Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, issued a statement yesterday defending Father Benedict Groeschel, who earlier this week blamed child victims of pedophile priests for their rapes. Calling Groeschel’s service “heroic,” and his record “impressive,” Donohue claims Father Groeschel merely “hypothesized how a young person (14, 16 or 18, as he put it) could conceivably take advantage of a priest who was having a nervous breakdown.” Groeschel told the National Catholic Register that in a “lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”
Donohue calls Groeschel’s record of screening applicants to the priesthood “impressive,” yet, as The New Civil Rights Movement posited yesterday, perhaps someone in the past 40 years should have realized that the gatekeeper was a sympathizer to rapists of children? Did no one ever examine Groeschel’s batting average?
The Catholic Church has been plagued with thousands of pedophile priests, enabled by Catholic leadership up to and including Pope Benedict XVI, (certainly in his previously role,) and men like Donohue, who attack groups like SNAP and demean and discredit those victims who speak out.
Speaking of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abuse By Priests — whom Dolan has called a “phony victims’ group” — David Clohessy, SNAP’s Executive Director, writes of the Groeschel issue that “the real issue isn’t that Groeschel makes such hurtful, stupid and Todd Akin-like remarks.(Many Catholic officials have thought and said much the same. We suspect many still do right now.)”
The real issue is “Why do priests who make callous, mean-spirited comments that hurt the already-wounded never suffer any consequences?” The real issue is “Why are there not hundreds of Catholic officials publicly denouncing Fr. Groeschel, especially Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose archdiocese employs or employed him and in whose archdiocese he lives and works?”
Can you even think of one instance, over the past 25 years, in which even one bishop or other top church staffer disciplined or denounced even one church employee for making even one ignorant, hurtful statement?
Donohue, for his part, has also called rape victims of the Catholic Church’s pedophile priests “professional victims,” and “a pitiful bunch of malcontents” unable to move on.
In fact, the Catholic Church has a decades-long history of not only not reporting child sexual abuse and rape cases to te police, but covering them up, and even paying the abusers to “resign,” or, more often than not, transferring them to another parish so they can begin their child sexual abuse anew, with an entire new community of potential victims.
In one little-known case, nearly 80% of one small northwestern town’s children were victims of pedophile priests — many, if not most of those priests “serving” the community and raping their children were there as a result of previous sexual molestation and rape abuse charges.
Below is the full text of Donohue’s statement, bolding is ours:
A quarter century ago, Father Groeschel and seven other priests broke away from a religious community to found the Franciscan Friars of Renewal. His service to the Church over the past half-century has been nothing less than heroic. His ministry to the least among us is especially noteworthy.
Father Groeschel holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University, and has put his training to work by counseling some of the most mentally and socially challenged people in our society. In addition, for the past four decades he has been screening men for the priesthood, weeding out those who should not be ordained. His record is impressive.
In a recent interview, he hypothesized how a young person (14, 16 or 18, as he put it) could conceivably take advantage of a priest who was having a nervous breakdown. He also referred to Jerry Sandusky, the disgraced Penn State football coach, as “this poor guy.” For these remarks, and related comments, he is now being labeled as a defender of child abuse.
The accusation is scurrilous. In the same interview, Groeschel emphatically said that priests who are sexual abusers “have to leave.” His reference to Sandusky was exactly the way a priest-psychologist might be expected to speak: “poor guy” conveys sympathy for his maladies—it is not a defense of his behavior! Indeed, Groeschel asked, “Why didn’t anyone say anything?”
Groeschel is nearly 80 years old. A few years back, he was almost killed in an auto accident that left him disabled; it has definitely taken a toll on him. I have known him for two decades, and recently spent an afternoon with him. I’ve read his books, listened to his tapes—on sexual abuse—and have come to know a great priest. To condemn him for one part of one interview is wholly unjust.
The attacks on Groeschel must be melded with rightful attacks on the Catholic Church leadership, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and higher, and on self-appointed Catholic Church warriors like Bill Donohue, whose blind defense of child rapists and their sympathizers merely serves to enable their acts and continue this evil cycle.
It’s time for the Catholic Church to denounce the Catholic League. And for good Catholics to denounce Dolan and the leadership of their Church.
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