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Clerical Misconduct in the Church of Sweden 2000–2004

  • Per Hansson (a1)


The Church of Sweden, being the national Lutheran Church, was disestablished in 2000 and former state obligations were transferred to the church. Major changes were effected in the oversight of the clergy and all complaints were thereafter to be handled by the church itself. This article considers empirical data concerning those complaints and makes an evaluative comparison with the previous system.



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1 1 Samuel 2:11–25, Farrell, D, ‘An historical viewpoint of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy and religious’, Journal of Religion & Abuse: Advocacy, Pastoral Care and Prevention 6/2 (2004) 4180, Lindegård, S, Ämbetsbrott av präst. En kyrkorättslig studie från medeltid till nutid [Clerical malpractice. A study in Swedish canon law from the middle ages to the present day] (Lund, 1999).

2 Garland, DR, ‘When wolves wear shepherds’ clothing: helping women survive clergy sexual abuse’, Social Work and Christianity, 33/1 (2006) 135, Shupe, A (ed), Wolves within the Fold: religious leadership and abuses of power (New Brunswick, NJ, 1998), Shupe, A, Stacey, WA and Darnell, SE (eds) Bad Pastors: clergy misconduct in modern America (New York, 2000).

3 Evinger, JS, ‘“…Nothing bad happened…”: A 19th century letter from the archbishop of Manila to the cardinal of Toledo, concerning the sexual abuse of an indian student’, Journal of Religion & Abuse: Advocacy, Pastoral Care and Prevention, 8/2 (2006), 2336; Nason-Clark, N, ‘Has the silence been shattered or does a holy hush still prevail? Defining violence against women within christian churches’ in Shupe, , Stacey, and Darnell, (eds) Bad Pastors, 6989.

4 Garland, ‘When wolves wear shepherds’ clothing'.

5 NT Ammerman and T Schmitt, ‘How common is clergy sexual misconduct?’, <>, accessed 26 November 2009.

6 However, this description can probably be used for many cases of clergy sexual abuse, cf Garland, ‘When wolves wear shepherds’ clothing'.

7 Ammerman and Schmitt, ‘How common is clergy sexual misconduct?’.

8 Ohlsson, G, För domkapitlets kännedom. Anmälningar mot präster under tre brytningstider [To the chapter for your information. Complaints about priests during three transition periods] (Lund, 2002).

9 Sfs 1992:300. Kyrkolag [Canon Law] (Stockholm, 1992).

10 Kyrkoordning med angränsande lagstiftning för Svenska kyrkan [Canon Law for the Church of Sweden], (Stockholm, 1999).

11 Sfs 1998:1591. Lag om Svenska kyrkan [Church of Sweden Act] (1998).

12 Russell, A, The Clerical Profession (London, 1980); Karle, I, Der Pfarrberuf als Profession. Eine Berufstheorie im Kontext der modernen Gesellschaft, (Gütersloh, 2001).

13 Shupe, A and Iadicola, P, ‘Issues in conceptualizing clergy malfeasance’, in Shupe, , Stacey, and Darnell, (eds) Bad Pastors, 13–38. p 14.

14 Ibid, p 15.

15 Simon, DR and Eitzen, DS, Elite Deviance (3rd edition, Boston, 1990).

16 cf Ammerman and Schmitt, ‘How common is clergy sexual misconduct?’

17 Lindegård, Ämbetsbrott av präst.

18 According to the Church of Sweden the priesthood can never be withdrawn, only the permission to act as a priest. The priest is not reordained if the permission is regained.

19 Kyrkoordning [Canon Law for the Church of Sweden].

20 The chapters in Uppsala Archdiocese and Visby are composed differently, with more members.

21 Cf Church of England Code of Practice: ‘ensure the clergy continue to be worthy of the great trust that is put in them as ordained ministers’; R Bursell, ‘More turbulence? Clerical misconduct under the clergy discipline measure 2003’ (2009) 11 Ecc LJ 154–168, at p 157.

22 Cf R Bursell, ‘Turbulent priests: clerical misconduct under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003’ (2007) 9 Ecc LJ 250–263; Hill, M, Ecclesiastical Law (third edition, Oxford, 2007), chapter 6.

23 The bishops in the Church of Sweden have a low-key role and are less powerful compared to Church of England bishops, more like ECUSA bishops. Cf C Podmore ‘A tale of two churches: the ecclesiologies of the Episcopal Church and the Church of England compared’, (2008) 20 Ecc LJ 34–70.

24 See A Iles ‘The Clergy Discipline Measure 2003: a canter through its provisions and procedures’ (2007) 9 Ecc LJ 10–23.

25 Cf the cases decided under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 available on <>. The penalty for adultery is generally criticism (not prohibition to act as a priest, admonition (rebuke) or a period of probation) compared to Church of England penalties of several years of prohibition.

26 National registry was an obligation for the priests from the early 17th century to 1991.

27 H Sahlin, Var går gränsen? Om prästs övergivande av läran [Where do we draw the line? A study of priests abandoning the doctrine of the church], (Uppsala, 1999).

28 Ohlsson, För domkapitlets kännedom.

29 Same-sex marriage has been adopted by the Swedish parliament, and the Church of Sweden has changed its practise regarding marriage to include same-sex marriages. The priests are expected (but not forced) to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

30 Bursell, ‘Turbulent priests’.

31 Clergy Discipline Measure 2003: Code of Practice (London, 2006).


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