[His comments are getting a similar negative reaction across the religious spectrum and around the world]
Father Benedict Groeschel’s disturbing comments
By Matt C. Abbott
My favorite living spiritual writer, Father Benedict Groeschel, made some comments in a recent interview with the National Catholic Register that I find quite disturbing.
The portion of the interview with Father Groeschel addressing the issue of sexual abuse is as follows (click here to read the interview, which is wide-ranging, in its entirety www.ncregister.com/daily-news/father-benedict-groeschel-reflects-on-25-years-of-the-franciscan-friars-of ):
[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.
Because I have such profound respect and admiration for Father Groeschel, it pains me to say this, but I think he’s terribly misguided here. 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.
When asked by me to respond to Father’s aforementioned comments, a faithful Catholic who has worked with victims of sexual abuse wrote:
“First of all, Father Groeschel’s suggestion that sex abusers of any profession should not get jail for a first offense — because, he claims, they don’t ‘intend’ to abuse — is simply incomprehensible. What on earth does he mean? Doesn’t he know that a good intention does not by itself make an act good? Hasn’t he read the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
“Moreover, with all due respect to Father Groeschel, it is utterly irresponsible to suggest that a priest, who is in a position of moral authority, should be excused for permitting himself to be ‘seduced’ by a young person. That is not at all the message coming from the Vatican, which has been trying with increasing urgency to get bishops to take decisive action to protect young people and bring healing to victims.”