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:
“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.