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Pedophiles Entitled To One ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ Card, Says Priest

The eminent Roman Catholic priest and psychologist Father Benedict Groeschel, who heads a center [1] that has treated (some church cynics in my NYC years said “recycled”) sexually screwed up priests, said some shocking things in an interview with the [2]National Catholic Register [2]:

Part of your work here at Trinity has been working with priests involved in abuse, no?

A little bit, yes; but you know, in those cases, they have to leave. And some of them profoundly — profoundly — penitential, horrified. 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.

 Why would that be?

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.

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. Generally, if they get involved, it’s heterosexually, and if it’s a priest, he leaves and gets married — that’s the usual thing — and gets a dispensation. A lot of priests leave quickly, get civilly married and then apply for the dispensation, which takes about three years.

But there are the relatively rare cases where a priest is involved in a homosexual way with a minor. I think the statistic I read recently in a secular psychology review was about 2%. Would that be true of other clergy? Would it be true of doctors, lawyers, coaches?

Here’s this poor guy — [Penn State football coach Jerry] 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. Well, you know, 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. 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.

I think perhaps part of the reason would be an embarrassment, that it brings the case out into the open, and the girl’s name is there, or people will figure out what’s there, or the youngster involved — you know, it’s not put in the paper, but everybody knows; they’re talking about it.

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.

Yes, Sandusky. That poor, poor guy, probably seduced by all those boys.

Lord have mercy, but this is an outrage. Benedict Groeschel isn’t just any priest; he’s an iconic cleric among conservative/orthodox Catholics, and a star of EWTN.

UPDATE: It occurs to me to wonder: How is it that the National Catholic Register interviewer sat there and let Groeschel say these things without challenging him?

91 Comments (Open | Close)

91 Comments To "Pedophiles Entitled To One ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ Card, Says Priest"

#1 Comment By hick On August 30, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

I spent a little time with Fr. Groeschel maybe eight or nine months ago, along with a small group of people. He was kind of a wreck, physically, and could barely move without help. His speech was labored enough that at times it was difficult to make out what he was saying. I doubt he’s gotten any better since then.

I won’t try to excuse his comments, because of course they are inexcusable. But I don’t think there’s much point in parsing his words to precisely understand his argument. An earlier commenter pointed out how scattered and vague Groeschel seems here. I wonder what people’s reactions would be if they saw a video of this instead of reading the text.

Maybe I’m wrong, and he’s let his guard down and revealed his corrupt clericalism for all to see. I doubt it though. He’s probably just a mind-befogged old man who slipped up. Too bad he has to go out of the public view this way, because he’s lived a pretty impressive life.

#2 Comment By Charles Cosimano On August 30, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

Odd that I read the article and saw nothing in it that would upset me. There is much to disagree with, but that does not make Fr. Groeschel a monster. It makes him a thoughtful man who sees things in a different light than is popular.

#3 Comment By Erin Manning On August 30, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

Hold on a second.

I’m glad to see the apology from Fr. Groeschel. It was the right thing to do and I’m glad he’s done it. (And I think those speculating about his age and mental health may be on the right track.)

But people who say that “sexy” acting children or manipulative 17-year-olds bear any blame in *The Scandal* are being ridiculous.

The Scandal involved priests abusing children where this abuse went back into the early 1960s and earlier. Does anybody think that Catholic school boys/altar servers of that generation were to blame for putting the moves on Father Nervous Breakdown? Don’t be absurd.

It is, quite frankly, an evil to suggest that children bear any responsibility at all for their own abuse. And 17-year-olds are still children; as the mother of teens not quite that age I say that with full understanding of what I’m talking about. Science tells us all the time what mothers already know–that teens’ brains are yet to be fully developed, that they lack impulse control, that they are prone to overly-emotional viewpoints, outbursts, and actions, that their body chemistry (especially hormones) impacts their thinking in ways that simply do not affect adults, and so on.

If a 17-year-old boy who has been sexually active with other boys since age 14 “seduces” his male teacher or coach, it is *still* the fault of the teacher or coach if anything happens. This is because we expect adults to have learned how to say “no” to an opportunity to exploit a younger person. If we can’t expect adults to say “no,” then we should quit pretending that reaching a certain age makes you an adult.

Recently here in the DFW area a teacher was sentenced to five years in prison for having sex with five of her students. The students, all boys, were 18, while the teacher was 28 and she and her husband were “swingers,” according to the husband. The fact that she was a teacher put her in a relationship of authority in connection to those boys, and though the defense tried to portray the boys as of legal age and the ones doing the sexual pursuing, the jury didn’t buy it. As they shouldn’t. This isn’t even an “abuse of minors” case–in Texas it’s a crime for a teacher to have sex with a student, which seems to me to be a sensible sort of law to have on the books.

The children featured in toddler beauty pageants (and the reality TV those spectacles have spawned) are “sexualized children.” Does it mean that it’s their fault if an adult has sex with them–or that they bear at least some share of the blame? If we find that idea repugnant–and I hope we do–then we need to quit justifying the sexual abuse of teens on the grounds that, after all, teens have crushes on adult authority figures and might even (gasp!) flirt with them. Adults bear all of the responsibility to say “no” and inform the teen that such behavior is inappropriate. Adults do not get a pass for thinking it might be okay to sleep with a few of the more seductive teens who flirt with them.

It’s time to stop giving adult abusers a pass for their exploitation of the young–yes, even if the adult is 25 and the young person is sexy and 17. I’m aghast that so many people seem to think otherwise.

#4 Comment By bones On August 30, 2012 @ 8:58 pm

He’s apologized for his comments, and his order says that he has been in failing health for many months:

“Groeschel also posted an apology to the site. “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,” he said.

The friars expressed regret for the remarks and highlighted Groeschel’s medical history. They said he had been in a car accident several years ago, and that “in recent months his health, memory and cognitive ability have been failing.” They described the comments as “out of character.”


#5 Comment By Andrea On August 30, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

There was a 26-year-old female teacher who was tried here last month and acquitted of sexual acts with male students, who I think were in the 17 or 18-year-old range. She was found guilty of supplying alcohol to minors. I didn’t cover the trial or hear the testimony, but I would guess it was the common scenario of a young teacher in a small town without much to do whose primary social contacts were with her students and boys who were quite happy to party at the house of an older adult who gave them alcohol and were consenting partners to any sexual activity that occurred. The age of consent in North Dakota is 18, so she risked a lengthy prison sentence if found guilty of any activity with a student under 18. The jury found pretty much as I would have, that she didn’t deserve a lengthy prison sentence for being inappropriate with older adolescents.

There’s a former music director for one of the private religious schools in another town who’s looking at charges for having consensual sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl. I don’t know what the outcome of that is going to be but this man is a good bit older and might be more likely to serve prison time. Probably not fair that a woman gets off easier than a man in those cases, but that’s probably what will happen.

I heard stories over the years about teachers who made inappropriate comments to female students or had affairs with older girls and were quietly allowed to resign. I always thought one of my own classmates, who flirted outrageously with our much older, married band teacher when we were 16 or 17, was probably involved with him at some level.

It seems naive to me to put those relationships in the same category as a much older adult with a 9 or 10-year-old. A generation ago adolescents would have been seen as of marriageable age and some of them probably would have married much older men. But these laws are tarring everyone with the same brush.

Adults certainly are most responsible and bear most of the blame for the relationships, but I agree with the priest that shouldn’t be an offense with prison time.

#6 Comment By The Mighty Favog On August 30, 2012 @ 9:24 pm

The National Catholic Register and his order would have you believe that Fr. Groeschel’s comments were misstatements coming from a sick man.

I agree that Groeschel is quite ill. I dispute that he was misstating anything. What he told the Register was consistent with what the man has been saying for years.

Perhaps the official “explainers” think we are all idiots, have short memories or are idiots with short memories.

Here’s a refresher from March 2003 for folks who may have forgotten what an attack dog Groeschel was against the media, whose members, he said, were “doing the work of Satan.”


What this latest stink is is an instance when prominent people in the church, and in Catholic media, accidentally say — and publish — what they really think instead of what they must.

As far as I’m concerned regarding Catholic media, EWTN became problematic long ago. Now that it has become to Catholic media more or less what Clear Channel is to American radio, it’s even more problematic.

The bishops and the Vatican need to grow a collective pair and give the Catholic communications monolith in Irondale, Ala., the same scrutiny they belatedly gave to the nutty American nuns.

#7 Comment By Rod Dreher On August 30, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

I’m glad you brought that up, Favog. I was at National Review when the Dallas Morning News reporter Brooks Egerton contacted me out of the blue to ask if I had any way to get Groeschel to speak to him. He was working on a story about Groeschel and the scandal (this was 2002), and had repeatedly tried to get Groeschel to answer questions, and was getting the runaround. Egerton (who later became a friend when I moved to Dallas) had seen writing I had done, and reached out thinking maybe I knew Groeschel, and could help him (Egerton) get in touch. I told him I didn’t know Groeschel and couldn’t help him.

The point here is that Egerton went out of his way to try to get Fr. Benedict’s side of the story, and as far as I can tell, gave him multiple opportunities to speak to the allegations. For whatever reason, Fr. Benedict chose not to — and then, when the story got published anyway, he accused the reporter of being reckless and anti-Catholic.

If a reporter calls you and repeatedly asks you to give your side of a controversy, and you ignore him, and he writes a story that, in your judgment, is factually erroneous, it’s not right of you to respond as if the reporter sandbagged you. I can vouch from my memory of my phone conversation with Egerton that he was genuinely trying to reach Groeschel, and had been doing that for some time, and was getting the runaround.

#8 Comment By Mary Russell On August 30, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

Nobody here is arguing that the sex with a toddler or 10 year old altar boy is even remotely excusable. But to see no moral difference whatsoever between the grooming and predation of 10 year olds and sex with a willing 17 year old a 25 year old encounters in a bar (for instance) is what I find shocking. I am not (yet) the mother of a teen that age, but I assure you with complete certainty on my part that not all 17 year olds are so immature. There are 16 and 17 year olds who hold down jobs, do a competent job raising children, enter the military, and -yes- initiate sexual relationships with older adults on their own terms. When a “power relationship” exists between a sexually active older teen and an adult, then the adult bears most of the blame. But all of it? All the time? Please.

#9 Comment By Andrea On August 30, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

I completely agree with Mary Russell, who said it better than I probably did.

#10 Comment By Surly On August 30, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

I agree with Mary, except I’d say that all but the very youngest adults have an obligation to say “thanks but no thanks” to sexual overtures by a teenager. The anti-creeper rule is to subtract seven years from your age, then multiply by two. So if you are 21, the maximum age for a partner is 14*2 or 28. If you are 14, the max age is 7*2 or 14. If you are 16, the max is 9*2 or 18. If you are 19, the max is 12*2 or 24. You can see that as the younger partner gets older, there can be a bigger age difference.

I do agree there are screwed up adolescents out there, but one of the things that adults have that teens don’t is judgment. And that means compassionately but firmly shutting down overtures from teens.

#11 Comment By Peter H On August 30, 2012 @ 10:29 pm

When a “power relationship” exists between a sexually active older teen and an adult, then the adult bears most of the blame. But all of it? All the time? Please.

Yes, all of the time.

The “power relationship” is a position of trust, held by an adult.

And an adult who is in a position of trust is ALWAYS responsible for his or her actions.

Heck, adults who are not in a position of trust are expected to be responsible for their actions, aren’t they? Why should we expect less of teachers, coaches, or clergy?

#12 Comment By Mary Russell On August 30, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

Peter H,
Of course the adult is always responsible for his/her actions. But a 17 year old can also act in blameworthy and irresponsible ways, and can be held to account for his/her behavior.

#13 Comment By thomas tucker On August 30, 2012 @ 10:54 pm

I nominate Chris for an Evans-Manning award.
But, Erin, I heartily disagree with you. I wish the world of human pyschology and maturity were as balc-and-white as you paint it. But there are actually 40-year-olds who are less emotionally mature than certain 17-year-olds, and there are certain 17-year-olds who know how to take advantage of that fact. And, yes, we should stop pretending that a certain age makes you an adult. That is overly simplistic.

#14 Comment By Erin Manning On August 30, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

Surly and Peter have it right. Adults have three things teens don’t have: power, judgment, and experience.

If a child of 17 is very sexually experienced and has had adult partners, that fact alone should be cause for an adult to back off, because extreme levels of sexual experience at so young an age is, or should be, a huge red flag. Few children that age gain lots of sexual experience outside the context of abuse.

I don’t dispute that there are mature and intelligent teens. I do dispute the idea that mature, intelligent teens go around deciding to initiate sexual contact with adults seven to ten years older than they are. If a 17-year-old is hanging around bars trying to pick up 25-year-olds, isn’t that the epitome of irresponsible, stupid, and possibly illegal activity (since most bars don’t allow patrons that age in the first place)?

And if a 25-year-old is getting turned on by the sexy girl/boy draped over the barstool next to him, and asks “How old are you?” and hears “17,” then the next words should be: “Well, it was nice to meet you. Goodbye.” Because the only other logical response (morally reprehensible, but logical) would be an inquiry as to how much the young person’s pimp charges for his/her services, since few teens are out there servicing people in their mid-twenties for free.

I’m sorry, but 17-year-olds are completely.off.limits to older adults. The law pretty much agrees with me, by the way. “I thought he/she was 18,” is the oldest excuse in the book.

#15 Comment By thomas tucker On August 30, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

btw, I nominate Roland de Chanson for a Wright (Steven)- David (Larry) Award.

#16 Comment By Naturalmom On August 30, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

Erin Manning and Peter H. are right. If there is an authority relationship it is never OK for an adult to have sex with a teenager no matter how close their age. Even if there is not an official authority relationship, there comes a point where the age difference itself is a power factor between and adult and a teen. Not necessarily between a 16 year old and an 18 year old, but certainly between a 16 year old and a 26 year old. And if there is an official authority relationship (say camper and camp staff) even the 16/18 situation is not appropriate.

No matter how “seductive” the teen may be, it is the obligation of the adult to say no. There is no “but he was so hot I couldn’t help myself” defense. Sorry. It’s the adult’s fault because it’s the adult’s responsibility and obligation. That doesn’t mean the teen’s behavior is OK, only that it’s not up to them to determine that sexual activity is going to happen. It’s just not.

#17 Comment By Dave Dutcher On August 31, 2012 @ 12:28 am

If the guy is 90, and was recently coming out of a coma, I am going to assume he misspoke. I know this is a tripwire topic for many people, but don’t be so hair trigger that you pile on a guy who might have been talking through pain meds or something.

#18 Comment By Joseph D’Hippolito On August 31, 2012 @ 12:33 am

Two things are most frightening about this piece:

1. Fr. Groeschel seems to imply that priests having breakdowns is par for the course, though he never says that, outright. If that implication is correct, then what does it say about the priesthood as a profession?

2. Fr. Groeschel’s remarks reflect a growing undercurrent of thought within the Church about the state should behave when it comes to perpetrators of all crime: Mercy by the state should be granted without judicial or societal consequences. That is simply immoral, if the state’s responsibility is to protect the innocent. It also fuels what’s being mislabled as “just-war thinking.” In fact, the modern interpretation of “just-war thinking” is nothing but a cover for pacifism.

#19 Comment By Robert On August 31, 2012 @ 12:50 am

Fr. Groeschel is presumably gaga. So what’s the NCR reporter’s excuse for sitting there without having questioned the emetic cant he was hearing? Has dementia now become as contagious as classroom cooties?

#20 Comment By The Sicilian Woman On August 31, 2012 @ 2:24 am

Whether an adult initiates sexual activity with a minor (for argument’s sake, someone under the age of 198) or engages in sexual activities initiated by a minor, it’s wrong. It must be treated as such. Period.

What Erin Manning said.

#21 Comment By Lee Penn On August 31, 2012 @ 2:34 am

I note that the Franciscans’ apology refers to Groeschel’s declining health. That leads to several questions …

– If the friar is declining, and in need of care and supervision, why was he made available to the press?
– Most of us have only see the part of the interview that pertained to the abuse scandal. What was the rest of it like? Was the other part of the interview similarly wrong-headed and incoherent, or was it the usual EWTN party line?
– If Groeschel was not fit to be interviewed, why did the reporter go through with it? And why did the NCR editors publish it?

Having asked these questions about the dementia defense being made on behalf of Fr. Groeschel, I would refer everyone to the Bixhop Accountability story that Favog cited several posts ago. Read the whole thing! It is perfectly clear to me that Groeschel was saying in 2012 what he had said in 2002-2003, and that he was a part of the awful machinery of the Scandal.


#22 Comment By Dimitry Aleksandrovich On August 31, 2012 @ 2:50 am

After a married Orthodox priest I knew very well was turned in by his own flock for doing all sorts of nefarious things to the children of that parish I don’t believe their is a punishment to harsh for such evil. Of course in Christianity any sin can be forgiven, but a man of the cloth who preys on children most certainly deserves to be hastenly dispatched to the Most High in the most painful way so he can be judged by the God of the children of whom he destroyed their innocence and godforbid their faith and the faith of those who love them. For such a priest no punishment is too harsh or cruel and unusual.

#23 Comment By Chris On August 31, 2012 @ 3:34 am

Now Groeschal and other priests have been expressing the idea that “if it’s only once and if the priest was having a breakdown” it should be forgiven.

That is not what he said. He said they should not go to jail. He did not say they should not be held accountable, he did not say they should not be punished, his comment was not one of “forgiveness” but of understanding when the penalty doesn’t address the offense.

#24 Comment By Mary Russell On August 31, 2012 @ 8:18 am

“Few children [age 17] that age gain lots of sexual experience outside the context of abuse.”

Oh Erin, if only that were true!

“It is the responsibility of the adult in a power relationship to say no.”
Look, nobody here is saying that sex with a 17 year old is the right thing to do, a positive good, or that adults who do this are not responsible for their actions. My point is that older adolescents are *not* always and everywhere 100% innocent for their own part in these liasons. I do not think that the legal penalty for this kind of sexual relationship should be identical to that of the sexual abuse of, say, an 8 year old.

#25 Comment By MattSwartz On August 31, 2012 @ 8:23 am

Clerics, like heads of state, hold so much inherent power by virtue of their positions that any extramarital sex that they might have has the scent of rape about it. That might be a little bit too strong, but I exaggerate to make a real point.

As far as I’m concerned, Bill Clinton raped Monica Lewinsky. He had so much more power than her, and she might have reasonably believed that he would have made her life difficult if she had refused. It certainly would have been easy for him to do so.

Priests are held to be mediators between God and man. Catholics get access the sacraments that are thought to at least help them get eternal life by remaining in those men’s good graces. That’s enough of a power asymmetry to bring coercion into any and every sexual contact.

#26 Comment By Mary Russell On August 31, 2012 @ 8:28 am

Also, we hold adolescents to a higher standard in other areas. If a 17 year old is caught carjacking with an older adult, the court system may find his youth and relationship with the adult are mitigating factors in his guilt, but he is still likely to be sent to juvee for some time. This is because adolescents are capable of moral reasoning, even when pressured by an adult.

#27 Comment By Judith On August 31, 2012 @ 8:47 am

The pivotal comment is this one:
“Yes, Sandusky. That poor, poor guy, probably seduced by all those boys.”

I suppose all evil acts can be described as an experience of seduction. But I would have liked the interlocuter to ask Groeschal to explain what he meant by that statement.

#28 Comment By thomas tucker On August 31, 2012 @ 9:21 am

Mary Russell speaks truly.
No one, including Fr. Groeschel, is saying it is OK
for an adult to have sexual intimacy with a teenager. We are simply describing how this may come to happen in certain instances, and pointing out that the teenage can indeed be the instigator, for a multitude of reasons.

#29 Comment By AK On August 31, 2012 @ 9:42 am

We are simply describing how this may come to happen in certain instances, and pointing out that the teenage can indeed be the instigator, for a multitude of reasons.

Okay – true. Teens can instigate, regardless of their level of maturity. Relatedly, children can be positively inhumane under the right circumstances, a la Children of the Corn.

How exactly does it contribute to our understanding of this issue to keep bringing up the point that teens are knowledgeable enough to initiate sexual contact? Where does get you? What is the point?

#30 Comment By Judith On August 31, 2012 @ 11:07 am

I agree with the “what is the point” point from AK. I know that everyone responding to this blog entry gets the seriousness of the problem. But using it to discuss the only vaguely interesting observation that teens are sexually active? Shrug. That’s a different problem.

#31 Comment By Erin Manning On August 31, 2012 @ 11:32 am

Look, people.

One in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. One in four girls is sexually abused before the age of 18. A total of one-third of all children will be sexually violated in some manner before the age of 18.

If a child under the age of 18 is “coming on” to adults, I think the adult has the moral obligation to consider the overwhelming probability that this behavior is occurring because someone in this child’s life has violated boundaries such that the child sees nothing wrong with attempting to initiate sexual contact with an adult. Bear in mind that we’re not talking about 17 and 19 here, or even 17 and 21; we’re talking about an adult who is at least five to seven years older than the child, who would not normally be a potential romantic partner for the child.

And I don’t buy the “some 17-year-olds are more mature than some 40-year-olds” excuse. A 40-year-old is more than twice the 17-year-old’s age. If he or she is not actually mentally impaired, he or she has the obligation to say “no” to the offer of sex with a minor, and that’s that. And if there’s an epidemic of 17-year-olds actively seducing mentally impaired adults, then we have a whole different facet to the problem.

A child of 17 can’t legally drink, vote, drive a commercial-class vehicle or (in many states) a motorcycle–but we think he or she can have sex with an adult without that being a big deal? Sorry; it IS a big deal, and the adult should be prosecuted for it. If the adult can prove that the 17-year-old had a false ID showing an age of 23 or something, fine, let him/her present that as evidence at the trial.

Now: let’s be honest about something. According to the John Jay report, most cases of priest abuse of children occurred when the child was between age 12 to age 15 (and if you add 11 and 16 you have just over 70% of the total cases). Do we think most 16-year-olds who are sexually involved with adults are mature and responsible and that we should blame them for initiating contact? What about 15-year-olds? 14? 13? At what point do we say “Absolutely no, this is a child, and even if the child has had some sexual experience it is totally wrong for an adult to get involved with him/her in this way?”

To me, that “absolutely no” mark IS age 17, because otherwise you’re left trying to argue if the sexy streetwise 15-year-old girl who already has a child of her own is “fair game” for the men in their late twenties she meets who want a chance at her, while simultaneously insisting that the sheltered 16-year-old virgin whose parents raise her in a religious environment is off limits and that sexual contact with her should be prosecuted as at least statutory rape. (And we can switch the genders, if you like, and say the same thing about the sexy streetwise 15-year-old boy who likes to earn cash in public restrooms vs. the 16-year-old youth church leader who wears a purity ring and keeps the pledge.) Once you take the position that it’s not wrong for *some* adults to have sex with *some* teens, you open the door to the abuse of all–there’s just no other just and right way to consider this.

I’m frankly appalled that so many of my fellow Catholics commenting here don’t seem to see this the same way. Have we learned nothing from the Scandal? The game of “blame the victim” has hurt vulnerable people for years: children; adult women date-raped or told that “if you didn’t want to be raped” you shouldn’t have worn that sexy dress or walked by yourself up the stairs of your apartment building; young men violated by older men who justify the violation by insisting that they “knew” the younger man “wanted it,” and on and on. When will we stop telling the victims of sexual abuse, whether children or adults, that the whole thing is really their own fault and should be thought of as their problem?

#32 Comment By thomas tucker On August 31, 2012 @ 11:43 am

The point is- the interviewer was asking how these things happen with certain people, particularly priests who are very horrified and sorry for what they have done.. And Fr. Groeschel was describing how this sometimes happens. He literally said “some of them.” He wasn’t giving a comprehensive analysis. Now, I wish that he had described the other side of the coin, which is that adults frequently are predators on those who are young and vulnerable. But those people are not usually horrified and sorry, so they are a different group. Unfortunately, although what he said was true, he is being crucified for what he didn’t say.

#33 Comment By Andrea On August 31, 2012 @ 11:46 am

I suppose the problem I have with lumping all inappropriate relations with minors under the same category is that it lacks nuance. It’s only in the last generation or so that we have seen mid to late adolescents as children. On of my great-aunts, a woman I knew, was married at 15 to a man several years older, raised six kids and stayed married for over 50 years. Teenage marriages, especially in rural communities, were pretty common up until the 70s and a handful of those relationships started as teacher-student flirtations.

An adult who is attracted to a prepubescent child is a pedophile. An adult who is attracted to a teenager is fairly normal. Nature intended it and it’s not and should not be categorized as pedophilia. These days it’s certainly not acceptable to ACT on that attraction and I’d find someone who did suspect. Adults who hang around younger kids are probably immature or have a screw loose. In the normal course of things they shouldn’t have much in common with a kid or be willing to risk their freedom or reputation to do it. On the other hand, marriages between older adults and teenagers still do take place and are legal in some states. Age of consent laws vary from 16 to 18 in most places as well. It might make more sense to have a uniform age of consent law and uniform marriage laws so people know what the rules are.

I’d expect schools or businesses to fire any employee who had a relationship with the kid and for him to appear in court on some sort of charge. I just don’t think it is the same offense or should be punished in the same way as an adult and a young child.

#34 Comment By Mary Russell On August 31, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

“Do we think most 16 year olds are mature and responsible enough and that we should blame them for initiating contact?”

Sigh. Can you point to one comment made by anybody on this thread that claims “most” 16 year olds are blameworthy for initiating sexual contact with an adult- or that it’s “not wrong” for some adults to have sex with some teens?

We can all agree, I think, that the 18 year old line is a somewhat arbitrary one. Different countries define the age of consent in different ways. There is nothing definitive that happens to the human body or psyche on the 18th birthday which suddenly and irrecovably enables one to make sound, mature decisions. If that’s the case, then, why can’t we see some nuance and shades of grey in what exactly qualifies one to be a victim before this arbitrary date? If you think that a 19 year old who has sex with a 17 year old does not automatically qualify as rape and victimization, you’ve already admitted as much.
“I am frankly appalled that so many of my fellow Catholics commenting here don’t see things the same way.” Erin, are you saying that those who disagree with your approach to the problem here are condoning the rape of women who wear sexy dresses, etc.? If not, please clarify.
I think we are going to have to disagree about the maturity levels of adolescents. *Some* adolescents are incapable of making sound decisions about anything of importance. *Other* adolescents are holding down jobs and supporting children. *Some* adolescents are innocent enough to not kill a caterpillar. *Other* adolescents are running successful businesses selling cocaine and crystal meth in their neighborhoods. *Some* adolescents would not even feel ready to kiss a friend, *other* adolescents have been sexually active since the age of 13 and see no problem with being the sexual aggressor in a relationship with an adult. If we hold adolescents at least partially culpable/responsible for some of those actions, why not all of them?

#35 Comment By Erin Manning On August 31, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

But, Mary, you’re sort of making my point for me.

Do we lower the age of consent to 12 (as some activist groups want) because *some* 12-year-olds would like to have sex with twenty-year-olds, and are “mature” enough to handle the physical and emotional fallout of such relationships? Aren’t all ages pretty arbitrary when it comes to drawing these lines? I mean, girls used to marry at 12 in ancient cultures, right?

If 12 is too young, what about 13? You say yourself that “*other* adolescents have been sexually active since the age of 13 and see no problem with being the sexual aggressor in a relationship with an adult…” so should we lower age-of-consent laws to 13 to accommodate the sexually experienced 13-year-olds out there? Is 14 too young? I’m getting a sense here that a lot of you think adults having sex with 15-year-olds isn’t really a problem so long as the kid is sexually aggressive and experienced enough to be on STD meds already, or have a baby or two, or both.

Honestly, what happened to erring in favor of protecting the innocence of childhood instead of erring in favor of pushing kids to be sexually active with adults at young ages? It sounds to me like some of you are saying, “Oh, well, maybe Father Touchy really *was* seduced by that streetwise meth-selling 15-year-old male prostitute, so it would be unjust to prosecute Father for his actions…” and that just horrifies me.

#36 Comment By Mary Russell On August 31, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

You misread me (probably my fault). I am not saying a sexually active 13 year old is competent to make decisions about her own sexuality in exactly the same way a 17 year old is.
We can certainly go in the other direction. If 17 years and 11 months is too young to be responsible for sexual decisions, then certainly 18 years and one day is, too. Is 19 really old enough to be having sex? Gosh, maybe we should raise the age of consent to 21, just like we did with alcohol. AFter all, better to err on the side of protecting innocence. A 21 year old having sex with a 50 year old sure sounds sick- better make it a criminal offense, just as wrong, full stop, as sex with an 11 year old.

I am getting a bit frustrated, too, by the repetetive mischaracterization of my position on the subject. I haven’t said, nor has Andrea, nor has anybody else on this thread that adults having sex with teens “isn’t really a problem”. Or shouldn’t be punished in some way- like, taking away a teacher’s license. I’ll say this once again in the hope that the statement will get heard (or read): Older teens who have sex with adults can be held responsible for their behavior in a way that 10 year olds cannot. Doesn’t mean that the adult didn’t do wrong, isn’t responsible for his behavior. This is not some zero sum equation where moral culpability on the part of one party erases that of the other party.

#37 Comment By Andrea On August 31, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

I think that the laws should be more nuanced and allow judges some leeway when looking at the circumstances of each individual case. All of us here probably have differing opinions on what is appropriate for age of consent. Different communities and cultures have different practices regarding marriageable age. In Minnesota, for instance, it has been pretty common for Hmong girls to marry in their mid to late teens to older men. I’m sure that’s also true of some of the other immigrant groups we have coming to the U.S. You can certainly educate them that that’s not the way we do things here and they must wait until age 18, but I suspect that just drives the practices underground, probably like what has happened with the FLDS, which also marries off its teenage girls to older men. Maybe with exposure to the wider culture and American norms some of those practices change in the next generation, but those practices are a reality in many communities.

I think some of these laws are also likely too harsh, which also discourages people from reporting inappropriate relationships to the authorities, which is a whole other matter. States with harsher laws saw a decrease in reporting of sexual abuse in one study compared with other states that were a bit less harsh. Parents know that therapists are required to report it and don’t take the kids to ta therapist. Some kids may very well know that medical personnel are required to report they’re involved with adults and avoid talking about the relationship to their doctor or school counselors. That would suggest that victims aren’t getting whatever treatment they might need and neither are the people guilty of the abuse.

I think there’s more complexity to these issues than the law really allows for.

#38 Comment By Mary Russell On August 31, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

Look at the movie and book “Notes On A Scandal”. The movie starred Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench (both of whom, I think, got an academy award for their performances).
Blanchett plays a schoolteacher who is happily
Y married with two children, but has an affair with a 15 year old child in her classroom. The relationship is somewhat more complicated than you might expect: Blanchett’s behavior is clearly wrong in all respects, but the 15 year old boy is not damaged in any obvious way and in fact boats to his friends callously about his conquest, about which he is proud and unremorseful. When an older teacher (Dench) finds out about what’s going on, the scandal breaks wide open. Blanchett’s husband regrets her stupidity even more than her infidelity.
It’s a nuanced portrayal of the dynamic we’ve been talking about here, one in which it’s impossible to paint one character as completely evil, and the other completely innocent, although Blanchett is made to pay a far heavier price for her actions, as she should. But the boy shares some moral culpability, too, and one leaves the story knowing on an intuitive level that crying “rape and violation” to describe what happened doesn’t come close to encapsulating the reality.

#39 Comment By Erin Manning On August 31, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

Mary, I apologize if I misread you. But I still stand by what I’ve written on this thread.

In real life, if a fifteen-year-old boy has a sexual relationship with his teacher, he IS damaged. Fiction can take what liberties it likes, but I maintain that a boy that young must already be seriously damaged in some important way to seek out sex with an adult authority figure. Leaving aside the Catholic notion that his behavior, if it occurs under the usual conditions for a mortal sin, can possibly send him to Hell for all eternity, there is the simple truth that happy, secure, well-adjusted teens raised in age-appropriate ways by concerned parents rarely decide to risk their happy futures by screwing around with adults.

Can we not have some concern for these kids? Should we really write them off as damaged goods, precocious little sluts who ruin the lives of perfectly nice grown-ups who just can’t resist their sexual allures? I realize that you’re not saying that we should write these kids off, but what you are saying repeatedly is: kids at least fifteen, and maybe even fourteen or thirteen, who sleep with adults are not victims of child molestation or abuse but willing partners in crime–at least some of the time, and perhaps most of the time.

But that, right there, is the spin far too many Catholics put for far too long on the Scandal. Oh, these weren’t little five-year-old boys involved in oral sex and sodomy with Father, but fifteen-year-olds? And now they want to play the victim card? Oh, please–everybody knows that a 15-year-old knows quite well what Father was after when Father invites him on a camping trip and gives him porn and booze. If the boy didn’t really want it, he could have left the situation, right?

And that is just WRONG. It has been a wrong attitude from the beginning. We’ve never been talking primarily about seriously damaged and serially promiscuous kids who went out trying to seduce poor innocent priests (or teachers or coaches or…etc.) but about kids raised to trust clergymen and other adult leaders. And even if we were talking about such kids, I think we owe them, as followers of Christ, more than a shrug and a suggestion that they asked for it, and that they bear some of the blame, because it’s not like they were five, and so forth. The sexual abuse of children is a heinous offense against God whether it involves some “poor” teacher being pursued by a sexually aggressive student or whether the teacher is the one doing the pursuing. I hold adults to the highest standard of behavior in these situations, and that standard does not allow me to see an adult who would interact sexually with anyone under 18 with anything less than disgust–and you can bet that if I ever do become privy to private information that something like that is happening in my circles of acquaintances, I will call the cops, not worry that perhaps the sentencing will be too harsh for the dear teacher or pastor or coach or youth leader; if I do not, then I will be the worst sort of hypocritical coward, unworthy of the slightest bit of mercy.

#40 Comment By M Smith On September 8, 2012 @ 10:33 am

I find Father Benedict Groeschel’s comments alarming in the extreme. The only time I have heard these types of explanations were from sexual offenders during the course of child sexual abuse investigations across my ten year span of public social work. Dr. Roland C. Summit and David Finkelhor have written some excellent research articles that would highlight the collusive nature and preconditions of sexual abuse that Father Benedict Groeschel seems unaware of as a psychologist.

#41 Comment By anastasia On September 9, 2012 @ 9:36 am

It occurs to me to wonder: How is it that the National Catholic Register interviewer sat there and let Groeschel say these things without challenging him?

Dear Mr. Dreher: Because they “agree” with him. According to the new moral theology, not only do you need “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” to separate a pedophile from children, but you must be “compassionate” toward him, and if you notice, the word “compassion” is a bit different than the virtues of charity, justice or mercy.