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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.

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  1. @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.

    Posted by: JohnAGJ | Sep 1, 2012 12:37:45 PM

  2. @BobbyJoe: LOL!

    Posted by: Andalusian Dog | Sep 1, 2012 1:01:26 PM

  3. 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.

    Posted by: trees | Sep 1, 2012 1:01:28 PM

  4. 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.

    Posted by: Joey | Sep 1, 2012 1:21:59 PM

  5. 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.

    Posted by: simon | Sep 1, 2012 1:35:52 PM

  6. A Papist swine plain & simple. He is the Troy Aiken of the Catholic church. He speaks what his ex-Hitler Youth pope and adherents all believe.

    Posted by: Dearcomrade | Sep 1, 2012 2:06:13 PM

  7. There isn't time enough to punish this man for the evil he has done.
    What a vile piece of filth he is.

    Posted by: enough already | Sep 1, 2012 2:37:33 PM

  8. 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.

    Posted by: anon | Sep 1, 2012 2:39:47 PM

  9. 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.

    Posted by: simon | Sep 1, 2012 3:15:30 PM


    Posted by: wyocowboy | Sep 1, 2012 3:17:35 PM

  11. 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.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 1, 2012 3:36:14 PM

  12. These poor fellows are seduced by children. And then are seduced again and again and again, in different parishes. It must be awful for them.

    Posted by: Soren456 | Sep 1, 2012 3:38:16 PM

  13. 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.

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 1, 2012 4:02:10 PM

  14. 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.

    Posted by: Nat | Sep 1, 2012 4:02:57 PM

  15. 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.

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 1, 2012 4:10:06 PM

  16. 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.

    Posted by: Nat | Sep 1, 2012 4:10:20 PM

  17. 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...

    Posted by: Mitch | Sep 1, 2012 4:31:25 PM

  18. @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.

    Posted by: OKEYDOKEY | Sep 1, 2012 5:14:32 PM

  19. 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.

    Posted by: Gry | Sep 1, 2012 6:37:53 PM

  20. 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.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 1, 2012 8:11:02 PM

  21. @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.

    Posted by: OKEYDOKEY | Sep 1, 2012 8:33:03 PM

  22. @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.

    Posted by: JohnAGJ | Sep 1, 2012 9:31:25 PM

  23. 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.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 1, 2012 9:48:32 PM

  24. @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.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Sep 1, 2012 10:48:09 PM

  25. 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??

    Posted by: OKEYDOKEY | Sep 1, 2012 11:07:20 PM

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