Victim Blaming in the Pedophilia Scandal

We’ve seen this kind of thing before, but it’s rare for someone to just come right out and say it. Father Benedict Groeschel, of the Archdiocese of New York, is suggesting that the Catholic pedophilia scandal is at least partially caused by adolescents seducing the overworked priests. He’s giving it the soft sell, not trying to come across as damning the young victims as vile tempters, but still …

“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to [commit child molestation] — 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.

“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.

“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 their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime.”

Groeschel told this to the National Catholic Register, who have now taken the interview down. Joe.My.God. and other sites caught it.

I think the interview reveals the mindset that could lead members of the Catholic hierarchy to hide pedophile priests instead of prosecuting them. It’s very clear that he empathizes with the poor, overworked priest – and the priests are frequently overworked and depressed. While he’s being nice about the lonely adolescents, he’s still laying the blame on them. I suspect that if you brought up those instances where the kids are younger than 14, or where it is clear that the priests were the aggressors, Groeschel would dismiss it as a fluke.

  • trj

    Groeschel did issue an apology:

    “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.”

    A clear apology, but what is also clear is that he said almost the exact opposite thing in his original statement: that priests were sometimes not responsible, and even that they should not be punished for a first-time offense. It’s not like this was just a slip of the tongue. The bastard meant every word.

  • Len

    I have difficulty understanding that anyone (let alone anyone in – or running for – public office) would admit to still being in any way associated with the Roman Pedophile Club.

  • FO

    Today there was the SlutWalk in Melbs.
    “Because it’s not ok to blame the victim”.
    It’s just the same here.

  • Meenakshi

    This pope keeps surprising me again and again. Just when I begin to think that he may not be such a bad human he does something to prove me wrong. But this is just ridiculous. Next he will be accusing the rape victims of having a vagina.

    • Artor

      At which points do you start thinking Pope Palpatine isn’t a bad person? I haven’t seen a single act or word from him to suggest that he’s anything but an unrepentant enabler of pedophiles and chief Inquisitor.

      • Meenakshi

        Ha…yeah I know. But there was a time (eons ago) when I was a very religious person. And I was taught that religious people are the best ones around (Pfft). Also that pope becomes the ‘pope’ by being a good human being . Well, thankfully the best thing I have done in my life is outgrowing that phase and realize what kind f****** theories people have about religion.

  • Bob Jase

    Yep, those poor innocent cloistered clery just can’t handle the worldly wiles of a hot sexy ten year boy.

  • Milton Zmijewski

    Someone needs to check this guy out. This is exactly what the pedophils say when they get caught. It would not surprise me if this perv was involved with some children.

  • JohnMWhite

    ” 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.”

    How is that ‘the soft sell’? How is that not damning the young as vile tempters? He is blatantly saying that minors will target vulnerable priests. He’s trying desperately to put the shoe on the other foot. I’m not willing to give the benefit of the doubt at all in the face of that kind of statement. Besides, I have dealt with the Catholic hierarchical structure, and this is *exactly* what they do whenever one of their own causes harm to somebody. It is *always* the victim who brought it on themselves. That’s their modus operandi. I really don’t buy that this is about empathy, it’s about protecting and deflection.

  • carlos sutter

    I’m out of words, I must be in shock that all I can say is WTF?

  • Beau Quilter
  • Hitchslapper

    Assemble some of the Victims, give them baseball bats, and lock them in a room with their abusers…..

  • Robster

    Are these people even remotely capable of telling anything near the truth?

    • UrsaMinor

      Not if it threatens to tarnish their image.

    • The Other Weirdo

      My guess is that he spoke the bald truth as he saw it. That doesn’t make him a liar, just an ignorant idiot.

  • Keulan

    I would love to see the day when the Catholic church dies out. It is clearly one of the most evil organizations in existence. It is so fitting that the Pope looks so much like Palpatine.

  • Peter

    That old fossil should be put out to pasture and not given a forum to air his noxious ideas. But he inadvertently touches on subject the Vatican doesn’t want exposed. Down through the centuries you wonder how many horny priests seduced teenage girls after plying them with sacrificial wine? If they became pregnant, did they ship them off to a nunnery? What happened to the babies? How many nuns did they rape and impregnate? Maybe some will come forth and spark another scandal in this morally bankrupt institution.

  • NoE

    “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.”

    this says a LOT more about this priest than I think wanted anyone to know.

  • Frank McManus

    Groeschel is an elderly priest and is physically and mentally infirm. His comments should be seen as the equivalent of crazy statements made by victims of senile dementia. (Though I don’t know if dementia is literally the case here.) In addition he suffered a serious auto accident a few years ago, and his reduced cognitive function may be related to that as well. He’s still being interviewed by newspapers because he’s been an extremely well-known Catholic figure for many years. Never in his entire life until now has he made statements similar to this or consistent with it; in addition he apologized for the statement within days. You should treat him with the compassion you would apply to any person suffering from a comparable mental problem.

    Obviously in this situation the Register displayed outrageous editorial incompetence in publishing this piece. It’s a level of incompetence typical of this paper — but even they have apologized as well.

    • Jer

      Yeah I can see how you’d get embarrassed when one of your priests says what too many are thinking. His mental impairment is certainly an error in judgement, but I have no doubt he thinks this way.

    • Kodie

      Sometimes old people just don’t give a fuck anymore and they say what they really mean.

    • Nox

      I take anything any catholic priest says as the equivalent of crazy statements made by victims of senile dementia. But that does not change or absolve what he said. If we’re going to pretend the statements of catholic authorities don’t reflect on catholicism just because they say ridiculous sh*t, we’d have to toss out Aquinas and Benedict as well.

      He made vile statements which were intended to protect the reputation of the church, and they turned out to be an embarrassment to the reputation of the church. And in keeping with the level of honesty we’ve come to expect from catholics, Groeschel, NCR, and you are now trying to pretend he didn’t say that, in an attempt to protect the reputation of the church.

      He’s old and senile and didn’t realize there are people who don’t respect priests enough to accept his excuses. In his old senile mind, he thought he was saying these priests were tempted into sin against their will, and he inadvertantly wound up saying that there are people in the catholic hierarchy who are so blindly protective of their church that they would actually blame children for being raped by catholic priests.

      Groeschel’s original statement, and his apology, NCR posting the interview, and NCR redacting the interview, are all motivated by placing the status of the church above all other concerns. Which is pretty much the same logic that motivated the church to cover up the rape of children in the first place.

  • Hitchslapper

    We need to pass new Legislation…. ”No Priest shall be allowed to be within the vacinity of any children, without first having his hands handcuffed behind his back, and without first having had his his genitals previously removed”……

    • Nox

      A pretty good analogy for why they had to institute the chastity policy, and put those dividers in the confessional booth in the first place.

      I don’t think legislation is the solution. I see where you’re going, and I can dig the sentiment. But removal might be a bit more than necessary.

      Priests should already be kept away from children as a basic matter of child protection. But in circumstances where contact is necessary, such as baptisms and issuing communion wafers, handcuffed in front with a shock collar and a chastity belt would be enough to solve a lot of these problems.

      Of course the historical use of such devices (by institutions such as for example the catholic church) has been inhumane. But we are not just talking about people who have shown themselves to be a danger, but people who are already pretending they never f*ck anyone. No reason that asking them to commit to the character need infringe on religious freedom.

      • UrsaMinor

        I don’t see “priests are predators” as a valid argument. We don’t require chastity in other professions, and nobody suspects a guy of being a pedophile merely on the evidence that he’s a plumber or a brain surgeon. The chastity requirement may be the source of the problem with priests. It’s notable that the pedophilia scandal seems to be largely confined to the ranks of Catholic priests; I don’t see nearly the same number of lurid news articles about clergymen of other denominations, who are largely allowed to marry and have a sex life like everybody else.

        Another consideration is that the Catholic Church has historically held homosexuality to be a sin, and if you buy into their theology and hit puberty and discover to your horror that you’re gay, joining the ranks of the celibate as a priest sounds like a way to avoid going to Hell. But sexual urges are quite strong, and the rest of the story speaks for itself. A guy may become a priest with the best of intentions (although the assumption that being officially required to be celibate will solve the problem is an unexamined and probably false one).

        If Catholic priests were allowed to marry like everybody else, then the priesthood would not be seen as a safe haven by religiously-inclined homosexual men or those with pedophiliac inclinations, any more than the professions of plumber or brain surgeon are today. It would in no way diminish the number of homosexuals or pedophiles in the world, but it wouldn’t concentrate them in one spot. I think we’d probably see the same number of sexual abuse scandals, but they would be widely distributed throughout society instead of popping up with monotonous regularity in Catholic churches.

        • JohnMWhite

          Actually clergy and laypeople from several non-celibate denominations have been caught up in abuse scandals, particularly the Anglican church. Have a look around for information on their residential schools in the Northwest US and Canada, for instance. Sexual and physical abuse are also rife in non-religious environments, like private schools in the UK or prisons. I really don’t buy that celibacy is the issue, personally I think it is about power. It just so happens that the Catholic church is so large and powerful, and so utterly bereft of any consideration for anything but its image, that their abuse scandals have dwarfed most others in terms of scale. Buddhist monks are not hitting the headlines every other day for abusing children, for instance, and I have read of (a while ago, cannot recall the source) studies showing that celibacy does not actually lead to a greater likelihood of sexual aggression.

          The theory that it’s about homosexuality could have some grounding, I suppose. Not that it’s at all the case that gay people are inclined to become predators, but I have a friend whose brother joined the priesthood, and he told me that not only is his brother gay, but about 70% of his fellows in the seminary were gay. That kind of internal conflict could eventually break somebody’s brain and cause them to do all manner of things, and if people at that kind of risk make up such a significant portion of the clergy, maybe there’s something in that…

          Still the Catholic church is grabbing many of the headlines, but they are by no means alone. Sexual abuse is a pretty big thing in all the Abrahamic religions.

        • Nox

          It’s not that all priests are child molesters (although all priests are a danger to children). It’s that all priests occupy an unaccountable position that allows them to get away with abuses against the people who are commanded to believe whatever their priest says and do whatever their priest says. That is why the priests who are rapists are able to get away with so much raping.

          Not every cop abuses their authority. But what kind of person would want a badge.