A prominent NY friar has come to the defense of priests who have been caught in sex scandals with underage boys, claiming that oftentimes, the priests are "seduced" by teens. Father Benedict Groeschel of the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal made his comments in an interview with the National Catholic Register. As if claiming teens seduce pedophiles wasn't a disgusting enough sentiment, Groeschel also expressed sympathy for Jerry Sandusky, calling him a "poor guy."
"People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to—a psychopath," Groeschel told them when asked about his work with sexual abuse perpetrators. "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." He continued, arguing that those kids are looking for father figures: "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."
The friar, who is based in Westchester but does outreach in the Bronx and Brooklyn, doesn't think priests should go to jail if they are caught for the first time having a sexual relationship with a child: "I'm inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime." He argued that there is a precedent for that attitude toward priests abusing children: "Until recent years, people did not register in their minds that it was a crime. It was a moral failure, scandalous; but they didn’t 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."
And that moral failure—not necessarily a criminal one—is why Sandusky wasn't caught for so many years: "Here’s this poor guy 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." So to summarize: teens often take advantage of their emotionally-open pedophile priests; priests shouldn't be punished for abusing children because they didn't mean anything criminal by it; Sandusky is a poor guy and the kids really liked him which is why they didn't get him in trouble for years; and Friar Benedict Groeschel should really STFU.
Update: The New York Archdiocese gave this statement about Friar Benedict Groeschel's comments:
The sexual abuse of a minor is a crime, and whoever commits that crime deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The harm that was done by these remarks was compounded by the assertion that the victim is responsible for the abuse, or somehow caused the abuse to occur. This is not only terribly wrong, it is also extremely painful for the victims.
The original article has also been removed from the National Catholic Register, who instead put in this editorial note:
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.