The Dallas Morning News has unloaded both barrels on Fr. Benedict Groeschel. For those who don’t know, Fr. Groeschel is a Franciscan of very strict observance. His order lives in true Franciscan poverty. He’s a crotchety grandfather sort, but very well-educated with advanced degrees in psychology. He’s also had TV shows on Mother Angelica’s EWTN cable network.
But this is what the News had to say about him.
- For all his commentary on the crisis, Father Groeschel has revealed few details about his role as a player in it: He has been a key figure for 30 years in the loose-knit nationwide network of therapists who have helped troubled priests keep working.
That’s a little deceptive. Yes, he’s a key figure in the network of therapists who treat priests with various ailments, and yes, some therapists kept risky priests in ministry, but although B is a subset of A, A is not equal to B. Not all therapists kept sex-abuse priests in ministry.
- The Franciscan friar’s base is a mansion on Long Island Sound, where he runs the Archdiocese of New York’s spiritual development office and Trinity Retreat Center for clergy. There, according to his own written account, he has counseled hundreds of his brethren and “happily, 85 priests have returned to the active ministry.”
A “mansion”? It’s a large building owned by the Archdiocese of New York, probably a former mansion donated to the Church by a wealthy and long-dead Catholic. But by pairing it with his title as Franciscan, they make him sound like a hypocrite. As for the 85 priests who have returned to ministry, we don’t know what their ailments were. Maybe most were treated for depression or insomnia or other common mental health ailments. There is nothing to suggest those priests were perverts.
All the News has done is reinforce Fr. Groeschel’s thesis that the Scandal is an anti-Catholic fiction created largely by the media. For myself, I think Fr. Groeschel underestimates the magnitude of the Scandal—not in numbers of actual sex-abuse priests, but in the damage done by erring bishops—although he’s dead on in saying that many in the media have approached the work of exposing the hyposcrisy and cover up with way too much glee.
Even then, the News article overstates Fr. Groeschel’s objections.
- In the world according to Father Benedict Groeschel, the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal is largely the stuff of fiction. Reporters “doing the work of Satan” are driven to lie, the New York priest says, because they hate the church’s moral teachings.
Yes, the media hates the Church’s moral teachings; they certainly don’t embrace them. And he never said that most reports of abuse are fiction, just that the media overemphasizes the cases that do exist, casting aspersions on the vast majority of good priests.
- Father Groeschel’s 2002 book warned that Catholics would still face a crisis after “the media monster ... slither[s] away to attack other victims.” He prescribed a return to conservative moral teachings, saying that nothing would restore confidence in church leadership “better than a firm stance against pornography, extramarital sex, abortion, euthanasia and the general moral decline of the United States. ... Tough topics like contraception and autoeroticism need to be consistently and publicly addressed.”
I don’t disagree with any of that. The cause of sexual sin and crime among the priesthood is sexual sin and crime in society. You can help everyone by bringing about a return to the Gospel.
- He said that the news media fail to mention that most priests aren’t pedophiles, that cover-ups occur in other denominations, and that abusers “are among the most penitent people I’ve ever met in my whole life.”
Perhaps they are the most penitent people. He’s not saying that they should be patted on the head and sent on their way.
As for the charges that Fr. Groeschel referred three priests for reassignment, only one of the cases raises a red flag (Picardi) and even that one looks ambiguous as far as the friar is concerned.