Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Reader Writes: "Is the Church Really So Riddled with People Who Will Defend Sexual Predation?"

On the weekend, a reader, Boltingmadonna, posted an extremely valuable response to my posting about Fr. Groeschel and his statement (for which he later apologized) that pubescent youths seduce priests who are then accused of abusing minors.  As Boltingmadonna predicts at the end of her comment, Catholic blog sites are now seeing an avalanche of comments defending Groeschel.  I myself am receiving emailed defenses of Groeschel and outraged denunciations of anyone who dares to question the wisdom of an elderly priest with a degree in psychology who has had such a high profile in American Catholicism through his EWTN program.

Because I think it's critically important that American Catholics keep looking in the mirror and asking ourselves how we've become the kind of people, many of us, who are willing to defend a statement by a powerful priest that the abuse crisis boils down to teens seducing priests, I want to highlight Boltingmadonna's comments in a stand-alone posting.  They're superb, and they deserve attention.  She writes:

I keep trying to comment on this, and then giving up and walking away because it's so disturbing that I fear I won't be coherent. We used to have friends who knew Groeschel and thought he was a real saint. (And I'm not calling him "Father" Groeschel because he isn't my father, and it is no longer my policy to let the Church dictate my honorifics.) I took their opinion at face value. And then I started listening to his talks. Holy moly, what a load of misinformation and bad faith. What a demonstration of good intentions swamped by the number of lies swallowed and spewed. This is what happens when people enslave themselves to the institution and destroy their own integrity in the process.

Then I learned that Groeschel was one of the counselors to whom rapist priests were sent for "evaluation." He was responsible for sending a good number of abusers back into the population, where most if not all of them abused again. He was one of the pet "experts" who told the bishops these men were redeemable, one of the "experts" at whom they now point their fingers to direct blame away from themselves. Of course he told them what they wanted to hear! He was paid to do exactly that.

It's completely mendacious for the Church clean-up crew to say his remarks were the pitiable errors of a poor, pious old guy who didn't know what he was saying. They are completely consistent with his stance throughout his career.

Here's one example, in which Bishop Rodimer blames Groeschel for bad advice. Here's another example, in which Groeschel blames the media and defends perpetrators against mean victims who are persecuting them.

A sample of his empathy:

Mark Serrano, who also has said that Father Hanley abused him as a boy, questioned Father Groeschel's sincerity. His skepticism, he said, is based on an experience he had after his family's complaints led Bishop Rodimer to suspend Father Hanley. 
In 1986, the year after the abuse complaints, Mr. Serrano agreed to talk to Father Groeschel, who was counseling Father Hanley. Mr. Serrano, who was then a college student, said he thought the counselor "wanted more information" for therapeutic purposes. Instead, Mr. Serrano said, Father Groeschel lashed out at him. 
"He said, 'Why don't you stop harassing this poor priest? He's a sick man. You are wrong for what you're doing to him.' "

I feel as if my head is going to explode when I read the predictable avalanche of comments sympathizing with poor, poor Benedict Groeschel and pointing out all the good he has done. Well, maybe. But how much "good" does it take to wipe out the rape of a single child? Like William Lynn, Groeschel has been indirectly responsible for more than one.

What really sickens me, though, is how many commenters on Catholic-oriented blogs and websites take Groeschel's lines and run with them--stoutly defending the proposition that children can, indeed, be very seductive, and that sexually burgeoning teenagers are morally culpable if a poor frail priest--or, really, any other adult--falls prey to their charms. It's downright creepy. Is the Church really so riddled with people who will defend sexual predation as long as it's done by the right people? Don't answer that . . .

P.S. Please see my footnote to Boltingmadonna's comments.

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