September 4th, 2012Blaming the Victimby Dena Hunt

Father Benedict Groeschel made a comparatively innocuous remark on the subject of the scandal in the Church during an interview by the National Catholic Register. The remark resulted in negative publicity, but that was not its only effect; it also caused Fr. Groeschel to step down from the show he has hosted on EWTN for many years. NCR has apologized for publishing the remark, as well they should—it was inexcusably poor editing, but what troubles me more is the nature of the apology and all those that followed.

A lot of predictable breast-beating went on, calling the remark “insensitive,” etc. It seemed that NCR, EWTN, and the Franciscan Friars couldn’t get on the denial bandwagon fast enough. True, they granted Fr. Groeschel the condescension of citing his advanced age as a cause of ‘unclear’ articulation of his thoughts, but in their haste to distance themselves from his remark, their apologies do exactly that which they so righteously condemn—blame the victim. In this case, a victim of overzealous concern with appearances.

The editing that should have been done by the secular media (and never was) is part of the problem: The vast majority of the abuse victims were not children; in other words, this was not “child abuse.” Most victims were post-pubescent teenage boys. The real source of the crisis wasn’t pedophilia as much as it was homosexuality. I acknowledge and accept that the secular media may have their own motives for the lack of editing that resulted in misrepresention. It’s the damage done by the Catholic media’s reactionary defensiveness that concerns me more.

This entire subject, from its genesis, has been replete with injustices and half-truths; one wouldn’t think there’d be room for more, but apparently there is. Thus we have Fr. Groeschel’s needless apology, along with the unjustified blemish on a lifetime of service to others. But we also have these apologies emanating from the obsessive concern with “image,” and isn’t that the same concern that caused the scandalous cover-up in the first place?

I’m sure that Fr. Groeschel, EWTN, and NCR would all agree that the less said about the incident now, the better. It’s the reason for the damage done to this holy man’s reputation that is so troubling. The victims, their families, the clergy, and the entire Church have all suffered enough from this very same cause: obeisance to self-protection over fidelity to truth.

It’s good that Fr. Groeschel should step down, because he’s old and frail and not able to withstand undeserved defamation, but that he should be made to feel apologetic is unforgivable. I’m not canceling my subscription, but I know that I will read my newspaper now with incomplete confidence in its integrity—not so much because they didn’t edit the interview with Fr. Groeschel as because they didn’t thereafter edit themselves….  

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  • September 7 2012 | by Kevin O'Brien

    Sorry, Deana, I could not disagree with you more. Rape is rape and statutory rape is "legitimate rape". Pubescence or pre-pubescence has nothing to do with it. You need not call it child abuse, but it is abuse, and it is rape. I go into detail here - http://thwordinc.blogspot.com/2012/09/what-rape-is.html .

    I do agree that Fr. Groeschel should have been given more of a chance, considering all the good he's done. And it is important that we continue to support the good Catholic work that EWTN does.

    Let us pray for him, for all perpetrators and victims.
  • September 7 2012 | by Dana

    I'm sure I was sent to this site to ease my burden. I sent Fr.Groeschel a note of support, but my heart is heavy with the sanctimonious, judgmental, unloving and so unkind abuse from Catholics everywhere to a gentle, saintly man who has dedicated his entire life to faithfully serving the Lord. I agree with you that the remarks were innocuous! I also know he's very savvy about human nature and he's not the senile,doddering old man people are trying to make him out to be. He has slowed down of course, after his accident, stroke and old age, but sharp as a tack mentally, unlike his critics. I have been a strong supporter of EWTN for years, but this vicious shunning of Fr.Benedict is shocking! He's become another non-person like Fr.Corapi and Fr.Pavonne, and the earlier Franciscan priest that fell for some woman. It's reminiscent of the USSR when tyrant wannbes were always being erased in photographs and their bodies forever buried in obscure graves. (I may be exaggerating just a tad.ha!) Anyway, I thank you for your sane views. I often write posts on the Calif. Cath.Dailey website and if you get a chance, read some of the scurrilous criticisms about Fr.Groeschel. I wrote a rather scathing post this morning about hypocrisy, etc. but changed my mind...I'm finding no one listens anymore anyway. I went to adoration tonight and of course Jesus always gives peace and comfort and hope. God bless you and keep writing the truth!
    Dana Bailey Wheeler
  • September 8 2012 | by Manny

    The media is never fair to Catholics or Conservatives. That is not a surprise. I will have to say that Fr. Groseschel was completely out of line with his comment. I give him the benefit of the doubt because I respect him so, but given the past two decades of our history on this issue, he needed to step down. I'm glad he did; it was the noble thing to do. I hope he continues to write books. I do think the issue is over now. I will pray for him.
  • September 8 2012 | by Manny

    Oh, I meant to add in my comment: I don't see much of a distinction between abuse of children and teenage boys. Even if you take the homosexuality out of it, they are both deplorable.
  • September 9 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    To Kevin: The comment the good Father made had nothing to do with rape, and of course, it doesn't matter the circumstances or gender or age, when it comes to rape.

    To Dana: I couldn't agree more. I think the keyword in your post was hypocrisy, though you were reluctant to use it (as I would also be.) Adoration is so strengthening, isn't it?

    To Manny: Words are important. As important as honesty. Pre- and post-pubescent matters. And there is a difference. That's why bar mitzvahs matter. Child psychology tells us that autonomy begins with puberty. Having taught teenagers for 30 years, I know the truth of that. Fr. Groeschel said that sometimes the victim was the seducer. (And everybody started to crucify him.) While that does not excuse the victimizer, I'm sure that's true. Honesty demands that I remember my own teenage years. (Gender is irrelevant here.) It's a real experience to discover that the mischief we can do can have very serious consequences. Yes, I believe he spoke honestly. What he said has more to do with knowledge of human nature, the wisdom of age, and nothing whatever to do with CHILD abuse.

    And generally: I'm glad he's stepped down too, as I said, but for a different reason. I don't want him used for target practice any more. And on that same score, I won't debate this. He needed defending. That done, he needs silence on the subject.
  • September 9 2012 | by Kevin O'Brien

    Dana,

    Fr. Groeschel said that a priest sometimes sleeps with a 14 year old because that 14 year old "seduced" him.

    So, tell me, when a grown man has sex with a14-year-old, in what way is that not rape? Please answer that question.

    Dana, my friend, you are ignoring the suffering innocent in our midst and you are saying things as insensitive and offensive as Fr. G. did. I know neither of you mean harm by this, but it is very harmful indeed - to any victim of rape, statuory or otherwise.

    Please follow my link in my comment above, where I simply point out WHAT RAPE IS.

    Fr. Groeschel defended rape. Shame on him. He's a good man, and got the short end of the stick on this deal, but he was utterly wrong.
  • September 9 2012 | by Kevin O'Brien

    Sorry, I meant to write not Dana, but Dena, in my most recent comment above.

    I'm emotional about this, as someone very close to me was raped as a teen-ager.

    Taking a step back - we're all in agreement that Fr. Groeschel is a good man and has done a lot of good. I also agree that it is a shame that such things as Soviet-style purges exist. And I agree that both EWTN and the good Fr. G. have done great work over the years - and both should be given credit and our ongoing support.

    Where we disagree is excusing child molesters because teen victims can act seductively. Dena, please read my linked blog post. I acknowledge in it that teens can act seductively toward adults - and when teens act out provocatively, it's often a sign that they themselves have been abused or are in distress. Even if that's not the case, even if they're just being mischievous, the adult has full faculties and the teen does not.

    Puberty most emphatically has no bearing on this issue. Children under the age of 17 or so - whether in puberty or not - simply are not fully formed rational creatures and are therefore not capable of informed consent. That is a basic tenet of Natural Law, and is expressed in what we call Statuory Rape in positive law.

    When an adult has sex with an under-age person, that is indeed child abuse. Calling it anything else is making excuses for the perpetrator and blaming the victim.

    We're all Christians here - can't we see that a basic tenet of our faith is that the most vulnerable need to be protected and defended? That includes unborn babies, handicapped people, the poor, the elderly, the homeless, and it includes all children.

    It is very wrong-headed, and very anti-Christian, to suggest that a post-pubescent 14-year-old can seduce an adult and that when that adult molests that child - yes, CHILD - it is not ENTIRELY the fault of the adult.
  • September 10 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    Nobody excused anybody, Kevin--not Dana, not me, and not Fr. Groeschel. And there's been enough accusing, too--of priests, of me, and of Fr. Groeschel.

    But I'll just mention one thing as a by-the-way, if you don't think a teenager can seduce a grown man, here's one former 15-year-old who can you that you're very naive.
  • September 10 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    Just to clarify--again. (1)There is a distinction between pedophilia and pederasty. The distinction exists for a reason and shouldn't be disregarded in order to indulge one's emotional outrage. (2)There is also a distinction between forcible and statutory rape (ask a victim of forcible about that.) (3)And yes, it is quite possible for a teenager to seduce an adult. That is simply true, and saying so does not mean -- repeat, does not mean -- that one is "excusing" rape, or child molestation or abuse.

    The purpose of my post was to defend Fr. Groeschel from the abuse that was heaped upon him for speaking the truth. It did not mean -- repeat, did not mean -- that I excuse rapists. (Though, if I am to be "tarred with the same brush," I could wish for worse companions in tarring than Fr. Groeschel.)
  • September 11 2012 | by Kevin O'Brien

    Dena & Dana,

    You are both incredibly wrong on this issue. I find your arguments not only logically flawed, but also personally offensive, as my family has been victimized by child abuse and rape, and for you to make the confused claims you're making is unbelievably hurtful.

    I stand by my post WHAT IS RAPE and everything in it. It is now an Ink Desk post as well.

    Let us put this behind us, in Christ.

    May the Church and its members be purged of this evil and of all excuses for it, even if that purgation hurts along the way.

    And just to clarify: I have always admitted that teens can approach adults seductively. But NO MAN CAN BE SEDUCED BY A CHILD, PRE OR POST PUBESCENT. A man can molest a child or a pubescent teen, and blame that on the victim's provocative behavior, but no man can be "seduced" by his own victim, even if that victim behaves seductively. Read my post on this. I stand by it.

    One party has full capacity and responsibility; the other does not. Denying this leads to untold evils.

    Also, just to give you a taste of how seriously I take this and of how those who make excuses for CHILD ABUSE (peodphilia and pederasty, which are both forms of CHILD ABUSE) can do harm, read http://thwordinc.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-rant-of-pain.html - which I call "A Rant of Pain".

    Pray for the victims and their victimizers.
  • September 11 2012 | by Christie

    I did not read the comment nor its context first-hand. From what I _have_ read second-hand (which is not much), I do feel the issue was blown way out of proportion. What is more, the implication that a person of an exceedingly upright reputation and track record can _never_ make a mistake in good faith without immediate dismissal makes me very, very uncomfortable.

    Christie (http://everythingtosomeone.blogspot.com)
  • September 11 2012 | by Christie

    "Pubescence or pre-pubescence has nothing to do with it. You need not call it child abuse, but it is abuse, and it is rape."

    I do think there is a significant difference.

    I'm aware that society's views of things change with time, but Holy Mother Church has never been big on doing that. In this case, perhaps she has: now, my Church history is weak, but wasn't it acceptable to marry young teenagers to each other (and even young teenagers to much older men?) in medieval Christendom? Or was this never fully accepted by the Church? At any rate, it happened, and it would seem that the Church at this time made the distinction. Perhaps She was wrong to; but I doubt She made the distinction based on the whim of society but on realities of nature.
  • September 12 2012 | by Kevin O'Brien

    Dena, I address this quite firmly here - http://thwordinc.blogspot.com/2012/09/making-room-for-evil.html .

    I admire your writing on this site, and I hope we can put this behind us. But I honestly think you're opinion on this matter is so utterly wrong - and the sort of opinion that helps enable this type of behavior on the part of priests and bishops to continue - that I felt I must address it firmly and head-on.

    However, let's move any discussion of this subject over to my blog and the comboxes there. This is really not a subject for the Ink Desk, and I really don't want to get into a row with a fellow Ink Desker.

    God bless you and your work. I know we're both fighting the good fight, though we disagree here.
  • September 12 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    Dear Kevin,
    There is no row to get into. I'll just quote here what I said very early on in in my original response:
    "And generally: I'm glad he's stepped down too, as I said, but for a different reason. I don't want him used for target practice any more. And on that same score, I won't debate this. He needed defending. That done, he needs silence on the subject."

    What I said in defense of Fr. Groeschel made you angry. I regret that, and I also regret that your anger made you say things about me that I had to defend myself against. But I never get into rows, no matter how angry someone may be with me. So, all I can do is hope you get over it. But I decline your invitation to go to your site and argue with you. Even if I enjoyed arguing (I don't), I wouldn't do it when a good man's reputation is at stake.

    So--God bless. You know I love you (because I've told you so!)
    Dena
  • September 15 2012 | by Dena Hunt

    Dear Deacon JR:

    Thank you for citing Canon Law on the age for marriage, apparently based on natural law. In our modern efforts to create a culture of self-indulgence for ourselves and our children, we often ignore those parts of natural law that we find inconvenient and tend to sort of forget some basic "facts of life," like, for example, a woman's best, or safest, child-bearing year is around age 15 or 16, when her bones are less rigid and certain other optimal biological and anatomical conditions exist that begin to slowly diminish as she matures. And I’m told that males will never be more potently capable of siring children than they are at 17. In any case, statistics show that natural law rules, regardless of the moral confusion it creates for some: Only a small fraction of our young people reaches “legal adulthood” as virgins. (According to some views, that makes an entire population victims of child sexual abuse and rape.)

    Thank you for your informative, helpful, and non-belligerent comment.

    Dena Hunt