Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR on Child Abuse: “Sometimes the Kid is the Seducer”

I’ve known of Fr. Benedict Groeschel for some time. I’ve found him to be somewhat pleasant on the occasions I’ve been in the same room with him. My sister would speak with him several times at Children’s Village where she served as a teacher for years. I’ve been a celebrations for my dear friend, Fr. Jim Lloyd where he’s been in attendance as well. So know that I hold no ill will against Fr. Benedict or his religious order, who I have seen with my own eyes do some incredible work with the poor.

So I’m hoping that in this interview he gave to the National Catholic Register, he didn’t mean this in the way that it came out. Because it sure doesn’t sound good.

He said this with regards to priests who are child sex abusers:

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.

NCR: Why would that be?
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.

Let me point out a number of troubling things to be clear:

There’s no way that a kid should be held responsible when it comes to sexual abuse. Even if a 17 year old consents to sex with an older man or woman the adult should know better than to engage in that type of act with a MINOR!

And “poor Jerry Sandusky?”—come on, Fr. Groeschel! Sandusky pathologically designed a way to become close to his victims and took full advantage of them and abused them for his own sexual deviancy. The fact that kids looked up to him is absolutely irrelevant.

Do I feel sorry for people who engage in sexual abuse, who are only attracted to teens at the same age they were when their sexuality got stunted by an abuser. Men and women who are caught in a vicious cycle of the abused becoming abusers?

Yes. I do. But that doesn’t mean they get a free pass and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s the fault of kid who got abused.

Would he say that a woman who got raped would be at fault because she showed affection to a man who couldn’t understand that “no meant no?”

I’m hoping that someone misspoke. Because I can’t believe that after all that’s been said and done about sexual abuse and the millions of dollars that are still be spent by the church on this, that Fr. Groschel would say something like this.

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7 Comments

  1. I hope this is a combination of the “habit of empathy” that a psychologist absolutely must practice over the years (putting themselves in the shoes/feelings of their client) mixed with a large dose of deterioration – not that I hope he’s deteriorating! – mentally – because you are right, this is a terrible thing to say/print. And incomprehensible to me otherwise. I am thinking that he has had SUCH an incredible range of pastoral experience and heard so many people’s stories over the years, that he could perhaps be getting foggy and not seeing things sharply. I hope someone close to him corrects this or sees how dangerous it is for him to speak publically this way and addresses it. God bless him.

  2. Appalling. Since it’s a developed narrative and not a chance phrase, and uses a quantative measure (“a lot of cases…the youngster…is the seducer”) it is very hard to give Fr. Groeschel and the National Catholic Register such an understanding hearing. Fr. Groeschel’s comments seems to be a comprehensive analysis on his part, and appalling.

  3. I had a Catholic layman tell me a year ago that a lot of the abuse happened because teenaged boys “came on to” priests. At the time I thought the fellow was just a kook, but maybe he’s been hearing that excuse elsewhere.

  4. I’m not a huge fan of Fr. Benedict but

    1 Merely saying that not all of these folks are predatory psychopaths is hardly a ringing endorsement of their character or suitability for priesthood.

    2. I see nothing in his comments that attempts to deny that, in fact, too many of these cases DID involve predators who sought out vulnerable youths, seduced them, abused them, ruined their lives and then manipulated them into silence.

    3. When you are an adult and working with minors, you have a responsibility to BE THE ADULT! That means that IF a minor attempts to seduce you then you have the responsibility to say “no”. I don’t see where Fr. Groeschel says otherwise. Yes, he says that out of the thousands of cases of abuse “a lot of cases…the youngster…is the seducer” but I see no attempt there to excuse the adult behavior.

    That leaves the “poor Jerry Sandusky” comment which, I admit, turned my stomach a bit. Then again, is it possble…even Christian…to have compassion for people suffering the consequences of their actions even when you know darned well they deserved those consequences and then some? I think so.

    I only saw the snippet of the article here. The whole thing may well be an attempt to absolve the Church of guilt or blame the “liberal lamestream media” for sensationalizing this story. I’m just not seeing that here.

  5. Your point #3 is what he seems to deny. That the priest or another molester can be excused because a child showed them some affection. Granted, I agree with the fact that these guys can’t help it because of the pathology but that doesn’t mean that it’s not their fault and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the kid’s fault! They have to resist and get help and many don’t sinking their feelings into a deeper psychosis.

  6. He and his order have apologized for his comments:

    http://franciscanfriars.com/for-immediate-release-august-30-2102/

  7. The link you give to the Register article now has the apologies from Benedict and the FFR, and an apology from the Register.

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