In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, Father Benedict Groeschel of the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, said:
People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — of 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.
The Huffington Post reports that the Archdiocese of New York said Groeschel's statement was "simply wrong."
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) writes, "… the real issue isn't that Groeschel makes such hurtful, stupid and Todd Akin-like remarks. (Many Catholic officials have thought and said much the same. We suspect many still do right now.) The real issue is "Why do priests who make callous, mean-spirited comments that hurt the already-wounded never suffer any consequences?" SNAP is calling for the discipline of Fr. Groeschel, noting that his remarks "continue to rub salt in the already-deep and still-fresh wounds of thousands of suffering child sex abuse victims and their loved ones."
Media commentators such as The Young Turks agree with SNAP's characterization of hurting those wounded by predatory clergy:
The Catholic League writes,
In a recent interview, he hypothesized how a young person (14, 16 or 18, as he put it) could conceivably take advantage of a priest who was having a nervous breakdown. He also referred to Jerry Sandusky, the disgraced Penn State football coach, as “this poor guy.” For these remarks, and related comments, he is now being labeled as a defender of child abuse.
The accusation is scurrilous. In the same interview, Groeschel emphatically said that priests who are sexual abusers “have to leave.” His reference to Sandusky was exactly the way a priest-psychologist might be expected to speak: “poor guy” conveys sympathy for his maladies—it is not a defense of his behavior! Indeed, Groeschel asked, “Why didn’t anyone say anything?”
Groeschel is nearly 80 years old. A few years back, he was almost killed in an auto accident that left him disabled; it has definitely taken a toll on him. I have known him for two decades, and recently spent an afternoon with him. I’ve read his books, listened to his tapes—on sexual abuse—and have come to know a great priest. To condemn him for one part of one interview is wholly unjust.
The interview was removed from the National Catholic Register's website. In an editorial note, Jeanette R. De Melo, Editor in Chief, wrote:
Child sexual abuse is never excusable. The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel's comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our publication of that comment was an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize. Given Father Benedict's stellar history over many years, we released his interview without our usual screening and oversight. We have removed the story. We have sought clarification from Father Benedict.
The apology from Father Benedict Groeschel and an explanatory apology from the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal also appear on the website. The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal also issued a press release which mirrored the comments published at the National Catholic Register:
The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sincerely apologizes for the comments made by Fr. Benedict Groeschel in an interview released yesterday by the National Catholic Register, online edition.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.
Personal Statement from Fr Benedict Groeschel:
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.