Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a prominent Catholic priest and television personality, recently made controversial statements suggesting some priests who committed sexual abuse may not have been 100 percent responsible for their crimes, but now the Arch Diocese of New York, as well as the publication in which the remarks appeared and Groeschel's priestly order have swiftly condemned the offensive comments, and Groeschel himself has apologized.
Joseph Zwilling, Communications Director for the Archdiocese of New York, released the following statement:
"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," read the statement on the Archdiocesan website. "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."
ABC News reports that Jeanette R. De Melo, editor of the National Catholic Register website that initially posted Groeschel's interview, also posted a statement.
"Child sexual abuse is never excusable," she wrote. "The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel's comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth."
The backlash caused a response from both Rev. Groeschel and his order, the Community of the Franciscan Friars of Renewal. The National Catholic Register reported their statements.
"The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sincerely apologizes for the comments made by Fr. Benedict Groeschel," the order's statement read. "In that interview, Fr. Benedict made comments that were inappropriate and untrue."
Finally, in his own words, Groeschel apologized.
"I apologize for my comments," Groeschel said. "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."