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Prominent priest blames sex victims, says first-time abusers shouldn’t face jail


The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a prominent author and speaker who is especially popular with conservative Catholics and bishops, has sparked outrage by saying that priests who sexually abuse children “on their first offense” should not go to jail.

He added that in “a lot of cases,” the child is “the seducer.”

The New York-based Franciscan also expressed sympathy for Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach who was convicted in June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in a scandal that rocked college football and dominated the news much as the clergy crisis has.

Groeschel’s comments, in an interview published Tuesday (Aug. 28) by the National Catholic Register, spread like wildfire around the Internet after they were reported by Religion News Service, and they prompted comparisons to Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s controversial remarks about “legitimate rape” and abortion.

They also threatened to raise more questions about the hierarchy’s response to the abuse scandal even as the bishops have been hoping to turn the corner on a decades-long scandal that has cost billions in settlements and damaged the church’s moral standing.

“It’s wrong to demonize children who were raped,” David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the leading advocacy group for victims, said Thursday. “It’s even worse to ignore such wrong doing.”

A spokesman for New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was scheduled to deliver a blessing to the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Thursday night, responded to the uproar by denouncing Groeschel’s statements as “simply wrong.”

“The harm that was done by these remarks was compounded by the assertion that the victim of abuse is responsible for the abuse, or somehow caused the abuse to occur,” Joseph Zwilling said in a statement released by the Archdiocese of New York. Groeschel’s community, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, is based in the Bronx. Groeschel is also an adjunct professor of pastoral psychology at the archdiocesan seminary.

“This is not only terribly wrong, it is also extremely painful for victims. To all those who are hurting because of sexual abuse or because of these comments, please know that you have our profound sympathy and our prayers.”

Groeschel’s comments became so radioactive so quickly that the National Catholic Register, a conservative media outlet, removed the story from its website within hours of posting it. [More]


RNS/Christian Century



  1. Florian says:

    Picture this — teens are indeed capable of seductive behavior, but unlikely to go to prison as adults, especially on a first offense. The bigger problem is the immature priest, sequestered for xx years in the seminary for formation in the “institutional celibate mindset.” Sure and they’re adults chronologically, but may well not have a firm grip on either their own sexuality or their celibate commitment. While celibacy may not be the cause of pedophilia, it is a major contributing factor in the clergy sex abuse phenomenon and the current crisis in the priesthood. And that’s the way it is.

  2. almost as disturbing as Fr. Groeshel’s comments (who has always seemed to be the least insane of the Renewal Friars) is NCR’s apology (yeah, he said it but we shouldn’t have told you). This is equaled in repugnance only by the reaction of virtually everyone posting (verification is necessary when it is someone we like, not when it is someone we don’t).

    Initially, I thought “this can’t be true – just another media distortion or something” but after reading the official apologies it appears that A) it’s true B)supporters of Groeshel care more about defending their own than justice and C) Groeshel essentially admits he’s loosing his mental faculties. At least the last of these is honest and shows some integrity.

  3. Recovering Catholic says:

    Hasn’t Fr. Groeschel ever hear of the “crime” of “statutory rape?”

    I am stunned and saddened that Fr. Groeschel, a learned scholar, priest and psychologist, would have said such a thing! Having been a fan of Fr. Groeschel for years, having read a number of his enlightening books, including his wonderful book, Spiritual Passages, it seems so out of character for him to have said this. I can only surmise that perhaps in his own life, in his mind he was seduced by a young person. Again, this is “statutory rape” and the ADULT must take personal responsibility. If the perpetrator does it once, they generally repeat the crime. Certainly Fr. Groeschel, a psychologist himself, knows that!

      • Tony says:

        So let met this stright a bishop drives drunk and he aploligises, a priest masks an indefensible statement about sex abuse and he apologizes, and eveyone goes abot on his merry way? Is it because these guys walk and talk the conservative ticket that no conservative demands ore of the? Too bad

        • Tony says:

          S/b no conservative demands more of them

        • Jim says:

          Best of the afternoon / evening to you too, Tony.

        • Catholic Lady says:

          According to the San Franisco Chronicle, Cordileone spent the night in jail, and was released shortly before noon once he posted a $2,500 bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the misdemeanor charge oct 9-five days after his scheduled installation as San Francisco’s archbishop. If convicted, Cordileone faces penalties of up to three years of probation, two days in jail and an $1,800 fine.
          Mark McCullough, the police officer making the arrest, told the Chronicle that Cordileone appeared intoxicated but was amiable. “He was very calm, somewhat apologetic at the time,” McCullough said, “He said he’d been drinking. But he wasn’t stumbling, falling-down drunk”

          • Catholic Lady says:

            I copied the above coment from The Catholic Register, which arrived in my home in Ontario this morning. Just thought you might be interested.

            • Jim says:

              I’m interested, Catholic Lady, and the NCR article agrees with what I had speculated, and of course disagrees with emotion-man Tony’s diatribe against the bishop and anything hierarchial.

              • Tony says:

                Obviously the bishop is such a narcisist only thinks for himself that he couldn’t care m
                Less for the person he may have killed driving Drunk..he sould be allowed to be an altar boy never mind bishop

                • Tony says:

                  Shouldn’t be

                • Catholic Lady says:

                  Tony, try sticking to the facts..You do not know that the bishop thinks only of himself and that he could not care less for the person he may have hurt or killed. Have a good evening, good night Tony!!

                  • Jim says:

                    Catholic Lady — why are you asking Tony to stick to the facts? His role is just to get on here and, in an emotional way, say “MJF is right! MJF is right! The nuns on the bus are better Catholics than the bishops!” Let’s give Tony some pom-poms, and allow him to end his diatribe with some high-pitched, young teen girl screams.

                  • Tony says:

                    If the bishop thought about others he would not have gotten behind the wheel drunk. A car in the hands of a drunk is a deadly weapon.

                    • Tony says:

                      Jim, I can’t understand why you want to give a free pass to a guy who would drink and drive. If it were Ted Kennedy, you would be screaming bloody murder, but because it is some conservative you want to give him a free pass.

                    • Jim says:

                      Tony — I am not giving a free pass to the bishop. He has admitted he made a mistake, and I agree. I’m simply saying that the consequences should be just — i.e., proportionate to the crime. I think making him resign is too harsh an outcome; and, assuming he is alcoholic based on this one incident is a conclusion that cannot justifiably be drawn. It is you, Tony, who are so very quick to judge and condemn before you have adequate information.

                    • Tony says:

                      Jim, I don’t want to keep bickering about this anymore but because of the enormity of the adage he could have done I hope he gets help.

                    • Tony says:

                      Prayed for you today at mass. It’s the first Sat of the month and I know of your devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

                    • Jim says:

                      Thanks for those prayers, Tony. Look, I expect we’re going to have to share Heaven someday (which is good), and then you’ll be apologizing to me for your errors, and I’ll say to you, “Look, enough of your apologies; you did the best you could. We’re all sinners.”

                    • Tony says:

                      No way, I suspect you will be saying to me, I wish I wasn’t such an uptight conservative. lOL

              • Catholic Lady says:

                Jim, This is a Canadian publication not American – The Catholic Register – Toronto, Ontario.

  4. J. O. says:

    And shoot yourself in the foot.

  5. J. O. says:

    I know all that Tony, but just because the gun is loaded you don’t have to pull the trigger.

  6. J. O. says:

    I know she has, but as I said it should not have been published to begin with. Where is common sense?

    • Tony says:

      There is no common sense at the Registar if”father” says soomething it iis Gospel. It’s gotta be right this sick mentality is pervasive at EWTN as well.

    • Jim says:

      Agreed, J.O. — there may have been a rush deadline. Look, when someone apologizes, it doesn’t change the fact that they made a mistake. But, we all are human, and we all make mistakes (except all of you who do not go to Reconciliation — you don’t go because you DON’T make mistakes); when you make a mistake, all you can do is apologize, try to repair the damage, and resolve to do better next time.

  7. J. O. says:

    The paper editor needs to take some responsibility for this – she should have kept the statement out to begin with

  8. Judith says:

    Please note the following: Father Groeschel apologizes in a statement, along with the NCR, and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal: Father Groeschel writes:
    “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.”
    I am glad that folks took time to look into the facts before berating another of God’s beloved people, who has had many health issues and does not speak as clearly as he once did. Glad to see there was no rush to judgement here. Each of us took the time and made the effort to VERIFY and follow up before condemning another. In this age of “it’s been circulated worldwide before you even finish the word” can’t we take the time to consider that we ALL make errors in speaking and that perhaps give each other the benefit of recognizing that sometimes the mouth is open before the brain is engaged.

    • Jim says:

      Thanks much for your post, Judith. And, of course, this validates my prior posts — don’t rush to judgment until you know the facts. That’s a big heads up for you, Tony / MJF, and you Dennis.

  9. Jo Skizinski says:

    Father is just flat out wrong! Even if the child was the seducer, which I highly doubt, the priest is the adult and should be able to control his urges for sexual contact! And he should gst himself out of the position of being alone with children!

  10. Siena says:

    This man has established an order of men who work, almost exclusively with teens. Parents, protect your children. There are other youth ministers who are well adjusted and not as sick as those who have already been discovered to be abusers.

  11. Jim says:

    I’d like to know the exact words of Father Groeschel, who is a very good man, and the context of the comments. I do agree that, even if I ultimately agree with what Father said, it was a lapse of judgment on his part to say something that can be misinterpreted. Remember, he is elderly, and was injured in a motor vehicle accident about five or so years ago, so there may be some brain involvement. BTW, Tony, I believe his order does a lot of social justice ministry — so, you are in agreement with his work.

    • DENNIS says:

      Hi Jim.

      I think his exact words were:

      “Forgive me Father for I am a babbling idiot and total disgrace to all Catholics.”

      • Jim says:

        I’m glad to know, Dennis, that you were to Reconciliation at least once in your life.

        • Jim says:

          How many years has it been for you now, Dennis — 25?

        • DENNIS says:


          Every time you get your dumb ass stuck in a stupid position you start with the Reconciliation thing.

          Why is that?

          • Jim says:

            Another straw man argument — I’m not stuck in a dumb ass position at all. But, the reason I raise the issue is this: I am encouraging you and all others to return to the sacrament of Reconciliation.

            • Jim says:

              And also, Dennis, you were the one quoting the words the penitent says when he begins Reconciliation, so of course I followed that thread.

    • Tony says:

      Jim, The ArchDiocese came out strongly against what this wake, nut job said, they have totally distanced them selves from him, I find it curious that anyone, including a far right religious conservative like yourself would want to find excuses for what he said. What he said is indefensible.

      • Jim says:

        Tony — calm down. All I said was, I want to know what he actually said, and I want to know the context. I can’t decide if I agree or disagree until I know the facts. Also, Father Groeschel is a very good man, so when a good man is alleged to have said what Father Groeschel is alleged to have said, I want to know more before I draw my own conclusions. FYI, I certainly agree it is extremely rare for a child to “seduce” an adult (although for teens, it is not as rare); and even if the child or teen does initiate the activity, the adult obviously needs to reject the advance. The problem is, I don’t know what Father Groeschel actually said, and the context of his remarks. So again, I need that information before I am willing to repudiate him.

        • Tony says:

          Jim you can google Groeschels name and his comments and also hi apology and that of the Community he fined and the rebuke of the Archdiocese of New York will come up. The world acknowledges he was wrong even he does.

          • Jim says:

            That’s exactly right, Tony. And, did you notice some of the detail? Father Groeschel said he didn’t say what he meant. He is a man probably in his mid-80s who is not in good health with a history of head injury. You need to take into account ALL of the information before drawing conclusions.

  12. Dr. Michelle Rios says:

    ev. Benedict Groeschel, if you were ever to sexually abuse one of my children and it were your “first offense,” you can bet on it being your LAST offense. Like you, I believe you should not go to jail, I think you should be given the electric chair or a good firing squad. Trust me, it WILL be your LAST offense, buddy. With priest like you, the Church has no need of pedophiles.

    As a clinical psychologist and public health expert, I believe you need urgent professional attention, sir.

    • Jim says:

      Very compassionate and Christian of you, Michelle. I’m sure your training as a psychologist has trained all of any Christianity that you might have had out of you.

      • Jim says:

        Hey Michelle — since you are trained as a psychologist, apparently training in science didn’t sink in with you. Look at the information we now have about Father Groeschel — it shows you rushed to judgment. You are a disgrace as a psychologist, and should apologize to all of us for your unscientific, biased, hateful rush to judgment. How about this? YOU would NEVER treat one of MY children — you are biased, hate-filled, unscientific, and unprofessional. Tell me the state you practice in, and I may file a complaint with your ethics board. Although, come to think of it, I can Google your name and probably figure it out.

        • Recovering Catholic says:

          How RUDE, Jim!! EVEN for YOU!

          • Jim says:

            RUDE? Are you kidding me? This woman literally should be investigated by her ethics board. Her biased and unscientific behavior is a very poor reflection on the profession of psychology — although psychology is already so biased and liberal, I’m not sure they could look any worse than they already do. If this woman was investigated by her ethics board, I believe they would reprimand her. She is a disgrace to the profession.

            • Harrison says:

              I agree with Recovering Catholic; sorry, Jim, you are out of line. Based only on the original article and the comments here, Dr. Rios says she believes child molesters deserve the death penalty, and that Fr. Groeschel’s comments indicate he may need professional help. I am sure many people share her feelings on how child molesters should be treated, and even Cardinal Dolan’s spokesman condemned Fr. Groeschel’s comments. On the other hand, Jim, based on the original article and Dr. Rios’ comment, I do not see any evidence to back up your assertions about her training, her interior disposition, the rigor of her scientific thinking, her professional conduct, or her Christianity. Even your charge of “rushing to judgment” cannot be supported, since Dr. Rios’ comments were predicated on the original article, and I do not think it is reasonable to expect your fellow bloggers to do extensive research before they post a comment. We do appreciate the links you supply for additional and updated information, though. Cheers!

              • Jim says:

                Harrison — you say, “Even your charge of ‘rushing to judgment’ cannot be supported, since Dr. Rios’ comments were predicated on the original article. Well, actually, they can. In fact, you made my case. She rushed right in without adequate investigation. I don’t care if this is a blog. When she throws her credentials out there, she is representing herself as a professional. Let me just say this — I too am a professional — but if I used my real name and credentials, I would post very very differently, because I would then be using my credentials to butress my point, and you then need to act professionally. She did not act professionally at all. In fact, she acted like she was on a witch hunt. Also, to recommend a death sentence for child molesters indicates she is venomous and vindictive. Such as witch with a B would never get near my kids. I’d go in, get her license number, and immediately report her to the state ethics board.

                • Jim says:

                  And with regard to the rigors of Rios’ training: scientists are supposed to be measured and circumspect. No one in their right mind would regard Rios’ comments are measured and circumspect. She is a disgrace to her profession, should be ashamed of herself, should apologize to me and all of us, and should breath a sigh of relief if we don’t turn her over to her state board. I am certain she would not like to defend her disgusting comments to her colleagues on the ethics board.

  13. Paul Skizinski says:

    Hey, REV. Benedict Groeschel, what does REV. stand for, REVOLTING? You are thoroughly disgusting, and you represent the worst of a Catholic clergy that has lost sight of how to follow in the footsteps of Christ. How many boys have you screwed, or do you just take pleasure in hearing about the victims of other evil priests? Do the Church a favor and turn in your Roman collar.

  14. bill says:

    Please pray for everyone this Priest has trained.

  15. bill bannon says:

    I find it no more absurd than both John Paul II and Benedict both saying that “war solves nothing” and that we don’t know for sure that Judas is in hell. War prevented Hitler from conquering Europe and Christ’s words about Judas were entirely dire and not appropo of someone reaching purgatory that requires sanctifying grace. Face it….very old men don’t want anyone punished whether Sandusky or Hitler. In fact our present death penalty position is the personal position of the elder John Paul II and a hundred years from now, it could be overturned by another Pope. He argued that God spared Cain from execution but John Paul failed to mention that there was no government when Cain lived. Later when the first kingdom starts under Nimrod, God gives both Jews and non Jews a death penalty for murder in Gen.9:6.
    Elderly clergy want no one punished…subconsciously because they are nearing Purgatory which is no joke.

  16. Steve says:

    So this is the guy who is teaching pastoral psychology in the seminary. That explains so much.

  17. joseph Francis says:

    I’m told that Cardinal Dolan was given nitroglycerin to put under his tongue before they told him what Groeschel said. The “Honey Moon ” of getting the RED HAT is over. Cardinal Dolan and the archdiocese have got to act quickly and get into “Damage Control Mode.” Never mind praying at the Republicam/Democrat conventions,he better pray for the victums of child abuse and the damage this has done to them and the church. By acting quickly, Benedict Groeschel WILL be retired from public veiw, Dolan must come out on t.v. and apologize for this remarks and inform the public that he has taken action. In Christian Charity he can say that Groeschel has lost it due to old age and some dementia. Now you know why the church asks Bishops, Priests, deacons to retire at age 75. Any delay will harm the church, the imiage of Clergy. There is know doubt that this has hurt his comunity.

    • Recovering Catholic says:

      You might be onto something, J.F.; perhaps Fr. Groeschel has some old-age developing dementia. What other explanation can there be for this very learned psychologist, who certainly knows better than blaming the young victim! Isn’t he telling these priests who confess to him to take personal responsibility? Apparently not — seems he’s saying, “There, there, father, yes, the child seduced you. Go in peace. It wasn’t your fault.”

  18. Tony says:

    EWTN has really had a line up of crazy priests with Groeschel heading the list…along with Father Ken Roberts, Monsignor Eugene Clark, Father John Corapi, Fr Eutenheauer and others. They are a troubled and dangerous bunch and did much harm because of ther twisted myopic presentation on theology and spirituality. Most them are gone. good riddence.

  19. Tony says:

    This conservative wacko has totally lost it. His unkept disheveled community of extremely conservative, weirdo friars are a total embarrassment to the Catholic Community. Just the thought of blaming the victim of sex abuse is assured.

  20. Chad says:

    WOW! I listen to Fr. Groeschel quite often on EWTN radio. If I recall right, he is a trained psychologist. This is very surprising and very troubling.

  21. Francis says:

    I knew it was only a matter of time for this nut job to stick his foot in his mouth! Pathetic.


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