Richard Sipe died August 8, 2018, in San Diego. He was 85.
He was devoted full time to research into the sexual and celibate practices of Roman Catholic bishops and priests. That path led him to the study of the sexual teaching of the church and its effects on behavior, especially sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
He had spent his life searching for the origins, meanings, and dynamics of religious celibacy. His six books, including A Secret World and Celibacy in Crisis, explore various aspects of the questions about the pattern and practice of religious celibacy.
He spent 18 years as a Benedictine monk and Catholic priest. In those capacities, he was trained to deal with the mental health problems of priests. He and Marianne had been married since 1970 and have one son. Both as a priest and married man he practiced psychotherapy, taught on the faculties of Major Catholic Seminaries and colleges, lectured in medical schools, and served as a consultant and expert witness in both civil and criminal cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests.
Sipe was born Walter Richard Sipe on Dec. 11, 1932, in Robbinsdale, Minn., a farming town of 5000 within the shadow of Minneapolis. He had an upbringing that he joked could have been a chapter of a Sinclair Lewis novel: The dominant values were Republicanism and pro-business; life centered around school and the church, and Main Street was two blocks long and full of stores. Sipe’s father owned several gas stations.
The family was devoutly Catholic, and Sipe admired the enthusiastic young monks who came down to do parish work from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, 80 miles away.
“I was pious, I was intellectually inclined, I think I needed community support,” Sipe said. “You know, if you’re one of 10 kids, how do you make your mark?”