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.
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