Fr Benedict Groeschel, a man I admire and whom I once knew, the other day made outrageous comments to the effect that sometimes priests who sexually abuse youngsters are actually the victims of kids, who are sometimes the seducers. He also stated that first offenders should not be punished with jail time.
There was of course an outcry; The Community of the Franciscan Renewal, the reform- minded congregation that Fr Benedict helped found, denounced the remarks, as did a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, where Father lives and works.
But the most revealing statement came from Fr Benedict himself:
“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.”
My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be.
To anyone who has known Fr Benedict and has listened to him on the radio recently this has been apparent for some time. His health has long been failing, and to listen to him stumble over his words or draw a blank in the middle of a sentence is painful.
Father has done much good in his life, but this incident reveals that it is really time for him to retire from public life.