The Huffington Post Meredith Bennett-Smith First Posted: 08/29/12 06:00 PM ET Updated: 08/30/12 12:25 PM ET
In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, Father Benedict Groeschel, of the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, said that teens act as seducers in some sexual abuse cases involving priests.
It's been close to a decade since an investigation into clergy sex abuse cases by The Boston Globe unearthed a shocking scandal and cover-up that rocked the foundations of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and around the world.
Ten years may have passed, but the wounds have yet to fully heal in America, especially in light of the recent Penn State allegations, as well as the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary for the clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
In light of this, the recent comments by Groeschel seem both puzzling and jarringly out of step with current sentiments.
In an interview with the National Catholic Register posted this week, Groeschel was asked about his work with the very conservative Friars of the Renewal, a breakaway order he founded 25 years ago. The conversation took an interesting turn, however, when the editor asked about the 78-year-old's work with sexual abuse perpetrators.
"People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to -- a psychopath," Groeschel said. "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."
Pressed for clarification, the New York State-based religious leader explained that kids looking for father figures might be drawn to priests to fill an emotional hole in their lives.
Furthermore, Groeschel expressed a belief that most of these "relationships" are heterosexual in nature, and that historically sexual relationships between men and boys have not been thought of as crimes.
"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... And I'm inclined to think, on [a priest's] first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime."
The fact that the interview was published, without comment, in the National Catholic Register was significant due to the publication's affiliation with disgraced Legion of Christ religious order.
In 1995 the legion was part of a group of investors who saved the National Catholic Register from closing. (The Legion later sold the paper, which is now owned by the Eternal World Television Network.)The powerful clerical order was also part of one of the most damaging scandals, involving its one-time leader, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the highest-profile Catholic clergyman ever to be accused of sexual abuse, according to Time magazine.
In 2005, the Vatican scrambled to try to minimize the damage done by revelations that the extremely influential Mexican priest had been abusing seminarians for years.
The priest received a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1971 and now lives in Larchment, N.Y., where he assists with Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for the clergy he founded.
Trinity House stirred controversy in 2006 when the press learned that New York priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children, but not legally convicted, had the option of a life-long close supervision program that began with a stay at the retreat. In the wake of community objections, the Archdiocese later removed Trinity House from the list of program's offered facilities, according to the Larchmont Gazette.
Groeschel is also a professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph's Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.
Clarification: Information has been added to the article to indicate that the Legion of Christ is no longer an owner of the publication.
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FILE - This undated file image provided by State of California Department of Justice shows former priest and convicted sex offender, Robert Van Handel, who was molested as a student at St Anthony's seminary school and then returned there as a priest where he molested boys in the choir. (AP Photo/California Department of Justice, File)
FILE - In a Tuesday, March 27, 2012 file photo, Monsignor William Lynn leaves the Criminal Justice Center, in Philadelphia. Lynn, accused of moving predator-priests to unwitting parishes, testified Wednesday, May 23, 2012 that he had no authority to make priest transfers. Lynn says he could only remove a priest who admitted abusing a minor. Lynn says he otherwise made recommendations for the cardinal. Lynn is testifying in the ninth week of his child-endangerment and conspiracy trial. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
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The late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua ordered aides to destroy a list with the names of priests accused of sexual abuse, according to church documents revealed during the trial of Philadelphia's Monsignor William Lynn.
This Nov. 18, 2010 photo provided by the Dallas County Sheriff's Department shows John Fiala. Fiala, a former Roman Catholic priest charged with sexually abusing a teenage boy in 2008 in his rural Texas parish is now accused of plotting the alleged victim's murder, authorities said. Fiala was found guilty of the plot in May of 2012. (AP Photo/Dallas County Sheriff's Department)