Father Benedict Groeschel: In “a lot of the cases [of sexual abuse by priests] the youngster is the seducer.” Friars: He didn’t mean to blame the victims.

Father Benedict Groeschel

It’s victim-blaming at its worst. Last week, Father Benedict Groeschel, a fairly prominent religious figure who is, among other things, the director of the Office for Spiritual Development for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, said some utterly appalling things about the victims of sexual abuse by priests.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Groeschel declared that some of the victims were likely “seducers,” and expressed sympathy for ”poor” Jerry Sandusky, and suggested that abusers “on their first offense … should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime.”

After the comments spurred outrage, the NC Register took down the interview. Here are the relevant sections, which I found reposted by an appalled columnist on the right-wing RenewAmerica site.  The whole thing is awful; I’ve highlighted some of the worst parts.

[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: this poor guy — [Penn State football coach Jerry] Sandusky 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.

In the place where the interview originally ran, the National Catholic Register posted apologies from the paper’s editor-in-chief, the The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and Groeschel himself. The statement from the Friars was at best a half-apology, and offered this “excuse” for his comments:

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.

I’m pretty sure getting hit by a car doesn’t make you think that victims of sexual abuse are the ones responsible for that abuse. It doesn’t put that attitude in your head, though it might make you think it’s acceptable to say such things out loud in an interview.

And if Groeschel is indeed so cognitively impaired that he can’t be held fully accountable for the words coming out of his mouth, why was he giving interviews to the press in the first place? How was he still capable of running the Office for Spiritual Development for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York? And why did the editors of the NC Register publish the comments without challenge in the first place?  Presumably none of them have been recently hit by a car.

In their apology, the Friars also said:

He never intended to excuse abuse or implicate the victims.

Really? How exactly is suggesting that 14 year old boys are “seducers” preying on the weaknesses of old men NOT intended to “excuse abuse [and] implicate the victims?”

They also say:

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.

They might as well have replaced their entire “apology” with this sentence, which reflects what seems to be their main concern here – that is, Groeschel looking bad, and making them look bad.

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Posted on September 1, 2012, in creepy, narcissism, oppressed men, pedophiles oh sorry ephebophiles, rape, rapey, reactionary bullshit, victim blaming and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 235 Comments.

  1. Actually, celibacy IS the problem. You see, truly asexual people are extremely rare and the vast majority of humans are sexual creatures driven to fulfill their urge to copulate. Not everyone wants to reproduce, but almost everyone is wants sexual gratification of some sort. In reality, most priests do have sexual urges just like the rest of us but they are not allowed to act on them. Priests who have sex with adults have difficulty preventing their local diocese from eventually finding out and then defrocking them(along with excommunication). They think that children are too naive and stupid to understand what they are actually doing and that the shame they will feel when they grow up will inhibit them from coming forward and admitting to others & themselves what happened.

    For those who claim that most pedo-rapists don’t prefer children of one sex, do you have any statistical data to back up this claim? I sincerely would like to see it.

  2. @00mpal00mpa

    [...]but almost everyone is wants sexual gratification of some sort.[...]

    Yeah, see, there’s a very simple way to get sexual gratification, it’s called masturbation. And while priests probably aren’t very keen on masturbation, choosing to abuse children instead is not a problem with the vow of celibacy, it’s a problem with these priests being horrible people who care more about themselves than other people.

  3. Oompaloompa also thinks that no one should be a vegetarian because eventually your evolutionary meat-cravings will overcome you and you’ll become a cannibal.

  4. Actually, celibacy IS the problem. You see, truly asexual people are extremely rare and the vast majority of humans are sexual creatures driven to fulfill their urge to copulate. Not everyone wants to reproduce, but almost everyone is wants sexual gratification of some sort. In reality, most priests do have sexual urges just like the rest of us but they are not allowed to act on them. Priests who have sex with adults have difficulty preventing their local diocese from eventually finding out and then defrocking them(along with excommunication). They think that children are too naive and stupid to understand what they are actually doing and that the shame they will feel when they grow up will inhibit them from coming forward and admitting to others & themselves what happened.

    That’s a load of bullshit. Even if your assumptions about everyone’s sex drives were correct (spoiler alert, making blanket assumptions about everyone’s sex desires is a bad idea since everyone is different) rape does not follow as a natural outlet for sex urges. I was a virgin until very recently. I was often lonely, horny and frustrated that I didn’t have a partner for sexytimes, but I wasn’t so full to bursting with horniness that I ever thought rape of a child was a good outlet for my urges.

    Even if your assertions that everybody needs sex sometime (spoiler alert, you don’t. A healthy sex life can be good for people, but isn’t vital to a human’s survival) were true, there are adult sex workers out there who can be discreet. It’s not that they can’t get consensual sex, it’s that those who molest and rape children WANT TO MOLEST AND RAPE CHILDREN. Codifying their actions in “it’s just they’re so horny” apologist mumbo jumbo is bullshit. Horny celibate person =/= potential rapist.

  5. Lumpy Oompa, Start your research here:
    Fagan PJ, Wise TN, Schmidt, Jr CW, Berlin FS. Pedophilia. JAMA. 2002;288(19):2458-2465.

    Check the references for the data. Do some research before you just start making shit up on the internet. What an idea!

  6. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    Ostara321, just what I was going to say, only you said it much better!

  7. Oh sweet Jesus, are ignorant trolls making statements about asexuality again?

    Somebody call me when it’s over, I don’t have the stamina at the moment.

  8. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    I know – I mean, not that I know much about asexuality, but don’t you love the theme that anyone NOT asexual has this overwhelming neeeeeeed for sex and that rape is just a logical result of being denied? (Teh menz especially, of course.)

    ‘Sfunny, but I had no sexytimes, not even a kiss, until I was in my forties, and even now I doubt many people would acknowledge my sex life as being a sex life. I don’t consider myself asexual but, amazingly enough, I never had even the slightest urge to force anyone to have sex.

  9. My husband travels for work about five months out of the year. It’s amazing that he and I ever get anything done, what with all the overwhelming unmet sexual urges forcing each of us to go attack innocent bystanders. /sarcasm

    Seriously, what a stupid rationale. Nothing excuses molesting a child.

    And this whole “biology demands that we have sex anytime we want it” sounds like a setup for rationalizing all sorts of things. Like pressuring your SO to have sex when you’re in the mood, regardless of how they feel. Or date-raping somebody because it’s been a long time since you got laid. I’m not buying it; I don’t think any decent human being would.

  10. @oompa

    Masturbation, or sex with prostitutes, is actually much less likely to make it back to the diocese. Also, any decent person would quit the Church rather than abuse a child, if that was actually the choice (it isn’t).

    The majority of priests are not abusers. The problem is, whenever a position gives someone power over children, it will attract a few people who want to abuse children. These people aren’t being forced into anything.

    Rapists are responsible for rape. It’s that simple.

  11. Child abuse is the child’s fault. Competent adults is positions of power don’t have the ethics or self-control to avoid abusing their power. Being nicer to abusers will stop abuse. You’re making me do this to you.
    Is there an adult in the room?

  12. Masturbation, or sex with prostitutes, is actually much less likely to make it back to the diocese.

    Not true.

    Also, any decent person would quit the Church rather than abuse a child, if that was actually the choice (it isn’t).

    Now that is true. However, as you can see, because of the institutional culture of the catholic church, indecent people are attracted to the priesthood.

    Did you know that the Orthodox church(es) allow clergymen to marry and as a result they don’t have this problem? Let me be crystal clear: I am not disputing that the behavior of these pedo-priests is 100% voluntary. They allow themselves to give into their impulses and for centuries they’ve been allowed to get away with it as the Church protects its own.

    And Ostara, reading comprehension 101. I DID NOT SAY “EVERBODY” I SAID “MOST PEOPLE”! There is a difference, you know.

  13. That’s all there is to it.

    No Ugh, you’re wrong. Some adults are sexually attracted exclusively to children. A big piece of evidence for this is that child molesters have a recidivism rate of over 90%. No amount of psychiatric treatment or less than life prison terms seems to curb their perverted behavior. I’ll bet that some of these pedo-priests are pedophiles who joined the priesthood to have sexual access to kids and an institution that will help them get away with………..*sigh* What a bunch of sick fucks.

    Also, I read the Comments Policy so why am I still on moderation? Does this happen to everyone who presents a differing opinion or something?

  14. Masturbation, or sex with prostitutes, is actually much less likely to make it back to the diocese.

    Not true.

    Explain the mechanism by which a bishop would find out about a priest masturbating. Clergy quarters are not actually under 24 hour video surveillance.

    Or how would it be easier for a bishop to find out about a priest having sex with a total stranger than about abuse in the priest’s congregation?

    However, as you can see, because of the institutional culture of the catholic church, indecent people are attracted to the priesthood.

    That’s exactly my point, if by “indecent people” you mean “rapists.” Rapists are attracted to any position that gives them the opportunity to rape. Still has fuck-all to do with celibacy.

    Did you know that the Orthodox church(es) allow clergymen to marry and as a result they don’t have this problem?

    The Google phrase “Orthodox church sexual abuse” returns 1.5 million results. The top four are about an Orthodox bishop rapist. Turns out being allowed to marry didn’t dissuade this rapist.

    Some adults are sexually attracted exclusively to children.

    It’s true. However, every sexual person has been attracted to at least one person who they couldn’t sleep with. Most ordinary people do not rape people. It is absurd that we expect something else from people who are pedophiles.

    Again, rapists cause rape. Sexual attraction does not cause rape. This is why most people have sexual attraction but are not rapists.

  15. Blockquote fail, but you get the general idea.

  16. I DID NOT SAY “EVERBODY” I SAID “MOST PEOPLE”! There is a difference, you know.

    You’ve talked to four billion people?

  17. A big piece of evidence for this is that child molesters have a recidivism rate of over 90%. No amount of psychiatric treatment or less than life prison terms seems to curb their perverted behavior.

    Because, guess what? Rapists don’t want to curb their behavior. No amount of psychiatric treatment can change someone who views other people as garbage.

  18. Also, I read the Comments Policy so why am I still on moderation? Does this happen to everyone who presents a differing opinion or something?

    Let’s go with “or something”. I can’t speak for David, but I can’t help but figure it’s not a “free speech” infringement.

    And reading comprehension? Really? So you said “most people” not “everybody”. Uh, good for you? That means your comment is .00001% less stupid and generalizing. Congratulations.

  19. it’s probably misandry somehow

  20. Some adults are sexually attracted exclusively to children. A big piece of evidence for this is that child molesters have a recidivism rate of over 90%. No amount of psychiatric treatment or less than life prison terms seems to curb their perverted behavior. I’ll bet that some of these pedo-priests are pedophiles who joined the priesthood to have sexual access to kids and an institution that will help them get away with………..*sigh* What a bunch of sick fucks.

    You do realize that this argument directly and utterly contradicts your assertion that the problem is celibacy, right?

  21. In the protestant church the clergy can marry, and it still HAPPENS that a reverend sexually abuse children. As it happens in all institutions where grown-ups interact with children. Although I don’t think there’s the same hush-hush culture in protestant churches in general, as in the catholic church.

    Regarding pedophiles and treatment: Psychologist Katarina Öberg at Huddinge hospital in Sweden has been working for five years with treating pedophiles, and she argues that many pedophiles can be treated by a combination of medicine and psychotherapy. The medication is usually a combination of antidepressants and hormones that reduce testosteron levels. The therapy aims at breaking down the pedophile’s habit of rationalising zir behaviour, and learning that zie can actually control what zie does (it’s not something that “just happens”). Many pedophiles can also learn to appreciate sex with grown-ups, even if they’re always gonna have fantasies and thoughts about children to some extent.

    At Huddinge they treat both people who willingly seek help and convicted criminals. Apparently it’s a pretty recent thing though, seriously trying to treat pedophiles and trying to find out what might work and not. I think it’s pretty interesting to read about (our morning paper has had several articles about this, that’s where I got the info).

  22. OMG!

  23. Ignatius Maurice Galvin Ireland

    As a Christian/Catholic I am amazed that ageing well meaning Spiritual Councellor, priest, founder of a reformed group of Followers of Saint Francis of Assisi to be allowed by his NOW Superiors and the Archdioces of New York to give interviews in his failing health in mind and in body: A Church who has been rocked by Child sex abuse by 3/4 percent of their members Priests and Consecrated Religious me and women should still be apologising for his absurd conclusions of Child Sex abuse by a minute percent of members of the Hiararchial Church which Father Benedict Groeschel has made in this interview: Please let him die in peace and tell him say his prayers:

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