The Other Side of the Altar

The Other Side of the Altar

2.0 1
by Dinter
     
 

In all the coverage of the priestly sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, one story has been left untold: the story of the everyday lives of Catholic priests in America, which remain so little understood as to be a secret, even as one priestly sexual predation after another has come to light.

In The Other Side of the Altar, Paul Dinter tellsSee more details below

Overview

In all the coverage of the priestly sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, one story has been left untold: the story of the everyday lives of Catholic priests in America, which remain so little understood as to be a secret, even as one priestly sexual predation after another has come to light.

In The Other Side of the Altar, Paul Dinter tells one priest's story--his own--in such a way as to reveal the lives of a generation of priests that spanned two very different eras. These priests entered the ministry in the 1960s, when Catholic seminaries were full of young men inspired by both the Church's ancient faith and the Second Vatican Council's promises of renewal. But by the early 1970s, the priesthood--and the celibate fraternity it depended upon--proved quite different from what the Council had promised. American society had changed, too, particularly in the area of sexuality. As a result, there emerged a clerical subculture of denial and duplicity, which all but guaranteed that the sexual abuse of children by priests would be routinely covered up by the Church's bishops.

Dinter, now married and raising two stepdaughters, left the priesthood in 1994 over the issue of celibacy, but not before having occasion to reflect on the whole range of priestly struggles with celibacy and sexual life in general--in Rome and rural England, on an Ivy League campus, and in parish rectories of the archdiocese of New York. His candid and affecting account--written from the other side of the altar, so to speak--makes clear that celibacy, sexuality, and power among the clergy have long been intertwined, and suggests how much must change if the Catholic Church hopes to regainthe trust of its people.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Back in the 1950s when Dinter was an altar boy, Catholic priests were generally respected and even revered. By 1993, as he prepared to leave active priesthood, a wave of sexual abuse scandals was engulfing the church. From its low-key title and first chapter, a reader might expect Dinter's memoir, though engagingly written, to be merely a personal account of this time of turmoil. To be sure, one of the book's important themes concerns his search for wholeness and connection through his student days and early years as a parish priest, his 15 years as Catholic chaplain at Columbia University, his sabbatical year in Rome and his eventual decision to resign from the priesthood. A parallel theme is equally important and far more provocative: the story of "how the Catholic priesthood's efforts to control the moral terms of debate regarding the proper role of human sexuality have irrevocably collapsed." Dinter's characterization of the lives of many priests is devastating: intense loneliness, "a variety of self-soothing mechanisms" including solo drinking and sexual acting out, loyalty to the priestly brotherhood rather than to parishioners. Especially damning is the chapter on the Vatican ("The Men's Club on the Tiber"), with its "self-confirmatory culture" and obsession with power. Now happily married with two stepdaughters, Dinter has this advice for church leaders: "Holy fathers! Get back to the drawing board and study nature's God-given designs before you pronounce so firmly about what you do not know and have not even begun to ask women about." (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This timely title combines autobiographical material about one man's experience inside the Catholic priesthood and a social commentary on the contemporary crisis within the faith today. Dinter, a former chaplain at Columbia University and now married, reflects on his formation and 30 years of ministry. He traces his life from boyhood to seminary training and to the priestly fraternity, the Vatican, and eventual marriage. Discussing actual situations and events, he lifts the veil that frequently shelters the presbyterial mystique, giving the reader unique access to the mind and heart of the modern clergy and insight into the motivation of the bishops who govern them. Some of the material is disturbing, as Dinter airs the church's dirty laundry, though most is nostalgic reminiscence. This honest portrayal of one man's struggle with celibacy, sexuality, and power is also a call for systematic change. Recommended for larger public libraries.-John-Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Platteville Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374299668
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
03/19/2003
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

From the Foreword

This book is a story about the celibate priesthood and about sexuality. It is a story that—it can no longer be denied—is not two stories, but one story: how the priesthood's efforts to control the moral terms of debate regarding the proper role of human sexuality have irrevocably collapsed, calling into question not only the priesthood's credibility, but its own self-understanding.

I have not tried to construct a treeatise against Rome's one-eyed veiw of sexuality and the human condition. Instead, I wish to tell my story and to venture some reflections. If there are a few salacious details about the lives of priests, they are only enough to tell the larger story. I need not rehash the news reports about the ways in which priests wove their webs of deceit to ensnare young innocents or normally insecure teenagers. But I hope to sketch out a more comprehensive portrait of the day-to-day world of the priesthood in which they could do so, then be ignored or passively tolerated, and finally be transferred to new assignments in which they could start up their sick drama once again.

Revaluing sexuality within the spiritual life requires a supreme act of the religious imagination, indeed a religious awakening, that has thus far proved too daunting for most Catholic leaders. I hope to contribute to this awakening by telling the truth, as I know it, about life behind the Roman collar.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >