Dinter, Paul E(dward) 1944-

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DINTER, Paul E(dward) 1944-


Born December 13, 1944, in Port Chester, NY; married; children: two. Ethnicity: "Serbo-Croatian." Education: Attended St. Joseph Seminary; Union Theological Seminary, Ph.D. (Bible studies), 1980. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Home—Cortlandt Manor, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 19 Union Square W., New York, NY 10003.


Catholic chaplain at Columbia University, New York, NY, c.1970s-80s; currently associate director, Care for the Homeless (multiservice organization), New York, NY.


Beyond Naïve Belief: The Bible and Adult Catholic Faith, Crossroad (New York, NY), 1994.

The Changing Priesthood: From the Bible to the Twenty-first Century, T. More (Allen, TX), 1996.

The Other Side of the Altar: One Man's Life in the Catholic Priesthood, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.


Paul Dinter is a resigned priest who, through his writing, has revealed the inner conflicts of Roman Catholic priests, who sometimes turn to alcohol and sexual abuse to cope with intense loneliness and sexual frustration. In his book, The Other Side of the Altar: One Man's Life in the Catholic Priesthood, Dinter vividly portrays the private life of a priest, a vocation whose requirement of celibacy he laid aside in 1994 amidst a rash of sex scandals within the church.

America reviewer Paul Wilkes described The Other Side of the Altar as a "searing, unblinking and perceptive look behind the shroud that once clouded our view of the priesthood." Wilkes added that "Dinter provides an achingly human and ultimately transcendent portrait of what the formation was like, how priests were at once revered (and sometimes tempted) by their flock."

Dinter became acquainted with the church after he became an altar boy in the 1950s. He entered the archdiocese of New York's St. Joseph Seminary in 1964 and served as a Catholic chaplain at Columbia University for fifteen years before resigning from the priesthood. Wilkes said that students at the seminary during Dinter's years were "disciplined to need neither to communicate nor to commune with others, a training that would follow them to their lonely rectories and, sadly, shape some of them into misanthropes whose typical subterfuges have been booze, boys, or the boob tube."

In addition to discussing the loneliness among priests, The Other Side of the Altar discusses the church's obsession with power. Dinter describes priests who are often more loyal to their "brothers" in the priesthood than to parishioners. He cites several examples of priests being demeaned by their superiors. Wilkes described Dinter's portrayal of the dichotomy between the radically changing outside world and the church as "vivid" and noted that Dinter gives an excellent description of the church "whose hierarchal structures remained firmly rooted in principles of medieval autocracy."

The Other Side of the Altar is graphic and readers may find some description upsetting. John-Leonard Berg commented in Library Journal, "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."

After leaving the priesthood, Dinter secured employment as director of a women's shelter operated by Care for the Homeless in New York City.



America, April 7, 2003, Paul Wilkes, "From Inside Out to Out," p. 28.

Booklist, February 1, 2003, June Sawyers, review of The Other Side of the Altar: One Man's Life in the Catholic Priesthood, p. 957.

Commonweal, March 10, 1995, Dennis O'Brien, review of Beyond Naïve Belief: The Bible and Adult Catholic Faith, pp. 20-22.

Library Journal, February 15, 2003, John-Leonard Berg, review of The Other Side of the Altar, p. 142.

Publishers Weekly, March 3, 2003, review of The Other Side of the Altar, p. 72.

Theological Studies, December, 1995, Richard J. Sklba, review of Beyond Naïve Belief, pp. 771-772.