Famed Priest And Franciscan Friar Blames Kids For Catholic Abuse Scandals, Then Changes His Mind

Famous Catholic author and talk show host Father Benedict Groeschel
put his Franciscan foot in it earlier this week, in an interview
with the National Catholic Register during which he offered some insight into his religion's ugly history of child abuse. From Raw Story:

1Fr.+Benedict+Groeschel“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a
psychopath. But that’s not the case,” Groeschel explained. “Suppose you
have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A
lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”

“Well, it’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and
didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty
sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not
having intercourse or anything like that,” he continued.

Groeschel called the abuse “an understandable thing,” and pointed to
Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who he called a “poor guy.”

Fr. Groeschel also pointed out that, until the past decade, what
secret things passed between priests and the youngest members of their
flocks were seldom viewed as criminal. Scandalous, yes; inappropriate,
yes; but criminal, no. Fr. Groeschel seemed to lament this state of
affairs. Whereas society was once willing to look the other way,
according to Fr. Groeschel, nowadays if "any responsible person in
society would become involved in a single sexual act — not necessarily
intercourse — they’re done."

First offenders, Fr. Groschel opined, should not be sent to jail.

Once the editors of the National Catholic Register realized what they'd published, they promptly removed the story from their webpage. It has now been replaced
with three apologies — one from the editors; one from the Community of
the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, which Fr. Groeschel helped found;
and one from Fr. Groeschel himself. The Friars' apology contains these
poignant words:

Fr. Benedict has dedicated his life to helping others and these
comments were completely out of character. He never intended to excuse
abuse or implicate the victims. We hope that these unfortunate
statements will not overshadow the great good Fr. Benedict has done in
housing countless homeless people, feeding innumerable poor families,
and bringing healing, peace and encouragement to so many.

Fr. Benedict helped found our community 25 years ago with the hope of
bringing the healing peace of Jesus Christ to our wounded world. Our
desire has always been to lift-up humanity and never to hurt. About
seven years ago Fr. Benedict was struck by a car and was in a coma for
over a month. In recent months his health, memory and cognitive ability
have been failing. He has been in and out of the hospital. Due to his
declining health and inability to care for himself, Fr. Benedict had
moved to a location where he could rest and be relieved of his
responsibilities. Although these factors do not excuse his comments,
they help us understand how such a compassionate man could have said
something so wrong, so insensitive, and so out of character.

Yes — out of character. In fact, Fr. Groeschel has spent his career helping young people. In 1967, he founded the St. Francis House,
in Brooklyn — a shelter for homeless boys in their teens and early
twenties, which Fr. Groeschel still serves as Executive Director.

Comments

  1. GABE says

    I’m just in shock! These religious nutbags are just spewing their crap even more these days! What is the thought process with these people and why do they keep spewing their nonsense to reporters? Another example of blame the victim here. I’m surprised he didn’t say those kids were asking for it, yeah know, wearing slutty outfits.

  2. i could go on, but I won't says

    In a weak moment he told the unguarded truth and then to compound the error had it published.

    He’s just regretting the end to a way of life that he very much enjoyed. And I don’t mean the sex. I mean the religious communal experience and the revered status of the priesthood.

    Oh, and somebody should look into what went on at the boys’ shelter.

  3. Alex Parrish says

    At least these were sincere apologies and not “non-apologies” to which we have be come so accustomed lately. It is possible to give the benefit of the doubt and attribute the inexcusable words to the infirmities of an elderly person caught-up in a rambling moment which has no relationship to the way he lived his life. Unless there is further dross from him, I’m inclined to count this as an error which he sincerely regrets. He apologized as did all those associated with this incident; leave it be!

  4. PAUL B. says

    @Alex…the idiots from planet Zargon are here to collect the remnants of their last visit to earth that they “left behind” by mistake…on purpose. Get on board you dope.

  5. OKEYDOKEY says

    @ALEX: Leave it be?! This wasn’t one off the cuff remark. This is a whole series of terrible remarks and thoughts this guy is advocating. From a guy who founded a shelter for homeless boys! Does this not scare you? If not, read his quotes again.

  6. Mike says

    This priest is most likely a pedophile who is trying to blame anybody other than himself and the Catholic Church for the priest who rape and abuse children, even today there are Catholic priest raping and abusing children, these Catholics think they are above the law, recently a priest in Long Beach California raped and abused children and is going on trial and he is one of many Catholic priest who still rape and abuse children.

  7. PAUL B. says

    I’ve taken the time to read this scumbag’s quotes several times and come to the conclusion that there isn’t any acceptable excuse for his justification for “priestly” child sexual abuse. Just to think his mind came up with this crap gives me the willies.
    Is there a pill we can give him that will end his misery?

  8. says

    It isn’t natural to live a celibate life. Especially for men. The end result of thousands of hours of “not thinking about sex” is a mass of psychological problems and the creation of a set of excuses for your criminal actions.

  9. say what says

    Oi

    I remember back in the day flipping through the channels and landing on EWTN the global catholic channel founded by Mother Angelica…and this guys show was on the station

  10. Matt26 says

    Disgusting. Those kids were innocent, nobody can blame them. Those kids were used.
    I truly hope the adults, who were used when children will make a big case of this.

  11. Tim says

    Fr. Groeschel is not “losing it.” He truly believes what he spewed. He is part of a system that taught its “priestly fraternity” they are above laypeople (a defrocked priest is “reduced” to the lay state), and created a circle-the-wagons mentality to protect their own. He is also one of the two co-founders of Courage, which says it’s OK to be gay as long as you’re a self-loathing, closeted celibate, like many seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals. This priest meant what he said and is now trying to cover. And he keeps his national pulpit on EWTN. More shame from and on the Catholic Church.

  12. bobbyjoe says

    The last line of the article, about Fr. Groeschel running a shelter for boys, reads like the last line of a horror story. It actually works better if you imagine the voice of Vincent Price reading it, sort of like this:

    “And then the cannibal went back to doing his good, good work for mankind. In fact, he opened a restaurant, which he’s still running today. Bon appetite! BWAHAHAHAHA!”

  13. JohnAGJ says

    @Alex – I might have been inclined to chalk this up to the onset of senility, except then I read what BTB reported about Groeschel’s past:

    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/08/30/48209

    The man holds a PhD in psychology from Columbia University and should know better. We’re talking Columbia University, which holds a certain amount of prestige for good reason as compared to say Liberty University. He spent years advising Catholic bishops in the USA about what to do with abusive priests, meaning he is partly responsible IMO for the crap that went on in enabling the abuse to continue as well as the cover-up. No, these comments he made seem to me to reveal what the man really thinks on the matter and not just a mistake.

  14. JohnAGJ says

    @Homer – I disagree. It’s not celibacy itself that is a problem, I do believe a small percentage of people are called to this and live happy, productive and well-adjusted lives. No, it’s MANDATORY or FORCED celibacy that is a problem. How much of a problem in the child abuse scandal I doubt we really know. Maybe some, maybe none at all. I generally view that as a separate issue from the freaks who view the altar boys as dating prospects.

  15. says

    A substitute father? Is this what those confused boys were looking for? As an adult figure of authority and a teacher of children, any priest who sleeps with such a boy is exactly like Sandusky. It’s not “poor priest”, it’s “poor boy”. Priests should have the moral character to practice what they preach, not like this Father Benedict guy.

  16. Joey says

    This is sad. Catholic Priests are not allowed any physical human companionship. They are forced into an unnatural existence based on the delusion that that is what God wants. What he is talking about is that very human need to be touched, to be loved. He kept saying not intercourse. This is not so much a person making an excuse but an indictment of the whole way the church runs it Priesthood. When you force people to give up a basic human need for a lifetime and when the rewards they thought they would get for doing it are not forthcoming, they can act out in totally unacceptable and damaging ways.

  17. simon says

    In Ireland, the Catholic priests are not allowed to be alone with children. There are always a third person there. After a series of investigations by the government on child abuse, the relation between Ireland and the Vatican is at a new low. Why any person with any self respect want to become a priest is beyond me.

  18. anon says

    I suppose that several hundred years ago the age of consent was much lower, but he’s wrong on the evidence that there were a lot of one-time flings initiated by the teenagers. The teens that sued were generally abused starting around the time they became alter boys (10-12) and repeated abused over several years. This is quite different from the picture he paints. While I’m sure there were some false accusations over the years, the Catholic church has plenty of enough money to defend itself in court.

  19. simon says

    There sure are uneducated PHD holders which slipped through the system. We all know G.W. Bush has an Ivy League degree. It is also possible that an educated person can go through some period of insanity.

  20. Bill says

    While the article mentioned an accident that left this priest in a coma for a month 7 years ago, it appears he is having age/illness related memory problems and cognitive problems that make it impossible for him to work. Let’s at least consider the possibility that what came out of his mouth was more than a tad scrambled by his medical condition. It’s one thing to roundly criticize the Catholic Church and the people in it who covered up crimes against children, but another to pounce on a guy who might be showing signs of dementia or some other condition that would account for him babbling nonsense.

  21. andrew says

    In Groeschel’s twisted world some of those young boys take the poor priest to their apartment where they give him alcohol and let him look at porno movies. Then they start talking about sex with the poor priest and then start touching him and before you know it they have taken off the poor priests pants and are f*cking him. The poor priest is too afraid to run away and just becomes a victim of the young boy’s lust. Yep, that must be how he sees it.

  22. Nat says

    I think anyone who’s read about the Oliver O’Grady case (wonderfully covered in Deliver Us From Evil) or read about the routine downplaying of child sexual abuse throughout the Church’s history will realize that these were commonly-held views. Church officials viewed sex with children as a moral failing, and police were often all-too-happy to not pursue complaints in return for promises that the priest would not re-offend in their jurisdiction.

    Church officials also believed children were often the seducers – though it doesn’t say much for their views about their own priests since they assumed that any priest could be seduced by a child.

  23. andrew says

    In case you want to know where this guy Groeschel is coming from, he is a regular on EWTN, which is a right wing conservative Catholic TV channel founded by a right wing conservative nun named Angelica. If you want to go back a few centuries in time, check it out.

  24. Nat says

    Also, I think making the victim into the seducer is often the only way that a pedophile or ephebophile can truly justify their actions. At some level, they realize that their own sexual compulsions are what’s driving the sexual abuse, not the adolescent. But by equating an adolescent’s sexuality with their own or another adult’s, they feel more justified in pursuing their sexual interests. Most people will go out of their way to avoid facing the fact that they’re the monster.

  25. Mitch says

    So are there large numbers of priests having nervous breakdowns? Then there are opportunistic young boys schooled in identifying symptoms of nervous breakdowns…ready to seduce? Is that how it works?

    “In fact, Fr. Groeschel has spent his career helping young people. In 1967, he founded the St. Francis House, in Brooklyn — a shelter for homeless boys in their teens and early twenties, which Fr. Groeschel still serves as Executive Director.” Smells like another Sandusky scandal…

  26. OKEYDOKEY says

    @BILL: EXCUSES! Then maybe he shouldn’t be talking to the NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER! No one forced him to do the interview and if he is losing it one of his superiors should have said thanks, but no thanks! Plus, it’s not like he was talking to just any media outlet, this was a catholic friendly publication.

    Your response is no worse than what he was saying, in other words, blame everyone else or make excuses. How very christian.

  27. Gry says

    Up to this point, the Church has argued A) That there’s an acceptable level of child rape, and B) That’s it’s no big deal if the kids are in their teens, ‘cuz they like it nasty.

    It’s now official, though:

    The Church does not think its abuses are even wrong, nor does it think they should be punishable by law.

    It’s spokespeople are advocating for the normalizing of the institution’s crimes and collusion.

  28. Bill says

    As to OkeyDokey’s comment, “@BILL: EXCUSES! Then maybe he shouldn’t be talking to the NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER! No one forced him to do the interview and if he is losing it one of his superiors should have said thanks, but no thanks!”:

    It’s not an “excuse” to suggest that we not blame this particular individual personally for statements that came out scrambled due to medical conditions such as dementia. The Catholic Register should simply never have published the interview if he was babbling due to a medical condition, and that publication admitted that it screwed up.

    The Catholic Register apparently had the interview on its web site briefly and didn’t check anything initially because the guy in question had a good reputation based on his life-long career. Someone wasn’t paying attention, and once they realized what it actually said, the interview was removed, but not fast enough to keep it out of Google’s cache, which is why people can still find it.

    Basically, the Catholic Register’s QA procedures are running on a 19th century time scale, and aren’t nimble enough to handle 21st century technology. That’s the real story: an archaic organization with a response time over an order of magnitude too slow for the modern world.

  29. OKEYDOKEY says

    @BILL: was the article in question removed because he is generally “losing it”, or possibly because of the things he said which are causing more headaches for the church? If this were an interview with a mainstream news organization would it have been pulled? Or, because it’s a catholic publication they may have been pressured? It’s then easier to claim he is “losing it”. Just food for thought.

  30. JohnAGJ says

    @Bill – I think you mean early 20th century when NCR was first published and not the 19th. Regardless, I might agree with you if Groeschel didn’t have a long history of having been involved with screening priestly candidates, advising bishops over how to handle abusive priests, being part of Courage, etc. No doubt the man’s words in this interview were not expressed in the best possible manner, but I do believe they give a good indication of the man’s thinking on the matter.

  31. Bill says

    OkeyDonkey asked, “@BILL: was the article in question removed because he is generally “losing it”, or possibly because of the things he said which are causing more headaches for the church?”

    Guys, read the original article – the “raw story” one that Towleroad linked to. It claimed that the publication stated that publishing the article was an editorial mistake, in part because they considered the person being interviewed to be exemplary. The publication did not get back to the reporter writing this article, at least not in time for its publication.

    Any comments about the publication’s motives for claiming an error are simply personal opinions – reliable data is currently completely lacking. I’d tend to go with incompetence or screw ups as the reason until there is hard evidence of malice, primarily because what this priest said was so far off. It almost sounded like he took a series of unrelated thoughts on multiple topics and kind of merged them together and ended up with something really offensive.

    For example:

    “I’m sorry that nobody helped certain priests before they harmed children.”

    “Jerry Sandusky harmed children and nobody tried to help or stop him.”

    “First offense criminals (in general) may not get jail time.”

    If you scramble such statements due to cognitive problems, pulling them out of context and sort of stitching them together, you might end up with something a bit like what this guy said.

    What one should look at is what he said over most of his life and compare that to his current statement.

  32. Just_a_guy says

    @bill: what???? Sounds like you are speaking gobbledygook to me.

    Hmmm. Mixing those thoughts? What? Sounds bogus to me.

    It seems to me that some psychological “authority” with biases bent on defending the Papists would agree: this guy MUST be insane because he’s off of the assigned talking points and is Showing signs of expressing how he really thinks. I dont buy it.

    Instead, I see this guy’s reasoning as likely actually sadly indicative of how the papists who’ve let child rape keep happening actually think.

  33. OKEYDOKEY says

    Don’t you think an editor or someone would have said wait, this guy is saying stuff that doesn’t add up here? Or the reporter would have thought, this does not make sense what he is saying? I mean, this is a catholic publication and one would think it would be sympathetic to the catholic cause and not doing some “gotcha” journalism piece??

  34. Susan Maree Jeavons says

    I believe this old man is finally telling some truths. The Catholic organization has been sexually abusing children for many, many years. They considered it normal, not a crime! Wonder what Jesus Christ would think about that Father Benedict Groeschel? Normal? For priests…probably. For most Christians…I don’t think so. I would hope that any one who teaches children about the love of Jesus Christ, then molests those children, will have a special place in hell, including all religious leaders.

  35. Bingo says

    That the Catholic Register had no problem publishing this in the first place speaks volumes. It’s part of the church that’s still playing defense and making excuses. Too stupid to even play the PR game like Dolan and his ilk.

  36. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON says

    Father Benedict Groeschel SHOULD HAVE STOOD BY HIS ORIGINAL STATEMENTS. HE IS SUPPOSED TO BE A “MAN OF, ‘God’,” WHO TELLS THE TRUTH.

    I USE TO BE ON THE “boy-” SIDE OF “boy/man” LOVE. Father Groeschel WAS RIGHT IN HIS FIRST STATEMENT. Jerry Sandusky IS INNOCENT. EIGHT-TO-TWELVE YEAR OLD ADOLESCENT BOYS WILL EAGERLY HAVE SEX WITH ADULT MALES IF PRESENTED WITH THE OPPORTUNITY. WHEN I WAS SEVEN, I HAD SEX WITH MALES IN THEIR SIXTIES AND SEVENTIES.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  37. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON says

    BRANDON K. THORP,

    WHAT IN THE WORLD IS AN “evangelical atheist?” I AM A TRUE ATHEIST. YOUR USE OF “evangelical” INDICATES YOU ARE “RIDING THE FENCE” WITH YOUR VALUES.

    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  38. Nat says

    “EIGHT-TO-TWELVE YEAR OLD ADOLESCENT BOYS WILL EAGERLY HAVE SEX WITH ADULT MALES IF PRESENTED WITH THE OPPORTUNITY.”

    I’m going to cut past how disturbing this sounds and just point out that, no, 8-12 year old boys almost universally do not want to have sex with adult males. And further add that no 8-12 year old boy should have ever have sex with an adult male or adult female.

  39. Bill says

    Just_a_guy wrote, “Hmmm. Mixing those thoughts? What? Sounds bogus to me.” I take it you have not had an elderly parent or grandparent whose mental faculties were shutting down. If you had, you might be more inclined to make allowances – it is not a question of supporting the Catholic church but of not publicly ridiculing elderly people who are showing signs of dementia or similar medical problems.

    For OKEYDOKEY’s comment that, “Don’t you think an editor or someone would have said wait, this guy is saying stuff that doesn’t add up here? Or the reporter would have thought, this does not make sense what he is saying,” well, not doing that seems to be what the National Catholic Register is apologizing for. It is something they should have caught. Sometimes people make “dumb” mistakes due to being distracted, having deadlines, or being tired from overwork, so it is possible they simply screwed up. It’s even likely that it was a mere screwup – the first reaction of an editor reviewing such statements should have been to check with the interviewee to make sure he wasn’t misquoted, so something fell between the cracks.

    One way it could have happened by accident is for the reporter to have interviewed the priest by phone, with the conservation recorded. Then someone else (an admin or intern) types it in, emails it to the reporter, who cuts and pastes but without reading what he is cutting and pasting with any comprehension, as the clock is ticking and he has a deadline.

    Given the priest’s age and alleged medical condition, I’m inclined to pass it off as a “senior moment” unless there is evidence to the contrary (such as him having said such things when he was healthy).

  40. DAN says

    @CAH: you should be the last to talk about morals given some of your comments. Brandon’s comment that he was an “evangelical atheist” is not riding the fence! For crying out loud, he was making a tongue-in-cheek joke in reference to evangelicals who are over-the-top with their beleifs, he is the same, but as an atheist! Relax, or for you to understand: RELAX!

    @BILL you seem to be giving everyone a free pass on this one.

  41. Michael says

    I’m going to say something controversial.

    Granted that there is a huge power differential between a priest and a teen boy. And the stupid priests should remember they took a vow of celibacy anyway.

    But…why is it that, when there is a news story about a female teacher getting sexual with a teen student, there are tons of comments from males saying “Good job, boy! I wish that had happened to me when I was a teenager!”

    But when the *same* kind of thing happens between a teen boy and a male teacher or priest, suddenly it is the worst possible thing imaginable.

    I do think the priests are in the wrong. But why is there such a huge gap between how we react to sexual teen boys and women, versus men? What the hell is that about?

  42. andrew says

    Little Kiwi has rightfully weighed in against the vile comments of this Catholic Franciscan priest. Why is he silent on the even more evil actions of the Muslim Imam who framed the little girl and caused her imprisonment? Very interesting. Anyone have any ideas about this?

  43. andrew says

    I wish someone would investigate his behavior over the years at St Francis House in Brooklyn, a shelter for homeless boys in their teens and early twenties that he founded in 1967. His generous comments about Sandusky and priest preditors suggests to me that he may be trying to justify past “inappropriate” behavior of his own.

  44. Bill says

    JohnAGJ said, “@Bill – I think you mean early 20th century when NCR was first published and not the 19th” – actually I really did mean 19th century as I referred to the timescale they were operating on. The idea was that they were that far behind the times, even at their start.

    As to “Regardless, I might agree with you if Groeschel didn’t have a long history of having been involved with screening priestly candidates, advising bishops over how to handle abusive priests, being part of Courage, etc.,” the point was that his mental capacity is apparently significantly diminished. I had an elderly relative who worked as an accountant and who, during the last year of his life, could not balance a checkbook, but he would sound coherent in casual conversations. Groeshel’s long history is not relevant if he is now suffering from dementia or other age-related or maybe accident related problems that would cause him to babble.

  45. Diogenes Artktos says

    “But why is there such a huge gap between how we react to sexual teen boys and women, versus men? What the hell is that about?”

    Excellent question. I remember enjoying very much a book in high school (1970s)which featured a teen boy and a twenty something woman. Given the pervasive culture, I didn’t think anything about it. I was shocked when a female friend I had recommended the book to was indignant and didn’t finish it because it was a clear case of child abuse. It took me awhile to understand her position.

    This double standard is still very much alive. For starters, there’s the obvious male/female with its traditional double standard for sexual conduct. Let alone the heterosexual/homosexual with their traditional societal views. I firmly believe now that sexual conduct with an adult requires freely consenting partners – and a child simply cannot give such consent.

    BTW – His psychology degree from Columbia was 1971, conveniently before homosexuality was delisted as a mental disorder in 1973. He couldn’t change his viewpoint, of course, because he wanted to toe the line with RC theology. His wikipedia biography does not list any affiliation with an organization which would expect him to follow the current DSM.

  46. Pete says

    Can someone post a link to the original interview that actually works? Those above don’t work. I’d rather read the full inteview than excerpts prepared by others. Thanks and peace.

  47. andrew says

    Yes Little Kiwi, critize this mutant priest. However, why are you silent on the atrocities of Islam against that innocent christian girl in what passes for a nation, Pakistan?

  48. Frank says

    Fr. Groeschel’s response reaffirms my impression that few if any Catholic priests of his generation developed emotionally and sexually beyond the age of about 14. Clearly, Fr. Groeschel sees himself as an emotional (and sexual) peer to these boys.

  49. says

    The fact of the matter is many adolescent boys are either sexually active and/or want to be, this is the whole point of puberty (which happens around 10-13 years of age). Welcome to the Natural World!

    To pretend that a pubescent child is some kind of asexual innocent is the biggest load of denialist crap ever, almost as bad as the muck these religions preach.

    I know gays had to throw those attracted to pubescent males (not in actuality pedophiles) under the bus to get the much coveted public tolerance (not acceptance) they crave, but surely you queers remember puberty and being attracted to boys and/or men or have you convinced yourselves otherwise?

    This is not to excuse “true abuse”, but every sexual act between an adult and a pubescent is not abusive, probably far from it in many cases.

    It is a brilliant Doublethink trick of the mind you lot have pulled on yourselves, well done!

  50. Roddo says

    Funny thing is, the man is right. He’s not talking about institutionalised abuse like the bastardry of the Irish church, he’s talking about 14 to 18 year olds’ friendships with men that develop a sexual – but he’s at pains to point out – non-intercourse component. Boys fall in love with men, men fall in love with boys. People have sex. So what? That sort of very minor peccadillo doesn’t deserve your witch hunting fury.

  51. To Doug says

    I’m sorry you were molested and someone abused you with sex, but denying those that want consensual sex is also an abuse of power. You cannot suggest something be outlawed just because your experience of it was unfortunately awful. We need to separate molestation from consensual sex, conflating the two helps no-one.

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