NY priest slammed for defending Sandusky, sex abusing priests
Father Benedict Groeschel: ‘Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster... is the seducer.'
CRITICS BLASTED a nationally renowned Catholic priest Thursday for his outrageous claim that underage victims of pedophiles such as Jerry Sandusky and rogue priests are sometimes the seducers.
In an interview with the National Catholic Register, the Rev. Benedict Groeschel, former head of the Office of Spiritual Development for the Archdiocese of New York, appalled victims rights advocates when he offered sympathy for disgraced ex-Penn State coach Sandusky and suggested that first-time sexual predators deserved no jail time.
“It’s disgusting,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“It’s wrong to demonize children who were raped, and it’s even worse to turn it around and turn the victims into the villains,” said Clohessy. “This is not only backward and wrong, but hurtful and counter-productive.”
Groeschel, a Franciscan friar and longtime Catholic radio and television host, made his comments during a seemingly routine sitdown with the religious publication timed to the 25th anniversary of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the religious order he founded.
Former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing young boys who attended his youth camp over a 15-year period. Also, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and Penn State vice president for finance and business Gary Schultz, 62, were charged with perjury and failure to report under Pennsylvania’s child protective services law in connection with the investigation into the abuse allegations against Sandusky. (AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Andy Colwell)
For some reason, Groeschel launched into his disturbing remarks about child sex abuse.
The priest suggested that kids “looking for a father figure” make overtures to adults such as clergymen or coaches.
“People have this picture in their minds of a psychopath,” Groeschel said, referring to pedophiles. “But that’s not the case.
“Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him,” he continued. “A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”
Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center before a scheduled verdict reading, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. Lynn was convicted of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial, becoming the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime for mishandling abuse claims. The jury could not agree on a verdict for Lynn's co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
He went on to express his sympathy for “this poor guy Sandusky” — the former Penn State defense coordinator convicted in June of abusing 10 boys over many years.
“Interesting: Why didn’t anybody say anything?” Groeschel asked.
And he asserted that first-time pedophiles should receive a pass on jail time because it was more a sin than a crime.
“It was a moral failure, scandalous,” he said. “But (pedophiles) didn’t think of it in terms of legal things.”
The article was pulled Thursday from the Register’s web site amid an outpouring of ire against Groeschel — who had previously attacked the media for its coverage of the pedophile priest scandal.
Groeschel, who was in a serious car accident a few years ago and had recently suffered a fall, issued a written apology through his order.
“My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be,” said the 79-year-old priest. “I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.”
Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, condemned Groeschel’s statements as “terribly wrong.”
“What Father Groeschel said cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged,” Zwilling said in a statement. “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.”
Groeschel, known for his work with the poor, was also a popular author, television host and speaker during his long career in the priesthood.
“He’s given his life to the church,” said the Rev. Glen Sudano, a member of Groeschel’s order. “He’s one of the most compassionate people, a man of the underdog.”
Sudano said Groeschel recently took a serious fall, and was no longer as mentally sharp as he once was.
“Quite frankly, his memory’s getting weaker,” the priest said. “I don’t think he’s thinking that clearly. All of us are saddened by how this thing came across.”
Attempts to reach Groeschel by phone or at his Westchester County residence Thursday were unsuccessful.
But Tom Roberts, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, said there was no excuse for the remarks defending sexual predators.
“The majority of these cases occurred with youngsters well below (age 18) and in situations where the kids, not the priests, were the vulnerable and needy ones,” he wrote. firstname.lastname@example.org