Friar Benedict Groeschel, the 79-year-old director of the Office for Spiritual Development for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York and a leader of the Bronx-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, has a theory on pedophilia. In an unbelievable interview with the National Catholic Register, Groeschel explained of abusive priests, “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.” Then he kept going.
Via Andrew Sullivan:
A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer … 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 … 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.”
Groeschel goes on to say, “I’m inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime.” The article has since been deleted from the National Catholic Register, but lives on through Google and various dumbfounded media outlets, both religious and not.
“Perhaps in his advanced age he’s not articulating himself as well as he used to; I don’t know. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but, in this instance, it’s very difficult,” writes one Catholic columnist. Perhaps then, Groeschel is no longer fit to serve his church, appear with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, or teach psychology at St. Joseph’s Seminary.
Update: Through a spokesperson, the New York Archdiocese said, “The sexual abuse of a minor is a crime, and whoever commits that crime deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The harm that was done by these remarks was compounded by the assertion that the victim is responsible for the abuse, or somehow caused the abuse to occur. This is not only terribly wrong, it is also extremely painful for the victims.”
The original article has been replaced by an editor’s note:
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.
Update II: Groeschel provided the following statement to Daily Intel:
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.