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5 Bumps

This is a messy one!

Basics: clergy sexual misconduct is the same as a doctor or counselor who has sex with a patient/client. This case is being retried, because the prosecutor focused more on the priest violating his vow of celibacy than he did on the state of their relationship (clergy and congregant) during their sexual relations.

No idea how it will go the second time around, but it has me wondering. The priest is claiming the relationship was consensual and he wasn't acting as clergy while they were having sex. But, if iit was a doctor or a psychologist, there's no such thing as "off duty so it's ok". At 3AM, if the other person is in an accident and the hospital needs to call someone, they're still calling that doctor or psych, even though it's after office hours. In that same vein, is a spiritual advisor (the specific faith is irrelevant) ever truly off the clock, either? If the same accident happens at 3AM, and the family needs comfort, the priest or gothi or rabbi or whoever, is ALSO going to get that call.

Answer Question
 
NotPanicking

Asked by NotPanicking at 4:50 PM on Nov. 28, 2012 in Religious Debate

Level 50 (416,290 Credits)
Answers (13)
  • Ok,so he got a BJ from a woman,and is doing time in jail??
    Was she the one that pushed for prosecution? Like an 18 mo long sexual assault?
    How is this illegal?
    I agree,you're a priest 24/7,but this seems more of a case of his not really taking his job seriously over doing something illegal
    butterflyblue19

    Answer by butterflyblue19 at 4:58 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • How is this illegal?

    In the same way it's illegal for a psych to have sex with a patient - it's a potentially manipulative and unhealthy power situation, ie the patient can feel coerced because the psych is the one with power. While it might be totally consensual, and the person might only be in counseling for something simple like coping with a recent death in the family or a job change, it's the same standard for everyone. It's also why doctors or shrinks who sleep with their patients lose their license to practice.
    NotPanicking

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 5:01 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • I think the overruling was correct. He had no right to basically convict him for breaking his vow of celabacy. The state has no jurisdiction in that.
    A priest can be defrocked but they are still a priest for life. Just a point of note.

    IMO if a preist has relations with any person who is a member of his congregation or he has has spiritual contact with, he is acting as a sexual preditor. You can not escape the influence of what you do.

    If he meets smeone on the street or in a bar or hires a hooker, he will violatehis vows of celabacy (church problem) but not violate any secular laws.

    If he is tried properly, I think a conviction will stick.
    Dardenella

    Answer by Dardenella at 5:11 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • There's a very large grey area in this one i feel. For example how much training/dertification/whateveritis does a bishop/priest/rabbi/religious leader need before taking a "position of power". They aren't exactly Licensed like doctor's and psych's etc.(Especially since in many cases you can ge an "Ordination" online. IT's more on level with the owner of a small restaraunt chain having sex with a regular customer. (Maybe not exactly but closer).
    I'll just agree this is messy.
    KristiS11384

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 5:11 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • I don't know. I agree a priest is a priest 24/7. But I don't think it's the same situation as a shrink. Shrinks clearly have power over their patients, and it's clear that their patients are coming to them because they're mentally fragile - even if it's something minor, they wouldn't be seeing a shrink if they didn't feel they needed the help. But you can talk to a priest about all kinds of things and "spiritual aid or comfort" could be as simple as "gee, Father Bob, I'm thinking maybe I don't wanna be a Catholic anymore, but a Baptist instead." That's not necessarily something that would make a person weak or easily coerced.

    I don't really think he broke any laws. He broke his vows to the church, which obviously is wrong morally - but as far as I know, there is no law that says "priests and congregants cannot have sex." That's a church issue, and this would fall under separate of church and state to me.
    wendythewriter

    Answer by wendythewriter at 5:15 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • Krist, I can see your point about the ordination on line thing. A priest is different. He has to go to seminary for years before he is ordained.

    You are going to a Priest for guidance and he is someone you SHOULD be able to trust. Yes you are vulnerable because you are supposed to be able to beleive what the Priest tells you. If you are going to a Priest you are on shaky ground somewhere in your life, be it spiritual or temporal. He should be held just as a counselor of any type should be.
    Dardenella

    Answer by Dardenella at 5:30 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • He should be treated the same as any other therapist or counselor.
    RyansMom001

    Answer by RyansMom001 at 6:08 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • but as far as I know, there is no law that says "priests and congregants cannot have sex."

    That's the law he's being tried for, actually - not Catholic priests and congregants cannot have sex, but clergy sexual misconduct, which has no denominational condition, it simply states it's an abuse of power for a spiritual leader/clergy/etc to have sexual contact with a congregant while providing those spiritual services. Same way a psychologist cannot have sex with someone they are life coaching.
    NotPanicking

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 7:36 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • That's the law he's being tried for, actually - not Catholic priests and congregants cannot have sex, but clergy sexual misconduct, which has no denominational condition, it simply states it's an abuse of power for a spiritual leader/clergy/etc to have sexual contact with a congregant while providing those spiritual services.

    I didn't know there was such a law. If that exists, then I guess he should be tried under it and if found guilty, sentenced accordingly. As far as I knew, though, there wasn't a law like that. I stand corrected.
    wendythewriter

    Answer by wendythewriter at 7:41 PM on Nov. 28, 2012

  • It is illegal because you confide in your minister the same way you have a relationship with your therapist. If you want the same recognition of confidentiality and privilege that other professionals do then you have to have legal and professional boundaries. As a therapist I operate under a code of conduct that is held up by both state and federal government. That is the framework I chose to operate under for the unique privilege of assisting individuals. If I had a sexual relationahip with a patient I would be taking advantage of their vulnerable state. Highly unethical.
    frogdawg

    Answer by frogdawg at 10:56 AM on Nov. 29, 2012

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