Bad Pastors

Clergy Misconduct in Modern America

268 pages

August, 2000

ISBN: 9780814781470



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ANSON SHUPE is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the Joint campus of Indiana University and Purdue University in Fort Wayne. He is the author of over two dozen books and numerous professional articles.

All books by Anson D. Shupe

WILLIAM A. STACEY is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Social Research at the University of Texas at Arlington.

SUSAN E. DARNELL manages a credit union in Gary, Indiana and is a civil rights advocate journalist.

All books by William A. Stacey

SUSAN E. DARNELL manages a credit union in Gary, Indiana and is a civil rights advocate journalist.

All books by Susan E. Darnell

Child-molesting priests, embezzled church treasures, philandering ministers and rabbis, even church-endorsed pyramid schemes that defraud gullible parishioners of millions of dollars: for the past decade, clergy misconduct has seemed continually to be in the news.

Is there something about religious organizations that fosters such misbehavior? Bad Pastors presents a range of new perspectives and solidly grounded data on pastoral abuse, investigating sexual misconduct, financial improprieties, and political and personal abuse of authority. Rather than focusing on individuals who misbehave, the volume investigates whether the foundation for clergy malfeasance is inherent in religious organizations themselves, stemming from hierarchies of power in which trusted leaders have the ability to define reality, control behavior, and even offer or withhold the promise of immortality. Arguing that such phenomena arise out of organizational structures, the contributors do not focus on one particular religion, but rather treat these incidents from an interfaith perspective.

Bad Pastors moves beyond individual case studies to consider a broad range of issues surrounding clergy misconduct, from violence against women to the role of charisma and abuse of power in new religious movements. Highlighting similarities between other forms of abuse, such as domestic violence, the volume helps us to conceptualize and understand clergy misconduct in new ways.


  • ”Goes far beyond the ‘bad apple' theory of clergy malfeasance. In this book sensitive, tough-minded sociologists ask why notorious predators have been able to exploit religious institutions and use them to cover up their violations. The clear-headed contributors not only communicate effectively with a wide audience, but also bring years of hard-won experience and training to help the rest of us understand how the misuse of clergy power arose and operates. Institutions that train professionals—seminaries, law schools, medical schools, academic centers—could profit considerably from the wisdom and implied recommendations found in these weighty chapters."

    —J. E. Barnhart, author of The Study of Religion and Its Meaning

  • "This book is extremely valuable. Shupe et al. have done an excellent job...highly recommended; it is a must-read."

    Criminal Justice Review

  • "Bad Pastors raises all the good questions and provides many hypothetical answers, and for these reasons alone it should be read by all sociologists of religion with an interest in wrongdoings."

    Sociology of Religion