Thursday, August 30, 2012

Benedict Groeschel Interview: Can 14 year olds be seducers?

Yes - though it is rarely acknowledged.

A friend sent me an interview with Fr. Benedict Groeschel speaking about the 25 year anniversary of the founding of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.  Fr. Benedict is well known and therefore needs no introduction from me.

Asked if his work involved priests accused of sexual abuse, Fr. Benedict replied:
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. - NCR
My friend questioned the statement - she could conceive of an 18 year old as a seducer, but not a 14 year old.  Before saying more let me point out two things:  For a 14 year old, or younger, to solicit any sort of sexual intimacy, he or she was most likely sexualized and/or sexually abused at an early age, hence the child's acquired/conditioned strategy for seeking approval, acceptance, and affection is in and through sexual intimacy.  That said, be assured that in every circumstance, the adult is the person in control of the situation and needs to act responsibly. 

As Fr. Benedict notes, in some cases the adult is indeed seduced, his judgement compromised: "Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him."  I'm not sure he needs to be having a nervous breakdown, he could be in the midst of grave temptation, or perhaps his judgement is genuinely impaired through alcohol use, medication, depression, emotional vulnerability, and so on.  I'm not saying the adult is not culpable nor responsible for the act, but this may explain how and why the fall happened so easily.

My only point in this post is to say yes, sometimes young kids can be the seducers.  Especially these days when just about everyone with a television has been sexualized at an early age.  Asked why a child could be a seducer, Fr. Benedict had this to say:
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. - NCReporter
In response to my friend who forwarded the article expressing incredulity that a 14 year old could be a seducer, I related an anecdote from my own experience:
Absolutely true. I worked in a parish in Boston in my mid-20's, and a 14 year old kid came on to me. I was deeply offended and upset - but more concerned for the boy. I retained my composure, laughed and then led him out of the hallway into an area where other people were gathered for a parish celebration, in the meantime, explaining to him that homosexual acts are sinful and encouraging him to go to confession, speak to a priest, and consecrate his life to Our Lady. I never spoke to him again and he avoided me whenever he was at Church.   And no, the kid was not known to me before this happened - evidently he knew me however.

UPDATE:  Evidently people did not like what Fr. Benedict had to say - National Catholic Register pulled the interview.  I found this at the Deacon's Bench:
UPDATE: I’m frankly shocked that the Register, which is owned by EWTN, would allow these kinds of outrageous statements to be published. (It’s also surprising that the interviewer didn’t challenge Fr. Groeschel’s assertions.) Two possibilities present themselves. Either the Register’s editor was asleep at the switch, and didn’t read this before it went to press; or, more troubling, maybe nobody saw anything wrong with what he said. - Deacon Kandra
Readers are calling it 'deeply disturbing' - rightly so - but that doesn't mean Groeschel is wrong.  Anyway, he was simply expressing his private, personal, albeit professional opinion on the subject. 


  1. “The comments made by Father Benedict Groeschel that appeared on the website of the National Catholic Register are simply wrong. Although he is not a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, what Father Groeschel said cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. 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 of abuse is responsible for the abuse, or somehow caused the abuse to occur. This is not only terribly wrong, it is also extremely painful for victims. To all those who are hurting because of sexual abuse or because of these comments, please know that you have our profound sympathy and our prayers.

    The Archdiocese of New York completely disassociates itself from these comments. They do not reflect our beliefs or our practice.”

  2. There you go. Looks as if I'm wrong too.

    That is one more reason not to read this blog.

    Mea culpa and Deo gratias.

    1. I didn't mean to imply that at all. I just wanted to make sure you saw this response. It was unusually strong.

    2. Oh no - I didn't think you were doing any more than adding the latest development, and I'm glad you did.

      My comment was for others who dislike the blog and think I should quit - I just haven't been publishing their comments.

      It's all good, my friend.

  3. catholics have very little tolerance for one another's sexual failings. i rarely hear people asking to pray for the perp. or if they do, it's usually condescending in a "i would NEVER do *that* sort of thing" way.

    i pray most folks never find out just exactly what they're capable of doing if given the right circumstances. we're all fallen.

  4. Is anyone trying to understand what he said, or are they only interested in knee-jerk reactions? I didn't get the impression at all that Fr Groeschel was blaming the victim or denying sin or anything else.

  5. Personally I think Benedict just failed to point out what I made clear - the adult is always at fault. I think most people are more pissed about his comment regarding the pepertrator be tried and convicted of a crime for a first offense. I'm sure he could have stated it better - or explained what he meant. I doubt he is suggesting it should be otherwise - he simply stated, "I'm inclined to think..." He's not formulating policy.

    That said, Benedict would have counseled many men and women survivors as well as perpetrators - he knows what he is talking about - even if people disagree. More interestingly, his candid remarks reveal the benevolence used by bishops and superiors in the past who were accused of cover-up and transferring perpetrators around. His statements bring those dynamics to light - if you know what I mean.

    He exposes that tendency right here: "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."

    He is absolutely correct - but NO ONE wants to admit it.

  6. Absolutely. What Fr. Groeschel said is correct, but he will be "lynched" for saying it.

    1. That is going on now as I write this. Prayers for Fr. Groeschel.

  7. I know someone who is a foster mother. One of her charges started acting out sexually. The girl was 13 or 14. For the safety of her husband, who works at home, the foster mother got that kid out of her house. It's not the kid's fault. She is highly damaged but it was a dangerous situationa and since the kid is a thief and a liar there is no way of knowing if five, ten, or twenty years from now that she doesn't tell a lie to the police about her foster parents.

    1. Thanks D - very good anecdote - and as you point out - it is not the kid's fault. Most people would know that as well - which could be why Fr. benedict didn't clarify his statement - he surely was not blaming the victim or excusing the perpetrator.

    2. At some point we are all responsible for our actions, however. No matter how "damaged" anyone is, they are eventually responsible for the choices they make. You cannot forever blame someone else for your own failings. I do not want to imply that what has happened to these kids is not wrong. I agree whole heartedly that many children have had horrific things happen to them.

  8. I am so glad you took this position and provided an anecdote with it.
    The knee jerk reactions to Fr's comments are annoying at best. These things happen!

    1. I'm sorry for Fr. Groeschel - this has been blown way out of proportion.

  9. Terry:

    I stumbled upon this just recently, while reviewing the archives of "notagoblinbutatroll" which contained a link to this. While Father Groeschel's comments were indelicate (and given his age and infirmity, he should have been pulled from public speaking some time ago), there is some truth to it.

    A priest of my acquaintance, a noted author and lecturer, was principal of a Catholic high school as a young priest, where one of the male students attempted to seduce him. The student failed, of course, but we tend to forget the disparity in psycho-sexual development among boys of a particular age of adolescence. Not all 14-year-olds are exactly babes in the woods, and many learn the effect early on, of how a false accusation can ruin the reputation of an adult. As director of of the office of spiritual development for the Archdiocese of New York, and as a clinical psychologist, it is safe to say that the good Father would have been intimately familiar with such cases in the archdiocese.

    It's a shame how the Catholic media machine turned on him. EWTN hasn't been the same since Mother Angelica stepped back, and the Register hasn't been the same dating back to when those lackeys of the Legion of Christ took it over.

    Sometimes I need the internet just to get the real deal. Keep it up.


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