Prominent Catholic priest, Rev. Benedict Groeschel, says first-time sex abusers shouldn’t be jailed

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The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan friar from New York who appears often on EWTN, a conservative Catholic TV channel, said that priests who abuse children "on their first offense" should not go to jail. 

  • Latosha Anderson

    For him to make a statement like that, he has done it before. Parents please be careful when it comes to religious (non-religious) people watching your children and holding alot of overnight youth programs.

  • frequentwind

    Yes, sentences should be decided on a case-by-case basis, and not all first offenders are incarcerated. But the rest of his comments are shocking. I realize he’s a priest too, and is going to identify with them, but to do it in such a callous manner — to imply that the priests were seduced by sexy teenage girls, to say that Sandusky was this “poor guy” and it’s the kids’ fault for not reporting it sooner — is disgusting.

  • Jack

    I love the Catholic Church. I have many priests who are dear friends. I will not lump any Catholics into my one word evaluation of this priest’s words. MORON! He should be defrocked (or worse) for utterly shameful ideas and teaching…

  • Joe Cogan

    This man is vermin of the lowest order. May he rot in Hell.

  • herm

    As far as I can read he didnt say anything about pedophiles. What kind of evil journalism is this, that demonizes people based on their sexual orientation?

  • Joe Cogan

    @WTF – pedophiles should not go to jail for their orientation. They should go to jail if they molest a child.

  • Daniel Burke


    Pedophilia is defined as a sexual disorder by psychologists (attraction to children) and criminally punished when acted upon. Groeschel is clearly talking about “youngsters” – that is, children.

    That said, I take your point and have edited the headline.


  • Stephen Dalton

    This priest is either senile or pervereted!

  • neil allen

    Note that the National Catholic Register took down the article.

    Hiding information about pedophile priests is the Catholic thing to do.


    This man’s background should be investigated and if he has been found to be guilty of abusing children he should be in prison, regardless of his age. Such arrogance! Yuck.

  • Sandy

    I’m disappointed in the National Catholic Register for publishing such uninformed and insensitive remarks.

  • Todd Flowerday

    Maybe women who are ordained to the Catholic priesthood or diaconate for the first time shouldn’t be excommunicated. People who divorce and remarry once, continue to receive the Eucharist. Things like that.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    I’m a lifelong Catholic. If I learned that a man – any man – had sexually violated a young relative of mine, I would walk as far as it would take to personally with my own bare claws, make sure that man would sing nothing but soprano for the rest of his life. No lawyers, no letters, no agreements, no pay-outs. My. Claws.

    That said, I don’t think Fr. Groeschel was speaking at first about predators who sexually violate children and young people. It was clear to me he was speaking about non-sexual physical affection, which we now realize is also unhealthy between an adult male and an unrelated younger one. Or an unrelated younger female. And is rightly subject to criminal and civil penalties. Even though nothing “below the waist” happened, such behavior may prepare the youngster to become the sexual target of the adult at a later time. Sometimes that vicious intent is present; other times, it’s just an arm around the shoulder, or a hug, and suddenly there’s a report to Child Protective Services. Which is a little over-the-top. Scary stuff.

    I can’t imagine why Father Groeschel segued from a conversation about this to “poor Jerry Sandusky,” who was committing full statutory rape on underage males. Father lost me here.

    Here’s what I think: I think Father is nearly 80 years old; he was injured terribly when hit by a car about eight years ago, from which he barely recovered, and he has had a stroke. I think he is, as the British say, a little “past it.” I think he lost track of the which thread of the conversation he in – inappropriate but affectionate contact vs. full-on abuse – and got confused. You should have heard some of the doozies my late mother came out with when she would get things muddled in her mind. Endless chains of phone calls from aunts to daughters to nieces to sisters, “Mamma said what-?” “She said *that*?!” “OMG!”

    I think a couple of folks at EWTN need to have a face-to-face with Father and get him to understand that it’s no longer a wise idea for him to just ramble on to a journalist without a teleprompter in front of him.

    And while I agree that his remarks were beyond unfortunate, revealing a woeful lack of awareness of the seriousness of this problem in the Church as well as in the larger society, unless you yourself have had up-close-and-personal dealings with an infirm relative near his age, I don’t think you have the proper standing to judge Father G. as an “evil person”. Not until we know more about his current medical (neurological) condition.

  • P

    Father Groeschel lost me at “It’s an understandable thing”. No. It is not. Not ever, not even once.

    What ever happened to the Catholic idea of ‘occasion of sin’ which is exactly the situation he describes and is every Catholic’s duty to avoid? And, every professional training class in child abuse makes it clear that it is the adult who must remove himself immediately from a such a situation. Groeschel is trying to put spin on a serious problem the church has with some priests, and in doing so, is making the priest the victim.

    Nice try, Father, but it’s the adult who has to act like an adult, especially around a “confused” child. And it’s doubly disgusting that he singles out “needy” children since that is the textbook target for a pedophile/pedarast.

  • Murray Gow

    For a very different approach to child abuse one might check out the sermon by Cambridge NT scholar, David Instone-Brewer:

  • D Alexander Fauntleroy-Harris

    …oh my dear Jesus Christ in heaven…never in all the years since i’ve watched EWTN have I been more appalled by comments given. To say that I am truly saddened is an understatement. Not one reason in his world nor any explanation can justify the willfull and premeditated sexual abuse of any child. Not. One. Reason.

  • Roam

    So what he’s saying is that we should wait until a second life has been utterly destroyed before we even begin to act? I’m sorry but no. Just… no. These words are indefensible and utterly disgusting to come from a person people look up to. It doesn’t matter what sex the attacker or the victim was. It doesn’t matter what kind of act it was. It doesn’t matter what the intent was. What matters is that it was rape/molestation.

    I’m sick of people trying to dress this up pretty to excuse the behaviour, because the kind of trauma it causes can outright destroy lives, whether figuratively or literally with the following suicide.