By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Fr. Benedict Groeschel is a prominent member of the ultra-right Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with his own religious column and a programming spot on EWTN, the ominous sounding Global Catholic Channel. In a recent article in the Catholic Register, Groeschel takes aim at the Sandusky scandal at Penn State and the objects of his ire are the child abuse victims. Because, to the learned friar, it is Sandusky, and not his prey, that is the rightful recipient of sympathy. Calling Sandusky “this poor guy” he says:
“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.”
Groeschel also went on to explain that, based on his take on history, sexual relationships between men and young boys are not matters of legal concern:
“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. . .
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.”
It’s easy to dismiss this as the ramblings of a crazy old man who has since apologized and blamed his age and the lingering effects of an automobile accident for the inexplicable sentiments. But what is frightening is the absolute silence from Rome or any other Catholic authority decrying the madness. Oh, the Catholic Register hurriedly pulled the piece and apologized but not until the backblast became overwhelming. The CR added that it published the story based on Fr. Groeschel’s “stellar history,” and without the publication’s ”usual screening and oversight.” The Franciscan Friars of Renewal went into damage-control and stated the obvious that, “ 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.”
But the troubling aspect of the scandal hasn’t been explored. What if Fr. Groeschel’s words aren’t the product of a month-long coma and failing “health, memory and cognitive ability” as the hierarchy suggests? (After all he still has his TV show explaining Catholic dogma). What if the editors of the Catholic Register actually did do the jobs they are paid for and approved the article? And finally, what if these sentiments, far from being on the periphery of Catholic thought, are in the mainstream attitude of Catholic clergy?
No more so than the myriad of child sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the church and made Sandusky an amateur by comparison.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger