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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. 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.

    Posted by: Susan Maree Jeavons | Sep 1, 2012 11:09:33 PM

  2. 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.

    Posted by: Bingo | Sep 2, 2012 7:03:14 AM




    Posted by: CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON | Sep 2, 2012 7:28:27 AM




    Posted by: CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON | Sep 2, 2012 7:33:15 AM

  5. @CAH - Either you are a troll or a very disturbed individual. Seek help - from a non-molesting professional.

    Posted by: JohnAGJ | Sep 2, 2012 8:35:50 AM


    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.

    Posted by: Nat | Sep 2, 2012 1:51:48 PM

  7. 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).

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 2, 2012 1:52:21 PM

  8. @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.

    Posted by: DAN | Sep 2, 2012 2:17:16 PM

  9. 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?

    Posted by: Michael | Sep 2, 2012 6:35:55 PM

  10. 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?

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 2, 2012 11:40:56 PM

  11. 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.

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 3, 2012 12:06:39 AM

  12. 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.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 3, 2012 12:27:20 AM

  13. "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.

    Posted by: Diogenes Artktos | Sep 3, 2012 10:28:16 AM

  14. Those boys shouldn't be flaunting their stuff in those sexy Catholic school uniforms. It's like they're asking for it.

    *sarcasm off*

    Posted by: ratbastard | Sep 3, 2012 11:52:52 AM

  15. 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.

    Posted by: Pete | Sep 3, 2012 10:20:08 PM

  16. 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?

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 4, 2012 12:29:44 AM

  17. Come out, come out Kiwi. We are awaiting your justified rant against the evils of Islam. No BALLS, perhaps.

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 4, 2012 2:17:54 AM

  18. @Bill: "Senior moment". F*ck you, that is an insult to the millions of people his senior who would never spout such b*ll s*it!

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 4, 2012 4:19:50 AM

  19. 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.

    Posted by: Frank | Sep 4, 2012 7:02:01 AM

  20. 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!

    Posted by: The_Truth | Sep 7, 2012 5:18:14 PM

  21. 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.

    Posted by: Roddo | Sep 8, 2012 12:38:49 PM

  22. I am 60 years old, I was molested at age 13.
    My father had died 5 years earlier.
    My mother was sick.
    I guess I was an easy mark.
    Screwed up my entire life.

    Posted by: doug | Sep 9, 2012 3:14:36 AM

  23. 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.

    Posted by: To Doug | Sep 12, 2012 2:10:41 PM

  24. you need truth!

    Posted by: db | Nov 27, 2013 12:23:09 PM

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