Robert Peter Benedict Groeschel has been an ordained priest since 1959. According to Wikipedia Groeschel has authored over thirty books, has a master’s degree in counseling and a doctorate degree in psychology from Columbia University in 1971.
He hosted the Sunday Night Prime with Father Benedict Groeschel until September 3, when he “stepped down” or “retired” from the spotlight because of comments that he made about sexual predator priests actually being the victims to boys who seduce them. He also stated that sexual offenders should not be incarcerated by the first conviction.
In this blog, we will not talk about the outrage of his comments alone, rather we will set a foundation with his comments to examine the doctrine of the catholic church and you will decide whether he himself may be a sexual predator.
I find that many times we respond out of immediate emotions, but I can tell from people’s reactions whether they were really listening and internalizing what they hear – whether it is read on paper or spoken aloud.
Here are a few of Groeschel’s exact comments on that program:
“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath,” Groeschel said in the interview. “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.” – UPI
“Well, 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, perhaps sleeping, but not having intercourse or anything like that,” Groeschel said. “It’s an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers.” – UPI
Groeschel expressed sympathy for Jerry Sandusky referring to him as “the poor guy”, who was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse including raping a child in a Penn State locker room which caused the NCAA to fine Penn State $60 Million in sanctions. This literally shut down the football program – and rightfully so.
“In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable. No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims,” Emmert said, referring to the former Penn State defensive coordinator convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse last month. – ESPN
Yet, somehow Robert Peter Benedict Groeschel managed to disagree with Jerry Sandusky being sent to jail – as this is his first offense and convictions.
Immediately after Groeschel’s television program was aired, it was taken down by the network. Apparently, they believed that his stellar record would permit them to air it without editing. Perhaps, someone did review it, and thought that the world needed to know. For this decision, I thank the person who may have seen it, and aired it anyway.
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Apologies were issued by all parties involved including Groeschel but, does an apology really end the questioning of his comments. Of course not, this is why he “retired.” We all know he was told that he would be fired if he did not leave voluntarily. It is protocol, to preserve is seemingly spotless career.
Here is the important part – the reason I decided to write about this situation, in the media there were statements from the Community Of Franciscan Friars Of The Renewal, a parish that Groeschel is credited for starting:
“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.” – CFFR
So, am I to believe that because of failing health his heart has changed and he has become a sexual predator? Even a sane person who is sympathetic to the psychological alien of sexual perpetrators would not ever say that their behavior is the fault of the child. There is no way in hell that I will ever be able to believe that his comments came from his failing health instead of his heart that could no longer hide his true beliefs.
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He did not make one comment, it was four that have been quoted verbatim. Even in failing health – identifying himself with sympathy for Jerry Sandusky, blaming the children for being raped and molested by him has nothing to do with failing health or psychological issues.
It is simply that what he believes is surfacing – if anything. And, I believe that we should change the tone of this conversation to ask if there are victims out there – people who have experienced sexual abuse from Groeschel. Perhaps he will not go to jail at 80 years old, but it would make sense to be able to know if these words came out of his mouth because he himself is actually a predator.
And for all of those crying about good works, I have news for you. If you believe in Heaven and Hell, you also understand that good “works” will not get you into the promised land. Instead, your heart, your character and your relationship with God will be your entrance fee. It is great to be a kind person but the naivety of people is leaving me flabbergasted. I have stated on many occasion that in the study which can be found in The Bible And Child Sexual Abuse, statistics show that 64% of predators are employed, and 93% are religious.
“At some point you have to take the car keys away from grandpa,” the Rev. Glenn Sudano, a spokesman for the friars, told Religion News Service.” – Huffington Post reported
That is it huh? We will use that analogy that Groeschel is too old – or senial to responsibly deliver content on the air? We do not want to believe that people would gain our trust and then abuse it. Sexual predators do this all the time and it is called child sexual abuse grooming – a term that I have created to clarify grooming for sexual abuse.
In an article entitled “Child Predators, Is Our Punishment Misguided?” Janice D’Arcy examines whether the sexual offender registry list is necessary, and should first time offenders be incarcerated.
George Mason University professor Roger N. Lancaster in his book Sex, Panic, and The Punitive State argues:
“The unknown person living somewhere in the neighborhood isn’t the main risk to children’s safety and well-being. Most perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members, close relatives or someone known to the family. Stories of abduction, rape, and murder by strangers excite the worst fears. But these are exceedingly rare events — comparable to the chances of being struck by lightning. And only a very small percentage of sex crimes are committed by repeat offenders, which does suggest that the registries mislead parents.
But I’d suggest that instead of giving a sense of security, false or otherwise, what the registries actually do is to stoke unnecessary parental anxieties. They foster perpetual dread: It becomes everyone’s duty to be constantly alert to remote dangers. Sociologists who’ve studied these practices talk about how they undermine trust, create a culture of fear and fuel a rage to punish. This is bad for adults. And many who have studied the subject think that this is bad for children as well. . . . A study in the U.K. found that excessive fear of predators has contributed to keeping kids indoors, producing a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and other health risks.”
I agree that the legal system concerning almost everything is flawed. I am particularly sensitive to the subject of child sexual abuse and convictions. There are many who believe that the laws help to govern but as the professor stated the following:
“In practice, it is not only the “worst of the worst” who’ve been swept up and entangled in sex offender laws. Some of the registrants had consensual relations with near-adults. Others appear to have been falsely accused and accepted a plea bargain. Some were themselves minors who had consensual sex with their girlfriends or boyfriends. A random sample of one state’s listings shows that two-thirds of the registrants were convicted of non-violent first offenses — and their crimes may have involved no physical contact.
The idea that violent repeat offenders ought to be “incapacitated,” as they say when speaking of long prison terms, is one thing. But what we have in practice is a system of perpetual punishment for a growing host of lesser offenses. . . . So I have argued that it’s time to revisit our laws, which are founded on unreasonable fears and a boundless rage to punish.”
Here is where I see a disconnect. It is not true that there are little repeat offenders, in fact there are various studies which prove that by the time a child molester is caught, they have abused hundreds of children. Just because someone is appearing before a judge for the first time, does not mean it is the first offense. And secondly, studies has shown that offenders repeat their offenses within fifteen years.
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Of course this is not absolute for all offenders and when we talk about sexual predators we are speaking of different profiles between men and women, and sexual misconduct preferences. While some molest, others rape. While some prefer infant to five years old, other may prefer teenagers for example. None of the offenses are better or less traumatic than the other.
I remember being molested as a child, and I remember having men who were thirty and forty express interest in me when I was a teenager. What would a man have in common with a child? For the child, the thoughts are that we are mature, well able to handle ourselves. While the truth is the predator is able to be himself around you because you require less, and he does not have the challenge of someone who understands where his flaws may exist. As a teenager, you want a boyfriend with a car and a job. As a woman you want someone with a vision, a developed character and some material possessions to show that he is at least trying to accomplish his goals (for example).
While I agree that there are circumstances in an individual’s case that should not place them on the sexual offender list, and that many men and women may not have received a fair trial or out of fear have been coerced into a plea deal, it is necessary to note that if we do not convict someone who is a sexual predator and place them on a sexual offender registry, we will not know that they may be a violent offender who can abduct your child.
With the registry you can actual see what the offense was. You can not see the victim but you will know what age range the child was, unless it was an adult.
The Catholic Church
Back to Groeschel for a moment, I agree with Lancaster that most child sexual abuse happens in the home by someone familiar with the child. In fact the statistics are 90% of child molesters know their victim. Priests, know their victims.
“The sexual violation of a child or adolescent by a priest is incest. It is a sexual and relational transgression perpetrated by THE father of the child’s extended family; a man in whom the child is taught from birth to trust above everyone else in his life, to trust second only to God. Priest abuse IS incest”. - Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, “The Long Term Impact Of Early Sexual Trauma
The concept of God, the nature of the Church and the identity of the priest mesh together to form a devastating source of trauma for abuse victims. They believe in a theistic God, that is, a God that is a “super person” with human emotions and reactions. This God actually does things in the lives of people.
The Church is God’s special enclave on earth and its clergy are his personal representatives complete with some of his powers. He shows himself through the priests and bishops. If a cleric is kind it is often seen as God’s kindness manifested through him. If a priest is angry or somehow destructive to a person this is seen as a divine act, possibly to punish something the person did wrong.
Far too many clergy abuse victims see their abuse as retribution or far worse, as a sexual assault by God. Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the oldest and largest victim support organization, SNAP (Survivors Network Of Those Abuse By Priests) said in a 2002 interview, ”Many of us feel as if we had been raped by God.” – Laura Ungar,”Abuse’s Impact Can Be Life Long” – Delaware News Journal 6-13-2002
The Catholic Church has always had a plan in place for priests who are sexual offenders. Crimen Sollicitationis is latin for The Crime Of Soliciting, a document or instruction on how to handle sexual abuse among clergy was dispersed in 1962.
In Catholism there are nine congregations. The Supreme Sacred Congregation Of The Holy Office is the oldest and the most active of the nine congregations of Roman Curia. This church also oversees church doctrine.
“15. The crime of solicitation is ordinarily committed in the absence of any witnesses; consequently, lest it remain almost always hidden and unpunished with inestimable detriment to souls, it has been necessary to compel the one person usually aware of the crime, namely the penitent solicited, to reveal it by a denunciation imposed by positive law. Therefore:
16. “In accordance with the Apostolic Constitutions and specifically the Constitution of Benedict XIVSacramentum Poenitentiae of 1 June 1741, the penitent must denounce a priest guilty of the crime of solicitation in confession to the local Ordinary or to the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office within one month; and the confessor must, by an obligation gravely binding in conscience, warn the penitent of this duty.” (Canon 904).
17. Moreover, in the light of Canon 1935, any member of the faithful can always denounce a crime of solicitation of which he or she has certain knowledge; indeed, there is an urgent duty to make such a denunciation whenever one is compelled to do so by the natural law itself, on account of danger to faith or religion, or some other impending public evil.
18. “A member of the faithful who, in violation of the (aforementioned) prescription of Canon 904, knowingly disregards the obligation to denounce within a month the person by whom he or she was solicited, incurs an excommunication latae sententiae reserved to no one, which is not to be lifted until he or she has satisfied the obligation, or has promised seriously to do so” (Can. 2368, § 2)”
In layman’s terms what Catholics have said is that if you (the victim) do not report being solicited (sexually abused), within one month of said solicitation, you will be excommunicated until you fess up.
I am mortified by this document. It places the responsibility on the victim to reveal that they have been abused without any thought to how brainwashed, traumatized, or affected psychologically by the situation the victim may be. The only good part about this document is that it does clearly say that sexual abuse among clergy is unacceptable.
I went searching for the truth and there you have it. However, here is the issue: Catholics like Robert Peter Benedict Groeschel who have worked with sexual predator priests know all-too-well how the predators think, and what they believe. In comments that I have read from the Catholic community defending Groeschel, they say that only he would understand what it is like to be a celibate leader.
Priests are required to be celibate, and I have also learned that they do not focus their learning on the bible. Catholism like some other denominations of Christianity have their own religious beliefs with which they follow in doctrine.
We are not required to be celibate as leaders, in fact the total opposite! We are encouraged to be married because of the intimacy that comes from your healthy union will help you to fulfill the call of God on your life, and to be your best you.
In a book titled, “Catholics For Dummies” that I found in the thrift store this weekend, it stated that Catholics can become a priest if they are already married when they decide to follow God’s calling into ministry. This means that there are married Catholic Priests. It also means that Catholics are not required to be married. The rule is that if they become a priest before marriage, they waive the right to marriage.
Being single is a choice, not a religious requirement. And, many priests are deciding to be celibate knowing that they have dysfunctional sexually perverted thoughts about boys. Many priests may not desire to marry a woman – and that is fine, but they are hiding behind their cloak with their inappropriate unresolved feelings about children.
There was a document in place prior to 1962 and below is a brief history of how sexual abuse solicitation was handled in the Catholic Church prior to that time.
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“The Popes and various regional bishops issued a series of disciplinary laws against solicitation, beginning in 1561 and extending to 2001. Papal laws were promulgated in 1561, 1622, 1741, 1869, 1917, 1922, 1962, 1983 and 2001. In addition to the legislation itself, the church courts prosecuted individual cases in great numbers. The most complete records have been found in the Spanish and Mexican tribunals and reveal a shockingly high volume of complaints from women and men, accusing priests of solicitation and sexual abuse in a variety of forms. There are also cases from schools attached to monasteries where the priests used the confessional to seduce young boys. The most complete study of cases from the Spanish tribunals revealed that between 1723 and 1820, 3775 cases were completed and sentences handed down.” Richard Sipe
I am not calling Groeschel a child molester or a sexual predator. I am however calling for people to begin to hear differently when words are thrown into the media. These quotes were a representation of what he believes, and understands to be true – and you are right, blaming a child for being sexually abused is both nasty and wrong. It is very damaging to children watching and reading as well.
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I write about spiritual and child sexual abuse, and the links between various religions based on the doctrine. I have written some articles that were simply food for thought which made some folks “unfriend” or “unsubscribe” from me. My desire is not to upset readers but rather than offer an emotional focus on commentary – let’s look deeper into the issues surrounding the persons beliefs, which are often buried in their religious practices, I have found.
Because people are who they are, and do what they do based on what they believe, sexual predators are not tortured souls in most cases. They have the undeniable understanding that they live in a world that disagrees with their choices to love a child romantically.
1960, shortly after his ordination, he became the chaplain for the Children’s Village, a Dobbs Ferry, New York based facility for emotionally disturbed children. At the request of Cardinal Cooke Groeschel founded the Trinity Retreat in Larchmont, New York, which provides spiritual direction and retreats for clergy. He is the professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph’s Seminary and an adjunct professor at the Institute of Psychological Sciences located in Arlington, Virginia.
He has spent his life focused on serving the clergy who are sexual predators. I know it is hard to imagine. I am in no way saying that we should be less believing in God, I just truly believe that we need to gain understanding and intimacy in our relationship with God so that we can discern when something is amiss with a leader and choose wisely – or at least keep enough distance that we are not so indoctrinated by the priest or pastor, that we can not hear spiritually what is right, and what is wrong.
Ressurrection Graves is an author and speaker. She is writing two titles currently, Ten Ways To Safeguard Your Child From Sexual Abuse and Seven Steps To Finding Your Mate For Life. Additionally Graves is writing a program for incest survivors which should launch in early 2013.
She writes about Love, Life and Relationships: Overcoming Emotional and Child Sexual Abuse on her blog at: www.ressurrection.wordpress.com Ressurrection speaks about the impact that spiritual abuse and indoctrination have on child sexual abuse grooming. She is available for speaking engagements nationwide at 202.717.7377 or ressurrection dot wordpress at yahoo dot com.