Priscilla's Friends


Here's part of a longer article - watch for the rest - on Ex-Pastors,
written for part of the prescribed study for a PhD I was once pursuing in
the area. It's a bit technical, in terms of the sociology of religion. If
that subject doesn't turn you on, I givew you permission to skip to another

For our purposes, roles may be defined as the bundles of attributes and
expectations associated with social positions. Social roles are highly
complex patterns of living (Garfinkel 1967) and are at the core of our
individual identities (Fein 1990).

Defining social roles is somewhat easier than developing a coherent role
theory. In the 1950s, Robert Merton wrote confidently, 'However much they
may differ in other respects, contemporary sociological theorists are
largely at one in adopting the premise that social statuses and social roles
comprise major building blocks of contemporary social structure' (1957:

Twenty years later, according to R.W. Connell, while role 'is part of the
furniture of social sciences', practitioners are not in agreement in their
understanding of what constitutes role theory. Moreover in the development
of an authentic social theory, 'role theory will come to be seen as a
particularly sterile diversion. The sooner it is buried, the better' (1979:

The 1980s did not produce a single generally accepted and well-defined
statement of role theory. Biddle (1986: 68) refers to 'damning reviews of
role theory', and yet concurs that it remains a widely used concept. Connell
(1979:8) noted that 'something like 200 papers specifically concerned with
role are published each year in psychological and sociological journals;
while Biddle (1986:67) asserts that a technical use of the term appears in
least 10% of all articles in sociological journals. In a review of Ebaugh's
Becoming an Ex: The Process of Role Exit (1988), Loic J D Wacquant suggests
that 'role theory can do little more than systematize the obvious... It is
time to cut this dead branch of functionalism and to exit from role theory'
(1990: 402).

Despite these ambiguities, we believe an eclectic approach is useful in
understanding role dissonance and role stress. An overview of various
approaches to role theory, and what constitutes role dissonance will be
outlined, and an attempt made to integrate these various concepts in
relation to the exiting of clergy from pastoral ministry.


Linton (1936), using a theatrical metaphor, understood role as the dynamic
aspect of status or 'position'. Later usage has tended to apply the notion
of role to both 'status' and 'performance', but there has been no consensus
here. Summarizing the literature on role Biddle (1986) identifies a triad of
concepts: characteristic social behaviours (Biddle 1979, Burt 1982);
identities assumed by social participants (Winship & Mandel 1983); and
scripts or expectations for social conduct (Bates & Harvey 1975, Zurcher
1983). Biddle (1979) identified 334 role-related concepts (Kuper and Kuper

Role Set

Whereas Linton believed that each person occupies multiple statuses each of
which has an associated role, Robert Merton (1949, 1957) suggested that each
social status involves a range of roles, a 'role set'. A role set is the
enmeshing of certain positions and roles. Because a 'role is, in theory,
never defined by itself... (but) is defined in relation to other possible
roles' (Connell, 1980; 10) 'role set' has become an intrinsic part of role


A 'theory' is 'a set of propositions employing a consistent idiom that
guides the search for facts' (Sarbin and Allen 1968:489). Or, more loosely,
'any abstract general account of an area of reality, usually including the
use of formulation of general concepts' (Jary & Jary, 1991: 658). Role
theory 'is the approach to social structure which locates its basic
constraints in stereotyped interpersonal expectations' (Connell 1979: 9).
Connell (1979:8) suggests that the core of role theory can be spelt out in
five points:

(1) An analytic distinction between the person and the social position (or
place, office or status which she occupies), and (2) a set of actions (role
behaviours, tasks, etc.) which are assigned to the position... (3) The
assignment of actions to positions is specified by expectations (rules,
prescriptions, norms etc.); (4) which are held by the occupants of
counter-positions (ego and alter, role senders, reference groups etc.); (5)
and enforced by the sanctions (positive and negative reinforcements, rewards
etc.) which they apply to correct or incorrect performance by the occupant
of the position.

Following Biddle (1986) five perspectives on role theory may be isolated:
functional, symbolic interactionist, structural, organizational and

Functional Role Theory

The dominant perspective in American role theory until the mid-1970s, this
approach has focused on the characteristic behaviours of persons who occupy
social positions within a stable social system. But social systems are not
stable, so a conformist or deterministic view of roles and expectations does
not easily square with contemporary reality.

Symbolic Interactionist Role Theory

This approach, which began with Mead (1934), focuses on the individual
actors' role, and the evolution of roles through social interaction. Social
actors understand and interpret their own and others' conduct and this
facilitates 'role-taking'. Indeed, as Goffman (1959) has suggested,
'impression management' and 'role distancing' are practised by actors who
may adopt a tongue-in-cheek approach to role-demands of others. Brandon

Symbolic interactionism provides a conceptual framework in which the
integrity of each individual is acknowledged. Within this framework, persons
act with initiative and individuality, sometimes reacting to the physical or
social envirnoment as they perceive it, sometimes interacting with the
environment to change it (1986:20).

A major criticism of symbolic interactionism is in its focus on micro-social
processes at the expense of macroscopic structures.

Structural Role Theory

Burt (1976, 1982), Mandel (1983) and others propound a mathematically
expressed, axiomatic theory concerning structured role relationships. Their
emphasis is more on the social environment, and less on the individual.
Social scientists generally have an aversion to theories expressed
mathematically, and this approach has not attracted a significant following.
Biddle comments:

Role theory is popular, in part, because it portrays persons as thinkers,
thus purporting to explain both behaviours and phenomenal experience, while
much of structural role theory ignores the latter. It is certainly possible
to build a role theory that merely describes social structure, but one
wonders whether the gain is worth the effort (1986:73).

Organizational Role Theory

Introduced by Gross et al (1958), and Kahn et al (1964) and further
developed by Van Sell et al (1981) and Fisher and Gitelson (1983) this
perspective has been popular with industrial sociologists. This version of
role theory focuses on 'social systems that are preplanned, task-oriented,
and hierarchical' (Biddle 1986: 73). Because all conflicts are seen as role
conflicts they can be worked through to produce a happy and productive
workplace. These roles are seen to be generated by normative expectations,
but because norms vary, and come from multiple sources, role conflict
results. This theory gives little place to roles that evolve or where roles
are developed by nonnormative expectations.

Cognitive Role Theory

Cognitive role theorists focus on relationships between role expectations
and behaviour: the effects of social conditions on expectations, techniques
for measuring expectations and their impact on social contact. Subfields
include Moreno's (1934) concept of role playing (McNamara & Blumer 1982),
group norms and the roles of leaders and followers (eg. Hollander 1985),
theories of anticipatory role expectations (Rotter 1954, Kelly 1955, Tschudi
& Rommetveit 1982), and role taking (Mead, 1934, also see eg. Eisenberg &
Lennon 1983). Biddle (1979) 'assumes that role expectations can appear
simultaneously in at least three modes of thought: norms, preferences, and
beliefs' (Biddle 1986:75). Among other criticisms Biddle suggests that
cognitive role theory relies too heavily on contemporary American culture
and may focus on the individual and slight role phenomena associated with
social positions. 'For the present, however, cognitive role theory appears
to have a broader empirical base than other perspectives in the field'
(Biddle 1986:76).

Towards an Integrated Model

This model is used by Brandon (1986) following Stryker (1980), Stryker and
Serpe (1982) and Callero (1985) in his study of ministers in the Uniting
Church in Australia. Self-definition and social networks each have effects
on behaviour (Callero 1985:213). In modern symbolic interactionism the self
is a structure of roles (Turner 1978), identities (Stryker, 1980) or role
identities (McCall and Simmons, 1978). The role identities are defined in
part by the social structure and in part by the individual.

Structural role theory dovetails with symbolic interactionism in that it
'takes account of the complex way social structure organises actual
behaviour, and provides sophisticated tools for conceptualizing this highly
differentiated structure' (Brandon 1986:21). Stryker does not use the terms
'norms' and 'values' which derive from structural role theory, but rather
speaks of expectations. In a church situation these expectations may have
almost normative connotations' (Ibid. p.25). Brandon's thesis is that there
'are conventions at work within the corporate culture of the church which
inhibit normal role-making processes between minister and lay people, and
that misperceptions do occur' (Ibid. p.28).

Implicit in Brandon's methodology is the assumption that role theory and
dissonance theory together provide a useful perspective on role stress from
both the individual viewpoint and the organizational viewpoint (p.103).
Brandon quotes Bodycomb (1983: 26):

Clergy stress is a fact of clergy life and is of such dimensions as to
warrant serious research and recommendations. However, we should not assume
that this is to be explained mainly by reference to causes or sources
outside the clergyman. On the contrary, perhaps the basic element in the
chemistry that produces clergy stress is the personality type.

These two perspectives are combined in Fein's (1990) development of a
resocialization perspective.

A Resocialization Perspective

According to Connell (1979: 12) 'One of role theory's major claims to
significance is that through the concept of internalisation of role
prescriptions it can give an account of social learning and personality

For Fein (1990:14) 'roles are a combination of internal and external
factors... the concept of social role is thus inherently both inter- and
intra-personal.' He is convinced that 'most personal unhappiness is
instigated by social role problems' (p.ix). This perspective 'holds that
painful roles are created in socialization processes; to be overcome, they
must be relinquished and new ones constructed in their place' (p.ix). For
Fein, 'roles are patterns of interpersonal action that are guided by both
internal and external directions. They are shaped by a person's plans,
thought, and feelings, and by the demands made by others' (p.4).

The model is developed against the backdrop of problems between parent and
child in the initial construction of role, and how these problems from
aborted or failed roles may have resulted in dysfunctional role maintenance,
and necessitate the painful process of role change. In terms of the present
study, this is reflected in the questionnaire both in issues relating to
childhood and to the self. But because Fein's model is based on something
having gone wrong in the initial construction of a role, it could also be
relevant to problems in the first church pastored, or in a faulty
negotiation of role in the other pastorates served.

The Role and the Person

'Social roles are perceived and enacted against the background of the self'
(Sarbin and Allen 1968: 522). In all the interactions, the self is involved:
the person is more than the role. Yet

other things being equal, when self characteristics are congruent with role
requirements, role enactment is more effective, proper, and appropriate than
when role and self are incongruent. By self-role congrunece we mean the
degree of overlap or fittingness that exists between requirements of the
role and the qualities of self (Ibid. p.524).

Qualities of self will include personality factors, perceptions, skills and

While some roles are easy to put on or take off, 'other roles are difficult
to put aside when a situation is changed and continue to color the way in
which many individuals' roles are performed' (Turner 1978: 1). When the
attitudes and behaviour developed in one role carry over into another role,
there is a merger of role with person - often a cause of conflict in a
different role setting.

Merger of role and person occurs when a person identifies significantly with
a particular role. For role/person merger there must be internal dynamics at
work, not only external compliance with social pressure. This merger is more
likely to occur in another's perception when a person is seen only in one
role. 'When we see people regularly in an alternative and contradictory
role, we are sensitized to the distinction between person and role and
inhibited from making our usual automatic assumptions about the person
behind the role' (Turner 1979: 7).

Such a strong role/person merger can result in difficulty disengaging from
that role when in another setting, or when no longer occupying the same
position in society. This accounts for some pastors' difficulties in
disengaging from their role when they no longer have a pastoral charge.

Role Acquisition

According to Thornton and Nardi (1980) there are four stages in role
acquisition - anticipatory, formal, informal and personal. In this process
the individual moves from a passive acceptance of role, to actively engaging
in and shaping the role. For a role to be fully acquired, the individual
needs to move through anticipation, formal and informal expectations, the
formulation of one's own expectations, and have reconciled these various
facets so that the final outcome is acceptable.

In the role set, there are two groups of people who impinge on role
acquisition - those who have a similar role, and those who have reciprocal
roles. The incumbent in the role also has expectations of the role, which
also impinge on role acquistion.

Expectations in acquiring a role are both overt and covert involving 'in
part an increasing awareness of implicit as well as explicit expectations
encompassing attitudes and values, and knowledge and skills in addition to
behaviour' (Thornton and Nardi 1980: 872).

Both social and psychological adjustment are required in role acquisition,
and adaptation, 'where the role is internalized and assimilated so that in a
sense the person and role become inseparable' (Ibid. p.873), may occur.

In the anticipatory period, the first view of role comes from generalized
sources. In this initial stage, Thornton and Nardi say that it 'is usually
colored by what individuals want and need... however, because it is
influenced in this way, because it is idealized, and because individuals
fantasize about future roles, anticipation may not be congruent with what
will actually be experienced' (p.875). How well the person adjusts to the
role will actually depend on the degree of congruence between what is
anticipated and what actually transpires in the role.

In the formal stage, the person experiences the role as an incumbent, and
begins to relate to the role from the inside. Expectations now come from
three sources - others in a similar role, those in reciprocal roles, and the
expectations of the incumbent who responds, at least in part, to the
expectations of others. At this stage, persons will often postpone the
meeting of their own needs until they are familiar with the role.

During the informal stage there are encounters with the unofficial or
informal expectations and ways of doing things. Role colleagues are often
more important at this stage than those in reciprocal roles. This is where
psychological adjustment begins in earnest, because 'through the freedom
allowed, one can start to formulate his own meanings for a role and its
performance' (Thornton and Nardi 1980: 879) - required for effective role

Role acquistion is not simply the person adjusting to the expectations of
others: the person imposes their own style on their role performance. When
the self and the role are incongruent, there will be resultant problems of
social and psychological adjustment. It is when the person has been able to
fuse themselves with their role, that they will derive most satisfaction
from their roles.

Role Pressure

Role pressure can come from many sources, and can be a source of tension and
psychological stress. Kahn et al. (1964) isolate six forms of role stress:

a. Inter-sender conflict, where the demands of one person in a role set
conflict with or are incompatible with the demands of another person in the
set, b. Intra-sender conflict - mutually contradictory demands from a single
person in the role set c. Inter-role conflict, resulting from different
expectations within the role d. Person-role conflict where the expectations
of the role are in conflict with the person's values, beliefs or self
concept e. Role overload - too many demands in too little time f. Role
ambiguity, where expectations are not clearly defined, and the person is
unsure as to how to behave.

Bedeian and Armenakis (1981) found that role conflict had greater influence
on tension than role ambiguity. Both decrease job satisfaction, and increase
the propensity to leave. This has been substantiated in other research (Kahn
et al.1964; Thomson and Powers, 1983). Role ambiguity and role conflict are
highly subjective and therefore difficult to measure.

Role Dissonance

The concept of role dissonance has been developed by Brandon (1986) from
Festinger's (1957) theory of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance
occurs when there are two cognitions dissonant with each other, causing
pressure which the individual will seek to reduce or eliminate. Brandon is
concerned with internal states, assessed by verbal reports on introspection.
Objectively, this is then related to the minister's perceptions of the
expectations of key role-attitudes and role-behaviours, their perceptions of
the expectations of their people in relation to the same attitudes and
behaviours, and the actual role-expectations of their people. In Brandon's
development of role dissonance, the cognitions that are potentially
dissonant may be inter- or intra-personal.

Role Transition

Burr (1972:407) defines role transition as 'the process of moving in and out
of roles in a social system. It may involve the addition or termination of a
role without any change in other roles; or it could be the termination of
one or more roles and the concomitant beginning of another'. Transition then
occurs both on entering and exiting a role. Burr sees this to be two
different processes, influenced in different ways by different variables.
'Generally speaking, it seems that the greater the amount of normative
change that is occurring in a person's life, the greater the difficulty that
would be expected in making any transition' (Burr 1972:414).

Transition is an important type of change because of its influence on
behaviour and social identity. Role enactment will be dependent upon the
person's self concept and social identity, and conversely 'role enactment
has a strong impact on self and social identity' (Allen 1984:7). There are
many potential causes of role transitions, 'but a reasonable classification
would include the following as important categories: chance events, societal
forces, change in role senders, and capability or motives of the focal
person' (Ibid. p.11).

Role Shock

Minkler and Biller applying cross-cultural understandings of role shock to
role transitions, define role shock as 'the stresses and tensions manifested
as discontinuity encountered when moving from familiar to unfamiliar roles'
(1979:127). These stresses and tensions can be social, psychological and/or
physiological. 'Role shock may be as critically linked with role leaving as
it is with the taking on of a new role, particularly when the role one
leaves behind is heavily bound up with his or her identity' (Ibid).

In role shock the person is required to change their self/role conceptions.
Such an encounter will often be manifested in a reversion to past roles or
retreating into professionalism (Minkler and Biller 1979:131). To resolve
role shock there may need to be a 'basic restructuring of the self' (Ibid.
p.134). People in role shock will often seek out 'bridge' people to help
facilitate the transition. This is considered a highly adaptive response.
Minkler and Biller advise that

the propensity for role shock in the movement through careers thus points up
the need for easing the transitions both into and out of the work role, such
that the "critical junctures" of job entry, occupational change,
unemployment, and retirement become less critical and thus less likely to
invoke major stresses and their sequelae (Ibid. p.137).

Role Exit

The stages in role exit, from first doubts encountered in the role, seeking
out alternatives, the turning point and creating the ex-role, have been
delineated by Ebaugh.

Role exit for Ebaugh is 'the process of disengagement from a role that is
central to one's self-identity and the reestablishment of an identity in a
new role that takes into account one's ex-role' (p.1). Exes experience the
pains of disengagement and disidentification and varying degrees of freedom
in creating a new identity. It is important, however, if an ex is to become
a well integrated and whole person, to incorporate that past history into
his or her current identity: 'Exes tend to maintain role residual or some
kind of "hangover identity" from a previous role as they move into new
social roles' (p.5).


Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh, Becoming an Ex: The Process of Role Exit. Foreword
by Robert K. Merton. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Ebaugh (an ex Catholic nun) describes the role-exit process and what is
involved in creating an ex-role identity: themes, she says, universally
experienced by humans, but not adequately studied by sociologists. We have
all exited childhood and school, and more people than ever are exiting
marriages, careers, religious groups, or stigmatized roles such as
alcoholic, or drug user. For some of these we use the 'ex-' prefix:
ex-doctor, ex-policeman, ex-con, ex-cult member. All exes have this in
common - they once identified with a social role which they no longer have.

Role exit is 'the process of disengagement from a role that is central to
one's self-identity and the reestablishment of an identity in a new role
that takes into account one's ex-role' (p.1). Exes experience the pains of
disengagement and disidentification and varying degrees of freedom in
creating a new identity. It is important, however, if an ex is to become a
well integrated and whole person, to incorporate that past history into his
or her current identity: 'Exes tend to maintain role residual or some kind
of "hangover identity" from a previous role as they move into new social
roles' (p.5).

Ebaugh's data are derived from 185 semi-structured interviews with a variety
of voluntary exes: ex-nuns, former police officers, teachers, doctors and
semi-professionals; retirees, divorcees and mothers who have surrendered
custody of their children; former convicts, alcoholics and transsexuals.
Although ex 'ministers' only get five brief mentions (pp.
95,128,138,197,202), Ebaugh's role-exit research and theorizing are
nevertheless valuable tools for the study of ex-pastors.

She adopted a qualitative 'grounded theory' approach to interviewing (Glaser
and Strauss 1967; Glaser 1978; Charmaz 1983), and uses insights from both
the structuralists and symbolic interactionists: 'Role exiting can occur
only in the context of both a role-taking and a role-making perspective'
(p.19). (I have critiqued role theory - and role theories - and grounded
theory elsewhere).

Ebaugh argues that there are four major stages in most exiters' experience:
doubting, seeking and weighing of role alternatives, negotiating turning
points, and establishing an ex-role identity. Further, there are eleven
salient properties of the role-exit process: the degree of voluntariness,
the centrality of the role, reversibility and duration, degree of control,
individual versus group (cohort) exits, single versus multiple exits, social
desirability (or stigma) associated with the exit, degree of
institutionalization associated with exiting (cf. rites of passage),
awareness, and sequentiality.

The first definable stage of role exiting involves doubting, questioning a
situation that was once taken for granted. Doubting may be triggered by four
categories of circumstances: organizational changes (eg. for Roman Catholic
nuns, redefinitions of their Church's authority sparked by the Second
Vatican Council); burnout (a function of the clash between idealistic
expectations and reality, Freudenberger 1974); disappointments or drastic
changes in relationships; and specific triggering events. During this stage
the dissatisfied individual generally emits cues, which may, in retrospect,
justify the role change. Interactions with significant others is important
for reality testing: these encounters may or may not be 'therapeutic',
depending on perceptions of others' reactions, as they confirm, dissuade, or
suggest alternatives.

Another variable in the doubting process is its duration, which may be a
function of the person's perception of the amount of control the institution
has on their decision to exit, and whether other doubters are providing
social support during this painful time. If there is a cohort making the
exit this can shorten the doubting time.

In the second stage, the exiter seeks alternative roles - an evaluative
process which may have rational or nonrational elements in it. That is,
exiters seek alternatives before making the final decision to leave. Among
the overwhelming majority of respondents this process always included five
steps. (1) They weigh alternatives, evaluating the degree of satisfaction
and reward a particular course of action will have (see Thibaut and Kelley
1959). This also contains a consideration of the translatability of skills
and experience to another vocation: 'role entrapment' may result from a lack
of viable alternatives (Dworkin 1986, Ebaugh 1977). In addition, there are
accrued 'side bets' (Becker 1960) which will be sacrificed if the exit
process is followed through - these are the side benefits which are not
directly related to the job but which have added value to it (friendships,
status, security, emotional attachments etc.) Important here is the
'childhood dream' of fulfilling a certain vocation, (eg. 'a minister who had
always dreamed of being a minister' p.95), which must now be sacrificed. (2)
Social support is tested. The high cost of leaving may involve negative
criticism from family members for example, and the fear of stigma may also
be significant. (3) There is an assessment and realization of the freedom to
choose. When some of the nuns found that their vows were revocable they were
euphoric. (4) 'Anticipatory socialization' involves identifying with the
values, norms, attitudes and expectations of those holding the role being
considered. These reference groups serve three major functions for the
individual oriented towards them: comparative functions (to help in one's
evaluating oneself compared to others), normative functions (setting and
maintaining standards), and gate-keeping functions (groups or individuals to
whom one looks for approval or support of actions or decision). (5) Finally
some form or real or imaginary role rehearsal takes place (San Giovanni
1978), indicating that the process of making a final decision is close at

The duration of the process of seeking alternatives depends on such factors
as 'reversibility of the exit, degree of social support, social desirability
of the exit, degree of institutionalization, status as a lone traveler or as
part of a group, and, finally, degree of awareness of the process occurring'
(pp. 117-118). 'The longer and more deliberative the process, the easier was
the postexit adjustment' (p.120).

Having weighed options, there comes a turning point: 'an event that
mobilizes and focuses awareness that old lines of action are complete, have
failed, have been disrupted, or are no longer personally satisfying and
provides individuals with the opportunity to do something different with
their lives' (p. 123). Again, Ebaugh suggests five types of turning points:
(1) specific events - 'occurrences that crystallize one's ambivalence toward
a current role and place the choice to exit in bold relief' (p.125); (2) an
event that becomes 'the last straw'; (3) time-related factors (eg. mid-life,
or a 'socially expected duration ' Merton 1984); (4) excuses (eg. health
problems or injuries which may elicit sympathy rather than stigma); and (5)
either- or alternatives which make the exit a matter or urgency.

The turning point serves three functions: it is a focal point for announcing
one's decision to others; it helps in the reduction of cognitive dissonance
(Festinger 1957); and facilitates the mobilization of emotional and social
resources needed to exit. Role exiters experience many emotions, from relief
to fear and apprehension and failure. Three quarters of the sample felt in
limbo, in a vacuum at some point - a period of lostness shorter for those
who could build 'bridges' in their previous roles to further jobs, and who
had the support of family and friends.

The final stage of the exit process involves the creation of the ex-role, as
a new identity is formed within the constraints of others' expectations.
There are six issues here. (1) Cues are emitted presenting the new identity
to others (cf. Goffman's notion of impression management, 1959a). (2) But
ex-statuses are often more salient to others than current roles: there are
the lingering effects of social labels attached to the former identity of,
for example, divorcees or widows or ex-cons. 'Status degradation' and social
stigma are associated with socially undesirable roles (Garfinkel 1956). The
process of 'labeling' is involved here - attaching names to categories of
people that become self-fulfilling prophecies (Kitsuse 1962; Lemert 1951,
1967; Scheff 1966; Schur 1971; Liska 1981). (3) Exes whose role switch has a
salient gender content (prostitutes, nuns, transsexuals etc.) have huge
adjustments to make in terms of intimate relationships. (4) There are
inevitably changes in friendship networks. (5) Relating to former members
and other exes is important for many (hence the proliferation of self-help
groups). (6) Finally there is the matter of role residual: 'Some roles are
put on and taken off like clothing without lasting effects. Other roles are
difficult to put aside when a situation is changed and continue to color the
way in which many of the individual's roles are performed' (Turner 1978,1).
Role residual is the 'continued identity an individual holds with aspects of
a previous role' (p. 174). Those exiting professional and semi-professional
roles tend to have more role residual than those exiting nonprofessional
roles. 'As individuals internalize a professional role, they define
themselves in terms of role expectations' (ibid.). Why? The public keeps
reminding the individual of the exiting; there is the special training
involved; many circumstances remind the exiter of their previous role (cf.
ex-pastors who 'suffer' a weekly reminder when they attend church services);
and role residual lingers in dreams, because of the deep-seated memories of
the anguish involved in the decision-making process.

Summary and Conclusions. According to Ebaugh, 'socialization literature has
deemphasized the issue of disengagement and placed emphasis on the new role
one is acquiring [and has also] placed little amphasis on the impact of role
residual or the holdover identity derived from a prvious status. Role exit
theory, on the other hand, emphasizes the impact of previous role
identification on current concepts of self. Also unique in the role-exiting
process is the impact of social reactions to an individual that are based on
a previous role. A major challenge to the exiter is learning to deal with
the reactions of other people to who one used to be' (pp. 182-3).

An appendix on 'The Therapeutic Impact of the Information Interview' notes
that in contexts where an ex is the subject, 'information-seeking questions
and therapeutic consequences often coexist' (p.213). Textbooks on
interviewing put little if any emphasis on how to deal with catharsis on the
part of the interviewee An exception is Rubin (1974, and Rubin and Mitchell
1976) who examined the unintended effects of studying close relationships.
While skilled interviewers are constantly on guard against displaying any
reaction which might modify or influence the respondent's answer to a
question (p.216), surely we must not neglect 'formal training of
interviewers with regard to appropriate and humane responses to such
situations' (p.223).

Loic J.D. Wacquant, 'Exiting Roles or Exiting Role Theory? Critical Notes on
Ebaugh's Becoming an Ex', Acta Sociologica 1990 (33), 4:397-404.

Wacquant believes the principal merit of Becoming an Ex is empirical and
analytical. 'The process of disassociating and disidentifying had hitherto
received scant attention across types (emphasis his) of social positions and
statuses. Ebaugh presents and contrasts a wealth of interesting materials in
a way that cannot but titillate the comparative imagination of the reader'

However she is criticized for degenerating 'into a 'type atomism' as some
typologies - that of turning points for instance - have a strong ad hoc
flavor, with residual "catch-all" categories that provide little analytic
assistance in the work of comparison... Many assertions are merely argued on
the basis of common sense reasoning rather than rigorously related to the
interview results... [Thus] the empirical material is often loosely
juxtaposed to the theoretical argument' (p.399).

More seriously, Wacquant has problems with the theoretical framework itself.
Ebaugh has built her theory on conceptual tools drawn from role theory a la
Linton, Merton and Parsons... '[which] at minimum... are sorely out of touch
with the current theoretical mood with its concerns over action (in the
rational mode with Coleman and Becker or the interpretive one with
ethnomethodology), life-world (Habermas) encoded cultural categories
(Geertz, Sahlins) or practice (Bourdieu, Foucault). Because Ebaugh's
analysis remains trapped within the discursive space of functionalist social
psychology (emphasis his), at no time does she confront what other paradigms
might have to say about "role exit" or how, to be more precise, they would
differently construct the empirical phenomena that correspond to it' (p.

Notwithstanding Ebaugh's consideration of both role taking and role making,
Wacquant claims that 'role theory perpetuates the rigid dichotomy of action
and structure, takes the character and definition of roles as given and
fixed and introduces a bias toward normative consensus in social analysis...
Role theory lacks a theory of action and therefore cannot account for the
logic that informs the practical strategies whereby agents and institutions
make and break, take and forsake "roles"' (p.400). Thus while role theory
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Book Review/Essay


(by David Rice, London: Michael Joseph, 1989)

It is better that scandals arise than that truth be silenced. St. Gregory
the Great

The sexuality (or asexuality) and sexual practices (or celibacy) of holy
people have always fascinated other mortals. When moralistic televangelists
have their adulteries exposed, the news pushes superpower politics to page
three. Morris West's story of the spiritual and sexual struggles of a
candidate for sainthood in The Devil's Advocate sells over sixteen million
copies, and is made into a film. Another bestseller - John Updike's A Month
of Sundays - describes in erotic detail the scandal of Rev. Tom Marshfield's
adventures with ladies in his parish. Andrew Greeley's novels about the sins
of cardinals etc. make us wonder how a celibate priest can know so much
about some things. And for some real-life stories about the sexual
frustrations of Catholic priests and religious there is the 525-page book
(with index and selected bibliography) Desire and Denial: Sexuality and
Vocation - a Church in Crisis by Gordon Thomas (London: Grafton Books,

Priestly and pastoral infidelity is now a matter for serious sociological
study. The book Sexual Practices & the Medieval Church has been placed in
the two-hour loan reserve section of Melbourne's Monash University library.
An article titled 'Puritan perverts' in The Sociological Review (February
1985) lists amazingly disparate male and female religious leaders accused of
various improprieties. (Why? Researcher Steve Bruce suggests two factors:
opportunity, and emotionally charged settings in which people are 'religious
o'ermuch'). Conservative evangelical Christianity Today's 'Leadership'
magazine devoted its Winter '88 issue to such matters as 'After the Affair:
A [Pastor's] Wife's Story', and 'Private Sins of Public Ministry'. I
photocopied an excellent article from Ministry (January 1987) - 'Battling
Sexual Indiscretion' ('Is your sex drive under control? Why are ministers
more vulnerable than most other people?') - to hand out at clergy
conferences. A recent issue of Australian Ministry (May 1990) contains an
evocative fable 'Sexual Harassment in the Church'. Then we have Newsweek
(Sept. 11, 1989) and other magazines running articles like 'When a Pastor
Turns Seducer'...

The latest offering in this genre, David Rice's Shattered Vows: Exodus from
the Priesthood, is a passionate plea to the Roman Catholic church to make
celibacy optional and open its priesthood to married clergy. His statistics
are alarming: an estimated 100,000 priests worldwide have left active
ministry over a 25-year period, with another 200,000 priests 'failing to
observe celibacy' (p.171). During the same period we have witnessed a
serious decline in vocations: in the year 2000 the U.S. will have seen the
number of priests diminish by half, with an average age of 65!

David Rice is a laicised Irish Dominican, and head of the Dublin School of
Journalism. He spent a year traveling the world talking to priests, bishops,
and ex-priests (442 of them) and their families. Rice is careful to preserve
anonymity when requested, but a lot of people are willing to be identified.
He chronicles many heroic commitments to ministry and but also struggles (by
priests wearing 'give-away' grey faces) with loneliness, and disillusionment
with the church-as-unfeeling-institution. He is brutally honest -
particularly about 'the shadow side of celibacy' (that will be the chapter
you'll hear about in the secular media when this book hits the fan). He
writes as a participant observer: Rice left the priesthood in 1977 to marry.

This book offers a devastating critique of two related matters: the
institutional bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic church, and that Church's
rationale for clerical celibacy.

1. The Church-as-institution. Malcolm Muggeridge once said he'd like to take
Jesus around the Vatican and watch his reactions. Well-known parish priest
in London's Bayswater parish, Father Michael Hollings, said to the author:
'Canon law is strangling the Church. I think if Jesus Christ came today,
he'd be condemned by the Curia' (p.144). 'The deeper into the institutional
Church I penetrated,' Rice complains, 'the higher up the pyramid of Church
authority I went, the more indifference and sometimes cruelty I encountered'
(p.66). '[Other groups'] harshness is usually softened by structures like
courts and juries to ensure fair play. But the Church has not yet developed
such structures, so there is nothing to protect the individual from the fury
of its defense mechanisms' (p.89). Happy priests tend to distance themselves
from the issues and agendas of the institutional Church (p.146). And one
study published by U.S. bishops found the most frequently mentioned reason
for priests leaving was a 'feeling that they could no longer live within the
structure of the Church... Priests leave because they perceive the changes
in thinking at Vatican Two have not been made concrete through parallel
changes in structure' (p.177).

The worst structure, says Rice, is clericalism, the essence of which is a
kind of ecclesiastical apartheid. And 'the great bulwark of clericalism [is]
enforced celibacy' (p.190).

2. Celibacy. Priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley (Confessions of a Parish
Priest) says his research proves that Humanae Vitae (the birth-control
encyclical) is the main reason Catholics are leaving their Church. David
Rice is absolutely sure that compulsory celibacy is the main reason priests
leave that Church. Celibacy, when it works, works very well, but when it
does not work, it can be horrid. Celibacy is not chastity: celibacy is the
permanent state of being unmarried. Chastity, for the unmarried, means
abstaining from genital sexual activity. Compulsory celibacy, says Rice
'simply does not work' (pp.157, 172 etc.). He cites one study which
estimated that at any one time no more than 50 per cent of American priests
practise celibacy (p.170).

There are powerful arguments for freely chosen celibacy, but none for
enforced celibacy. So why insist on it? For part of the answer we must go
back to the Council of Trent. Protestants were recommending marriage for
priests, insisting that celibacy was God's gift only to a few. 'Therefore',
says Rice, (quoting a Professor Jedin), 'the Church entrenched its position
and did not let itself discuss the problem...' (p.222).

And so you have anomalies like a resigned married priest in Columbia being
put in jail after celebrating Mass, for 'usurping the powers of the clergy'
(p.123), whilst in other dioceses bishops are sometimes allowing married
priests to continue their ordained ministries. Indeed, the American National
Opinion Research Centre says 79% of Catholics would prefer a married priest
as their pastor (p.198).

The final article in the Code of Canon Law is 'In ecclesia, suprema lex,
salus animarum' - in the Church, the supreme law is the salvation of souls.
But millions of souls now exist without priest and eucharist because of the
Vatican's 'putting people's needs last, and the institution's survival
first' (p.190). Sociologist Robert Merton has shown that bureaucracies are
degenerative. They end up defending their own entrenched interests
(especially their power) before the needs of those they were founded to
serve. Pharisaism is essentially putting mechanical obedience to regulations
above the human needs of people (p.185). The ban on contraception and the
enforcement of celibacy are both undermining the credibility of the
Church-as-institution. As is the widespread practice of turning a blind eye
to the priest and house-keeper living in adultery, but withholding
dispensations from those who want to legitimize their relationship. 'So we
find the Vatican forbidding employment of married priests, withholding
dispensations from men long married, sometimes until their deathbed, and
failing in the simple courtesy of even acknowledging receipt of the
petitions for dispensation. And we hear of the Pope saying, "I'm in no
hurry. We didn't leave them: they left us." I suppose it is understandable:
the institution perceives the married priest as a threat to its structures.
But it is sad, and so different from the father of the Prodigal Son, who
came running to meet him' (p.242).

A footnote: David Rice wonders (p.44) why ex-priests 'are not sought out and
cared for by the Church they once served.' It's the supreme 'forbidden
topic: those 100,000 have ceased to exist' (p.238). It's not only a Catholic
problem. Many of the estimated 10,000 ex-clergy in Australia from all
denominations feel betrayed by their churches. This reviewer is currently
researching this phenomenon in the Protestant and Pentecostal churches, and
plans to send questionnaires to 1,000 of them, followed by personal
interviews with some who so indicate. Anonymity will be respected. Help in
locating names, addresses and phone numbers of ex-pastors would be
appreciated. Send to Rev. Rowland Croucher, 7 Bangor Court, Heathmont,
Victoria, 3135.

David Rice, Shattered Vows: Exodus from the Priesthood (London: Michael
Joseph, 1989, hb, 280pp. Available in Australia from Penguin Books, 487
Maroondah Highway, Ringwood, 3134. RRP $35).

Rowland Croucher

Rowland Croucher is an Australian Baptist pastor, working full-time as a
writer and speaker at clergy and church leaders' conferences. He is
currently doing research on the topic 'Ex-Clergy: What Happens when Pastors
leave the Parish Ministry'.


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Rowland Croucher, 1995.

rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
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