Thursday, August 30, 2012

Praying for Fr. Benedict Groeschel

In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a man I don't mind saying publicly, even in the wake of the firestorm ignited by this interview, I admire greatly, made some comments that were perhaps none too prudent in and of themselves, especially given the current climate, but that have been torn from context and distorted beyond all belief. Predictably, the Catholic circular firing squad has been mustered and has commenced firing.

Because of the controversy it sparked, his interview (sadly) is no longer available, but the url now features a statement by the newspaper, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, an amazing religious order Fr. Groeschel not only belongs to, but helped to found, and a humble statement from this humble friar, priest/psychologist:
I apologize for my comments. 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
The reason I wrote that it is sad the interview was taken down is because now people cannot judge for themselves, but are at the mercy(lessness?) of commentators to make a judgment. I understand that this does nothing to diminish the pain and broken-ness, the heartbreaking loss of innocence, experienced by those who suffered abuse, especially at the hands of a priest or religious. We all do well to tread lightly when discussing this deeply disturbing issue.

I don't have anything terribly insightful to add, or new to say. I do want to publicly express how much I love Fr. Groeschel, express my appreciation for his amazing ministry and that of his wonderful friars, and assure him of my prayers. I echo the sentiments of Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who put it plainly by situating his remarks in context:
In a recent interview, [Fr. Groeschel] 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?”
Have we really reached the point that a priest cannot publicly express a little compassion for a person, like Sandusky, who has done something egregious without being accused of blessing his sins? If so, we're in worse shape than I thought.

I stand with Mark Shea, who, on his blog, Catholic and Enjoying It, wrote:
All I know of the man is that he has lived a lifetime of compassion for the weak, of charity, mercy, fidelity, and holiness. I pray for him in this hour of terrible trial and thank him for his life of goodness to so many people as I thank God for the gift of Fr. Benedict. May God bless him through Jesus Christ our Lord. Mother Mary, pray for your son Benedict.

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