The Other Side of the Altar

One Man's Life in the Catholic Priesthood

Paul E. Dinter

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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.