Dr. Marianne Sipe, expert on sexual abuse by clergy, to address SNAP chapter

By Peter Rowe
August 08, 2019

Dr. Marianne Benkert Sipe, shown in 2018.
Photo by John Gibbins

Dr. Marianne Benkert Sipe, a psychiatrist and world-renowned expert on the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, will address next month’s meeting of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The free session will be held 10 a.m. to noon, Sept. 7, on the second floor of the Rancho Bernardo Library, 17110 Bernardo Center Drive, San Diego.

A former Maryknoll nun and practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Sipe in 1970 left her order and married Richard Sipe, a former priest and also an expert in this field. They were jointly awarded the 2019 Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association, Richard Sipe posthumously as he had died in August 2018. He was 85.

“Dedicated Catholics,” the citation read in part, “they have endeavored to restore their church to the morality they have always known it should represent.”

La Jolla residents since 1999, the Sipeses published books and papers on this topic, counseled victims and testified in court cases brought against priests and church officials. In 2001, they were contacted by the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting team, as the journalists were working on a series of articles exposing sexual abuse within that city’s archdiocese.

The Globe’s work, including the Sipeses’s contributions, was dramatized in the 2015 Oscar-winning film, “Spotlight.”

Since her husband’s death, Dr. Sipe has continued to work in this field. Among her areas of expertise is the sexual abuse of — and by — nuns. She’s also examined sexual abuse within other faith traditions.

“She is absolutely one of the first pioneers to address the clergy sex abuse crisis in the Catholic church. She’s nationally and internationally known,” said Nancy Lonnecker, SNAP’s San Diego volunteer leader. “As a psychiatrist, she has great insight into the emotional and physical issues attached to clergy sexual abuse.”

SNAP, which claims 25,000 members around the world, is dedicated to assisting men and women who had been sexually abused by authority figures, including priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, nuns, teachers, coaches and others. Meetings are open to survivors and their supporters; information shared in sessions is confidential.

“It’s an opportunity for survivors to come forth and share their experience in a safe environment,” Lonnecker said.



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