Priest/Psychologist Apologizes for Blaming Sex Abuse On Victims While Catholic Paper Censors His Offending Remarks

Jim Burroway

August 31st, 2012

On Monday, The National Catholic Register published an interview with popular Catholic speaker and television personality Fr. Benedict Groeschel in which the Capuchin friar blamed much of the Church’s sexual abuse scandals on the young boys themselves. “A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer,” he told The Register’s interviewer. These were remarkable statements coming from Groeschel, who has a Ph.D in psychology from Columbia University, has taught psychology at several Catholic Universities, and who has counseled priests accused of sexual misconduct as well as provided psychological screening for applicants to Catholic seminaries. On Wednesday, The Register removed Groeschel’s interview from its web site, and sometime late yesterday, replaced it with the following statements from the order that Groeschel founded and from Groeschel himself:

Statement from the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal:

The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sincerely apologizes for the comments made by Fr. Benedict Groeschel in an interview released August 27 by the National Catholic Register. In that interview, Fr. Benedict made comments that were inappropriate and untrue. A child is never responsible for abuse. Any abuser of a child is always responsible, especially a priest. Sexual abuse of a minor is a terrible crime and should always be treated as such. We are sorry for any pain his comments may have caused. 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. Our prayers are with all those who have been hurt by his comments, especially victims of sexual abuse.

Statement from Fr Benedict:

I apologize for my comments. I did not intend to blame the victim. A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible. My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be. I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.

The National Catholic Register pulled down its interview with Groeschel and replaced it with statement from Editor in Chief Jeanette R. De Melo, calling the decision to publish the interview “an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize.” It is still unclear exactly what De Mel0 is apologizing for however. Is she apologizing to The Register’s readers? I cannot imagine how that should warrant an apology. It’s the journalistic responsibility of every news organization to not censor the people they interview, which The Register certainly didn’t do (at least not until they chose to pull down the entire interview). As far as The Register is concerned, the interview happened, but readers now don’t get to read it to see what the fuss is about. It seems instead that De Melo is apologizing to Groeschel for publishing his remarks uncensored — or perhaps to EWTN, the Catholic television channel which airs Groeschel’s programs and owns The National Catholic Register.

At any rate, when I wrote yesterday’s post, I could only find an edited, condensed version of Groeschel’s remarks on underage sexual abuse. Late last night, I found his remarks in their full context at the ultra-conservative Renew America web site. Because The National Catholic Register is behaving less like a newspaper and more like a propaganda organ by not allowing its readers to read the original interview alongside Groeschel’s apology and the statement from his order, I am repeating Groeschel’s full remarks below:

[Interviewer]: Part of your work here at Trinity has been working with priests involved in abuse, no?

[Father Groeschel]: A little bit, yes; but you know, in those cases, they have to leave. And some of them profoundly — profoundly — penitential, horrified. People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. 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.

[Interviewer]: Why would that be?

[Father Greoschel]: 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.

It’s an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers. Generally, if they get involved, it’s heterosexually, and if it’s a priest, he leaves and gets married — that’s the usual thing — and gets a dispensation. A lot of priests leave quickly, get civilly married and then apply for the dispensation, which takes about three years.

But there are the relatively rare cases where a priest is involved in a homosexual way with a minor. I think the statistic I read recently in a secular psychology review was about 2%. Would that be true of other clergy? Would it be true of doctors, lawyers, coaches?

Here’s this poor guy — [Penn State football coach Jerry] Sandusky — it went on for years. Interesting: Why didn’t anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn’t break the ice. Well, you know, until recent years, people did not register in their minds that it was a crime. It was a moral failure, scandalous; but they didn’t think of it in terms of legal things.

If you go back 10 or 15 years ago with different sexual difficulties — except for rape or violence — it was very rarely brought as a civil crime. Nobody thought of it that way. Sometimes statutory rape would be — but only if the girl pushed her case. Parents wouldn’t touch it. People backed off, for years, on sexual cases. I’m not sure why.

I think perhaps part of the reason would be an embarrassment, that it brings the case out into the open, and the girl’s name is there, or people will figure out what’s there, or the youngster involved — you know, it’s not put in the paper, but everybody knows; they’re talking about it.

At this point, (when) any priest, any clergyman, any social worker, any teacher, any responsible person in society would become involved in a single sexual act — not necessarily intercourse — they’re done. And I’m inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime.

Ben In Oakland

August 31st, 2012

In other words, the good priest, the good news organization, the good reporter, all admit this:

“I really shouldn’t say everything i think, especially since it doesn’t make me look good.”

jutta

August 31st, 2012

The full text of the interview is still available at http://www.theinquiry.ca/wordpress/rc-scandal/other-countries/u-s-a/father-benedict-groeschel-reflects-on-25-years-of-the-franciscan-friars-of-the-renewal/
and it was still in Google cache some hours ago. (I have it printed as pdf – not very beautiful but ok for documentation purposes.)

Jarred

August 31st, 2012

Ben: And that’s the sad part, isn’t it? They’re not necessarily concerned that what was said was actually reprehensible, but only that it “made them look bad.” Sadly, I’ve run into that mentality before.

BobN

August 31st, 2012

Later in life, people get more honest (cuz the filters stop working as well and, sometimes, cuz they just don’t care anymore).

What he describes certainly doesn’t apply to most of the abuse cases in the RCC (or elsewhere). It probably does describe some of the cases he encountered in his career as counselor. For some reason, those stuck in his head. Maybe he could relate. To the seduction, not necessarily to abusing a minor.

His “solution” of giving a priest the benefit of the doubt is, of course, wrong. Even if a priest is the object of desire for an 18yo boy, the adult is supposed to resist. Or wait.

Regan DuCasse

August 31st, 2012

No, actually I disagree on going to jail for the first offense.
The problem with sex offenders, and even how our society is still lacking in dealing with the issue rightfully, is they don’t take it as seriously as they should.
The impact on teens, and at this time in their development, can be very dangerous actually.
Their emotional centers are more erratic and confused by the adults around them.
The spectre of pregnancy, in the case of op sex abuse, escalates an already difficult situation.
The gravity of any of this, as we’ve all seen, generates and REVEALS some horrible ignorance about the issue.
The bias itself obviously doesn’t help, but the lack of courage in handling abusive adults properly is just as bad.

Rowan Bristol

August 31st, 2012

“What he describes certainly doesn’t apply to most of the abuse cases in the RCC (or elsewhere). It probably does describe some of the cases he encountered in his career as counselor. For some reason, those stuck in his head. Maybe he could relate. To the seduction, not necessarily to abusing a minor.”

The problem is that he has a long history of bad judgement calls in is counseling that make his attitudes even more problematic. He’s actually hurt people with his beliefs.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/857021/posts

Soren456

August 31st, 2012

A drunk person speaks his truth and then claims next day that it was the alcohol talking.

Groeschel spoke his truth and now claims that it’s the brain damage talking.

If he wants to go there, fine. I’d say it’s the brain damage that LETS him speak his truth. And I’d say further that he has now told us–truthfully–exactly how he has thought about abuse through his whole career, and how he has based his approach to the problem.

I believe that no priest has any business handling instances of abuse, and Groeschel’s truth makes my case.

Hunter

August 31st, 2012

First, even if the minor is being seductive, there’s a tried-and-true method for dealing with it: “No.” Repeated as often as necessary. If, as we’re told, these priests are grown men, then I don’t think it’s asking too much of them to act like it.

And while I don’t remember particulars, it seems to me that Fr. Benedict is not the first member of the Catholic hierarchy to run this one up the flagpole. Apparently, no one saluted the first time, either.

Plaintom

August 31st, 2012

This reminds me of Akin, a window into the worldview of some truly sick people.

David Waite

September 1st, 2012

From 1981 to 1982 I worked as a crisis counselor at one of NYC’s four city-run rape centers. I also have other professional experience dealing with child molesters. In my lifetime of experiences I have never heard a NON-molester put forward the “seduced by Lolita” meme. I have professionally always found it a sure indicator of a need to investigate the past of any adult who makes such an argument. I’ve found the presence of actual fire under that particular smoke to be a given.

A few months ago, while chilling with my younger brother, a retired math teacher, the issue of pedophile RCC priests entered our conversation as we watched some news about one of them. P— correctly observed that child molesters are present in every profession and are usually preying on children they’re related to. He then questioned whether focusing on RCC priests was a form of anti-RCC prejudice, since Methodist ministers also molested children, along with doctors, lawyers, butchers and bakers.

Why else, he asked, apart from prejudice, do only the RCC priests seem to be demonized about it as a professional class? My answer was simple, and answered (to his complete satisfaction) the genuine question he was asking me about peoples’ actual motives on this issue.

I told him, “P—, the same percentage of all adults molest children, 2.8%. The reason why RCC priests are singled out for public hatred is easy to understand, if you think of this fact, which people generally are well aware of: When a Methodist minister is caught molesting the lambs in his flock he is sent to jail. When a Catholic priest is caught doing the same thing he is sent to another parish. Although there are plenty of cases of fellow professionals initially covering up for doctors and lawyers and Methodist ministers, to protect those covering professionals’ own reputations, eventually the recidivist molester is caught and jailed. The same thing occurs inside families of in-family molesters. But it’s different for priests. In the RCC, when his superiors can no longer cover up for him, the pedophile priest is sent beyond legal jurisdiction to an independent country, The Vatican. There is a difference between retirement in a jail and retirement in Rome, in peoples’ minds.”

Jim, what you illustrated with this column is an example of how the RCC always finds a way to excuse the sinner, as long as he’s been ordained. You write about the Register as if they really were part of the fourth estate, but as long as the word “Catholic” precedes “Register” in their title, they will always choose propaganda over journalism. However well any such religiously founded and supported news organ reports on other stories, if their is a conflict between the journalism credo “to report only the whole truth,” and “support your local living ikon,” they will go with ikonolatry.

jerry

September 1st, 2012

I was out for a show on Thursday evening and when I got home started looking for a late news broadcast. Anderson Cooper was already airing and I turned it on to see a segment on this story and none of the coverage was sympathetic to the position of the priest. Good to know this is getting coverage beyond the gay and religious press.

iDavid

September 2nd, 2012

I have to agree with you David Waite. My hit is this priest is trying to cover up in his own mind, his own guilty criminal pleasures he had with a young boy.

He could well be the very devastated one he’s talking about in his own story and very well could have been pursued, and has to blame instead of taking responsibility for not saying “no”.

Telling stories to his own guilty mind if such is true, may very well be his only covert internalized coping mechanism, such being fleeting and frail at best.

I certainly hope I am wrong, but my radar tells me otherwise.

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