same as the rest of us, then the entire enterprise strikes me as fraudulent or at least distorted. And I have seen the horrific damage that has been done to both clergy and laypeople when either or both insists on the pretense of specialness and mini Christ-figures. It is most dramatic in the Roman Catholic church, but it is insidious elsewhere as well.

    I am well versed in transference. (Too many psychologists in the family and among friends – and my mom studied in the early to mid-40’s when Freud was king). It’s just scary and, I think, inappropriate to lay it onto clergy. We all project unmet needs and unresolved conflicts onto others. Only in the rarified atmosphere of psychotherapy or psychoanalysis can it have any specialized meaning because it is designed to give authority to the professional. To assume that every member of a church is so psychologically immature and vulnerable that they cannot have anything like a normal friendship, working or social relationship with a clergyperson without risking “transference” creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. It also makes a pretty damned lonely life for clergy and their families because one spends all one’s time with people one has to keep at arms length. Yes, I guess it is inevitable in any kind of institution with professional pastors, but it still is just so far from anything Jesus could have possibly wanted or anticipated that discipleship would look like. So maybe it’s really time for it to all crumble, after all.

  37. “that the priest’s responsibility to the parishioner is greater than the parishioner’s to the priest” – no, it should NOT be that way.

  38. I guess I’m going to chime in one more time and say that the problem of transference is that people don’t just project romantic ideas onto clergy, but also project super-human moral ideas onto clergy. This seems to be at the root of the problem.
    Also, while one may say that the woman’s responsibility is no greater than the man’s the link to the article on clergy sexual misconduct clearly generalizes that this is a problem of male clergy and that women parishioners are the victims. That seems counter to feminist ideas.

    • The article on Pastoral Sexual Abuse states: “The pastoral relationship can and should be a sacred trust, a place where a parishioner can come with the deepest wounds and vulnerabilities-where she can even act out sexually. By modeling appropriate boundaries and healthy responses, the pastor can begin to empower her to heal those wounds.”

      This sounds so much like what Christian Grey wanted for Anastasia Steele (and vice versa) in E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, it’s scary. It’s one hell of an abuse of the notion of faith-healing.

      I would recommend to all something more general on shame, vulnerability, and courage among women and men, in the lectures and writings of Brené Brown, at TED
      TED
      and her website.

  39. Yes, if you are a priest. As you said earlier, MP, shit happens and sometimes people need to get a divorce. The is extraordinary pressure on a priest to stay in a marriage no matter what, from the depths of his or her internal beliefs and values, the super-morality invested in the role, and the practical institutional constraints. Until fairly recently, a priest who divorced (or even was divorced), even with little or no “fault,” had to leave his (always his in the not so distant past) parish and possibly be unemployed or underemployed for some time.(Case in point – seminary classmate of my husband’s was divorced by his wife, who left him for another man and left their daughters with him – the seminarian – and he got called in and told in no uncertain terms that, although he was in his final year of seminary, he no longer could be considered a candidate for priesthood).

    There also is extraordinary stress on a clergy couple as a result of living in the church culture. Marriage is difficult enough, but those who marry relatively young and make themselves the great marketable young family to parishes, have great difficulties, both with the marriage and any children that might ensue.Fortunately, many do survive and even thrive, perhaps in part due to having spent years together in the bunker, hanging onto each other for dear life, perhaps in part because they do, in fact, take their super-morality roles seriously and try harder (and/or endure much without a thought of bailing out).

    For those, however, who have a fragile marriage from the beginning, in which the two persons are in many ways basically incompatible and one or both have psychological or emotional issues, perhaps arising from their family backgrounds, which cause and exacerbate problems, and both realize that even if they can admit to themselves and each other that things are so bad that they need outside help, they know that it would career-suicide to seek it within the confines of the church (no matter what anyone says or what kind of programs have been developed), and seeking it outside the church means figuring out how to do it without anyone finding out. For them, it’s a stifling, closed box that is damned difficult to either work within or escape with integrity.

    Seems to me that it takes a super-human person to act remotely rationally in such a situation, let alone morally. The dark clouds of shame are everywhere, simply on account of a failing or failed marriage. Then consider that the priest is not likely to encounter anyone outside of the parish who may be a temptation — not just to sexual sin (which may not even cross his mind) but to the kind of emotional intimacy, understanding, and support that he feels he has lacked for so long. A doctor or psychotherapist does not live in such a closed off environment in which almost all one’s time is spent with parishioners (and fellow clergy and church officials) and one’s spouse and marriage and children are supposed to be moral examples to all. A priest who has a rotten marriage almost inevitably is going to begin to rely first on friendships with those who are simply kind and amiable, as compared to the hostile environment hidden at home. Such a priest is a walking target for all kinds of needy parishioners. The priest may never get romantically involved with any of them yet his “friendships” may create all sorts of problems for the parish, not to mention distance himself further from his spouse. But the chances of romance being sparked from such friendships are great, as well as the temptation to act out sexually with someone who seems to desperately need and want him, whom he knows very well is likely to destroy him. Even if he suppresses all sinful desires and does the “right” thing over and over again, he still may find himself steeped in shame and guilt; if he gives in to temptation, he not only has all that to deal with, but he has a church culture ready to brand him a sexual predator.