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What happened to NCRegister's controversial interview with Fr. Benedict Groeschel?

Earlier this week the National Catholic Register posted an interview with Fr. Benedict Groeschel, in which he reflected on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Franciscan Friars of Renewal. The interview attracted a good deal of attention for comments Groeschel made alleging that many abusive priests were seduced by their minor victims -- and calling Jerry Sandusky a "poor guy." That interview has vanished from the Register's website. I've contacted the paper's managing editor to find out why. If I hear back, I'll let you know. [The editor's statement is reproduced below.] In the meantime, let us harness the power of the Google to retrieve the interview from the memory hole. Should that link go bad, you can read the controversial part after the jump.Update: Archdiocese of New York spokesman Joseph Zwilling has denounced Groeschel's remarks.Update 2: The paper's editor offered the following clarification, which now stands in place of the interview online:

Child sexual abuse is never excusable. The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel's comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our publication of that comment was an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize. Given Father Benedict's stellar history over many years, we released his interview without our usual screening and oversight. We have removed the story. We have sought clarification from Father Benedict. Jeanette R. De Melo Editor in Chief

Update 3: And now the Franciscan Friars of Renewal disavow Groeschel's remarks:

The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sincerely apologizes for the comments made by Fr. Benedict Groeschel in an interview released yesterday by the National Catholic Register, online addition. In that interview, Fr. Benedict made comments that were inappropriate and untrue. A child is never responsible for abuse. Any abuser of a child is always responsible, especially a priest. Sexual abuse of a minor is a terrible crime and should always be treated as such. We are sorry for any pain his comments may have caused. Fr. Benedict has dedicated his life to helping others and these comments were completely out of character. He never intended to excuse abuse or implicate the victims. 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.Fr Benedict helped found our community 25 years ago with the hope of bringing the healing peace of Jesus Christ to our wounded world. Our desire has always been to lift-up humanity and never to hurt. 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. Our prayers are with all those who have been hurt by his comments, especially victims of sexual abuse.

And Groeschel apologizes:

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.

From the interview:

Part of your work here at Trinity has been working with priests involved in abuse, no?

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 thats 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. Why would that be? Well, its not so hard to see a kid looking for a father and didnt have his own and they wont be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that. Its 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, its heterosexually, and if its a priest, he leaves and gets married thats 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? Heres this poor guy [Penn State football coach Jerry] Sandusky it went on for years. Interesting: Why didnt anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didnt 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 didnt 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 wouldnt touch it. People backed off, for years, on sexual cases. Im 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 girls name is there, or people will figure out whats there, or the youngster involved you know, its not put in the paper, but everybody knows; theyre 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 theyre done. And Im inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime.

What has the Church learned in terms of preventing this?

Weve been screening seminarians for decades. Thats nothing new. Ive been doing it for 40 years, for our old community the Capuchins for the diocese, for our small religious community. It takes a lot of time four or five hours to do a psychological screening, and I dont have a lot of time. There were times in the past when Id do 30 of them. Id do it for our community and our sisters. Also, its very expensive. Now, I never got a nickel, but it costs between $800 and $1,200 for a psychological battery. I used to teach psychological evaluations. You know, weve reduced considerably the number of seminarians, and the Church is going to be in plenty of trouble as time goes on one pastor for two or three parishes. So permanent deacons, laypeople, deaconesses if you dont want to call them that youre going to need a lot of people helping to keep the parish going. And that may not be a bad thing at all. Years ago, in the New York Archdiocese, you were an assistant for about 25 or 30 years before you became a pastor. Were making men pastors with five years experience. It was too long before, and its too short at present.

There have been a number of high-profile priests in recent years who have gone astray. As a prominent priest yourself, would you say theres something about fame that goes to the heads of priests like this?

It could. I wouldnt want to say about any particular person, but people could be foolish enough to take themselves too seriously. Its true: Im reasonably well known, and thats because I broadcast and I write. I dont write and broadcast to be well known. Its the opposite. For many years, I was happy as the chaplain of Childrens Village. Ive written 45 books, but the vast majority of my books are written for devout people [holding up a copy of a recent book, he continues]: Now, this annoys me, when they put my picture on the cover. But its also very good to be coming close to death. I just passed, three years ago, the average age of when a man in the United States dies: 75. Im pushing 79. When you start getting close to the age where you start thinking about where youd like to be buried you do think about the Churchs, the Christian belief and largely the belief of many other religions that the individual, as a person, goes through death, and they have to some degree memory and will. Whats missing when you have a dead body? Thats whats there. The whole personality is gone. Thats on the other side. The Christian belief of the saints theyre on the other side. Im looking forward. Im fascinated by whats coming next. Were passing through this valley, and, for a great many people, life has been difficult. Not just for the poor. Theres a sign I put up there on the wall: Be calm and carry on. I am immensely grateful to God that I knew when I was 6 or 7 years old that I was supposed to be a priest and a friar or a monk when I was 13 or 14. A poem that we had by Longfellow, called The Legend beautiful about a monk who had seen a vision of Christ; and he had to leave the vision because the bell was ringing, and the poor people were there to be fed. And he didnt know Should I go or should I stay? Should I go to the ragged people at the gate? And he goes, and he feeds the poor for several hours. And he comes back and opens the door, and Christ is standing (there), and Christ said to him, If thou had stayed, I must have fled. The nuns taught it to us in the eighth grade. It put it in my mind to be a monk. And I look back and I didnt know much about priests. We had very nice priests in the parish. I knew nothing about priests not getting married. Father ODonnell, a big Irishman who walked up and down every street in the parish every day one of the great old priests, in Our Lady of Victory in beautiful Jersey City. I was there and very happy. John Burger is the Registers news editor.

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Unspeakably evil comments.The perfect combination of the Roman Polanski defense and NAMBLA talking points.I undertand Father had a stroke. Perhaps that has affected his cognition. Can't hold it against him personally if that's the case.

This is sad - especially for someone who has his psychological background and experience. Different subject but we seem to have had another *Todd Akin* moment.

He sounds quite cogent to me ... which make his remarks more jarring and troubling. I believe that for all his scholarship, piety, and good work, he cannot get past the lens of the "character" issue of priesthood and is inclined to tip the scales in favor of a priest --a lifestyle that he knows - as over that of a struggling or needy teen. I hope he is called on the carpet about this and does no more "psychologicals."

Zwilling's statement seems right on.

Joseph Zwilling, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of New York, has issued a scathing statement rejecting Groeschel's comments and disassociating the Archdiocese from them even though "he [Groeschel] is not a priest of the Archdiocese of New York". He is listed in the current adjunct faculty of St. Joseph's Seminary, NY, and, according to Wikipedia ("Benedict Groeschel"), has a long trail of teaching behind him since receiving a doctorate in psychology in 1971. It would be interesting to know how widely and to whom he has been disseminating the thinking shown in this interview. http://www.archny.org/news-events/news-press-releases/?search=groeschel&...

I blogged on this yesterday. One of my commenters took me to task for denigrating his psychological cred--I didn't know he has graduate degrees in psychology. That, to me, is scary.I think "unspeakably evil comments" is a huge exaggeration. If not, how do we characterize sexual abuse and episcopal cover-up? "Astoundingly evil acts?" At some point, we need some perspective between gravely evil acts and people who just spout off in ignorance.NCReg pulled it, eh? That's interesting. Looks like a concession this was their "Todd Akin moment." As part of the implementation of the Charter, aren't clergy required to certify they have completed a basic course in child protection? I did mine in 2004, and I've updated with monthly modules ever since. That's interesting to consider: if you're a priest, in an order, with advanced degrees in psychology, you get a free pass on learning about what all the rest of us absorb as part of our ongoing commitment to protecting the innocent.I hesitated before writing about this. But now I feel an inner simmer over it all.

I don't find Fr. Groeschel's comments "unspeakably evil," but I'm not surprised the National Catholic Register decided to take the interview down. What is it Ann Olivier always says -- complexity, complexity? Well, this is one topic where complexity is not allowed. Even to suggest that a legal minor could seduce a legal adult is now tantamount to claiming that rape victims don't get pregnant. The suggestion that Fr. Groeschel, who worked for many year's at Children's Village, is insufficiently sensitive to the difficulties of "struggling or needy teens" is very odd. If a priest evinces any compassion for disgraced priests, apparently this proves he's a clericalist who tips "the scales in favor of a priest." As if the compassion one has for a criminal must come at the expense of the compassion one has for the victims of his crime. As if, in the case of sex abuse, justice isn't enough; we must add hatred. This isn't a very Christian way of looking at the world, but then, we are now told, even Christ, the Prince of Peace and prophet of forgiveness, is supposed to have made an exception for this one kind of sinner: It would be better for him if a millstone were tied around his neck, etc. Poor Fr. Groeschel, the old scale-tipper, he must be pretty far gone to express even the slightest pity for the likes of Larry Sandusky. Maybe if he weren't a man, he'd understand.

The comments were clearly wrong, but there is a "group think" thing going on when people try to top each other with ever-more colorful denunciations. The worse the crime, the sorrier I feel for the victim and the perpetrator. Pity for the victim is easy. Pity for the perpetrator rests on the belief that a truly evil act requires a truly sick mind. How horrible to lust for children and young people. What a terrible burden to have to bear. I too feel sorry for Sandusky because I believe that, if he could, he would have extirpated from himself that evil desire. It's important that we urge people with this disorder to seek professional help. Demonizing them will not prompt them to do so. It will only increase their desperation and perhaps the activity itself. Read Lincoln's address to a Temperance Union meeting in 1842: It is an old and a true maxim, that a "drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall." So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one. On the contrary, assume to dictate to his judgment, or to command his action, or to mark him as one to be shunned and despised, and he will retreat within himself, close all the avenues to his head and his heart; and though your cause be naked truth itself, transformed to the heaviest lance, harder than steel, and sharper than steel can be made, and though you throw it with more than Herculean force and precision, you shall be no more be able to pierce him, than to penetrate the hard shell of a tortoise with a rye straw.

"Even to suggest that a legal minor could seduce a legal adult is now tantamount to claiming that rape victims dont get pregnant."Funny you brought up Akin (in your vomit-inducing comments), because he sounded a lot like Akin when he said, "And I'm inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime."The body has the amazing ability to seal itself against bullets! Child rapists--their intentions were otherwise!And he didn't just "suggest" that minors might seduce an adult, he said that in "a lot of the cases" it is a minor who "seduces" an adult--and not just "legal minors," but illegal (?) ones (you know--children).

Jerry Sandusky is undoubtedly a pathetic figure. But if you proceed directly from claiming that "some of these so-called predators were actually seduced by their so-called victims" to saying "poor Sandusky," you're going to sound like you're saying "poor Sandusky, pilloried as a monster when he was just unlucky enough to be seduced by a bunch of boys."Groeschel should know better, certainly, but the Register did him no favors. I'd like to think, if he were asked to clarify, he would say that of course Sandusky's victims are even more deserving of our sympathy. But there was no follow-up question, apparently. Not even "Funny you should bring up Sandusky, because doesn't that example -- that of a serial predator who apparently sought the company of vulnerable boys -- cast doubt on your theory about 'the youngster' being 'the seducer'?" How does a reporter get a bombshell like that and not ask for more, if only to prevent the interviewee from sounding worse than he should? And then, having not gotten any clarification, they decided to publish the whole transcript, when they really should have been able to see that this section (which is a tangent, anyway, from the basic topic, and could easily have been cut) would cause a huge stir for them and for him. Inexplicable.

Matthew Boudway is exactly right.

I find the comment disturbing because there is such a disparity of power between an adult man, publicly committed to a life of celibacy and service, and a child. And I find it very hard to imagine that an adult could be "seduced" by a child unless he were already interested in a sexual relationship (whether because of moral weakness or psychological aberration). I doubt Father Groeschel is an evil man, but it is sad, even tragic, that his empathy seems greater for a brother priest than for a molested child.

"Even to suggest that a legal minor could seduce a legal adult is now tantamount to claiming that rape victims dont get pregnant."The adult in this case is a Catholic priest who--allegedly--is bound by celibacy. Maybe I'm mistaken about that.That "adult" priest is expected to be in situations when he would certainly encounter instances of misplaced sexual energy from minors. I believe most professional psychologists would be aware of this common problem and be trained for it--if celibacy and vows of chastity weren't by themselves sufficent in the case of the priesthood. Nobody is saying that such attempts aren't made by minors. What people are saying is that the "adult" in the sitation sholud properly handle it, not take advatage of it.Apprently this kind of adult behaviour is beyond the abilities of Catholic priests. "Pity for the perpetrator rests on the belief that a truly evil act requires a truly sick mind."Which is incorrect. Truly evil acts are often simply evil.

@ Matthew Boudway:There are so many things wrong, even repulsive, on so many levels with what you have written. Sadly and shockingly, Groeschel's comments are not that different from the attitudes and beliefs of most Catholic hierarchs about the rape and sodomy of children by priests. This is what "clinical cognitive dissonance" looks and smells like.Let's start at the beginning: Sex, any sex, between an adult and a child is ALWAYS inherently abusive because the relationship is NOT EQUAL - because there is a POWER DIFFERENTIAL between the parties that renders any sexual behavior abusive. Without equality there is NO CONSENT. No consent means that the sex is NOT CONSENSUAL, therefore it is intrinsically a VIOLENT SEXUAL ASSAULT.Crossing this sexual boundary between an adult and a child is NEVER, EVER consensual. It can NEVER be condoned, excused or apologized away.The safety of children demands that all of us wrap our little minds around those concepts - especially for Catholics and Catholic priests.In my practice I have encountered many adolescents who over-sexualize relationships - usually this is a clinical indication of previous abuse experienced by the child. This is a child calling out for help, NOT SEXUAL ASSAULT. Priests are the adults in these kind of situations. Priests need to act like the adult and set boundaries for the child - not satiate their [the priest's] hidden and forbidden desires by taking advantage of the situation. The appropriate response of the adult in these situations is to REPORT THE SEXUAL ADVANCE by the child to superiors and Child Protective Services - IMMEDIATELY.There is a reason why Jesus spoke about "millstones" remedies. I would expect this kind of twisted thinking from Larry Sandusky - he's a sociopath. If this is the best that Groeschel can do, it's time for him to retire from public ministry, speaking and writing.

Just posted in place of the interview, this statement from Jeanette R. De Melo, the Editor in Chief appointed earlier this year:

Child sexual abuse is never excusable. The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel's comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our publication of that comment was an editorial mistake, for which we sincerely apologize. Given Father Benedict's stellar history over many years, we released his interview without our usual screening and oversight. We have removed the story. We have sought clarification from Father Benedict.

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/father-benedict-groeschel-reflects-...

"...they really should have been able to see that this section (which is a tangent, anyway, from the basic topic, and could easily have been cut)"Cut it? I don't think so. That is not what we expect a good editor to do. After all, he brought it up in the interview. He said it. Perhaps a follow-up question would have been in order. But I suspect that it would be very difficult to question Fr. Benedict Groeschel.

"Even to suggest that a legal minor could seduce a legal adult is now tantamount to claiming that rape victims dont get pregnant."I don't think so. Joe's comments are spot-on. If a legal minor is sexually acting out, the adult remains responsible for protecting the minor from her or his own worst impulses.With a healthier hierarchy, we would be more free to express pity for sex abusers. However, the context is that bishops have allowed pity and alliance with their brother priest-predators to paralyze their own moral judgment. Pity for the predator has been one of the rallying cries of the cover-up. Pity for the predator while ignoring, shaming, and further damaging the victims may well have a virtuous intent. But it compounds the harm.If Fr Groeschel has misspoken, then he needs to distance himself from the cover-up of sex crimes.The only people who today have the moral standing to pity and forgive the predators are those who were victimized.I agree with Mollie. The NCReg fumbled this on their own one-yard-line. It's the kind of thing gotcha! ideologues love to pin on an adversary. But one of their own? What were they thinking?

"Apprently this kind of adult behaviour is beyond the abilities of Catholic priests." All Catholic priests? Most Catholic priests? Many Catholic priests? Some Catholic priests?

Unfortunately, this sort of thinking continues among both the hierarchy and lay Catholics today, and it's not just older generations of Catholics. In my opinion, the NC Register is being more than a little disingenuous when they claim the interview was posted by way of "editorial mistake", whatever that's supposed to mean. The comments and the thinking behind them are evil, although not "unspeakably" so. This sort of evil has, for too long, been "unspeakable", which was part of the problem. People must speak out immediately when they hear these things being said, otherwise how can we expect our children to speak out when they're victimized? If we are too cowardly to confront the likes of Groeschal and the NC Register for mere words, can we really expect children to trust us and come to us when they are harmed? How can we be their voice if we don't have the courage to stand in the face of evil thinking and evil words, much less evil deeds?This isn't the first time the NC Register has made excuses for abusing priests, and I doubt it will be the last.

"Even to suggest that a legal minor could seduce a legal adult is now tantamount to claiming that rape victims dont get pregnant."I don't find the comparison all that helpful, but I'm also not fond of exaggerating your interlocutor's position to make it look untenable. To suggest a minor could seduce an adult is not the problem. But Groeschel speaks as though this is often the case. And if it is often the case then we ought to pity the poor men who could not resist the temptations of teenagers. You exaggerate again here: "If a priest evinces any compassion for disgraced priests, apparently this proves hes a clericalist who tips 'the scales in favor of a priest.' As if the compassion one has for a criminal must come at the expense of the compassion one has for the victims of crime. As if, in the case of sex abuse, justice isnt enough; we must add hatred."Compassion is great. But you have to sound like you know what you're talking about in order for it to come off. And here Groeschel does not sound like a person who has thought all that deeply about the issue. Does he believe we should share his view of Sandusky because his victims didn't report it? Does he have any clue why child victims don't come forward? It's because they are terrified and ashamed. I'm afraid no one comes out looking good here.

I agree with Matt that complexity on this issue seems not to be tolerated, which (if I may) is why I have been plugging The Immanent Frame forum. I think that Groeschel made (at least) two misteps: 1) I think he misspoke in saying that the minors were "seducers." This language implies that they DID have sexual motives, but he almost immediately makes it clear that troubled children and adolescents looking for intimacy with an adult are not (in most cases) interested in sex. Read this way, his comments are less of a "blame the victim" moment than an attempt to take seriously the complex feelings that the abused often have about their abusers, some of which may have led them into such relationships in the first place and contribute to the perpetuation of the relationship (e.g. neglect leading to fear of rejection, low self-esteem leading to guilt, etc.). 2) He mentions (too briefly) the compromised psychology of the adult that might lead him into such relationships, describing the abuser as "having a nervous breakdown." This needs to be qualified and complicated much more vigorously along the lines suggested by Todd Flowerday, above, if it is not to be taken as making an unholy alliance with the abusers by offering pity in place of moral judgment. Ministry to troubled children and adolescents is nothing new, but it takes an extremely mature and well-trained minister to know how to maintain proper and clear boundaries in a non-alienating way as well as an institution that encourages transparent communication up the chain so as to protect both adult and minor. So, some questions might be: What is happening in the Church that we have ministers who seem not to have been properly trained, or ministers lacking in sexual maturity? Why did the institution fail to protect the minors in its care? Are there policies and changes in ministerial culture that can and should be pursued to protect both ministers and minors from abuse and contribute to maintaining proper boundaries in ways that do not interfere with the development of healthy, pastoral relationships? These are all questions that it would have been interesting to hear Groeschel talk about, and thus, I agree with Mollie that the interview was a bit of a missed opportunity. It might be worthwhile, since the cat is out of the bag, for NCR to ask Groeschel to write a more substantive piece clarifying and elaborating on his statements. Something tells me, though, that these are questions that the hierarchy is loath to talk about out in the open, as the answers might lead to a more radical reformation of the institution and the role of the clergy than they are willing to embrace.

And children, teens, women and men are terrified and ashamed to come forward because of commentary like Groeschel's and the defense they see of that commentary. It's a vicious, evil circle. The only response to evil actions and words is to stand up and speak up. When enough people set _that_ example, the only ones who will be shamed are those who would remain silent to protect an image, to create a facade. As they should be.

Mollie wrote: "But if you proceed directly from claiming that 'some of these so-called predators were actually seduced by their so-called victims' to saying 'poor Sandusky,' youre going to sound like youre saying 'poor Sandusky, pilloried as a monster when he was just unlucky enough to be seduced by a bunch of boys.'"Maybe so, but Fr. Groeschel didn't "proceed directly" from claiming that sometimes adults are seduced by minors to saying "poor Sandusky." That phrase appears later, at the beginning of his response to another question. Nobody who reads this whole interview could fairly assume that Fr. Groeschel thinks Sandusky was seduced by his victims, and neither Groeschel nor his interviewer is responsible for what anyone might unfairly assume.Nor is it true to say that Fr. Benedict has propsosed a "theory about the youngster being the seducer." He says it happens sometimes. That's not a general theory of sex abuse; it's an observation.To express compassion for pedophiles does not imply that one believes they deserve more compassion than their victims. That should be obvious enough. So why does Groeschel need to say -- and why does the National Catholic Register need to get him to say -- "that of course Sanduskys victims are even more deserving of our sympathy"? Kevin Mulcahy writes that he finds "it very hard to imagine that an adult could be 'seduced' by a child unless he were already interested in a sexual relationship." Does he mean unless the adult was already a pedophile? In that case, it hardly needs saying: obviously no one incapable of feeling sexual attraction to a child is going to be seduced by one. Then again, one doesn't always know what one is capable of feeling, and presumably that goes for pedophiles too. But if Mr. Mulcahy means he can't imagine a child seducing an adult unless it was first the intention of the adult "to be seduced," then I'd say the problem here is with the limits of Mr. Mulcahy's imagination, not with Fr. Groeschel's words. And what exactly does Mr. Mulcahy mean by "child"? Fr. Groeschel was talking about people who are "14, 16, 18." To speak as if sex between an adult (of whatever age) and a sixteen-year-old is morally or clinically equivalent to sex between an adult and a six-year-old is obtuse. No one imagines that six-year-olds are sexually seducing anyone. And no one is claiming that adults who are seduced by minors are off the hook. They are responsible, legally and morally, for their response. Only, if they are seduced, it makes no sense to describe them as "predators." Not every person guilty of statutory rape can be justly described as a predator.Abe Rosenzweig is an amusing bully, more amusing when you agree with him than when you don't. Did he mention how much pedophiles disgust him? They really, really disgust him. They disgust him so much that anyone who isn't equally disgusted by them also disgusts him. Swallow your vomit, Abe, and spare me your cheap indignation.

"He says it happens sometimes."No, he said it happens a lot.

"... why does Groeschel need to say and why does the National Catholic Register need to get him to say that of course Sanduskys victims are even more deserving of our sympathy?"Because that's their job. Sorry, but when you represent an institution that is guilty for egregious offenses against humanity and the decades-long cover up of those offenses, the onus is on you to not make excuses for the abusers and publicly sympathize with them without AT LEAST expressing even deeper concern for the victims. Not that you should be making excuses for the abusers and expressing your sympathies for them in the first place.

A comment on Todd Flowerday's website was this:"Interestingly, if you apply Fr. Groeschels point to those who have abortions they too are not sinning because they do not intend to commit evil. Perhaps this is the real reason the article was pulled."Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Being possibly bitten in one's theological butt can cause all kinds of second thoughts, even about pronouncements from one of one's fellow travelers.

Actually, he says "a lot of the cases." Sometimes "a lot" means "most." I doubt that's what Fr. Groeschel meant here. I think he meant "more than you might expect if you thought all sex-abuse cases were the same -- perfect evil preying on perfect innocence." Fr. Groeschel may have spoken too casually about a subject that requires care and precision; probably he wouldn't have written what he said. But the ostentatious outrage with which his comments have been received -- and the speed with which the Register and the archdiocese have distanced themselves from him -- is ugly.

In pretty short order Fr. Groeschel drifts off of the topic of the corrupting influence of fame and says "But its also very good to be coming close to death." Maybe he doesn't have the will or energy to consider his public perception any more. I appreciate candor even if I don't agree with the content. The excerpt above has a reflective, maundering tone. Joseph Zwilling's statement: goal-directed and vetted by legal. I'm not piling on.

Here's what Father Groeschel says about priests involved in abuse: They are not sociopaths; they're having a nervous breakdown; then they're penitential. Also, priests involved in abuse are relatively rare, maybe as rare or rarer than in other professions. Also, until recently it was not seen as a crime, only as a moral failure. Their intent was not to commit a crime. They don't necessarily go all the way to intercourse, either. Poor guys. The one-strike rule is too harsh. There are some nuances - "sometimes", "often", etc., but everything he says goes in the same direction: compassion for the abuser, along with a litany of excuses.Here's what Father Groeschel says about the children and teenagers: he never uses the word "victim" but says: They're often seducers. Also, kids didn't report it when they knew about it, because they didn't see it as a crime. There are also some nuances, but all he says goes in the direction of minimization.I do not see any "complexity, complexity" in his presentation. It's really quite simple: in his view, child abuse by priests is no big deal! I look forward to a "clarification" that will contain the words "victim" or "survivor", and "criminal".

According to a comment on America magazine's website, Father Groeschel has issued a straightforward apology. Matter closed?

Is the contention here that a 17-year old female could not seduce a male? Not alot?

@ Matthew Boudway: The distancing of the Register and the [NY] archdiocese from Groeschel is ugly? Really??? You may denigrate my comments and others here on the blog expressing outrage at Groeschels preposterous assertions about sexual perpetrator priests all you want. But, all that wont change the fact that your defense of Groeschel is both odious and ignorant. @ Eric Bugyis: You should know better. If you think that Groeschel only [misspoke] then your own thinking is seriously twisted, and in need of immediate remediation. We dont need to hear any more convoluted, and frankly perverted, thinking from Groeschel about priests being seduced by children. And, if the rampant rape and sodomy of children by priests has not already provoked a more radical reformation of the institution and role of clergy, then no amount of academic and intellectual BS-ing will.The Catholic community at large needs to embark upon a broad discussion and debate of the effects and results of the endemic narcissism that infects the clerical caste in the Catholic Church. It is this pathological narcissism [and its symbiont disease, feudal clericalism] that has allowed priests like Groeschel and hierarchs to engage in this sick and bizarre notion that priests are somehow the victims in this sex abuse scandal.Frankly, there is no known reliable treatment for serial child sexual predators so lets stop trying to conflate one. That is why sexual predators must be first segregated from the general population in prisons. Im no big fan of prisons, but such is the brokenness of our human condition at this time.Catholics need to reform and renew the priesthood from parish to pope. We have to face facts: Catholics arent going to get any help from the hopelessly corrupt hierarchy. For sure, Catholics had better get cracking if the church in our society is to even survive this century.The People of God have been here before: Catholics today have to adopt the mindset of first century Jews who had just witnessed the destruction of Herods Temple by the Romans, the heart of Jewish religious culture. These are the roots of the rabbinic Judaism [with no sacrifice, no priesthood] that has survived beautifully to this very day despite pogrom and Holocaust. Catholics today have to answer similar question(s) that face Jews post-Temple: If we cant reform the priesthood, can we get along without one?

And, Matt, I think you're supplying much more than Groeschel provides. Do you also find ugly the speed with which he has distanced himself from his own comments?"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."

"Do you also find ugly the speed with which he has distanced himself from his own comments?"No I don't. I find his apology both sad and beautiful in its way. A wise man who has suffered a stroke discovers the hard way that he can no longer trust himself to say clearly what he wants to say in a live interview. Discovering that he has offended a lot of people without meaning to, he yields to their judgment.

So it's beautiful and sad when he says his remarks were wrong, but ugly when the rest of us say so? I wasn't aware that the stroke had affected his cognition. When I read the whole interview, I thought I saw him explaining that he had not suffered lasting effects from the stroke. He may be wise. I have no idea. But what he said about this was profoundly unwise. And it's bizarre that you don't see why.

Jim: I actually agree with a lot of what you said (maybe even the part about my twisted thinking). What seemed interesting to me about Groeschel's comments, and why I wanted to read him generously, was his attempt to humanize the perpetrators. This, I think, blocks the defensive move that many in the Church tend to make when they paint the scandal as just a few monstrous foxes getting into the hen house, which actually lets the institution off the hook for having enabled and (in some cases) created the psychological and social conditions that made abuse plausible and possible. So, my second point is, I think, more instructive insofar as it shows where the logic of Groeschel's statements leads. If abusers are not simply pathological predators, then it is on the institution to examine how it is forming its ministers in ways that might give rise to or exacerbate already present tendencies toward abusive relationships, especially in cases where the victim is vulnerable to begin with. In part, it is the refusal to engage in this kind of self-critique that, I think, is driving the swift distancing from Groeschel's remarks by the hierarchy. The simply stated "segregation" you recommend, while of course necessary, can allow the Church to think it has purified itself by cutting out the tumor, so to speak, when in fact it may have only treated the symptoms of an underlying, systemic problem. So, attempting to complicate the situation might bring us to the radical reformation that you and I both agree needs to happen. ...Or, we might need to go with the scorched-earth approach that you also seem to favor and that I find myself tempted to embrace at times. Finally, as for the "seducer" comment, I was probably overly generous, and of course, read straight-forwardly, it is deeply "perverted," as you say, and really perpetuates the kind of rationalization that is characteristic of the banal evil of abuse. However, to the extent that it can be redeemed (if it can), it is actually a pretty trivial observation: There are some troubled youth who seek inappropriate intimacies with adults who are elevated to positions of trust. The real problem for the Church is that those adults who were elevated to positions of trust failed miserably and the institution that acts as the guarantor of that trust also failed. So, the question is: Can the Church regain the immense amount of trust that its non-democratic ecclesiology demands after such an abysmal failure? I think that you're saying "no." For me, the jury is still out, but I find myself becoming more and more skeptical.

"So its beautiful and sad when he says his remarks were wrong, but ugly when the rest of us say so?"No, it's ugly when Joseph Zwilling and the editor of the National Catholic Register say so, and make it clear that they are embarrassed by Groeschel.

No, they are embarrassed by what he said. And so is he. That's partly why he apologized.

"Abe Rosenzweig is an amusing bully, more amusing when you agree with him than when you dont. Did he mention how much pedophiles disgust him? They really, really disgust him. They disgust him so much that anyone who isnt equally disgusted by them also disgusts him. Swallow your vomit, Abe, and spare me your cheap indignation."I'll take being a bully over being an apologist for people who downplay sexual assault, chief.

The lesson here for any member of the clergy is: never, ever, speak in public about sexual abuse. Ever. There is zero upside to talking about it, and the downside is bottomless. Refer all questions to the diocesan spokesman who will read his prepared statement into the microphones. That is all that anyone - media, victims, public - will ever get from us on this issue.

Note the difference between the statement from the Franciscan Friars of Renewal and from the Archdiocese of New York. The former distance themselves from his remarks while simultaneously making it clear that he's one of them, and so they have shared responsibility in a corporate sense, hence their apology. The second distance themselves from his remarks and highlight that he's not one of them: like automatic laicization, the attitude is to break bonds whenever problems come to public light, in an effort to pretend to be "pure". "We are perfect. If someone is not perfect, it's because he's not really one of us". One is tempted to infer that the community of a religious community is real, but not the brotherhood of "brother priests". Problem priests, whether their problem is image, words, ideas, actions, or whatever, are promptly dumped by chanceries as soon as the problems reach the media. I suppose that that's why some people find it "ugly".

Of course they are right to block access to the text of Fr Groeschel's remarks, they don't want a feeding frenzy.I suggest that my logical, scholastic distinction between the ethical, the legal, and the psychological-phenomenological would greatly aid lucid debate in this area. Matthew Boudway and Jim Jenkins are talking at cross purposes because of a failure to note these different levels of analysis.

"Frankly, there is no known reliable treatment for serial child sexual predators so lets stop trying to conflate one. That is why sexual predators must be first segregated from the general population in prisons. Im no big fan of prisons, but such is the brokenness of our human condition at this time."Have you studied the program of the Charite hospital in Berlin? The Charite estimates that one in a hundred German men over 18 have problematic attraction to children. Most of the men in the Charite program are married.

The Charite believe that therapy can often prevent sexual abuse. Unfortunately the hang 'em high brigade get in the way of their healing work. http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/gesundheit/charite-studie-therap...

Here is an important article in English: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/therapy-for-pedophilia-i-hat... would be nice if the people who spend so much energy attacking pedophiles, alleged sympathizers, and clergy, usually quite unreflectively, would think a little more about practical ways of dealing with the problem.

Matt, I know you're inclined to give Fr. Groeschel the benefit of the doubt. But Grant is right, you're supplying context that isn't there. You can be angry at the Register for their lousy journalism, or at Groeschel for speaking carelessly. But he said what he said, and the pity is that he didn't say more, if what he said is indeed not an accurate reflection of what he thinks. Show me what he says between his initial assertion about "youngsters" seducing their abusers and his bringing up Sandusky that would make it unfair to see the latter as an elaboration on the former. You say Fr. Groeschel didnt proceed directly from claiming that sometimes adults are seduced by minors to saying poor Sandusky. That phrase appears later, at the beginning of his response to another question. The question he was answering, which came immediately after his assertion about the "youngster" being the "seducer," was: "Why would that be?" The whole interview is strange, even before the last part. It's strange above all that the Register didn't recognize pre-publication that they had a bombshell on their hands, either during the interview or afterward when they wrote up the transcript. (Especially given the Register's shaky history on this very subject.) But there are a number of points throughout when a competent interviewer would have asked for clarification, or supplied it himself, just to make it read better. The link to the cached version isn't working anymore, so I can't quote specifics. But I remember thinking as I read, "Why are they being so cagey about how infirm Fr. Groeschel is?" It's been a while since I last saw him in person, but he needed a lot of help just to get around at that time. And yet his description of his customary work made no mention of that, and when they asked whether he travels to do speaking engagements, he said no because he's too busy and flying is a hassle. Who is he kidding? That makes me inclined to accept the explanation that he isn't quite in possession of the wisdom, or self-awareness, that might have stopped him from saying something like this. And yes, that's very sad. But he did say it, and it would have been awful if Zwilling or the Register hadn't distanced themselves from his remarks.

My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be.----------That doesn't explain why he would blame victims for sexual abuse. If the thought had not been there all along, why would it pop up now?Like Akin, he made the mistake of speaking plainly about what is meant to be obfuscated. And, like Akin, he is being deserted by those who share his repulsive notions but haven't lost their ability to separate public statements from private convictions.

Grant, just an FYI - the "retrieve the interview" link in your post now seems to jump to a page containing the statements by the Register, the community and Fr. Groeschel. The interview itself is no longer there.

You're right, Mollie: I am inclined to give Fr. Groeschel the benefit of the doubt. And you're right that I'm supplying context that isn't there in the interview itself. Some of that context has to do with the subject Groeschel is addressing; some of it has to do with what I know about him.You're right that the Register was practicing lousy journalism (on a topic that a paper associated with the Legion of Christ ought to be especially careful about), and also that Fr. Groeschel spoke carelessly -- meaning not that what he said was evil or callous, but that it lent itself to misunderstanding and even outrage. I regret having suggested yesterday that anyone perplexed by the interview must be reading it ungenerously.By the time Groeschel gets around to mentioning Sandusky, it seems clear to me he is no longer talking just about cases of a minor seducing an adult; he is talking generally about the whole phenomenon of men abusing male adolescents. One clue is the statistic he mentions a few sentences before, which apparently includes any case where a priest is involved in a "homosexual way" with a minor. (I'm not familiar with the study to which he refers.) The point Groeschel seems to want to make about Sandusky is that it shouldn't have been possible for him to keep his crimes a secret for so long, and that it was possible partly because of a cultural background in which such behavior was treated as a moral problem to which the appropriate response was shame, not criminal prosecution. It is easy to forget how quickly our society's attitudes to sex abuse have changed in the last several decades, and Fr. Groeschel is clumsily remarking on that change. (Peter Steinfels's recent Commonweal article about this subject shows that it is possible to remark on this change more carefully, though I would note that even Peter's article alarmed some of our readers because it strayed away from the official script).Finally, I take Claire's point: there is an important difference between the way the CFRs responded to Groeschel's remarks and the way the archdiocese did. The main purpose of Zwilling's statement seems to have been to put as much distance as possible between Fr. Groeschel and the Archdiocese of New York. Given Groeschel's current condition and his decades of service to the church in New York, I do find this ugly.

@ David Gibson:Clint Eastwood's performance at the RNC last night will become the video of record for references regarding "senior moments."

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