Richard Sipe was a former Benedictine monk and Catholic priest, trained as a psychotherapist to deal with the mental health problems of the clergy. Over the years he dealt with the records of over six thousand patients and recognized a pattern of behavior within the Church that eventually led him to leave the priesthood. “The monastery that had been my idealistic home when I was thirteen, by the time I was thirty-seven, it was in a sense a junkheap to me.”
Upon leaving the priesthood, Richard helped lift what he refers to as “the mask”, revealing the truth behind celibacy and its connection to the sexual abuse of minors. In a series of provocative books, he wrote frankly and extensively about sexuality in the priesthood. He also became an expert witness for the prosecution in hundreds of clergy abuse cases. Richard has appeared in dozens of documentaries and was the person The Boston Globe reporters called on for advice in SPOTLIGHT – the 2015 Academy Award Winner for Best Film.
SIPE: SEX, LIES, AND THE PRIESTHOOD is the first documentary to focus completely on Richard’s own journey – from the priesthood to an outspoken and informed critic of the institution. The film is directed by Joe Cultrera. One of Cultrera's previous documentaries (HAND OF GOD - Frontline, 2006) explored his brother’s abuse by a Catholic priest and the repercussions inside his Italian American family.
Following the Film:
A panel discussion will provide intimate perspectives on Sipe’s life and the survivor experience, together with cutting-edge analysis of Catholic clergy abuse and celibacy, the two issues that were revolutionized by Sipe’s work. The panel will include important revelations about Sipe’s own life and will reflect on the much-discussed connection between celibacy and Catholic clergy sex abuse. These topics were analyzed together for the first time in Sipe’s groundbreaking A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy (1990) and Sex, Priests, and Power: Anatomy of a Crisis (1995).
Marianne Benkert Sipe is a psychiatrist and expert witness specializing in Catholic clergy abuse and the lives of religious sisters; she and her husband Richard Sipe frequently worked together on abuse cases.
Phil Saviano is the activist and survivor of childhood sexual abuse by Fr. David Holley whose story was told in the movie Spotlight; he is a board member of BishopAccountability.org and represents Mexican folk artists through his import business www.vivaoaxacafolkart.com .
Robert Orsi is Grace Craddock Nagle Chair of Catholic Studies at Northwestern University, where he is also Professor of Religious Studies, History, and American Studies; he is the author of many books, including the award-winning Madonna of 115th Street, and is working on Give Us Boys (Columbia University Press, forthcoming in 2022), about sexual abuse in Jesuit prep schools; Orsi is a leader of the University of Notre Dame / BishopAccountability.org partnership Gender, Sex, and Power: Towards a History of Clergy Sex Abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church.
Kara French is Associate Professor of History at Salisbury University and author of Against Sex: Identities of Sexual Restraint in Early America (University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming in June 2021); she is a researcher in the Gender Sex, and Power partnership, where she is working on celibacy in the Catholic abuse crisis.